While searching around for something else (my latest obsessions are documenting medieval dumplings and pilafs) I came across a reference to pretzels. I thought I would add it to the documentation from when I entered an A&S competition last year, only to discover I had never uploaded that documentation. I searched for it on my home computer, only to discover another document on pretzels, but not the documentation I wrote. This version is from 2014. Apparently I really obsess about pretzels. The one I want must be on my work computer. All this tells me that this blog site is the best place to store my stuff, because at least it is searchable!

Today’s discovery is from Eat and be Satisfied. A Social History of Jewish Food by John Cooper Jason Aronson Inc., 1993, pp 150-151. According to to Cooper, “the first written reference to pretzels was made by Isidore of Seville (c 560-636 CE), who called them by their Latin name of bracchium.” He also says that “by the late Middle Ages pretzels had evolved into three varieties: beer pretzels, boiled in lye before baking and sprinkled with salt or sometimes caraway seed; egg pretzels, made with sweet dough or ground almonds (not the parallel with egg bagels and certain kinds of Italian doughnuts from the sixteenth century); and soft pretzels from south Germany, which were thick dough rings somewhat resembling bagels in shape.”  Of note, “the Yiddish word bagel was first mentioned in the ordinances of the Cracow community in1610, which stated that they could be sent as gifts to women about tho give birth and to midwives.”




Melitta Weiss Adamson (Regional Cuisines of Medieval Europe, Routledge: 2003, p 163) notes that Walter Ryff’s 1549 dietary (Kurtze aber vast eigentliche), lists lower-class foods including oats, cabbage, chestnuts, beans, millet and turnips. “Cabbage, Ryff informs the reader, is eaten daily all over Germany, and in Bavaria sauerkraut is eaten three to four times a day as a meal”.

These are notes for a class on mending at Skraeling Althing’s Practicum 2018.

Why should we learn about mending and patching? For me, it is mainly because I have been doing recreation long enough that my clothing is starting to show distinctive signs of wear. Worn hems, moth holes, burn marks from cooking fire sparks, tears, and possibly even clothing that has shrunk in my closet. But it is also about the medieval aesthetic. I prefer clothes that look properly worn, not costumes. To me, outfits that look too fresh just don’t look right. As a medieval woman, cloth is precious to me because it takes so long to make. I won’t throw it out simply because it needs a little repair. Instead, I will wear my dress until it is absolutely threadbare, patching and mending to keep it in use as long as possible.

Medieval Tailor’s Assistant: Common Garments 1100-1480, by Sarah Thursfeld (The Crowood Press, 2001), has useful information on repairs. According to Thursfeld, patching was more common than darning. She says that matching the fabric weight was more important than matching the colour, and that patches were applied to the right side of the clothing. Patches should have their grain aligned with the grain of the item being repaired. In the case of light fabrics, the raw edges of the patch should be turned under and the patch stitched in place. Then turn over the item, trim back the raw edges until your hole matches the square of the patch, snip into the corners, and then turn under and hem to the patch. For heavier-weight fabrics, there is no need to make a hem allowance. Thursfeld notes that the most common item needing repair was split hose. For them, match the patch to the grain, then darn the hose to the patch. Be sure to do it unevenly, as otherwise the hose are likely to split again. Finally, trim the patch close to the darning and leave the edges raw.

Rosalie’s Medieval Woman (https://rosaliegilbert.com/sewingtechniques.html) has an example of a neckband with a silk strip sewn to the inside of the neck of a high-grade woolen garment. A band like this one would provide extra re-enforcing where wear and tear is likely to occur. The opening reinforcing is made from a narrow silk strip. It is dated between 1325 to 1350.

It is possible that this garment or others like it had similar bands at the ends of the sleeves to reinforce the edges which were subject to the most wear.

Rosalie also offers advice on worn ems and cuffs. She notes that it was not uncommon for a woman to cut the hem of her gown off when it was too ragged and re-sew it a little shorter or to replace it with a strip of new fabric.

She gives the example of a picture from the Romance of Alexander showing a woman catching butterflies who appears to have rehemmed her dress. This is not purely decoration. Toni Mount’s book, Everyday Life in Medieval London, explains that in 1320, the household wardrobe accounts of Edward II’s wife Queen Isabella herself had garments re-hemmed to prolong the wear of them and save the cost of new gowns.


This may also be an example of a dress or hem guard, something which shows up fairly commonly in the Renaissance. A guard is a wide band of less expensive fabric which could be added to over and underskirts to take the wear of weather, dirt, and dragging on the ground. These could be removed and replaced when soiled or worn out, preserving the more expensive skirts

John Frey’s blog (http://matsukazesewing.blogspot.ca/p/repairs-on-extant-medieval-garments.html) has an excellent article listing many repairs on extant medieval garments.

  Herjolfsnes 43.  Much patched, including a large patch on the lower edge suggesting a sword being worn with it.  S1

Uppsala Gown – the front skirt has two nearly invisible patches in the front skirt—suggesting it had been stepped on.  S1

The Moy Gown was patched and there are holes at stress points in the garment.  S1  There was also a small patch covering (re-enforcing?) the point of the back gores. S5

Dava Moor, Cromdale, Morayshire.  Presumably in Scotland.  May be post period. – Unknown dating.  Clothes are ragged in the extreme and contain at least 29 different cloths (fabrics?).  S2

Shetland. (NA 249.) – Felt skullcap with two tears roughly mended with thick 2-ply brown wool, and a hole near the edge roughly patched with two pieces of cloth.   S2

Dungiven Costume – All the garments were tattered and had been lined with patches.  S3  The doublet was lined with patches. The trius were a mass of patches by the time of burial, something like six layers deep in places. S6

Skjoldehamn Find – The shirt was heavily patched on (as worn) the underside of the right sleeve; underarm (towards the front) of the right sleeve; the right side in the area of the hip covering front and back side (this one looks like it’s been patched a couple of times—there’s definitely two separate patches, one overlapping the other); a large one on the left side, more towards the front and slightly higher than the right side; just above it there is another patch; there is one at the inside intersection of the other two left patches; there are two other patches in the front and underarm of the left side.  S4 p.83-84

  • All the patches are irregular in shape, I believe that most of them used a whipstitch (wool thread—almost looks white), but one or two may have used back/running stitch.  I believe that most of the patches have been turned under, but one in particular (right underarm) looks frayed on one edge.  Most of them as well are on the outside of the material, but the three small patches near/on the left arm are actually done from the wrong side of the material—on one you can actually see the outline of the patch in a way that suggests that it was fastened with a whipstitch.  S4 p.82
  • In light of some new information, I found out that all of the patches were roughly overcast with a variety of yarn types, Z2S being the most common.  On some at least, an overcast stitch was used to stitch the raw edge of the hole to the patch it’self, making the repair more solid. S4 translated by Asfridhr

Bernuthsfeld Tunic – A bog find dating to the 7th century in Germany, it was found at the beginning of the 20thcentury, and is composed of 45 pieces of different wool fabrics, sewn together in a patchwork. S7.

  •  Personally I don’t believe that it was made as a patchwork to begin with, and is the result of extensive repairs—perhaps over a couple of generations.  Looking at a colour image of the tunic, I agree with myself–several of the pieces are attached slantwise and are quite obviously layered.

Schlabow2376, Bernuthsfeld Tunic.  Front.
Schlabow2376, Bernuthsfeld Tunic.  Back.

Robe of St. Francis of Assisi

Lendbreen Tunic (250-340AD) – Two patches, in the same area.  The first, square patch was placed on the wrong side, and the edges of the hole (probably trimmed) were whipstitched down.  The second patch was lain over the first, on the inside, sewn down with a running stitch (probably along the edge of the hole), and had the edges whipstiched down. (S9)  The second patch is of slightly different material, and sewn using different thread than the first one. There is also a seam repair on the right sleeve.  Whipstitch.  (S9)

S1) http://users.skynet.be/bister/Passion/Fichiers/14th%20century%20garments.pdf  Some mentions of repairs

S2) Early Scottish Textiles.  http://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/catalogue/adsdata/arch-352-1/dissemination/pdf/vol_086/86_001_029.pdf

S3) The Dungiven Costume  http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/20627382?uid=3739512&uid=13674576&uid=2&uid=3&uid=3739256&uid=60&sid=47698868231857

S4) Nye tanker om Skjoldehamnfunnet.http://www.ceilingpress.com/Resources/Nye%20tanker%20om%20Skjoldehamnfunnet.pdf

S5) Reconstruction of the Moy Bog Gown. http://www.personal.utulsa.edu/~marc-carlson/cloth/moy3.html

S6) The Dungiven Costume, Reconstructing History article

S7) The conservation of an early mediaeval patchwork-style tunic.  This is the paper information.


S8) The Robe of St. Francis of Assisi.  There is a photo, although I believe the white patches may be modern.  http://blog.beliefnet.com/deaconsbench/2007/10/the-robe.html

S9) Lendbreen Tunic. https://www.academia.edu/4372500/Out_of_the_Norwegian_glaciers_Lendbreen-a_tunic_from_the_early_first_millennium_AD

Note: This piece is under construction, and will occasionally be updated.
4-16-15: Edited Bernuthsfeld comment.  Added Bernuthsfeld and Assisi pictures.

© John Frey, 2014. The Author of this work retains full copyright for this material. Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of this document for non-commercial private research or educational purposes provided the copyright notice and this permission notice are preserved on all copies.

Clothes aren’t the only things that need mending. This article has an amusing description of repairing the seams on woven socks. https://diehandmaid.wordpress.com/2016/04/03/sonniges-saisonstart-struempfestopfen/

Woven into the Earth: Textiles from Norse Greenland by Else Ostergard has examples of patches and piecing. The hood on p. 207 shows two piecings on the bottom of the hood, and there is a patch on the right side. A cap on p 219 has a patch below the crown (and the cap is made in two pieces). The cap on p 220 is made of four pieces of different cloth, plus the crown. The tunic on p 175 has a left sleeve that is pieced and patched. The tunic on p 169 has a gusset that has been pieced.

The blog Medieval silkwork (http://www.medievalsilkwork.com/2013/10/mending-old-shirt.html) has a darning technique that is plausible but may be post-period. She weaves a darn right into the old cloth, using pins to hold the warp threads in place. She only attaches by sewing in on the weft edges, but you could also put a stitch in above each pin. This is very good for places where you don’t want the bulk of patches, such as under armpits.

Similar darns can be used on woven or knitted socks, though I don’t bother with the pins. Instead, I use a darning egg and stitch right into the cloth to form a warp, and then weave a weft as I work back. Naalbinding socks can be repaired simply by naalbinding a new section in the worn or torn spot.

A new book, Clothing the Past: Surviving Garments from Early Medieval to Early Modern Western Europe, by Elizabeth Coatsworth and Gail Owen-Crocker, has reference to patches and repairs according to Google Books, but it is an expensive investment so I don’t yet own a copy to provide more details.

Cookbook Reviews

I have been on a bit of a cookbook buying spree, thanks to cleaning up my list of books to find. I had three cookbooks on the list and I no longer remember when I decided I needed them, or what prompted me to find the titles in the first place. Luckily, all three books became available about the time I started searching again, so now I have three books that are very different from each other and pose interesting challenges.

Speisen wie die Äbte und essen wie die Mönche (Dine Like the Abbots and Eat Like the Monks) is a transcript of the Mondseer Cookbook, from 1453 in the Mondsse Cloisters in Austria (its church was the setting for the wedding scene in The Sound of Music). The book also includes Master Cook’s Instructions from 1593 through 1645, a chapter on food chits from 1538 to 1632 (these seem to be short menus for different months and days of the year), and the business brook (regular communes) from 1538. This is the most challenging book for me, but also the most interesting in some ways. As I have a Germanic persona, I am always trying to learn more about German cooking and housewifery. Unfortunately, my German is not very good and Google Translate doesn’t work very well for medieval German. I do recognize lots of individual words and the basics of recipes, so I will spend some quality time over the next few months comparing it with my good translation of Das Buch von Guter Speise.

The next book is Relieves de las mesas, acerca de las delicious de la comics y Los deferents platos, a Spanish translation of the 13th C Andalusian cookbook by Ibn Razin al-Tugibi. This one is much more straightforward, except that it is only in Spanish. The original Arabic text is not included – not that I speak or read Arabic. The author (Manuela Marin) is a Spanish academic specializing in the social history aspects of Arabic and Islamic studies, has written a history of food in the Islamic world, and is a member of the executive committee of the the European Institute of Food Hisory, so I’m going to assume that this is a decent translation. This is a very comprehensive cookbook but I hesitate to plunge in because the first recipe I saw when I flipped it open was for rice pudding. I dislike rice pudding.

The final book is Byzantine Cuisine, by Henry Marks, known in the SCA as Demetrios  Misthophoros aka Demetrius il Condiottiero. He was  a Master of the Laurel and one of the founders and first Guild Master of the Calontir Cooks Guild. The book was originally published in 2002 by a company that is no longer in business, and Dr. Marks himself died in 2014. I finally found a copy on EBay, and it was worth the hunt. His articles on Byzantine culture are scattered around the internet and I have found them to be interesting. Byzantine Cuisine is not a translation of any single cookbook, but rather a description of categories of foods, dining customs, some recipe re-creations, and translations of several Byzantine texts with food references in them (all of which are new to me). I have found one blog post that claims Marks was a good translator but not a good recipe writer (based in part on her view that phyllo dough was not used). However, I did a bit of digging myself and found reasonable evidence that baklava-type recipes, and recipes using layers of dough like phyllo did indeed exist in the Turkic and Byzantine worlds. He is also very clear where he moves into the role of speculation due to the lack of detailed information (eg using beaten egg whites as a leavening agent because the recipe for honey cakes makes no mention of anything except flour and honey, and it is reasonable to assume some sort of liquid and a learning agent). On that basis, while I am not prepared to take all the recipes at face value because I can’t read the original documents, I am prepared to use them as a starting point for more research, and make some of them just for fun.


For the record, I just calculated where I am on the 100 Days of A&S challenge, and I am at Day 375. I have completed a full year of doing at least 10 minutes of A&S every single day, and I’m now 10 days into year 2. Go me!

Back in the fall, when I was drowning in horseradish, I came across this 15th C Spanish recipe for candied horseradish:

Recipe by Daniel Myers


1/4 cup fresh horseradish (approx.)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water


Wash and scrape horseradish until it’s clean and white. Cut into two inch strips about half the thickness of a pencil. Place in lightly salted, boiling water and cook until tender – about 15 minutes. Drain and set aside. Put water and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Add horseradish and reduce heat to keep it at a low simmer, stirring regularly. If you use chopsticks to stir the pieces around then you can easily test the syrup to see if it forms soft threads. When it does, remove the pan from heat and take out the horseradish pieces one at a time and lay on a wire rack to dry briefly. Coat each piece with sugar and store in an airtight container.

Source [Libre de Totes Maneres de Confits]: CAPITOL .VIIJ.e PER CONFEGIR LO RAVE GUALESCH Pendreu lo rave gualesch e reu lo e feu lo net be ab aygua. E apres telar l eu menut tot, e apres metreu lo al foch ab aygua e metreu hi un bon puny de sall e bulla tant que sia ben mol. E apres treureu lo n e metreu lo en aygua freda .viiij.o jorns mudant tots jorns l aygua. E, com sia be deselat, aureu fussa vostra mell, e, ben escumada axi com dit es, metreu lo ab la mel o axerop e bulira ferm tro que lo axerop sia fet que fassa fills. E a mester en una llr. de rava galesch .j. llr. de mel.

Chapter Eight To Candy Horseradish. Take the horseradish and scrape it and make it clean with water. And then chop it all finely, and then put it on the fire with water and add a good handful of salt and boil it enough so that it is very soft. And then take it and put it in cold water for nine days, changing the water each day. And, once all the salt is removed, have your honey made, and, well skimmed as it is said before, add it all to the honey or syrup and boil it rapidly so that the syrup is done when it makes threads. And for one pound of horseradish one pound of honey is enough. (Vincent Cuenca, trans.) http://medievalcookery.com/recipes/horseradish.html

I made a small batch, following the instructions of the redaction exactly. It was okay, but still had a slight horseradish flavour.

I decided to try again, this time winging it a little and cooking the syrup until it crystallized in the pan. I may also have boiled the horseradish a bit longer. The resulting candy was crisp and heavily caramalized (to the edge of burnt) but didn’t taste of horseradish. I think this version is actually my favourite.

Then I visited my friend Lucia and she showed off her version. She had used hone, as in the original, and sliced the horseradish far smaller than the recipe called for. She said she had boiled the heck out of her horseradish before cooking in the honey. It was beautiful, and very tasty, so of course I had to try another batch. Thankfully, it’s the last of the horseradish for this year. I cut my pieces very tiny, and I definitely boiled it much longer than the recommended 15 minutes. I think it would have benefitted from several changes of water as it soaked for a day or so, because there is still a bit of horseradish taste to the candy. The honey is much stickier, of course, but it does give a lovely colour and texture, and it is quite tasty.

From left to right: original recipe, crystallized in the pot, cooked in honey. For the record, the bowls on the left hold only a fraction of the candy. I really do have a lifetime supply.



While in Afghanistan, I discovered jujubes. No, not the sickly sweet jelly candies. These are fruits. They come from a small tree first cultivated in South Asia. Jujubes are drupes, with a single seed similar to an olive pit.


In Persian traditional medicine it is used in combination with other herbal medicines to treat colds, flu and coughing, according to Wikipedia. This is consistent with what the man displaying them told me.

The jujube tree was probably known in the Greek world from the time of Alexander the Great. One of the scientists accompanying Alexander to India described what appears to be the jujube. It also appears in Latin literature as a an exotic tree “recently arrived to Italy” (Pliny’s Natural History, cited in “The Jujube Tree by Alain Touwaide in Health and Healing from the Medieval Gardewn, p 88). Galen knew of jujubes but did not think highly of their nutitious value (ibid, p 92). Medicinal uses for jujubes were recorded in the 3rd C, but jujubes disappeared from Western medical and botanical literature in the 4th C. However, they continued to be recorded occasionally in Byzantine literature. They seem to have been rediscovered after the 10th C, and in the 11th C, the reputation of jujubes changed from being low quality and difficult to digest, possibly because the author (Simeon Seth) used Arabic sources. It appears that physicians valued jujubes and grew them from Baghdad to Andalusia. However, there is no archaeological evidence to show that jujube trees grew in the Byzantine world. (Ibid, pp 94-100)

The other pictures have little to do with jujubes, but I wanted to save them someplace. The upper picture is of different varieties of pomegranates. The lower picture has dried fruits and nuts including grapes, raisins, jujubes, and pine nuts (not the white ones we are used to, but large dark brown-black nuts).

Twelfth Night

I have been working on a super secret project for Twelfth Night festivities this year and it turned out even better than expected. My belly dance class had developed a fun dance based on a Soca dance from St. Lucia, which we performed at the big class party in December. Since then, I have spent many hours adding more beads and sequins to the costume, and today I performed the dance as a solo for the silly arts and sciences contest at the event. I had lovely documentation that plagiarized liberally from Wikipedia and a few other sources to link early Germanic winter festivities to Carnival in 13th C Speyer (not too from my home city of Metz), to the discovery of St. Lucia and its colonization, and African influences on Carnival costumes. I even worked in a reference to Tacitus.

There is something rather fun about being a stodgy middle-aged housewife in your medieval game for many years, then showing up in something foolish. Today I chose my heraldic fool’s costume, which hasn’t seen the light of day in at least a decade. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find either of the matching hats, so I had to settle for the one from another costume. This should have been enough to warn people something was up, but I still managed to shock by slipping off my big cloak, putting on a feather headdress, and dancing to Allez Allez. I don’t have any pictures of the solo, but I’m the one on the left in this group picture from our Chrismas show:


To make my day even sillier, I found a bean in my cake and became the King (or possibly co-Queen) of Misrule with the lovely Lady Gwendolyn. We had a very silly court with knecht Ruprecht doling out punishment for sins reported to us by people at the event.