27 June 2013

Unusual 'embroidery'

I saw this and couldn't resist telling you about it.

Researchers in Uppsala University have just finished restoring a 14th Century manuscript - so far, so normal. However, unlike most medieval books whose holes, rips and tears have simply been left, this one has been repaired at some point in history with beautiful buttonhole stitch darns in bright silk threads. How beautiful!

Also, interestingly, this is an example of the apocrypal statement that "black fabric rots because of the dye". All of the silk threads are fine, except the black ones which now disintegrates upon touch. Colour analysis has revealed that the black threads were dyed with iron sulphate and tannin. (And they are, even now, a remarkably pure, strong black colour.) However, the authors state that:
"The whole dyeing process is very acidic and if the wrong proportions of tannin and iron salt are used, sulphuric acid forms considerably accelerating the natural decomposition of the thread or material."
This implies that the disintegration of thread only occurs if the dying was done incorrectly. Also, note that it has taken 600 years for the thread to rot into this state. It is unclear what, if any, effect even an improperly created iron/tannin dye would have on thread or fabric within an individuals lifetime.

26 June 2013

Reenacting ... prompts a to-do list

I've spent the weekend away reenacting (yay!) - my first show since last July, and a three-day one at that. Wonderful. However, there's nothing quite like a show to remind you of all the things you need to fix/change. This time, I'm going to put them here, in a hope that I will actually remember about them and maybe even (shock! horror!) actually get around to making the mends and additions.

18 June 2013

Pink lower class dress: finding inspiration

I've been meaning to make another 1370s lower class dress for some time now. My mainstay reenacting dress is a pale green one in coarse linen, which was my first ever sewing project (ignoring the shift that goes under it). While it has held up remarkably well to both 6 years of reenacting wear-and-tear and my increasing knowledge of actual medieval dress construction, I'm often cold when wearing it (stupid Welsh weather...).

So, it is time for an overdress. A nicely made one, despite it being lower class, incorporating all the knowledge I've gained, plus using WOOL so that I will be nice and toasty. 

5 June 2013

Blue wedding dress: finally! photos!

Last weekend I finally managed to find the time and got out my wedding dress. I was quite concerned that it would no longer fit as I've lost just over 2 stone since last year. Also, I needed to check its state. It was always intended to be a re-enactment dress after it was a wedding dress, but there is some minor damage that needs fixing (namely lost buttons). Also, as it was very much rush-finished (I sewed the eyelets and hem the day before the wedding!), there are bits that need re-doing or that were skipped which need doing now.

But, seeing as I had it all on, I thought I'd get Himself to take some photos so you could finally see it properly.

4 June 2013

Medieval London records

Just a quick little link here, found via medievalists.net: medievallondon.co.uk. This site was started last year by Robert Ellis and explores the extant textual records from medieval London, in particular the late 14th C record Letter-Book H which contains copies of various documents such as petitions, wills, mayorial proclamations, etc.

There is a nice option which takes you to a random entry. This took me to Entry 7, a mayorial proclamation from November 1375 which is rather preoccupied with poultery sellers (poulterers), but contains some interesting points:

  1. Many of the crimes listed result in imprisonment in jail as well as a fine, even comparatively minor ones. My previous reading had led me to assume that imprisonment was a very rare form of punishment in medieval England and mostly used as a way of holding suspects of major crimes (e.g. treason, murder) until the annual crown court in the area. Maybe the greater use of imprisonment is a London/large city-specific thing?
  2. There is a nice example of one of the many rulings that disprove the old myth about medieval people eating rotten meat. Namely: "and that no-one, of whatever condition that he should be should carry nor put {for sale} any manner of poultry that was rotten or stinking or not acceptable to the body of man, on the loss of the same poultry and upon the judgement of the pillory." (Interestingly, this is the only part of this entry that proscribes the pillory as punishment.)