A Pet Peeve

Alright, this is basically a rant with a how to buried in it.

Hats. Cover your head. If you’re doing Medieval, Pre-Medieval, all the way up to Victorian, recreation and your persona is in what they would consider to be public? Wear a hat. We don’t wear them modernly (except in special situations), and they’re entirely optional. So we tend to just…not, even when in persona. Please don’t fall into this trap.

No this is not a religious thing. I mean, yeah it can be. I do Saxon and it’s totally a religious thing by that point. Modesty before the Divine and all that. Frankly it’s just practical before it becomes a symbol of modesty. So all this “but my persona isn’t Christian so I can leave my hair uncovered!” misses the point.

Why you should cover your head, regardless of gender or religious choices:

  1. Sanitation.

Ok look, hair gets dirty. If you work outside in any capacity it gets muddy, and full of just random stuff. A head covering keeps all that off your hair, keeping it neater between washing.

2. Climate control/Burn prevention

I’m putting these together because they fall into the same basic category of comfort. Sun or wind burn on your scalp suuuuucks. The easiest way to prevent this? A thin layer of cloth over your head. Also, shockingly enough, a linen veil or cap is cooler than a bare head in extreme heat. That’s without factoring in that you could wet it with cool water and it becomes basically air conditioning. In the cold? An uncovered head is a heat dump. We know this, this is why we wear knit caps and hoods in modern winter. If you portray Northern Europe in the little ice age? A hat means you don’t get frost bitten ears.

3. Personal grooming

Pop quiz: if you have long hair and don’t use product in it to keep it in place, how often do you shove it out of your face every day? How many times do you tuck fly-aways behind your ears? Even if you tightly braid it. If you’re anything like me it’s frequent and unthinking. Know when that problem goes away? When there’s a cap or veil keeping it covered and in place. No more wind blowing long hair into your eyes, no lighting your head on fire trying to make dinner, no eating the tips of your hair while talking.

So what would you wear on your head?

I’m a Saxon, so I’m going to use my nifty new dummy head and purple wig to show you the layers I do and why.

Layer 1: Hair style

I do this braid/bun style because it uses one tie, gets all my hair, was found on a bog body, and fits neatly under all the other layers. Why is it purple here? Because I own three wigs, and the green and rainbow ones are curly so I’m not braiding them.

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Layer 2: Cap

This is optional-ish. Think of it like a hair bra. This gives me something to pin the final veil to and keeps my hair firmly contained. This is a fairly new addition to my garb and I have no idea why it took so long for me to start wearing it. It’s comfortable enough that I don’t notice it once it’s on.

Layer 3: Fillet

Totally optional. This is for form rather than function. Saxon tends to not be very flashy (see my comment in the beginning about modesty and all that). But this does give a chance for a nice pop of color and pattern, and the ability to show off your fancy tablet weaving. I’ve also noticed it helps keep my cap from sliding back if I tie it around my head (above) rather than under my chin.

Layer 4: Veil

Final layer! This is the most visible part. It covers my neck and shoulders, and keeps me from getting sun burn, no matter how long I spend outside. I actually wore only a veil for years and just pinned it to the front of my dress, looped it over the top of my head, and then pinned it to itself. That certainly works and is an entirely viable way of wearing a veil if you can’t wear the foundation cap for whatever reason (or if you forgot it). But wearing a veil this way is what gives veils like this their pain the butt reputation. They tend to slip back, or shift, and hair escapes, and your forever fiddling with it and adjusting it. And it can sometimes, annoyingly, just slip right off the back and then you’re getting stabbed in the throat with your own pins trying to fix it. As me how I know.

Weaving With Handspun

Dos, Don’ts, and dear gods why?

So lets say you’re a weaver. Looms are hungry beasts and this is an expensive hobby to have. Yeah it’s awesome, but looms aren’t cheap and neither is the yarn yardage required to make cloth happen. Especially if you’re trying to weave at a pre-modern thread count. Think about it, each inch wide piece of cloth for a one yard length at 50epi takes roughly 75 yards of thread for the warp alone. Add in the weft and that’s two spools of sewing thread for an inch of cloth. If you’re using something nicer than polyester quilting thread that adds up Super Fast.

Fleece, however, is dirt cheap compared to finished yarn. So you may start thinking of weaving with handspun yarn. You get a product that’s even MORE handmade, you can control the historical accuracy (or not) of your thread, and it just sounds super impressive. So lets take a look at getting started.

Do: Start with handspun weft and commercial warp.

Why? Weft is the more forgiving of the two. You don’t have to have as hard spun a yarn, or as perfectly spun, for it to produce a beautiful finished product. Weft isn’t under tension and isn’t being constantly abused by the reed, beater, and heddles.

Don’t: Start with handspun warp.

Why? Warp is constantly abused. It is extremely difficult to handspin a yarn that’ll stand up to that treatment without snapping. You can do it, most of human history did it, but it takes a skill set most modern spinners don’t quite have. Work up to this. Remember, even just a handspun weft increases your accuracy and the amount of the project you made yourself.

Do: Spin more than you think you need.

Unlike store bought yarn when you’re out of your handspun, you’re out. Yes you can spin more, but it’s difficult to get it to match exactly the longer you go between batches. Worst case if you spin too much? You have scrap yarn for making a scrap scarf, or naalbinding, or knitting with. You have options. Heck even just displaying handspun in a nice vase or bowl makes a lovely conversation piece.

Don’t: Forget to Process Your Yarn First.

There is nothing more frustrating than having a piece of cloth either be over energized (wrinkle and twist when you don’t want it to) or shrink way more than expected. You can cut down on this by prewashing your yarn and finishing it rather than just weaving with it right off the spindle.  I know it’s exciting and you want to get right to it, I’m guilty of this too. But it will make you happier in the end.

Do: Make Peace With Wonky Edges.

Your handspun is not going to be as perfectly even as machine spun yarn. You can get close! And the more you practice with spinning the closer you’ll get! But weaving shows every uneven point in your yarn. Accept it’ll happen, and either make peace with hemming, or embrace the wobble.

Don’t: Skimp on sizing.

Even if you don’t usually size your warp? Do it here. Handspun tends to be stickier and fuzzier than machine processed yarns, which means you’ll need help getting a clear shed. This is double true if you’ve decided to use a handspun warp. I use flax snot. Boil some flax seeds in water until it thickens up into disgusting feeling goop, strain the seeds out, and either soak your yarn or paint it on. It’ll give you a little bit of added protection to help your shed open cleanly AND help keep your warp from tangling and breaking so often.

Weaving with handspun is super rewarding if you ever get the bug to try it. If not? No worries! Keep on doing what you’re doing, hand weaving itself is beautiful! Spinning for its own sake and not to weave? Also awesome! I just hope this helped you out if you decide to combine the two.

Coats for Saxon Women

Are pure conjecture. As are coats for Danish, Norwegian, Finnish, and other Viking cultures. There I said it. We’ve got evidence for coats! We do. We have carvings on the helmet at Sutton Hoo showing warriors wearing what look like (to my entirely professional and serious eyes) fighting bathrobes. Observe:

Bathrobe of death

Note how they are crossed in the front and belted as opposed to clasped closed. We also don’t see this kind of garment on civilians or figures that are clearly female. I say clearly female because women fought too damnit, so they *might* have worn something like this, but not in a peaceful context. If you’re fighting and feel like making a killin’ robe you go right ahead, and feel free to stab anyone who complains that you’re in men’s wear. I mean, you’re already dressed for stabbin’ it’d be a shame for that to go to waste.

And so ends our solid documentation for jackets at all in this era. Everything else is conjecture. Not entirely baseless conjecture! We have things like brooches at throats, or mid chest. The issue is those could also hold closed shawls, wraps, or cloaks. The point is we’ve got nothing to support the very popular style of coat that’s cut close to the body, comes to about mid-calf, and is pinned closed mid chest but otherwise hangs open. For an image use your search engine of choice and look up ‘Anglo Saxon Women’s coat’ and you’ll get examples. Because we lack period images everything that comes up are private photos, and I’m not cool with putting some random person on my blog for the sake of saying their clothes are unsupported. That’s just rude as hell.

All that being said? Early period textiles are conjecture. From weaves, to colors, cuts, styles, materials, we’re making educated guesses. Our body of extant items is small enough that we *have* to guess. I can’t really support apron panels as a separate garment for Viking apron dresses, but they make sense and are pretty and plausible. We’ve got no clue how long under dresses were for Saxon women, or what color. We’ve got a couple images of the Virgin Mary looking like she’s wearing two different dresses, one shorter than the other. So we run with it. Necklines for women? Who knows! Veils, shawls, and the like cover them in every image we’ve got.

Coats for women make more sense to me than shawls and cloaks. Women worked and worked hard. It makes very little sense to navigate fire, looms, spindles, and the other day to day bits of womens’ lives while trying to keep a shawl or cloak wrapped around you to stay warm. I’ve done it. Trying to spin in a bulky cloak becomes a balancing act with sudden, jarring, bursts of cold air. Weaving on a warp weighted loom knocks the shawl off when you beat the weft up. Tending a fire with that much loose fabric, while entirely possible, is a pain. Those who came before us were not stupid. Coats with sleeves were, and are, an elegant solution to these issues.

Now, what about style? What arguments can we make here? Honestly the close fitting coat doesn’t really hold up. The style of it does! Just not the body skimming nature. You want a baggier coat for trapping more air between the layers to stay warm, and to easily cover whatever you’re wearing under it. Otherwise, what’s the point of a coat at all? A clasped in front cloak does make more sense for a woman than the crossed over warrior coat when you factor in baring children. A coat with a single clasp over the chest wouldn’t change how it fits or hangs over a pregnant belly like the crossed warrior coat above. If it’s baggy as opposed to body skimming (as I am arguing it should be) it could still cover the belly without needing to be remade or worn with additional bits and pieces. Breast feeding would be easier in the crossed over coat, it’s true. But it would still be easier in a baggy clasped coat over redrapping a shawl or cloak. A baggy coat just needs one clasp undone, baby tucked in, and the edges pulled back over mom and child.

In order to test my theory on ease of wear for a baggy clasped coat, I made one yesterday. It is quick and dirty (and ugly as sin to modern taste) but this sucker is *warm*, even being made out of a very light weight wool. It’s warmer than my modern winter coat. Which makes me mad because, again, this thing is ugly. But! It is a period herringbone twill, in all natural wool colors (plus blue and white twill edging, but the blue is a color we can produce with available dyes in period) and a plaid-ish pattern. With a thread count we’ve found in extant scraps. So it may be ugly as sin, but it’s documentably ugly.

I’m going to wear this thing next weekend to Falling Leaves and get joy out of the looks of horror.

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Weaving the Sacred

Beloved guests, you don’t have to follow a particular religion in order to be respectful to it. And boy howdy if you’re going to make something associated with any particular religion you need to have a lot of respect for it. Today we’re going to break down the bare bones of what that looks like with a very specific project plan.

A friend of mine posted on a popular social media site that she was considering buying a Tallit. She posted a couple links of things she was looking at. She is someone I am rather fond of and so I offered to weave her one custom. As a gift. Because I believe sacred objects should be gifted not sold. I did agree to let her buy the silk for me to make it with because well, I’ve been dealing with a lot of Life lately and I’m broke and living on my own for the first time. So lets break down how to make this, shall we?

Step 1: Research.

Know what you want to make. Read up on it, ask people whom it is sacred to why it is sacred. What makes it holy? What are the parts? Are their parts that are more holy than others? Is there something that you just should NOT make/touch as someone who doesn’t follow the faith or cultural practice in question? Is there something that HAS to be there? Is there a specific thing that CAN NOT be there?

If the answer is “do not make this thing. Do not wear this thing. Do not do this thing in this way” honor that. Full stop, no buts, end of discussion, thanks for coming to my TED talk. It’s not yours, you’re not entitled to it because it looks cool.

In my case the questions I had were:

What is a Tallit? Short answer: A Jewish prayer shawl.

What should I not make as someone who is not Jewish? The tassels. Those are extra sacred and I’m not comfortable putting those on.

Is it still going to be sacred if I (a not Jewish person) make it? Yes if it’s blessed by a Rabbi after I make it, before it’s used.

Is there anything I CAN NOT do to make it? YES do not mix wool and linen. No mixing fibers. That’s bad. So pure silk it is. Just avoiding the possibility of wool/linen mixing or the question of if a cotton blend is ok. Silk is good.

Other than that the person it’s a gift for signed off on the colors and design. So we’re good there.

Step two: Is the faith practice you’re making or the culture you’re working from still alive and active?

If so then you really Really need to talk to people who actually practice and make sure you’re not stepping on toes. If not, look at why. If it suffered a violent death or was stomped out rather than just faded with time? Maybe skip this project.

In my case, yes this is still a very Very alive and active and vibrant faith. So I sought out a couple other folks who practice it aside from the friend this is for to check and make sure this was really alright.

Step three: Be brutally honest with yourself for why you want to make it. 

Are you looking to convert? Did you marry into this faith or cultural practice? Is it a gift for someone who follows it? Are you attempting to authentically reenact a specific place and time where this would have been ubiquitous? Are you looking to create something challenging and display it with the appropriate context and research?

Or.

Do you want something pretty without context? Did you see someone wearing it and decided you needed to have it for fashion sake? Is it Halloween and you think it’d be great to dress up as another faith/culture? These are all signs you should really skip this project. No matter how pretty it comes out, you’re skirting the edge if not diving headlong into, cultural appropriation here. And that’s just a poor life choice my darling dear. That being said, I can’t stop you. No one really can. I’m not your parent or legal guardian and you’re more than likely not a child. But still. If you persist that path you’re getting a hell of a lot of side eye.

For this Tallit I wanted to make something pretty to celebrate a friend finishing converting to the faith that makes her heart sing. I wouldn’t make it for myself, and (pretty as it’s going to be because SILK) I’ve got no temptation to keep it. I was told the tassels are the most sacred part so I’m not going to make those, I’m going to leave that bit for her or her Rabbi to do.

Out of steps but reflecting on my own actions like a halfway human critter

My persona in the SCA is a Christian woman. She’s a Saxon. She’d at the very least have been culturally Christian, whether she believed the dogma or not. I am, well suffice to say I am not a Christian, devout or otherwise. So where does that leave me? I cover my hair, and wear long sleeved dresses, just like a proper Saxon lady would. The bible speaks on covering hair and dressing modestly. Am I failing my own test here? Can I reasonably assess that, given my own bias towards assuming what I’m doing is ok?

Lets try to break it down and see what I can do differently.

How much do I wear that is actually religious? I veil myself, and wear long sleeves. I don’t wear anything with a cross, or a saint’s face, or an associated animal or symbol. At least not on purpose or knowingly. Veiling and long sleeves are not confined to Christianity, and it is almost, if not, impossible to break out the garb of my chosen era from veils and long sleeves. I can’t do Saxon and ditch them. Therefore I’m calling them cultural rather than sacred.

Is my chosen culture still alive? If not how did it die? No. It is not still an active culture. Fucking Normans and Vikings. I have to rely on books, engravings, and whatever we can dig out of the ground. I can’t actually ask if the veil is sacred or cultural. I just have to assume and er on the side of caution.

What can I do differently? Not much that I can see. I don’t invoke God, I don’t carry a bible or prayer book, and I don’t wear religious jewelry. I think I just need to stick with that and put more careful consideration into any pieces I add to my kit.

So I think I’m doing ok? If not, let me know.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Perfection is Not Period.

Welcome to an Aethelflied has views post. Allow me to start with the following:

You are your own worst critic.

We as artisans want everything we do to be perfect. We want the lines in our illumination to be perfectly smooth with no wobbles, we want our metal work to have no dents or sharp bits (that ought not be sharp), we want every shot we throw to go flawlessly, we want our thread perfectly even and our weaving to be without a single error. Otherwise it’s not good enough. Fuck that shit.

No really. Forget about that. It is never going to happen and you’ll suck all the joy out of your own hobbies if you only accept perfection in your own work. And honestly? If you’re doing any kind of historic recreation? Perfection means you’re doing it wrong.

The things we are recreating were first and foremost functional. Does your object work for its intended purpose? Then you did it right and it is wonderful. Are there ways to improve? Yeah sure, and you should aim for that next time. But that should be the goal, better than or as good as last time. Not perfect.

And here’s the other important thing: You have permission to fail. No, really. You can fail. Yes you. And you. Fail big. Fail in new and exciting ways. Fail in ways that result in ‘no shit there I was’ stories. Because failure means you at least tried it before deciding you couldn’t do it. So long as you have all your body parts and no one is for real dead? Failure is good.

Going back to what I said about the objects we’re recreating being first and foremost functional. Super well made objects, or objects made deliberately pretty and impressive, were more likely to survive. That skews our sample bias towards stupidly fine work. Things that were used until they wore out don’t survive. Cloth rarely survives enough for us to see warping or treadling errors. In a fight the lucky shot won, not always the fighter with perfect form. We are comparing ourselves and our efforts to master works. Or at the very least to the work produced when someone has been doing it multiple hours a day, every day, since childhood. Unless you’ve had the same level of practice (spoiler: if you work full time or can buy your linens you have not) then your work is more than likely not going to be as perfect as extant examples.

On top of that, we live in an era of machines. Machines that can replicate things flawlessly because that’s All They Do. Comparing your output to that of a machine is silly and leads to madness.

In short: fail, fail big, and be proud of your mistakes.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to try to take my own advice and NOT count the treadling or threading errors in my most recent silk. Or over analyze my wonky hem line.

Rule 2

Or how to not chase people away from your hobby.

Rule 1: No unexpected hospital trips or emergency medical care. This is not the rule we’re talking about, but I knew if I didn’t say what it was I’d bet a bunch of folks asking.

Rule 2 (the one we care about in this post): Don’t be an asshole.

Now there are as many examples of assholery as there are people in any hobby. There are people who will shame anyone who knits with acrylic yarn, regardless of reason for the choice, there are folks who will chase other people out of any kind of gaming for reasons I do not comprehend, people for whom no outfit will be authentic enough. I could go on forever. But I won’t because we can all name examples.

Folks? All this behavior does is chase people away from something you love, which ultimately causes it to die. It doesn’t make you look impressive (though you do leave an Impression when you do it), it doesn’t help the person you’re doing it to, and it sure as hell doesn’t make your hobby better.

I will admit, there is one particular bit of rule 2 failure that angers me more than others. Garb and/or kit shaming. I can’t help it, I’m a textile nerd. I’m a textile process nerd. The how is just as important as the what when it comes to clothing for me. You all know that, you’ve read this blog before, you’ve seen what I make and how I make it. I’ll talk at you for hours about string and cloth.

That being said? Telling someone where their clothing isn’t Good Enough by your standards, when they had not asked for your input, is rude as fucking hell. Taking it upon yourself to critique someone else’s efforts is not educating, it is not helping them get better, it is rude. For all you know the item you’re stink eyeing is the first thing that person has ever made or bought, or is a technique they’ve never tried before. They may be proud as hell of it, and your “oh, is that cotton blend?” may be enough to discourage them from ever trying again. Don’t be that person.

They also may just be wearing something you are unfamiliar with. If you haven’t looked at Saxon, for example, it looks like generic SCA #3. So trying to give me pointers on how to up my game, or assuming I don’t know how to do something based on my shapeless over dress, is going to get you a take down of everything you have on right down to your thread count and the weave of your undergarments. Let alone how it was stitched or what it was stitched with. Certain colors that can be produced with natural dyes that we know were used in period? Read as almost offensively modern. Hot pink, bright orange, neon green, all acceptable in Viking textiles. Sometimes even together.

There are ways to encourage people to up their game, without breaking rule 2. Here are a few options:

  1. Make yourself approachable with questions.

If someone asks you how you did something, or for information, answer with excitement. Don’t respond with annoyance that the person didn’t know to begin with. Once upon a time you didn’t either.

      2. Make your knowledge available.

Teach classes, have a blog that people have the option of accessing if they want to. Join in conversations on social media sites. Offer to show people how to do the thing you’re passionate about.

3.  Make materials available.

Have extra fabric? Donate it to someone who is starting out. Bring your spare gear to practice so new people can try it out even if they’re poor. Offer to bring materials to events if someone expresses and interest. I can only weave and do what I do now because friends lent or bought me the materials to make it happen.

4. Be patient

Understand that not everyone is going to care as much as you do. They’re just not. And that’s ok. And, even if they do, they may not be able to either give as much time, money, or effort, to make it happen as you can.

Is that everything you can do? No. Do you need to do all of it? No. Teaching, for example, isn’t something everyone is up to doing. But before you make a comment on what someone is wearing ask yourself:

-Are they safe?

-Do they look comfortable?

-Did they try?

If the answer to all three is yes? Keep your thoughts to yourself unless they ask for your views. And remember “try” can be as small as a t-tunic and pajama pants, or a loose blouse and peasant skirt. Gods know sometimes high budget TV shows don’t even give us that much (I’m looking at you Vikings.), lets not ask for more accuracy from someone with an unknown yet presumably low budget, ok?

Don’t break rule 2.

On Difficulty

I’m a huge offender of this, I’m not going to pretend I’m not.

You ever have someone look at your work and tell you how beautiful it is or how comment on how complicated it must be or how they could never do something like that? And what is our default response? Certainly not ‘thank you’.

Oh it’s not hard!

Of course you could!

Oh I’ve just got more time for it!

It’s just x! (X being string, paint, swords, metal, ink, wood, whatever your art form is.)

I know when I do it I’m trying to be encouraging. Or I just don’t see it as hard because that’s how my brain works. For example, I show my husband weaving drafts where I can clearly see what the cloth will look like. It’s a graph after all, with the pattern of the cloth in the center. He looks at me like I’ve got six heads, even though he can look at the blue print and see a completed house where I see a bunch of lines and measurements. He can show me a plumbing diagram, and while I kinda get it I couldn’t follow it. Same for me showing him clothing patterns. Neither of us are dumb, we’re both visual people, it’s a matter of what we’re used to seeing.

That being said, dismissing what we do as a matter of ‘just learning’ does a disservice to people for whom it just doesn’t click. I can not paint. Full stop. I can draft a complicated clothing pattern on the fabric itself, without paper, cut it out, and have it fit. But my painting skills are blobs. I just can not use a brush. Painting is magic. When people offer to teach me (again) or tell me how I could do it if I’d just had the time, it’s frustrating. Trying makes me want to cry. I understand color theory, I know the mechanics of how it should work, there is no logical reason why I can’t. But there you have it.

There will always be people to whom what you do without apparently effort is the epitome of Magic that they will never master. No matter how much they may want to or how many times they’ve tried to pick it up. And brushing off their praise as ‘it’s just x’ isn’t helpful to anyone.

One of the hardest things for me to learn is that it is not conceited to say “thank you, this was a lot of time and effort.”

Acknowledging your skill is not bad, wrong, or rude. Even if it is something that comes naturally to you, acknowledging that it may be difficult for other people isn’t being a discouraging bad person. With that in mind may I present some alternatives?

“Wow, I could never do something like that!”

Instead of “Of course you could!” try “Have you tried before? What discouraged you that time?”

“That must have taken forever to do!”

Instead of “No, it’s super fast.” try “I can see where it looks like it, if you’re interested I can show you how it works.”

“That looks so hard.”

Instead of “It’s easy, it’s just x.” try “Thank you, it took a while for it to click.”

Here’s the super hard part. If someone says they tried to do something, and they just can’t do it? Even if its something that is easy as breathing for you? Take their word for it and gracefully accept their praise in the manner in which it is intended. If they want to try again, great! Teach them! If not? Don’t rub in that something they find impossible is something you can do without thinking.

Lets Talk Documentation

So a while back, over a year at this point I talked about recognizing good vs less reliable sources. But I neglected to point out one very key thing:

Getting documentation in the first place is half luck, and half circumstance. But wait! You’d put a lot of time and energy and effort into your research! It’s work not luck! Allow me to be clear for the rest of this: I am not discounting the work and effort of research and writing. It’s hard, it’s time consuming, and if you’re not a research nerd it’s damn near torture.

But if you’re able to document what you’re doing as historical and appropriate to a specific place and time? You’re lucky. You’ve got sources to work from in the first place. The closer you are to present day the easier your research will be due to availability of sources in the first place. If you want to have, say, an accurate 1980s party you can talk to people who lived through it, and raid their closets for extant clothing. Having an 1880s party is a bit harder, but you have patterns and paintings and sketches and journals. You’ll need to compromise on what fabrics and techniques you use, but you can make reasonable substitutions fairly easily. 1780s has you relying on paintings and journals, still doable, but more wiggle room. 1680s? 1580s? The further back you go the less accurate and available your sources become. That’s not even getting into if they exist in a language you can read or a country that didn’t actively try to destroy them.

I do 950’s-ish Saxon. My sources are sketches in bibles, loom weights, a couple records of how we paid priests, and some bits of thread stuck to the back of metal that got mineralized rather than rotting. I’m lucky! I have sketches of how women’s outfits looked! I have scraps of thread and cloth that lets me guess at thread count! I have a hat with needle holes to tell me how big stitches were at a different place but within 100 or so years. I’ve also got contemporary textiles unearthed in Greenland, and a book about them that was translated into English.

I also have very fortunate circumstances that allow me access to sources that do exist. I’ve been given or loaned books, people have put the images online, I can get to them. I had the money and access to buy text books, and the materials to practice.

Compare that to someone trying to study Korean or Chinese or (gods help you) Tibetan anything. Sources either don’t exist because they were intentionally destroyed,  or they are so expensive to get a hold of that they may as well not exist.

So what can we do about it?

Share your sources. No, don’t put whole books of copyrighted information online. That’s bad, legally and will get you in trouble. But talk to people. Teach. Lend your books and articles, tell people where you found the information.

But dear sweet marshmallow fluff on toast don’t just tell someone they’re doing it wrong and walk off without offering to help.

And one more note, just because you *can* document something doesn’t mean you should recreate it. Lead make-up is a poor life choice, hemlock drinking bowls also a bad decision. Some things belong only in research papers, don’t hurt anyone.

Diamond twill

Guys? Diamond twill is straight up sexy. It’s also found all over the place in period. And it’s easy to see why. It’s just as easy to set up and weave as any other 2×2 twill, and it creates this beautiful all over diamond pattern.

I mean, look at it. That’s what I have on the loom right now. It’s a 35epi purple and gold silk in a very basic diamond twill pattern. This is based on a find in Greenland mentioned in Woven into the Earth, believed to be an imported sample cloth as the small fragment was more densely woven than other textiles being produced in Greenland at the time. It also has four regular edges, and shows the full pattern, implying it was cut off just for that purpose.

Diamond twill works for, as far as I know, almost any early period persona. It’s that simple to make and prolific. But it’s especially easy to find in Northern Europe, we’ve got it from Sweden, through Russia, England, Greenland, ect.

Downside? It’s fallen out of commercial popularity. So good luck finding it for a reasonable price if you don’t weave it yourself. But! If you do weave you can find free pattern drafts for diamond twill and it’s sister broken diamond twill all over the internet.

How a project goes to hell

Or: Why Aethelflied is terrible at documenting her stuff.

I’m going to be perfectly honest with you all, writing documentation is not the fun part of a project for me. Make something? Heck yes. Research? Drown me in books, websites, research papers, and extant artifacts. Write up why I did what I did or how I did it? I’d rather pull my teeth out with rusty pliers. I’ll happily explain it, and answer questions if asked, and geek at you about string or words until you start looking for exits and wondering if I’ll notice if you just flee. But actually writing it out? No thank you.

I also suffer from chronic scope creep. Which makes succinct documentation difficult. A typical project for me goes as such:

-I want to make myself a wool hood. (Reasonable)

-I should sew half with bone needles and half with a modern needle. That way I can show there’s really no difference in the finished seams. (This slope is slippery, someone should salt it so no one falls)

– I should weave the fabric for it (Wait… self what’s happening?)

-What’s a period weave pattern for me? (Where are we going? Why am I in a hand basket?)

-What’s a period sett? I should email this museum and ask (Insert flashing danger lights)

-Well I’m already going through this much trouble. May as well spin it too. (Annnnd we’ve arrived at critical scope creep)

This is how we end up with me needing to write a multi-page college dissertation level paper about a rectangle and a pair of squares. Do I document my original project? The weave? The yarn? The needles? The stitch length? What about the breed of sheep? The corners I cut?

This is why I normally end up with a project, that I can talk about for days, that has no written documentation. I hit a point where my reaction to having to write out what I did is “I wove this out of handspun and sewed it with period tools! What more do you want from me?” The answer of course is “How do you know you used period tools?”

Right now I’m looking at documentation like warping a loom. It’s the not fun or sexy part of the project. But it’s gotta happen.