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DISTAFF, the textiles group, had both 8:30 and 10:30 sessions scheduled this morning, but two of the three papers in the 8:30 session cancelled, so Lauri (the third) got moved into the 10:30 which will potentially slop over (being the last time-slot of the Congress).

Session 514: Dress and Textiles II: Codes, Classification, Camouflage

Sponsor: DISTAFF
Organizer: Robin Netherton
Presider: Gale R. Owen-Crocker

Dressing Up and Dressing Down: The Uses of Livery in the Fourteenth Century - Laurel Ann Wilson, Independent Scholar

Traces the evolution of livery from its origins as a type of "payment in kind" of clothing, in addition to wages, to its modern sense of "a type of highly standardized identifying clothing, a uniform".

Earlier livery allotments were often highly stratified and distinguished by the role and position among the recipients, not only in terms of the quality and amount of cloth, but differentiating colors and what proportion of solid or striped fabric, as well as furs for higher status recipients. The giving of livery was restricted to high status individuals, such that it was considered a transgression for someone not of sufficient rank to distribute it to his followers. The receipt of livery was considered a right, and in some cases the failure to be given livery relieved a person of obligations to the lord.

The wearing of livery displayed the lord's wealth and status, and it was important for recipients to wear it, especially on public occasions, so as not to imply their lord was stingy or poor. But receiving livery also gave status to the recipient, and so the distribution could be used as a tool to require the physical presence of the recipients in order to receive it.

The detailed specifications of exactly what cloth people receive include a curious reference to late additions to a livery roll receiving an allotment of the "secta" [Latin] of a particular occupational class--a term that may possibly refer to the specific color/pattern in which it was to be used to identify that class of recipient.

It is a later development for all recipients of livery in a household to receive clothing with a uniform appearance (though perhaps different quality), where the garments as well as the colors and decorations are identical. This created the "uniform appearance" (in both senses) that is associated with the term "livery" today.

Livery distributions to royal households could include hundreds of individuals. This could easily have had a massive economic influence on cloth/clothing markets, though it's hard to tell whether the market's ability to provide hundreds of identical outfits drove the distribution, or whether the desire to distribute hundreds of identical outfits drove the market to keep up and supply them.

[Cancelled papers: Dressing, Undressing, and Cros-dressing in Early Modern Accounts of the Holy Land - Emily Price; A Man in an Otter Suit: Echoes of Norse Magic in the Nibelungenlied - M. A. Nordtorp-Madson]

Session 542: Dress and Textiles III: Working with Textiles

Sponsor: DISTAFF
Organizer: Robin Netherton
Presider: Robin Netherton

Gender and Textile Production in Thirteenth-Century Paris - Janice M. Archer, Independent Scholar

Survey of gendered aspects of the structured textile industry, which controlled who profited from the trade and who was stuck in low-paying manual jobs. Identifying women's economic contributions via tax records can be difficult in "intact" households, as legal records normally only list male head-of-household. But singlewomen, widows, and occasionally a married woman with a separate business are listed on their own. Women may be grouped with others (adult children, groups of beguines, etc.) for tax purposes, but typically women stand alone in these records. Men's assessments will silently incorporate the productivity of wives and children.

Overall (all textile trades), female tax entries are more skewed toward the lowest tax bracket (but this may be due to the men subsuming other incomes?). Men are 78% of listed taxpayers, women 21%. Wool workers are generally better off than average but the gender distribution is similar. Silk workers show an even greater skewing to higher tax bracket, but still with women lagging. Looking at silk producers (e.g., silk throwers, as opposed to mercers), all men are in the lowest tax bracket, while women have the typical tailed distribution. Numerically, this role was primarily filled by women. Silk mercers show a very different pattern. with men having more of a curve distribution for both men and women, peaking in the middle tax bracket. Hemp and linen workers have a typical tailed distribution but needleworkers are badly skewed to the bottom.

Looking at the median tax for various wool jobs, the higher paid professions generally show men paying a higher tax than women. The highest taxes were paid by drapers, but male drapers paid much higher taxes than women, as a rule, perhaps due to access to higher status markets.

Example of one family's assessment shows the head of household plus 2 servants, 2 nephews, a son and a daughter, where only the daughter is left unnamed, despite being taxed at the same rate as her brother.

Female fullers and shearers had a median tax higher than men, but in each case this is based on a single individual. She may be part of the household of a named man (though taxed separately) or the widow of a man who had the same profession, and these assessments may reflect and inherited clientele.

As a general rule, the smaller percentage of women in a profession, the higher the tax assessment; the larger the percentage of women, the lower the tax assessment (and therefore the lower the income). But "family matters" -- women have higher incomes when family connections gain them access to elite markets.

"A Verie Good Way to Take Out Spottes": Modern Experimentation with Sixteenth-Century Textile Stain Cleaning Recipies - Cassandra Chambers Wagner, Independent Scholar

Examines "spot-cleaning" techniques, used for stains on outer garments that would not normally be wash completely. Looks at four texts from Germany, England, and France from the mid to later 16th century. This is an experimental history project to test the recipes for efficacy. White pre-washed linen were used as the test fabric, stained with Olive oil, red wine, mustard sauce, green sauce, blood, mud, beeswax (cloth not pre-washed), and oak gall & iron ink.

Sample 1: control, not treated
Sample 2: Water only (30 min pre-soak and water only hand wash)
Sample 3 & 4 modern stain treatments (detergent, Shout spray + detergent)

Samples 5-14 are from historic recipes: soap ball, lye-based cleaners, plant-based cleaners, fullers earth, milk, for the wax only: tallow & hot iron.

5. Soap ball: very poor result.
6. Cold lye (pH 13-14) worked well on stains 1-5 but poorly on mud & ink.
7. Lye + Alum (intended for wool, lower pH): not as good as lye alone
8. Salt, orange, lye: worked similarly to cold lye, but better on the mud
9. Lemon juice: worked on ink very well, but much less well on others.
10. Pea water (from boiling peas): worked well on blood and mud, not so well on others.
11. Strawberry water: not only doesn't remove stains, but dyes the linen pink.
12. Fullers earth: worked well on blood, mud, not so much for others.
13. Cow's milk (intended for wine stains): WOrked well on red wine, not so much on others.
14. Tallow & hot iron (for wax only): Tried with and without tallow, and the tallow does take more wax out.

Put It to the Log: Exploring the Mechanics of a Late Medieval Dyeing Technique - Jennifer Ratcliffe, Independent Scholar

A very general survey of the medieval dye industry and trade, the chemical processes, and lots of pretty pictures of colored cloth and thread. [The problem with survey papers like this is that there's too much detail to include and no real overall conclusions. Sorry!]
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I've tackled a lot of historic reproduction pieces that I wanted to try once and never felt the need to do again. When the project in question normally comes in pairs, this can be a problem. Fortunately, knitted silk ecclesiastical gloves were normally preserved as relics (either in the formal sense, or simply in the sense of being associated with a prominent figure). So the notion of only having one is at least vaguely supportable. I started this project well over a decade ago, and the knitting was so fidgety and required such intense concentration that I rarely got any momentum going. I had one finger left to go, when the excuse of an arts competition for textiles (suggested project: hand coverings) gave me the excuse to push it through to the finish. I include below the documentary notes I prepared to go with it.


My Inspiration

This glove is closely inspired by a pair of liturgical gloves recovered from the 13th century grave of Rodrigo Ximenez de Rada, Archbishop of Toledo and Primate of Spain. Information about the original is taken from the conservation report by the Abegg Institute. (Flury-Lemberg 1988) The original glove is knit from colored silk and gold thread. The article doesn’t mention the color of the silk, but typically liturgical gloves are red. The glove has a cuff of gold-brocaded tablet weaving. The article gives charted patterns for all the knitted motifs.

I’ve included a somewhat poor multi-generation image of the glove and charted patterns from the original publication. My apologies for the quality.

My Reproduction

My primary consideration in a choice of thread was to get as close as practical to the physical nature of the thread of the original. While the conservation report doesn’t specify the weight or twist of the silk, it is clear that the thread is very fine (ca. 10 stitches per cm) and silk-work of this era generally uses thrown silk rather than spun. I was able to obtain a very fine two-ply thrown silk thead in multiple colors and this inspired the project. I was not able to obtain either red or metallic gold thread in this weight, therefore I chose the two colors of what was available that had the best contrast to show the pattern. My thread is not quite as fine as the original, running ca. 6 stitches per cm on 0.75mm needles (the smallest I could obtain), so my glove has fewer repeats of the motifs than the original. I omitted the large agnus Dei motif from the back of the hand as I preferred to omit the religious designs). Therefore, due to the relatively small size of the other motifs, I was able to include all of the original pattern. In my glove, the band patterns extend further up the hand than on the original, where they end right below the start of the thumb. I retained the two-color diamond pattern on the thumb, following the original, however I found that this type of design resulted in a very bulky and inelastic knit, due to the thread floats, therefore for the other fingers I chose to use a plain color with knitted “rings” in the design color, following the model of several later ecclesiastical glove examples.

The glove was knit in the round on multiple double-pointed wire needles. Although no knitting needles survive from this early (and artistic depictions of knitting are later and show a larger scale of work), the physics of possible materials suggests that metal wire is the most likely type of needle for work on this small scale.

The cuff is tablet-woven red silk, brocaded with paired silver threads in a simple vine motif, taken from a band on a textile associated with the 8/9th century Saints Harlindis and Relindis (Spies 2000, p.126). I chose this design for it’s relatively small scale, rather than trying to match the time-period closely. The color of this band is more typical for the ground of brocaded bands as well as being more typical for the ecclesiastical gloves, however I didn’t have access to this thread when I began the knitting. I used a red silk in this case because I did the brocading as an “add on” to a piece of plain red silk tablet weaving for a scroll seal ribbon.


Flury-Lemberg, Mechthild. 1988. Textile Conservation and Research. Schriften der Abegg-Stiftung, Bern.

Spies, Nancy. 2000. Ecclesiastical Pomp & Aristocratic Circumstance. Arelate Studio, Jarrettsville. ISBN 0-615-11681-7

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I hope to finish up the intake-reviews in two more sessions. This one covers textiles and clothing. The last one will be the “everything else” group. Three of these books aren’t technically Kalamazoo books because I mail-ordered them from David Brown/Oxbow before the ‘Zoo. But I’m counting them here because I would have bought them there if I hadn’t pre-ordered them.

Vedeler, Marianne. 2014. Silk for the Vikings. Oxbow Books, Havertown. ISBN 978-1-78297-215-0

Marianne Vedeler is rapidly joining my short list of “buy anything this person writes.” This is a relatively short and highly focused book covering all aspects of silk textiles found in Viking contexts. The opening chapters discuss a variety of textile finds from several sites, though the presentation does not appear to be exhaustive. The textiles are fragmentary -- in some cases due to preservation issues, but in others because these precious fabrics were cut into narrow strips to use as decoration. The number of illustrations is a bit disappointing -- only 12 color plates of textiles from Viking sites (though there are additional plates of similar textiles from regions that were on the likely trade routes). However these include several that I haven’t seen before, including some close-ups of embroideries. After a brief practical background on silk production and working, the remainder of the book covers the trade, economic, and social context of how these textiles came to the north.

It is likely that most people will find the $40 price tag a bit much for something this specialized (and, to be honest, this brief). The target audience is likely to include specialists in early medieval textile economics, textile archaeology, and Norse costume history.

Hopkins, Heather (ed.). 2013. Ancient Textiles, Modern Science: Re-creating Techniques through Experiment. Oxbow Books, Oxford. ISBN 978-1-84217-664-1

If you follow Katrin Kania’s blog Togs from Bogs then you’ve probably read bits and pieces about the European Textile Forum conferences and the sort of research that gave rise to this publication. This is a collection of papers from academics and other serious scholars who have taken up the challenge of using the re-creation of historic textile techniques to bring understanding to artifacts of the past. The papers include Kania’s extensive spinning experiments; a sort of “engineer’s guide” to possible tablet weaving structures by Sarah Goslee, as well as other reesarchers’ studies of re-creating specific table-woven artifacts; an extensive catalog of Stone Age textile techniques by Anne Reichert; a reconstruction of the Gunnister man’s outfit; and a concluding article by the editory on the Pompeiian dye industry.

As with the Viking silk book, the combination of the slimness of the volume (133pp) and the hefty price tag ($52) puts this out of impulse-buy territory. It is, however, an extremely professional product and several of the very technical papers (such as the one on spinning) go far beyond simply demonstrating the general value of archaeological re-creation in their contributions to an understanding of historic technologies.

Gleba, Margarita & Judit Pásztókai-Szeöke. 2013. Making Textiles in Pre-Roman and Roman Times: People, Places, Identities. Oxbow Books, Oxford. ISBN 978-1-84217-767-9

One of the types of publications that Oxbow is specializing in these days is collections of conference papers on textile topics such as this one. It comes from a workshop entitled “Work and Identity: The agents of textile production and exchange in the Roman period” and includes thirteen papers on both specialized and general topics related to textile production and trade. Both in topics and presentation the collection has a strong “traditional archaeology” feel to it. My favorites included several papers examining evidence (of various types) for the presence of women in textile production, both individual and commercial.

As with the preceding two books, this is meant for a highly specialized audience (or, more likely, for the library trade).

Netherton, Robin & Gale R. Owen-Crocker eds. 2014. Medieval Clothing and Textiles 10. The Boydell Press, Rochester. ISBN 978-1-84383-907-1

Like clockwork, every year at Kalamazoo there’s a new volume of Netherton and Owen-Crocker’s journal Medieval Clothing and Textiles. (This year, there was a cake celebrating the anniversary of the publication.) Articles that caught my eye this time include Maureen C. Miller’s “The Liturgical Vestments of Castel Sant’Elia”, a collection of garments I’d love to have a closer study of (though this article doesn’t include the detail I want); Christine Meek’s “Clothing Distrained for Debt in the Court of Merchants of Lucca in the Late Fourteenth Century” which details a delightful cross-section of everyday garments; and Elizabeth Coatsworth’s biographical study of “Mrs. Christie” -- the woman behind the mammoth pioneering work English Medieval Embroidery.

Miller, Maureen C. 2014. Clothing the Clergy: Virtue and Power in Medieval Europe, c. 800-1200. Cornell University Press, Ithaa. ISBN 978-0-8014-7943-4

Due to my interest in studying the cut and construction of medieval garments, I’ve ended up with a fascination for ecclesiastical vestments as the represent the largest catetory of deliberate survivals and present an intriguingly continuous record of styles (if one that diverged significantly from that of secular garments). This is an extensive study on the purpose and uses of clothing and clothing display in the medieval Christian church. Other topics include the production and donation of vestments. The book is well illustrated, though art is somewhat more prevalent than physical garments. For someone looking for a solid and detailed grounding in medieval vestments, this will be very useful.
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ETA: photo credits (sorry!)

(As usual, I'm belatedly putting up a project diary because someone wanted to see it and this is the easiest place to make it available.)

For years, people may have seen me wandering around spinning with my drop-spindle and heard bits and pieces of the story of this project.  I present here the status so far.


There are a number of textiles from northern Europe from the Migration Era and early medieval period that have a checked or plaid-type pattern created entirely by the spin direction of the thread (S versus Z) rather than by using multiple colors of thread.  The light reflects off the two spin directions differently enough that, at a first glance at photos of these textiles, you would swear they were dyed.

First Test Piece

I wanted to see just what this effect looked like in real life. My first test-piece isn’t a particularly good piece of weaving, but you can see a bit of the spin effect in the warp stripes. They're most visible when viewed obliquely. There are also supposed to be weft stripes but the weaving ended up being somewhat warp-faced which makes this more difficult to see.

(photo courtesy of Sandra Linehan)

Second Test Piece

Since my first test had been at least somewhat successful, I started planning a larger piece. The second test piece focuses primarily on the warping border, with various experiments in spacing the warps to see how to get a well-balanced warp and weft and a slightly tighter weave. This piece doesn’t involve any spin-direction effects. I was also playing with several possible border decorations: texture effects from the tablet-turning direction, wool brocading, metallic thread brocading, and extending the warp threads out for a twisted fringe. Unfortunately this sample isn't very visible in the photo below. You can see it spread out to the right, in front of the pottery.

(photo courtesy of Sandra Linehan)

Main Project

In the end, I decided on a plain warp border and no fringe.  My project is a rectangular cloak, to be woven on an upright loom with tablet-woven borders. There are a significant number of cloaks of this style surviving from northern Germany and Scandinavia from the Migration Era and early medieval period, so the garment seemed compatible with the weaving technique. The cloak is planned to be approximately 6ft x 6 ft with alternating 1” stripes of each spin direction in both the warp and weft. (16 threads per inch). The warping border is a simple 10-tablet band (4 threads per tablet) with the tablets alternating turn direction. The plan is to work a similar tablet-woven band along both edges and finish the warp off with a similar band that will also weave in the warp ends.


The starting warp border is complete. You can see it in the photo above primarily as a mass of chained groups of warp threads.  (Each group of 16 threads forming a directional stripe is loosely chained to keep them in order until I’m ready to begin weaving.) You can see how the different spin directions cause the group of threads to twist in one direction or the other.

The current stage of the project is to spin all the weft thread, in equal quantities of S and Z spin. While the amount of thread needed is based on length, I can estimate that by weight. As I will be weaving this on an upright loom, I don’t want to set the weaving up until I’m ready to work on it intensively. Based on my past spinning rate, this could easily take another 5 or 10 years! Typically, I can spin one ball of yarn of the size displayed (which is one spindle-full) in approximately 4-6 hours of work, though I don't usually spin continuously for that length of time. A typical spindle-full measures out at 210 yards. The total weft I'll need is 72" x 16 threads/inch x 2 yards (plus a bit for fudge factor, but we'll leave it at that for now). This comes to 2304 yards, so about 10 balls of thread, half S, half Z. Wow, really? Because I already have about 7 spindle-fulls of weft done. I could do this. I could totally do this.
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Pedersen, Kathrine & Marie-Louise B. Nosch (eds). 2009. The Medieval Broadcloth: Changing Trends in Fashions, Manufacturing, and Consumption. Oxbow Books, Oxford. ISBN 978-1-84217-381-7

This is a collection of papers from an interdisciplinary symposium on the subject of "broadcloth" -- the archetypal high-end woolen fabric of the high middle ages. We start with a technical discussion of the physical and procedural differences between different types of wool fabrics, and specifically the consequences to the finished fabric of the difference between a long-staple, "spun in the grease" worsted fabric, and the shorter staple but higher quality "dry spun" woolen yarns used for broadcloth. But these short-staple threads then needed to be re-oiled for the weaving process and then fulled after weaving, not only to removing the oil "dressing" but to felt the fibers together to strengthen the finished cloth (a strengthening unnecessary with long-staple threads). The final part of broadcloth production was to raise a nap on the surface of the fabric. This created the defining look-and-feel of broadcloth with its smooth, rich texture (contrasted with the visual effects of fancy twill patterns common to the earlier woolen weaves).

Because broadcloth became an important focus of international trade, much of the available data on its production, value, and circulation comes from commercial records. Comparative price-lists and production totals for different weaving centers take up a fair chunk of the collection. Similarly, shipping records not only indicate sources and destinations but the amount of cloth shipped and often color and quality as well. Two articles use the technical descriptions of how broadcloth was produced to identify archaeological textile fragments that most likely represent this type of cloth. Another article looks at the visual and linguistic evidence for striped and other multicolored forms of broadcloth which diverge from the prototypical image of a plain solid-color fabric.

The collection concludes with some experimental work in re-creating Laken the broadcloth produced in Leiden, Netherlands, using historic technology. (The illustrative photos show the experimenters in appropriate historic clothing as well, though I don't know that this was the case for the entire reconstruction process.)

This is not a book for the generalist or the casual costume historian. But for those who also geek out on economics and trade, it's a nicely focused group of presentations organized to illustrate a topic central to the medieval textile scene.
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Möller-Wiering, Susan. 2011. War and Worship: Textiles from 3rd to 4th-century AD Weapon Deposits in Denmark and Northern Germany. Oxbow Books, Oxford. ISBN 978-1-84217-428-9

The sub-title pretty much gives the scope of this volume. In the late Roman Iron Age in norther Europe, people were in the habit of dumping large quantities of weapons into lakes and bogs. And those weapons were typically wrapped in -- or accompanied by -- textiles. In the usual way of textiles, many were preserved only where they came in contact with the metal objects, so much of the book is restricted to detailed physical analysis of those small, fragmentary "textile casts" stuck to blades, shield bosses, and spearheads. But in the case of the Thorsberg site, the higher acidity of the context mostly destroyed the iron objects but preserved the textiles to a high degree. The book consequently gives Thorsberg twice as much coverage as the other main sites, with large numbers of color photos and detailed weaving diagrams as well as the usual thread-count distribution charts and whatnot. There's also a special chapter on tablet-woven items among the finds, as well as a great deal of comparative analysis, not only between the weapon-deposit sites but with other textile and clothing finds of similar era.

Why should you get this book? It focuses specifically and almost exclusively on the textile finds from these sites. It has the most detailed recent analysis of the Thorsberg garments that I've seen, although it assumes you already have access to a general grounding in their structure and construction. It provides a comprehensive guide to the weaves, counts, and weights of a very focused (geographically and temporally) set of textiles, although if you already have a more comprehensive work on the topic (like Lise Bender-Jørgensen's various publications) you may find this aspect redundant. The plentiful color illustrations of textile details may be quite valuable to those experimenting with weaving techniques of this era.

By the way, this is yet another book from the publishing arm of Oxbow/David Brown Books, who have picked up on the market for historical textile and clothing publications with enthusiasm and are making available (whether new or as reprints) some of the most valuable new works in the field. Encourage them in this, both by buying their publications and by letting them know how delighted you are that they're publishing them.
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Lewis, Michael J., Gale R. Owen-Crocker & Dan Terkla. 2011. The Bayeux Tapestry: New Approaches. Oxbow Books, Oxford. ISBN 978-1-84217-976-5

This is a collection of papers on all manner of BT topics from a conference held in 2008 at the British Museum. Often a collection of this sort is inspired by a new conservation project or a renovated display, but in this case, although past conservation work is covered in some of the papers, the collection was more a case of "Hey, kids, let's put on a conference!"

The topics are various and neither systematic nor comprehensive. This isn't the "Big Book of Everything About the Bayeux Tapestry" but in many ways the ability to focus intensely on very narrow aspects is more valuable. We get both the political context of the tapestry's creation and the modern political uses it has been put to. How it has been displayed and how it has been stored away. Parallel styles of art at its creation and all the many ways the tapestry has been depicted in reproductions. Some of my favorites are focused little thematic gems like the depiction of faces, the depiction of dining scenes, and a case study evaluating the possible "from life" accuracy of the depiction of a particular church door.

The volume includes a black and white reproduction of the entire tapestry, with all the scenes, figures, and motifs labeled with index numbers for convenient common reference. Only about 7 pages have color illustrations and there is no comprehensive color reproduction of the tapestry, but other publications provide that independently and the redundancy would have added significant cost to this already-expensive book.
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This is a rough translation (with the help of for much of the grunt labor) of the aforementioned article about the 15th c. underpants find at Schloss Lengberg. The original article is by Dr. Beatrix Nutz and I apologize to her if I've mangled any of the facts beyond recognition.

The Unmentionables

That's what one formerly called the undergarments, above all the underpants, which shame forbade one to talk about. Nevertheless they've been around for quite a while. The Romans called them "subligar" and in the Middle Ages they were called "broche", when they were primarily considered a garment for men. Nevertheless there is also a depiction of young Roman women at the baths (fig. 1) wearing a similar article of clothing. Yet in the Middle Ages they were known only from artwork (fig. 3) until now a pair of late medieval underpants were found in Tirol in an archaeological dig (fig. 4). The find was discovered, together with numerous other textiles, including leather, mainly shoes, and futher organic remains, including a wooden flute, from a spandrel in Schloss Lengberg, in the Nikolsdorf district in East Tirol in 2008. Spread out, they have a roughly hourglass cut, somewhat wider at the "hind" end and with ties on the corners, by which they resemble a modern bikini. Made from linen, which can be seen in three layers in the middle, they could have belonged either to a man or a woman. A DNA analysis, performed under the direction of Dr. Walther Parson at the Institute for Forensic(?) Medicine at the Medieval University of Innsbruck unfortunately furnished no knew insights. Through the archaeological find, the architectural history of the castle can be dated to the 15th century, with the help of Carbon-14 dating. The underpants date to sometime around 1440 and were disposed of as waste in the spandrel, during construction on the castle when an additional floor was added. This practice was common in the Middle Ages whereby one could get rid of garbage withou much cost. As the floor was laid over the spandrel, which the history of the castle indicates was in the year 1485, the waste became "out of sight, out of mind". Besides which, they could also serve as an insulating material between the floors.

The find of these underpants now makes it possible for archaologists to research the exact design and cut and to examine the seam techniques and materials that were used and to discover details that one can't determine from pictures. This promises new, exciting discoveries concerning underwear production in the 15th century. Eventually the underpants can be reconstructed so that one can experience a medieval "clothing-feel".

I'll add one comment from my own research on the topic of medieval underpants. The comment about not being able to determine whether the garment belonged to a man or woman, while technically true in an absolute sense, doesn't take into account the significant amount of evidence that this particular garment was not only restricted to men's use at the time, but was considered a "definitively masculine" garment in the sense that it was used symbolically in art to indicate masculine authority and the usurpation thereof.

Still and all, this find is very exciting, not only for the information it provides about the particular garment but for the promise of all the other textile finds there may be waiting for us out there.
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Not that I'll be able to find this entry again when I want it, but just for reference, Saturday's spinning produced about 210 yards and weighed 44 grams. (Sorry for the mixed units, but you make due with what you have.) I think this bit may have been finer than my usual -- I should weigh and measure when I finish up the warping border with some earlier spinning. And where is my favorite spindle dammit!
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I got an interesting mini research question in e-mail this week, via my article Another Look at St. Louis' Shirt. The questioner asked, "Is there any way St. Louis' height could be approximated [from the garment], or does the design of the garment give nothing away?" And, as usual, I got sucked into the joy of rolling around in the data for a while and ended up with some interesting analysis but very few clear conclusions. The following includes a whole bunch of data and discussions that I hadn't included in my original answer (including more comparative material and the differences between Burnham's estimate of the garment's dimensions and my own estimates).

ETA: I've added a little more data regarding the relationship of sleeve length to shoulder width.

So here's a somewhat stream-of-consciousness presentation of how I sit down to analyze a question of this type.

Read more... )
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I believe that I've previously mentioned my FileMaker database tracking my fabric stash. (Can't find the post to reference at the moment.) Well, when I was searching for something else in the app store, I stumbled across an app called Fabric Stash and the initial description seemed promising enough that I was willing to pony up the $4.99 for it even if just to review it. And at this point, you're either deeply fascinated and will follow the cut, or you would be bored silly by the rest of this. )
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Session 130: Dress and Textiles II: Inside and outside the Church

Mary’s Pregnancy as Birth Amulet: Evidence from Early Byzantine Textiles (Andrea K. Olsen, Johns Hopkins Univ.)

Specifically this is on textiles depicting Mary’s pregnancy. Paper opens with a quote from Proclus of Constantinople metaphorically comparing Mary to the loom on which God wove Jesus (heavily paraphrased). Examples presented of a ring and a medallion with images of Chirst and/or Mary blessing a married couple. 4th c. commentary on people wearing clothing depicting scenes from the Gospels believing this to be “pleasing to God”. Examples of Egyptian tapestry-woven decorated tunics with NT scenes. Similarly the Byzantine silk-embroidered probably tunic decorations with Annunciation and birth of Jesus scenes. Main focus of paper is a group of draw-loom textiles with roundels showing the Visitation. The overall argument is that: A) these are secular (or at least privately-owned) textiles; B) that the repetition of Visitation motifs on them indicates an intent to “intensify” a magical effect; C) and that it makes sense to see these as pregnancy charms. (me: I think there’s a lot of circular reasoning involved here. That is, the overall concept makes sense, but I’m hesitant to move from “makes sense” to “has been demonstrated”.)

Anglo-Saxon Textile Workshops, Religious and Secular: The Textual Evidence (Maren Clegg Hyer, Valdosta State Univ.)

Spinning equipment tends to be distributed through living spaces, but weaving equipment often centered in special “weaving huts”, sometimes found in clusters. Mentions of slaves specializing in textile production. OEng glosses on Latin terms for textile workshops (e.g., “weaving-house”) although these could be translations of foreign concepts. References, e.g., in Carolingian France to English textile exports (suggesting a higher level of production than individual households). References to lay communities supplying textiles for monastic communities in an organized fashion. Evidence even stronger for embroidery workshops. The simple scope of the work (and some known time-frames for production, as for the Bayeaux embroidery) require multi-person production, possibly even multiple separate workshops (given the separate panels involved). Extensive evidence for ecclesiastical embroidery workshops, less continuous evidence for workshops producing hangings for secular buildings. Admonition of nuns not to waste their time in decorating their clothing with vain needlework.

The Early Fifteenth-Century O’Dea Miter and Crosier, and Other Treasures of Irish Artistry from Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick (Elizabeth Wincott Heckett, Univ. College Cork)

Miter has jeweled metal bands (silver gilt plates hinged together) attached to a leather backing, forming the main decorative bands (i.e., those often manifested as woven trim) with a “base fabric” (i.e., showing in the triangular panels between the bands) with foliage designs worked in river pearls. (It isn’t clear exactly how they’re attached – the “base fabric” is a thin gold foil over some base, but she wasn’t able to examine it closely enough to work out mechanisms.) But the current design in which the pearls are worked is not the original. The hanging bands were also re-done relatively recently, in the 18th c based on some manuscript pages used as internal stiffening. There’s an 18th c. drawing showing the original – or at least an earlier – arrangement of the pearl motifs. The earlier pattern is a relatively simple stem with paired leaves while the current one is an almost art-nouveau-ish swirl of stems and leaves and has at least a couple clearly trefoil (shamrock?) designs. Comparative examples of 14-16th c. pearled miters are presented from across Western Europe.

Other 15th c. treasures at the cathedral include the only misericords surviving in Ireland. Two are shown depicting prosperous burghers of Limerick, wearing houpelande and chaperon. Also early 17th c. marble tomb effigy, 12th c. floral-decorated coffin lid.

General Discussion

The topic was thrown out for practical discussion: what are the practical issues with multiple people working on a single embroidered piece? (I guess it turned out to be a question for contemplation -- no open discussion ensued.)
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Session 73: Dress and Textiles I: Threads and Fibers

Evidence for Roundels in Viking Age Embroidery from Bjerringhøj, Mammen Parish, Denmark (Raven Alexandra Fagelson, Independent Scholar)

The paper looks at the Mammen embroideries with a focus on a compositional analysis of the geometry of the motifs to try to reconstruct their possible original layout. All the acanthus motifs occur in a curved arc, as does one line of small “face” motifs. In two cases (one acanthus, one small-face) then two fragmentary arcs occur on the same textile. Examples of other embroideries with arrangements of roundels occur in a similar time-frame (early medieval) in a number of different contexts (cloaks, altar cloths) with dizes ranging from small (Maasik embroidery) to very large (cloak of ?Henry II? with essentially one large roundel taking up the majority of the back. Acanthus and other foliate borders of roundels are demonstrated from a variety of sources. By mathematical calculation, the acanthus arcs could be part of a 22 cm diameter circle and the small faces to a ca. 35 cm diameter circle. Roundel motifs on textiles normally have “contents” and the leopard, bird, and quadruped motifs occur in conjunction with acanthus/face arc fragments. Roundels often occur in lines or arrays and often are conjoined where they approach, and some of the acanthus motifs appear to approach each other in this fashion, although the geometry is somewhat off.

Fur, Feathers, Skin, Fiber, Wood: Representational Techniques in the Bayeux Tapestry (Gale R. Owen-Crocker)

The embroidery depicts a wide variety of natural and man-made textures. Only two stitch types are used: stem stitch and laid-and-couched, and only 10 colors. The types of stitches chosen may be determined by the scope and speed of the work. The background fabric is left blank – there’s a similar embroidery in silk but with a blank linen background (in Italy?) Texture of fur or feathers are rare, there’sa quadrupen with “tags” on a plain background, and a peacock with the tail depicted in individual feathers, and one other bird, but otherwise broad areas of animals are plain L&C with outlines. Bodies, as of birds, are divided into parts by stem-stitch lines (e.g., beaks, wings, wing-pinions and tail feathers) similarly to the outlined sections of clothing. Lines of couching in both animals and clothing often follow the general contour of the segment, rather than being absolute. Although the general rule is that stem stitch is always outlines and couching for fills, there are some small areas of fill done in stem stitch, e.g., a bird’s pinions. Often this happens in long narrow spaces, e.g., bird legs. Some use of stem for texture, e.g., a horse’s mane, but this is inconsistant. Human skin is left as the ground cloth (a technique also used in manuscripts where only outlines of features are indicated with skin left as the plain parchment). In crowd scenes, the outlines of faces/hands and blocks of hair often seem artificially varied, simply for visual interest (also done for clothing, but less artificial there). Individualization of horses both by position and color of both horse and equipment. A few failures of this distinction, possibly due to poor planning by multiple workers, changed in mid-project to maintain a contrast between adjacent figures.

Flax and Linen in Medieval Novgorod (Heidi M. Sherman, Univ. of Wisconsin–Green Bay)

Archaeology important for history of trade in Russia due to scarcity of written sources. Soviet Union sponsored massive numbers of excavations providing a wealth of research material. Scholars agree that Novgorod had important flax trade but not much previous work done on the topic. Work on wooden artifacts includes lots of flax processing tools. (Digression into political dynamics of the day.) Types of relevant finds: scutches, breakers, combs, hackles, spindles & whorls, distaffs, parts of looms (although these last three are not flax-specific), also flax seeds and seed-pods. Some arguments over whether the toothed wooden “hackles” might instead be fish-scalers – much larger number of these hackles in comparison to scotches which might suggest another interpretation. (me: These aren’t the iron-toothed hackles that look similar to wool combs but look more like a short weaving-sword with a series of shallow notches along one edge of variable size.) Households typically had scutches and spinning equipment but not typically the “hackles”. In contrast, a different style of hackle is a narrow long-toothed comb that looks more like a “paintbrush” shape (i.e., a housepainting paintbrush).

Distaff, Whorl, and Wheel: Medieval Views of Spinning (Janilee Plummer, Ball State Univ.)

Analysis of 10-15th c. images of spinners primarily from Western Europe.
Religious: Eve, Virgin Mary, other femail saints, annunciation of the shepherds, other
Daily chores: spinning while tending sheep, while doing other everyday activities
Defense: e.g., using a distaff as a weapon
Ephemera: marginal illustrations unrelated to story, grotesques, animals
Men: unmanly men (hesitant to go to war, being laughed at or abuse), but also professional spinners e.g., of rope or hunting equipment

Eve depicted spinning as a symbol of physical labor as punshment for the Fall. But then Mary is depicted spinning as a symbol of being a “virtuous woman”. Hmm. The distaff-weapon isn’t only in inter-gender violence – image of Sarah beating Hagar with a distaff, a woman beating off a fox from her geese (me: but this follows an image of a fox-bishop preaching to the geese, so there may be other symbolic layers here). Tacuinum Sanitatis shows women spinning with a distaff while walking for other purposes. All sorts of marginal animals depicted spinning (ape, pig) in parallel with other types of activities. Male spinners: depicted as objects of derision or as a symbol of the unwarlike or unmanned man (e.g., Hercules forced to spin). The exception is for non-textile spinning, e.g., men in the Hunt Book of Phoebus Gaston depicted spinning rope for hunting nets. (Also unusual in that the spinning process involves two people – one turning the wheel (with a crank?) the other drafting the thread.


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