31 August 2013

A little embroidery

Not strictly medieval, but this is one of the things I've been working on over the last couple of weeks.

30 August 2013

Thoughts on Living History

Katrin Kania recently wrote an interesting blog post about The Rules of Experimental Archaeology. I thought I might write something similar about Living History, though they are not rules per se ... more like advice with a dose of opinion. ;)

Of course, perhaps I should first explain what living history is... Wiki gives a fairly good explanation
Living history is an activity that incorporates historical tools, activities and dress into an interactive presentation that seeks to give observers and participants a sense of stepping back in time. Although it does not necessarily seek to reenact a specific event in history, living history is similar to, and sometimes incorporates, historical reenactment. Living history is an educational medium used by living history museumshistoric sitesheritage interpreters, schools and historical reenactment groups to educate the public in particular areas of history, such as clothing styles, pastimes and handicrafts, or to simply convey a sense of the everyday life of a certain period in history.
Another way to put it is: living history is an obsessive, time-consuming hobby that quickly turns into a way of life. Symptoms include always having a small sewing project in your purse and being able to spot a 100% wool melton at 50 paces...

18 August 2013

Interesting references and a bit about cleanliness

Yes, I am still alive. ^_^ It's just been too hot for textile stuff of any sort (my hands sweat... ick). So, in lieu of a proper post, here's a few interesting links I've come across over the last few weeks:

A pdf containing the entire doctoral dissertation of Margareta Nockert, entitled "The Hogom Find and Other Migration Period Textiles and Costumes in Scandinavia".

An interesting website on recreating Viking clothing, including links to various archaeological reports.

A fascinating blog written by several research scholars regarding the history of recipes. It includes such interesting topics as: Dyeing wool in Seventeenth Century Germany, by Karin Leonhard and David Brafman; Medieval fertility and pregnancy tests, by Catherine Rider; Healing charms in Fifteenth Century English recipe collections and Other more light-hearted charms, by Laura Mitchell; Dipping your toes in the water: Reconsidering Renaissance England's attitudes toward bathing and A sweet bath and sweating: Renaissance ladies and bathing,by Colleen Kennedy.

The latter two blog posts are particularly interesting as they completely refute the whole "they never washed" argument. As a medieval enthusiast, I spend quite some time correcting the notion that medieval people never washed, but had always explained it as "no, that was the Tudors". These articles correct the notion again: yes, medieval people washed (public bathhouses were still very much a thing), but the notion that people of the Renaissance did not is also incorrect.

This notion comes from poor reading of documents, and perpetuation of this poor scholarship for decades after by historians who are too lazy to read real historical documents and instead just parrot the "knowledge" of their elders. Yes, there are many documents of the era that state how people of the Renaissance rarely bathed, compared to either their medieval forbearers or the Ancients of Greece and Rome. However, this totally ignores the fact that a bath is not the sum total of methods to clean one's body, and Renaissance people made full use of the other methods: saunas; rinsing, sponging or flannel-washing particular body parts; bathing in springs, ponds and rivers; even an early form of shower where water or liquor was poured down onto the body from "a snowted vessel". 

With all these methods in common use, the Renaissance person was hardly the grimy, stinking individual so often described. Rather, as in any era, the only truly filthy people you would generally encounter are those whose jobs cannot help but result in dirtiness, those who are physically or mentally unable to care for themselves (and lack anyone to help them) and those who are too poor to access the means to make themselves clean.

7 August 2013

Review: Pallia spindle sticks and clay whorl

I've been greatly inspired by Cathelina di Alessandri's medieval spinning hypothesis. It's given me some ideas and impetus to finally think properly about spinning for medieval reenactment and how to go about it. However, first I needed the kit - whorl and spindle. Cathelina recommended Katrin Kania's shop for these and I've been looking for an excuse to buy something from her for a while. So, I begged a whorl and spindle sticks for a birthday present. Here's what I think of them: