Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Weaving Vadmal II - SAMPLES!!!

Like I wrote in the previous post, I decided to weave a cloth with a similar number of warp threads/cm to the mid-14th century Bocksten tunic: 8-10 threads/cm. During weaving, the fabric naturally shrinks a little as the weft is introduced and the process of fulling of course shrinks it even further. So my chosen sett of 7 threads/cm in the loom would result in a much closer weave when finished. To get a general idea of what the cloth would be like, I wove a short piece to use for sampling.
In the loom. I weave 2/1 twill with the weft-faced side up to avoid raising more threads than necessary for each shed
The test piece had 8 threads/cm when it came off the loom, which was a bit too loose to keep as it was, but probably perfect for fulling. I cut it in two, pressed the first half while damp to keep as a reference and fulled the second one on a washboard in the bath. After fulling, the piece both looked and felt a lot nicer with a handle I was quite happy with. And it had ended up with 9-9.5 threads/cm, which was pretty much spot on! That meant I didn't need to adjust the sett in the loom and could just go on weaving, knowing that a total shrinkage of 10% was what I was going to aim for at the fulling mill later on. 

A couple of threads' difference might not sound like a lot, but it is. It becomes really clear when comparing the samples.
Fulled piece at 9-9.5 threads/cm and untreated piece at 8 th/cm
It didn't take long for me to realise that grey isn't the most exciting of colours. My spools of weft looked like fat little woodlice lined up on my pretty but plain fabric...
It's a nice fabric, but...grey... Over 12 metres of grey.
I already have a natural grey medieval dress, so the idea of dyeing the finished fabric became more and more appealing... While running a madder dye bath with some yarn for a future weaving project, I chucked one of the samples into the pot too to see how the grey yarns would fare. I'm by no means a particularly skilled plant dyer, but madder has never let me down. The colour was amazing and while weaving the rest of my grey fabric, I pictured it bright red like the sample:
Madder madness!

Next time: Weaving Vadmal III - Fulling

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Weaving Vadmal I - Getting started

After years of staring miserably at my empty loom, I finally decided what I needed to get weaving again: set deadlines and external pressure. That might not sound like much fun, but when it comes in the form of a parttime, wool-themed weaving class, it is! At Grebbestad folkhögskola they have such classes and in February this year I enrolled in one called "Vadmal & Tweed". 

The purpose of the class was for each participant to weave a woollen fabric, full it together with the rest of the group at a traditional small-scale fulling mill and then sew something wearable out of it. The class also included trip to the Outer Hebrides (hence the "tweed"-part of the title). We all worked at home on our own looms, but met up every other month to share our progress, talk about looms, wool and weaving, and plan the trip to Scotland.

Being me, I naturally decided to weave a medieval style 2/1 twill and use the fulling mill experience to finally get myself a properly finished fabric. And make a late 14th century dress out of it. No surprises there. The yarn was a really lucky find on Tradera (Swedish version of EBay) - 6 kg of high quality weaving wool (yarn number Nm 6/1) for approximately €8/kg!!! Normally, it would have cost at least ten times as much! Having worked with wool of this thickness before, I knew it works rather well for 'medieval' fabrics. I once used it for a fabric with the same thread count as the mid-14th century cloak from Bocksten, but this time I planned for something more along the lines of the cloth used for the Bocksten tunic. The yarn used in the original is spun differently for the warp and weft; the warp is z-spun with a higher twist than the s-spun weft. My industrially spun yarn was all z, but that was OK since not all medieval fabrics have mixed spinning (although it was rather common). Sometimes it's a good idea to add some twist to modern warp yarn to get a more medieval look, but I wanted to get started with the actual weaving and simply decided that my yarn was 'good enough' as it was...
Obsessive Sampling Disorder - Yarns: Natural dark grey, natural light grey and burgundy wool yarn, with a nice mix of soft and slightly coarser fibres, especially in the undyed yarn. I chose the light grey yarn for the warp and the darker grey for the weft
These days, the word vadmal has a rather specific meaning in Swedish. It's considered to be a heavily fulled fabric in which the finishing process has more or less completely obscured the actual weave, usually a tabby. It almost (but not quite) looks like felt, is quite thick and pressed, but not shorn. In medieval times, however, vadmal basically referred to any locally woven woollen fabric, as opposed to the more exclusive imported stuff. Medieval vadmal could be thoroughly fulled like its modern counterpart, just given a light treatment or perhaps none at all. The fabric I wanted to make belonged to the 'lightly fulled' category; a fabric of medium thickness with a nice drape. I made a tiny sample to help decide how many threads/cm I would use...
Obsessive Sampling Disorder - Sett: Even small samples have their uses. Any sample is a good sample. Did I mention that I love samples? This one has 7 warp threads/cm which also was the sett I chose for my cloth
The whole process of setting up the loom and beaming the warp was rather uneventful. My weaving hiatus may have lasted for six years, but once I got going everything came back to me.
Warping. I don't own a warping mill. Luckily, I work next door to the Textile School at the University of Borås and can borrow theirs
Using a raddle and water bottles as weights to beam the warp. It's quick and easy, and I can do by myself without assistance. And the warp always ends up completely even!
Heddling with coffee. A slightly risky undertaking. Note to self: get a cup holder for the loom
Technical details:
Type of weave: 2/1 twill
Yarn: wool Nm 6/1
Sett: 7 threads/cm
Width in loom: 97 cm
Total number of threads: 680
Length of warp: 12.6 metres

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

The Historical Sew Fortnightly: Challenge 1 & 4

After some internal debate ('I don't need more things to sew. Or time constraints!' -'Yes, you do. Besides the Facebook group is really nice with lots of interesting stuff and knowledge going on there.'), I joined the The Historical Sew Fortnightly a couple of weeks ago.

I had already finished the first challenge by then (Make Do and Mend), because I had first decided to just tag along in secret this year and do the challenges I felt like doing. Which is kind of stupid, since that's pretty much the prerequisite for actally taking part, and I'd just miss out on the sharing-your-work-with-others-bit. However, I felt it was a bit late to post the first challenge when I joined, so I've decided to lump it together with challenge #4: Under It All in this post (I had really intended to do challenge #3: Pink, too, but failed to even start on the mock-up for the pattern...). So here goes:

The Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge #1: Make Do and Mend
An apron for the late 14th century.
I've used the same old apron for years and years and it's one of the first handsewn things I made, before I even started making historical clothing. I've used it for everything from LARPing to protecting my ordinary clothes while sorting and preparing dirty wool for spinning. The stitching was kind of clumsy and the piecing on the waistband with a seam ending up centre front annoyed me. My first attempt at rolled hems wasn't exactly a success either. So after 12 years of use, I thought it was finally time to redo my apron. I removed the waistband and re-did the piecing. I cut off the fraying rolled hems, folded the edges and sewed them down with overcast stitches instead. Instead of the deep knife pleats I'd used on the top edge of the apron, I simply gathered it to the waistband which I stitched on with small stab stitches.

It's a linen apron of a type that can be seen in pictorial sources from the early 14th century and onwards. Sometimes, contemporary images seem to depict aprons with smocking, but since they are amply represented within the 14th century reenactment community as it is, I chose to keep mine simple and more suitable for my social standing.
After looking at the first photo, I decided to apply my very non-14th century iron to the apron and take another one...
The Challenge: #1: Make Do & Mend
Fabric: Linen (it used to be unbleached, but now almost white...)
Pattern: None
Year: 14th century
Notions: Linen thread
How historically accurate is it? It's handsewn with waxed linen thread and the materials are correct (but not handspun or handwoven, though). No medieval aprons have survived to this day, but it's based on contemporary pictorial sources, so it's almost as accurate as it's possible to get.
Hours to complete: approximately 3 hours
First worn: The day after it was finished (mid-January 2014) when washing wool in the bath tub.
Total cost: All the fabric came from the original apron, the sewing thread from my stash, so it didn't cost anything.

The Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge #4: Under It All
A supportive linen undergarment
Linen cap, fake flax braids and a push-up shift
The Challenge: #4: Under It All
Fabric: Unbleached linen
Pattern: Self made.
Year: 14th century
Notions: Linen thread, some hemp string for lacing it up
How historically accurate is it? It's handsewn with waxed linen thread and the materials and sewing techniques are historically accurate (nothing handspun and handwoven, though). No supportive shifts have survived from the 14th century, but written sources mention some sort of supportive undergarment with 'bags' for the breasts in the 14th century (the now-famous underwear from Lengberg Castle in Austria are too late for me, being from the late 15th century). I've simply taken a page from Isis Sturtewagen's book (or rather her blog Medieval Silkwork!) and defer to her research and the 'bra-shirt' she made, based on a c.1360 statue from Münster zum Heiligen Kreuz in Schwäbisch Gmünd, Germany.
To sum things up: It's a 'plausibly medieval' garment, the look of which is based on a single medieval depiction.
Hours to complete: approximately 12 hours, with an additional 3-4 hours for fitting the body block used as a base for the supportive upper part.
First worn: During Albrechts Bössor's annual winter march on February 15, but it wasn't quite finished at the time. I added a couple of lacing holes and hemmed it afterwards.
Total cost: All materials came from my stash, so it didn't cost anything.

In the pictures below, it's worn under my blue woollen dress (without the apron). The woollen dress is tight, but not supportive. It's pulled on over the head and wriggled into - so the supportive underdress really helps to give me the somewhat 'pushed-up' late 14th century look. To make sure the fabric of the overdress would be nice and smooth in the chest area, I put the lacing of the underdress in the side seam.

Monday, 27 January 2014

And Samples...

So what to do with small amounts of very pretty, handspun wool? Samples, of course!!! Here's what I did with the woad-dyed Finnish Jaala wool from the previous post:
Striped tabby sample: Before and after fulling
The white yarn is also spun from the Jaala wool Mervi gave me and I thought I'd use it to try out a few stripes in both regular tabby and extended tabby. Medieval fabrics often have stripes in a different weave from the rest of the cloth. Making weft-faced stripes in an otherwise more or less balanced cloth makes the stripes stand out more and the difference can be seen quite clearly in my sample (see Textiles and Clothing, c.1150-1450. Medieval Finds from Excavations in London for examples of actual medieval fabrics with stripes).

This sample isn't woven on a proper loom; I simply put some warp threads between two clamps and used a shed rod and soft heddles for the countershed. Rather sloppily tied heddles, I might add. Well. I should have known better. The one thing about heddles is that they should never ever be sloppy. They are what makes weaving work (among other things), unless you decide to pick each and every shed by hand. Still, I managed to get 30 cm of weaving out of this 4 cm wide set-up before I gave up. It's been a long time since I did any serious weaving like this, with soft heddles and no reed, and I'm really out of practice! It was difficult to keep both the width and the weft even. Next time I'll use my table loom instead, even if it's for a small sample like this. It takes a little longer to set up, but it makes the weaving so much easier...

So, after two weeks of working with this very appropriately coloured Finnish wool, my stash of samples is happy to receive the following additions:
Finnish wool, finished

The white and blue balls of yarn in the middle are the ones I used for weaving. The third yarn is a two-ply spun from the leftover fibres from the combs, sorted and teased out by hand. The fourth yarn is also spun from the leftover fibres, but straight from the combs, lumps and all. It's interesting to see what a difference a bit of extra work does to the quality of the thread!

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Spinning Blues!

"I knew they were crazy, those Finns, but blue sheep? Really?!", said boyfriend J-E when he came home yesterday and found me with an impressive fluffed-up cloud of blue wool. 

I told him, "The Finns don't have blue sheep, however, they've got Mervi" (of the Hibernaatiopesäke blog).

Jaala sheep's wool, dyed with woad.
I got this sample of wool from the Jaala sheep from Mervi this summer. She had dyed it with her own home-grown woad! The result: deliciously blue wool that was begging to be spun. 
The wool: very soft and short-stapled. And blue.
The dyed wool was very fine, with an average staple-length of about 4 cm. Since I wanted to be able to use as much of it as possible (preciousss fibresss...), I decided to make a proper effort preparing it. To get a nice, even colour I first needed to mix all the fibres thoroughly. I did this by pulling the staples apart by hand and turning the wool into the fluffy cloud of blue that my boyfriend commented on. In Swedish, this is called tesning. I then chose, rather counter-intuitively, to comb the wool rather than carding it. Combing wool this short is not the usual practice these days, but it's very probable that it was prepared in this way in medieval times. The use of wool cards in the middle ages is a rather interesting, not entirely straight-forward subject. The comprehensive history of wool cards goes something like this, according to John Munro (who sadly passed away recently):

Wool cards arrived in Europe during the later part of the 13th century, probably borrowed from the Islamic cotton industries in Spain or Sicily. Some historians argue that cards were being used as early as mid-11th century, but, according to Munro, it's unclear whether they refer to wool cards or fullers' cards, used to raise a nap on fulled cloth. Wool cards, as we know them, were quickly banned from use in many (not all) of the professional textile centres around Europe, at least for the production of high-quality cloth. In some places, carded wool was allowed in the weft yarn, but not for the warp (just like the use of the great wheel for spinning the thread). Later, in the 15th century, several of these bans were lifted, although many producers continued using only combed wool for their cloths. (Munro 2003, in The Cambridge History of Western Textiles).

This information is all about wool cards and their use in professional cloth production. But how widespread was the use of cards (and the great wheel, for that matter) among everyday spinners, who didn't spin for the big textile centres? When was the use of cards established in my native Sweden? Did we even use them here in medieval times?! I haven't managed to answer any of these questions. It doesn't help that in both English and German, the medieval word for cards/karden is also used for the teasel heads more commonly associated with raising the nap on fulled cloth. Some books (and about 10 million webpages) actually refer to teasels being used for carding wool, too, but I'm not entirely convinced. I've yet to see a reliable source, or someone who's actually carded a whole fleece with teasels. I have a suspicion that the strain of carding raw wool would be a bit too much for the teasels, but then again, I might be wrong.

(please prove me wrong! either with a good, solid reference or by a practical test. I have a bunch of teasel heads from Dipsacus sativus - the cultivated teasel that is used for finishing cloth - but no time to try them out myself at the moment...)

Anyway. The questions above, together with my general interest in trying things out, made me reach for my combs rather than my cards to prepare the very short Jaala wool. Here's the result.
The short and slubby leftovers and the combed rolled-up fibres, ready to spin.
Almost half of the wool ended up in the leftover pile. The very fine fibres had a tendency to stick together and form slubs, but once I had combed through a batch, it was easy to remove the slubs before pulling the rest of the fibers off the combs. To compare, I carded a tiny bit of wool too, but it turned out much more slubby and uneven. Even with fibres this short, combing worked wonderfully. It would have been better if my combs had had finer and more closely-spaced tines to match the fibre quality, but on the whole I'm happy with the result. Spinning the combed rolags was quick and easy!

Most of the leftover fibres are only a couple of centimetres or less, so I will first draft them into a fluffy semi-thread by hand before taking them to the spindle. It makes the short and lumpy wool easier to handle, but it also takes a lot of time and I have several hours left before I'm finished. So, back to work, and a great big thank you! to Mervi for giving me the spinning blues... ;-)
A spindleful of blue, and the beginnings of the last batch.
Edit 2014-01-31: In the comments below, Panth of the In My Lady's Chamber-blog linked to two post about teasels and cards. Read them - they're well-written and well-researched and sheds some more light on the subject of wool preparation!
Teasels for carding - a myth? 

Teasels: a quick note

Jenkins, David T. (red.). 2003. The Cambridge history of western textiles. 1. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

A Cloak for a Medieval Pilgrimage

The cloak
I have an inexplicable passion for short cloaks. They're not the commonest or most documentable of garments, though, especially not for late 14th century women. When it comes to preserved examples, there's the famous Bocksten Man's cloak, which is c. mid-14th century, male, and not particularly short. Then we have the wonderful Cloak of St Brigitta, which is...patchwork, but not short either.

Various types of outer clothing, including cloaks, are mentioned in several medieval Scandinavian wills. The words cappa and mantel are used, among other terms, and while mantel seems to be the more feminine version of the two, both are used by both men and women, it seems. The wills don't say much about the construction of the garments that go along with the different terms, though – whether they are long or short, open or closed... If you read Scandinavian languages, I recommend Kläderna och människan i medeltidens Sverige och Norge by Eva Andersson and the papers by Camilla Luise Dahl in Middelaldercentret's Workpapers vol. 1 for discussions and definitions of various medieval terms for outer clothing.

There are numerous cloak-wearing shepherds in various manuscript from all over the 14th century, all male. From Sweden, we have these two lovely carved fellows from Martebo Church on Gotland, receiving the message of the birth of Christ.
Shepherds from Martebo Church, Gotland. The second one is playing a dog-headed bagpipe. Early 14th century. Pix by Vix.
More often than not, these cloaks have hoods and look more like...well, huge hoods. I personally like to call them hoods, to differentiate them from hood-less cloaks, but this is my modern preference and it may not have anything to do with how these garments were defined in medieval times, of course (I actually tend to call them 'jättehätta', literally 'big hood' – it sounds a lot funnier in Swedish). 

Here's a rather slim selection of 14th century women wearing some sort of short cloak-like garment. The first two are Italian, which is perhaps not the best source when you're reenacting Scandinavia/North Germany like I do. They seem to have done a lot of things quite differently south of the Alps. The last three images are a bit more interesting to me, as they are German in provenance. They all come from an appliqué wall hanging showing episodes from the romance of Tristan and Isolde. Although not particularly detailed, some of the ladies do seem to be wearing what might possibly be interpreted as a short cloak.
BNF MS Français 343: La Quête du Saint Graal et la Mort d’Arthus, fol. 49v.
Tacuinum Sanitatis, late 14th century, Italy. There are more examples of short cloaks in this manuscript, on both men and women.
The Tristan wall hanging, 1370-1400, Germany. Victoria & Albert Museum. Pix by Vix.
I've found that a good place to look for cloaks is on monumental tombs. All those weepers and mourners that decorate fancy people's graves tend to wear more outdoorsy clothing than most. I've no idea why. Maybe it's something to do with the transitional aspect of death and burial, funeral processions or the journey of the soul, as cloaks appear to be typical travel clothing (or maybe that's just my modern schooling struggling to assert itself with fanciful interpretations...). Maybe they just liked their weepers bundled up properly; after all, it can get rather chilly hanging around a tomb waiting for Judgement Day. And so it was that I found my Favourite Cloak Ever: This weeper from the tomb of Thomas and Catherine de Beauchamp in St. Mary's Church, Warwick, dated to 1369. 
De Beauchamp Weeper, Warwick, 1369. From http://www.themcs.org/
I just had to make it, nevermind the fact that it's a one-off garment I've never seen anywhere else - in Albrecht's Bössor we usually require at least two independent sources as basis for the kit we make. It's also English, but I decided to make a prototype anyway of some left-over fabric I had lying around just to see what it would look like. The fabric was a really nice 2/1 twill, but I only had some rather narrow pieces left so the cloak ended up being pieced together of triangular gores.
Me in my 'Warwick' cloak
I liked the model so much that I did a "proper" one, too, in grey and without the piecing. Both have tablet-woven edges around the arm-slits and buttons down the front and they are wonderful bad-weather clothing! Unlike open cloaks, they don't flap open and let out the warmth when you move, and since they're short, they don't get stuck in the vegetation when you walk in a forest, for example. At least not as often as a long cloak does. I haven't mustered either cloak for use with Albrecht's Bössor (we have informally formal inspections of our clothes and gear in AB, to maintain a mutual standard and encourage members to research their stuff) and I don't think I will either, since I personally feel it's slightly off for our chosen period, at least geographically. I make things like these because it's fun, because I learn stuff doing it, not necessarily because I will use them for serious reenactment.

As I wrote in the previous post, planned events really get me working on Stuff I Need – I find deadlines incredibly inspiring! For the medieval pilgrimage I took part in in May this year, I both needed and wanted some clothing for bad weather that would also measure up to the standards I have set for my medieval kit. And that would pass muster for Albrecht's Bössor too, preferably. The usual answer to dealing with cold and rain when wearing medieval clothing is simple: just add another layer. And that's all well and good. But if you're spending a day or two outdoors in constant rain, you will get wet, no matter how many layers you put on. And although wet wool still keeps you warm, it only does so to a certain point and eventually the chill will get to you. It does make a difference if you wring out the water occasionally – wool can retain a good deal of moisture before it starts dripping by itself so it needs a bit of help. Wet wool slowly channels the water towards the lower points of the garment (that's gravity for you!), which means that if you're wearing something with sleeves, some of the water will inevitably stick around around your arms. With a cloak, on the other hand, the water will eventually end up in the lower edge (where it's easy to wring out) and generally the wet fabric stays further away from you body than it would with a fitted garment. So, in short – when it's raining, I want a cloak!

I settled on making one with an integral hood, the shepherd model. The evidence of women wearing a garment like this is...well...basically non-existent, at least in the north European art I've looked at. Short cloaks and hoods with an extended collar seem to work for both sexes, though, so I decided to extrapolate a little. If a woman can wear a hood that reaches half-way down her arms, like the two female servants from Martebo Church on Gotland do, it's not a huge step to lengthen the hood 30 cm so it reaches over the hands. 

Edit: People have commented that the Martebo servants might not be wearing hoods/cloaks at all (both here and on Facebook) - that it's the dresses hitched up over a belt in combination with wide sleeves that narrow towards the wrists instead. Taking another look at the photos, I think I agree. Considering that the carvings are early 14th century, it fits so much better with contemporary fashion and preserved dresses like those of Elizabeth of Thuringia and St Clare. The reason I saw hoods is the rather sharp divide between the upper and lower part of the dresses and the deep fold by the shoulder: I have inserted gores on one of my hoods that look just like that! 
Female servants, Martebo Church, Gotland, first half 14th century. Pix by Vix.
Judging by the terms used in medieval wills, outer clothing seems to be reasonably flexible when it comes to gender. Or at least that's what I'm trying to convince myself... To make my hood a little less like the standard shepherd's hood, I chose to base it on...wait for it!...a swineherd's hood instead. With buttons down the front. A completely different kind of animal! ;-)
Carving from the choir stalls, Lund Cathedral.1370s. Pic by Vix.
The carving comes from the choir stalls of Lund Cathedral. The good thing about it is that it's probably of German origin, which suits my kit perfectly. If I'm going to wear a garment that's not particularly female, I at least want it to be geographically suitable.  

The shape of the thing, pieced together – Sometimes there's just enough thread... Finishing the edges
The pattern I opted for was simple enough. I used an existing pattern of a Herjolfsnes-type hood, did away with the front gore and just added enough length for it to reach down to my hands. I had to piece my fabric a little, but other than that, only one long back seam was needed to put it together. I lined it with a very thin, dark grey worsted fabric. Since both my fabrics were grey, I decided to compensate for the lack of fancy colours by putting more effort into the finishing details. I stitched around all the edges and hems with tiny red stitches. It looked very nice, but took just about forever to do, and I quickly abandoned my original idea to make two rows of stitches (like they have done on some of the Herjolfsnes clothes). I also decided to use pewter buttons for the front, to save time (and add fanciness!). On the choir stall carving, it's hard to tell exactly how the buttons are placed, at least from my photos. Sometimes the buttons seem to be placed two and two together, in places there might even be three. Or maybe they're spaced evenly, but the carving's a bit worn. Since I couldn't go to Lund to double check (or had time to send one of my minions), I decided to place them evenly, but ran out of both time and buttons. For the pilgrimage, I made do with just half of the intended number of buttons and added the rest...well, yesterday, actually.

The jättehätta ready for the pilgrimage – With the last of the buttons added
The pilgrimage
So, what about this pilgrimage then? Here you can read some of the organiser Frida's thoughts about the project: The medieval pilgrimage reenacted. During four days in May this year, a motley crew of 12 pilgrims, two dogs and four horses walked about 55 km along the medieval pilgrim route between Visby and S:t Olofsholm on the island of Gotland. 

Unlike medieval pilgrims, we slept in tents, and brought all our food with us. In medieval times, pilgrims travelled lightly and would have found housing and food along the way to refuse hospitality to a pilgrim was considered extremely bad manners... In medieval Sweden, there was a law that stated that there should be a hostel or similar place for travelling people to spend the night no more than a day's march apart (a day's march was considered to be about 30-40 km), so pilgrims would have had little trouble finding a place to stay. And sleeping outdoors was of course always an option. Being modern medieval pilgrims, however, we were not particularly used to sleeping rough, and although asking people along the way to let us stay the night would have been the medieval way to do it, sleeping in a modern place would just have felt wrong. So tents it was. The upside of bringing so much stuff with us was the sumpter horses. To have horses around made an already fantastic experience even better. I'm actually afraid of horses, so it felt very good when I, on the very last day of the pilgrimage, even dared to ride for the first time in my life! 

For me, despite not being religious in my everyday life, the pilgrimage still ended up being a spiritual experience. I got time to slow down, to think and feel, and I realised a lot of things about myself. It also gave me a different understanding about medieval life and religion and how different things were back then. Walking 50 km in medieval shoes was definitely an interesting experience, both for my boots and my wimpy modern feet... It was a good thing I finished my big hood, too. The weather was quite good most of the time, but it started raining on the very last morning and it continued raining throughout the day. My hood did its job as you can see towards the end of this little film that Johan made about our pilgrimage:

Medieval Pilgrimage 2013!

I promised myself I would finish this post before Christmas...and well, I suppose I have. I haven't written anything about the leather costrel that I also made for the pilgrimage. Or my staff and scrip, which were blessed by the Bishop of Visby during the send-off mass. But this post is long and rambling enough as it is, so I'll just finish off with a few pictures from the road instead...

Getting to know the horses
The road goes on...
At Väskinde Church, the old wall still had stones with holes for tying up horses!
Johan and pilgrim dog Boudica taking a nap
The boots that did the walking

And last, but not least: Boudica helping to model my jättehätta. With a medieval source...

Happy New Year!

Andersson, Eva. 2006. Kläderna och människan i medeltidens Sverige och Norge. Diss. Göteborg: Göteborgs universitet, 2006. [https://gupea.ub.gu.se/bitstream/2077/16894/5/gupea_2077_16894_5.pdf]

Dahl, Camilla Luise. 2005. Workpapers – tekstilforskning på Middelaldercentret vol. 1. [http://www.middelaldercentret.dk/pdf/workpapersvol1.pdf]

Monday, 28 October 2013

These Boots Are Made for Walking - a very, very late report from the Winter March

When it comes to reenactment, few things are as effctive as a planned event to get me working on Stuff I Need. In February 2013, it was time for Albrecht Bössor's annual winter march, when we test our kit and cooking skills under winter conditions - so I made boots with plenty of room for extra socks. Towards the end of May, it was time for a medieval pilgrimage on Gotland - and I made a travelling cloak to cope with the possibly fickle spring weather, and a leather costrel to solve the problem of transporting a day's worth of water.

This post deals with the boots and the winter march. The next one will be about the pilgrimage!

The Boots
The boots are the fourth pair of shoes l've made and I based them on a find from the ubiquitous Shoes and Patten-book from the Museum of London. There are several similar models described in Stepping Through Time, too, from 14th century Dordrecht.

The first boot, inside out - The finished boots before turning - The boots all done with laces untied...

I used my tried and tested slipper pattern (see this post) as a starting point and more or less draped the rest of the boot straight onto my foot with fabric. This is what our living room floor looks like when I'm making a shoe pattern...

Boot in the making...
The finished shoes were a number or two too large in order to comfortably accommodate two pairs of socks and still leave me enough room to wriggle my toes. During the march, the temperature hovered around zero degrees Celsius and we trudged though almost half a metre of wet snow at times. 

Stopping for lunch in the snowy forest
It didn't take long before my boots were completely soaked through. It was fine as long as we were on the move, but as soon as we stopped to cook dinner, my feet got very cold indeed. I was glad I had brought an extra pair of socks so I could change into something dry.

Cold feet - dry socks. Photo by S. Sternler
Another thing I learnt from the winter march was that wearing knee-high stockings with nothing else underneath my linen underdress was more than enough for warmth, but the underdress itself was not ideal. It only reached to a little below my knees, but there was a lot of snow and so it got really soggy really fast. And unlike wool, wet linen is both cold and uncomfortable and not something you want to have next to your skin. The wet underdress chafed my knees and calves and was rather unpleasant towards the end of the march. It's kind of obvious when you think about it, but there's nothing like personal experience for driving home a lesson in the properties of different textile fibres... 

So for the next winter march, I'll wear a woollen underdress instead. And seeing that it's only a few months away now, I should really get sewing...

Grew, Francis & Neergaard, M. de (2001). Shoes and pattens. New ed. Woodbridge: Boydell Press

Goubitz, Olaf, Driel-Murray, Carol van & Groenman-Van Waateringe, Willy (2001). Stepping through time: archaeological footwear from prehistoric times until 1800. Zwolle: Stichting Promotie Archeologie