Archive for June, 2017

My daughter borrowed a pair of boho pants from a friend several months ago and wanted me to make her a pair. I dutifully took notes on the measurements and construction details (I thought) and then laid everything aside until this week. Whoops.

There seem to be two basic designs for boho pants. The first is the simplest and by far the most common. Naturally, my daughter wanted the second style, like these:


The pants my daughter borrowed has a 44 x 8″ waistband that is elasticised down to 28″, side seams on the legs that are about 30″ long, ankles that are 9″ each, and the length between the two ankles is 58″.

The striped fabric is adjusted so that it works on the bias both at the bottom and the top, similar to the picture of the orange pants. Instead of being a simple triangle with a waist and cut into the tip of the triangles, one side of the top of the front triangle is stretched and eased into a separate waistband in one direction, and the top of the back triangle is stretched and eased into the waistband in the other direction. This is what makes the stripes switch from horizontal to vertical at the side seams. The top of the pants is about 56″ just below the waistband. All this made me think that, for my daughter at least, a piece of 60″ wide fabric should do the trick. I would need about 70″ long to cut the waistband, and leave me with a square for the actual pants.

Fast forward to today, when I finally tried to make these pants. First, I made the mistake of deciding to be clever and make the waistband have a facing, instead of just stitching the elastic on the inside. That meant making nine tubes for tiny elastic, plus cutting a length that it turned out was needed for the pant legs. Then I spent ages trying to remember how to attach the triangles to the waistband. The final product has shorter legs than I would like, but it still works. Now that I have it figured out, I’ll make this again, but in a larger size.



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A&S Days

43 – spent the day being a Viking for the education program (elementary school day) at Upper Canada Village’s Medieval Festival. I mostly split my time between making a circular fishing net, combing wool for Kadlin to spin, and explaining all the things you can do with a dead animal (aka bone and antler are the plastic of the Middle Ages).

44 – down the research rabbit hole again. This time it was figuring out how to make a wicker eel trap, and hang my fishing net from a pole. Naturally, this involved looking at many pictures from manuscripts and archaeological finds.

45 – more research, this time on Merovingian purses – evidence for them being worn by women, and construction details. I have found extant examples of metal buckles I think I can make. I really hope shopping can count too, as I have ordered fabric for some new garb.

46 – Reading some new-to-me books on dyeing, browsing through two new books on Merovingians and Austrasians. The Merovingian book has some lovely pictures but is light on textile info; the Austrasian book is a disappointment because it is so basic. Also did a bit of gardening – I harvested most of my sorrel and some fresh onion greens for soup, and lettuce and arugula for salad.

47 – research on woad dyeing with a fermented urine bath, and found a copy of Sir Kenelm Digby’s recipe for mustard with horseradish. I promise I will not work on both of these recipes at the same time! Also did more knitting.

48 – more knitting, plus gardening and recipe planning. Read the 1596 book “A short introduction for to learne to swimme. Gathered out of Master Digbies Booke of the Art of Swimming. And translated into English for the better instruction of those who vnderstand not the Latine tongue.” By Christofer Middleton
Digby, Everard, Sir, 1578-1606., Middleton, Christopher, 1560?-1628 (found on Larsdatter, along with lots of pictures of people swimming. I also browsed through the book Early British Swimming (mostly the 16th C section).

49 – knitting (almost finished the first mitten – the fit isn’t as nice as I would like, but there is no time to rip it out if I’m going to finish the pair before they need to go to their new owner). Dyeing – I had a huge pile of rhubarb, so I boiled up a pound of the leaves while cooking the stems for future lunches. I strained out the leaves and now have a half pound of fleece simmering. Rhubarb is not a period dye plant, and the roots are much more likely to give a good colour (reddish), while the leaves are normally used to make a mordant. However, I have read that the leaves will also give a decent yellow, so I’ll leave them to soak overnight, then add some salt as a fixative and see what happens.

50 – half way there! More knitting, plus redoing the rhubarb. It was a disappointment. (Update – it’s still disappointing)

51 – tablet weaving, which felt really good. It’s nice to be back to a project that is work and is truly medieval

52 – knitting. The first mitten is finally done and I have started the cuff of the second one.

52 – Several hours of tablet weaving. I managed to tangle things up today. I got it untangled, then started working my tablets in the wrong direction. I caught it relatively quickly, but decided to leave them and just work correctly from there on, largely because the piece to that point should be enough for a coat cuff (my intended use). I kept working until a thread broke.

53 – I’m counting research as A&S today. I tried dyeing with rhubarb leaves earlier this week and it did very little to the wool (though rhubarb is supposed to be a good mordant). Today I have been looking up how dye with elderberries (promising, and I have some in my freezer), buckthorn bark (not brilliant, but worth trying if only to get rid of the buckthorn near my fence), and annatto (I bought a bunch on my last trip to El Salvador for cooking but I rarely use it to cook. Besides – so much orange!). Barberry, lilac twigs are in the mix too – I like barberries but my plant is still small, while I hate lilacs and the neighbour’s is growing into my yard. Since I love green but my woad and weld won’t be ready for a bit, I also looked at possible green dyes from other sources. So far, I have ruled out pigweed, lily of the valley and bindweed (despite promises on various sites, the colour don’t seem to be very good). I also looked up make my own verdigris (easy, but I’m not certain it will work on textiles), and how to make my own copper sulfate (much harder because I need to get hold of sulfuric acid). Now to save website links or print instructions so I’ll be ready to go tomorrow.n Tonight, I’m off for an early dinner with friends, and then to see the RCMP Musical Ride. Hopefully the rain has ended, though I doubt it will be nice enough for a picture like this, which I took at their show in 2014: RCMP


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I started a hat in Mammen stitch using a circular start and adding stitches from the crown. It’s the first time I have been really happy with a circular cast on.

I also worked on a new fishing net suitable for a small weir in a stream. Here I am working on it:

upper canada village 013.JPG

I ended my day learning to use Jorunn’s warp weighted loom.

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40 – knitting and naalbinding

41 – I spent the day with the Dark Ages Recreation Company (DARC) at the Medieval Festival at Upper Canada Village. It was mostly a day of talking about textiles with visitors, but I did manage to finish a Mammen stitch bag to hold my phone, complete with a strap so I can hang it around my neck or tie it to my knapsack. I am forever dropping or misplacing it because I don’t use pockets in most of my clothes. The wool was from an unsuccessful dyeing experiment the last time we were at L’Anse aux Meadows. We were trying some sort of seaweed in a salt water bath. Seaweed (at least this kind) did not make a very good dye bath.


I raced home afterwards so I could meet up with Tomas de Courcy, who blogs lots about cooking. We geeked out over cookbooks and recipes all through dinner. I’m totally counting this as part of #100daysofas.

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This three-legged stool is patterned after an oak stool seat from 16-22 Coppergate (more info on this can be found in “Wood and Woodworking in Anglo-Scandinavian and Medieval York” by Carole A. Morris (York Archaeological Trust, 2000, p. 2303-2304). Similar stools have been found in 10th and 11th C levels in Winchester, Dublin and Lund.

Mine is made from a leftover slab of pine that was in my basement, and parts of two boat oars (also pine, from my basement). Though the wood is different and it’s a little thinner than the original, the length and height dimensions are correct. The leg height was based on a what felt comfortable as a seat. My friend Aelfwyn kindly drilled the holes for me so that they are on a slight angle for greater stability, and cut the oars to length while she was at it. She has an awesome workshop filled with power tools that she uses to make many beautiful things when she isn’t helping her tool-impaired friends with projects. My job was to clean the varnish off the legs, then whittle the tops to fit as pegs in the holes, and clean up the seat so it is nice and smooth. The original was from a split board, rather than a cut board like mine, and doesn’t have any knotholes. Mine won’t pass a serious authenticity test, but it will work for most or my Viking age recreation activities. The pile of shavings on my floor today was impressive. I probably should have worked outside where I took this picture.


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Way back when, somewhere in the mid-late 1980s, I ran across naalbinding in Margarethe Hald’s book Danish Textiles in Ancient Bogs and Burials. I was fascinated. I wanted to learn this thing. I wanted to do all the stitches. Unfortunately, I’m not very good at translating two dimensional pictures into three dimensional objects, and no-one I knew was doing naalbinding at the time.

Eventually, I did figure out enough to make socks, mitts and hats, in something that sometimes looked like Coppergate stitch, and other times looked more like a basic basket weave. I acquired other books on naalbinding. I tried really hard to figure out Odd Nordland’s stitch notation system from Primitive Scandinavian Textiles in Knotless Knitting. I tried Lawrence Schmitt’s system. I got my then-apprentice Eluned to show me how she did it.

Eluned kept telling me to look at YouTube for really good instructions that might last longer than a brief lesson with her, but I never did, until yesterday. Hallelujah! I am now addicted to the Finnish/English instructions found here. This morning I dug out a skein of yarn and started working at it. I am now well into the second row for a bag to hold my phone. I may be late to the YouTube instructions party, but I’m celebrating now.

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I spent some time looking up soap recipes and history, and information about soapwort. I was recently given some plants which I want to use for making soap, since it is native to Europe, and it appears I already had some growing in my yard (aka mystery plants that were too pretty to mow): IMG_0575

This is a very helpful site with medieval and renaissance recipes for both hard and soft soap, and links to more: Medieval Soap Making. For more history, Wikipedia’s links seem to be about as good as it gets, though Roger Pearce has done some good sleuthing to show that neither Galen nor the Ebers papyrus are solid evidence for soap, as such. Culpeper (1616-1654) writes: that “bruised and agitated with water, i raises a lather like soap, which easily washes greasy spots out of clothes” (Culpeper’s Complete Herbal, reproduced from an original edition published in 1826, Magna books, 1992, p. 162). Using soapwort looks pretty simple – basically I need to chop up leaves and stems, add water, and stir it up. I can even dry the plant and use it throughout the year. The roots may have more saponification properties, but I don’t want to dig up the roots and lose my plants. I noticed more soapwort in fields near the barn where my horse lives; if I can get out that way again before the flowers disappear, I’ll try harvesting them.

Update – it is Dame’s Rocket, or Hersperis Matronalis.

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