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Heather Fluffy Cape.
02. November 2022
Please tell us you allowed him to wear something under the cloak
Harma Fluffy Cape.
01. November 2022
Wow! It is large and looks great. Would be nice to cuddle under. Well done.
Katrin The Things You Learn.
31. Oktober 2022
Uuuh. Having handled that very thin, very delicate goldbeater's skin, I think I would not dare a rid...
Bruce Lee The Things You Learn.
28. Oktober 2022
Goldbeater's skin was also used for the gas bags of Zeppelins and other rigid airships, until B.F. G...
Harma Business As Usual: Bookkeeping.
26. Oktober 2022
I've got my fifth shot a few weeks ago. Everyone above 12 can go for a repeat shot now. Weird that t...

Well, this is weird.

This year has been a weird one, garden-wise. It was (again) a very dry summer, which meant that a lot of the things that usually bloom were not doing so. That included our wild thyme growing in the area we lovingly call "lawn", though the amount of grass growing there is, let's say, not too high.

Consequently, when the autumn and late autumn were unseasonally warm and a bit more wet than the summer, quite a few of them had a late bloom, literally. That included our wild thyme, which is not entirely surprising.

It also included two calendula plants, but since they are sometimes flowering until November in any way, that was also not entirely surprising.

What really shocked me a bit, though, was this:

Yes, those are strawberry plants. Yes, that is even a small strawberry fruit doing its best to grow.

It's weird, and it is a little bit scary, if you ask me. Looking at how things have gone weird and wonky, time-wise, really makes me wonder that anyone can still be doubting climate change. Folks. Strawberries flowering outside in start of December. There should be no more doubt...


Discover Things at bavarikon.

It's always nice to stumble across a new portal for research and for discovering (and looking at) museum objects. My latest discovery in that regard is the portal bavarikon, which - to my and hopefully also your delight - is available in both German and English. 

You can find all sorts of things there, ranging from 3D images of some special items to online exhibitions and accompanying material, such as the reconstruction of how liturgical chants may have sounded - chants that are embroidered onto the blue cope of Kunigunde, which is preserved in the museum of Bamberg Cathdral. 

Have fun exploring!


December is Here!

I don't know about your email inbox, but mine contained today several mails informing me about advent calendars. Most of those are not really interesting to me, as they're telling me to buy things at a discount every day.

There's one advent calendar I'm really looking forward to every year, though, and that is the one made by Maria and Amica from Historical Textiles. The two (self-declaimed) textile nerds show some of their favourite textiles every year, often with links to more pictures on the corresponding museum page. It's a true gem, and every year I admire them for all the time and effort they invest in that count-down.

Here's the link to their December 1 calendar blogpost. Enjoy, and I hope you will enjoy the following posts as well!


Big Savings on Medieval Gold.

No, this is not another Black Friday/Black Week/Cyber Something ad. (The concept of these "deep discount days", by the way, is something that I find weird and a little irritating, but that's an entirely different story. If you've been following the blog for a while, you'll probably know my stance on pricing and fair pay for work, and fair pricing like that means that there's no reason for special deals with deep discounts, and that they are also not possible.) 

No, this is the clickbait title for two articles on medieval Zwischgold, that metal leaf that is mostly silver with a very, very, VERY thin layer of gold on top, making it look like gold. At least for a while, until the silver corrodes and the black silver oxide finds its way through the layer of gold on top and makes everything look black.

There's been research on (mostly late-medieval) use of this material in artworks, with analyses of the metal and the changes in its structure over time. The original article has been published here and is freely available. If you read German, there's also a German article about this project, with fewer numbers and formulae and a bit more general information about the research and the material; you can find it here.

The German article also inspired the clickbaity title: Regular gold leaf was about 140 nanometres in thickness, but the Zwischgold made in the same region and the same timespan only had a gold layer of about 30 nanometres. And if this does not count as big savings, I don't know what will do!


Tales from Forum, Part II

Not all that glitters is gold - sometimes it's just gilt silver, hammered into leaf metal, attached to a thin animal membrane and then wrapped around a thread core.

You might know about medieval gold thread, which was usually a strip of metal (often gilt silver, very rarely pure gold) wrapped around a silk core. Well, that's the "good" version, high-quality and rather pricey. And as always, if there's something posh and fancy and expensive, someone tries to get the same effect but for cheaper.

Enter the membrane threads. These are usually not around a silk core, but around a thread made from vegetable fibres, and the metal strip is replaced by animal membranes or, in other places, by a thin leather strip or by a paper strip. These are metallised with leaf metal, and here again, you can make it cheaper by reducing the amount of gold. How? By using "Zwischgold" - silver hammered out, then covered with a thin layer of gold, and this then hammered into leaf metal. 

Gold leaf is really, really thin, so thin that you cannot touch it with your hands. It will instantly cling to your skin and then dissolve. Medieval gold leaf was thicker than modern gold leaf, but it would still not be handle-able without gilding tools. Gold was expensive - so having the cheaper silver as the main metal and just adding a bit of gold would reduce costs considerably. New research about Zwischgold shows how it looked, and the thicknesses given are about 30 nm of gold in the Zwischgold as opposed to c 140 nm thickness of the regular gold leaf. 

This superthin stuff needs something to cling to, so it is stable enough for further processing. In the cheap gold threads that we were aiming to reproduce, animal membranes were used - to be more precise, a layer of membrane from bovine guts. 

So we had a go at silvering them - using not proper Zwischgold, but leaf silver, since that was a lot cheaper to get and is closer to the medieval original material. Then the membrane has to be cut into strips, and the strips then wound around a core, all of which proved to be do-able, but with a lot of room for improvement.

Both the gilding and the wrapping did require a lot of concentration! It also took us a while to puzzle out a method with which a longer piece of thread could be wrapped without getting too much of a twist buildup. 

A final very important part of making these threads, as we also found out: Time. Once the metal is on the membrane, it needs sufficient time to dry out properly, or it will come right off the membrane and right onto everything else - fingers, faces, tables, you name it! With enough drying time, it is much more stable.

Just like with the purple dye imitation, a good bit of work remains to be done on this, but we're very, very pleased with our preliminary results.


Tales from Forum, Part 1

I am back, and I had a wonderful time at the Forum - with all the typical hustle and bustle and utter, complete and wonderful madness that this week brings.

We had threads and thread-making as the focus topic, which meant that there were lots and lots of things for me to load into the car and ferry to Mayen - from tools to heckle flax or hemp to all kinds of spindles and spinning tools, plus some other tools in case something needed cutting, sawing, drilling or sanding. (There was some drilling done, so these did come in handy.) There were nettles, and there was wool of all kinds, and some cotton, and as always, it was not enough time during the week to do all the things that I had hoped to do.

That does not mean, though, that there was only little done - on the contrary. We managed to really do a lot of things, with work going on from right after breakfast to long after dinner... spinning, splicing, and some other things as well.

Micky Schoelzke spent a lot of her time in the laboratory room, working on a large series of dye variations to explore fake purple - the imitation of true snail purple dye through the combination of blue (from woad) and red (from madder). Some of the tests were overdyeing, and some of the tests were dyeing fibre to later blend together in different combinations of shades and different ratios.

The blending was a lot of fun, with lots of people working together to weigh the fibres, then blend them, and then spin little samples for comparison. It also looks like blending fibres is much easier to do for achieving a purple-ish colour than the overdying method. The blend will result in a slightly speckled look of the finished product (as can also be seen on a few extant samples where this method was used), while the overdyeing gets a more even result that can come closer to the Real Thing. However, hitting the right colour when overdyeing is much harder than blending fibres together, especially since you can do a little sample with the blending and then adjust ratios rather easily, while overdyeing is much more fickle. Yes, you can do a test dye, but the time, effort, and resources required for that are much higher than to do a test blend or two.

There's still a lot to explore on this topic, and I'm looking forward to more on it. The comparative ease of the fibre blending opposed to the overdyeing is, however, an argument for dyeing something in the wool that I can readily accept - because I'd usually vote that dyeing something in the yarn, or in the fabric, makes more sense. Less felting (which will occur even if you are very careful with your fibre), less loss of dyed fibre, and the yarn needs to be wet-finished anyways so dyeing will take care of that as well... plus yarns are easier to handle than fibre is. But if you want to spin blends of colour, well, you have no choice but to dye in the fibre.

The other big experimental action of this year's Forum was making gilt membrane threads... and I will tell you a bit more about that tomorrow.


Blog Break.

It's getting a little bit crazy here, with the Textile Forum coming up plus my gran's birthday right afterwards (which means packing for two things at once). She's turning 101, can you believe it?

There were a few health issues at different So, to prevent things from stressing me out more than they have a right to, I'm going to take a blog break, and leave you with this photo of lavendar flowers with a bee from this summer for a while:

 After all the things that will happen, first the conference and then the family meet-up and celebration of my gran's birthday, I'm going to take a few days off... so I'll be back on the blog on November 28.