Time to tell you about the things I was up to while I was away – first of all: the MEDATS study day.

I was utterly delighted to be invited to the study day, with its topic “Learning through Reconstruction”. It was a day full of interesting presentations, about various topics.

I finally got to meet, in person, Geeske Kruseman, who talked about the differences between hose and trousers, from the constructional point of view. Her classification included a look at body geometry and garment geometry; though I had been sort of aware of these differences, it was very nice to have it all spelled out so clearly, and made me realise things in a different way.

The second presentation that stuck really out for me was Alex Makin’s paper about her embroidery project – of course, since I was involved in sourcing the silk and some of Alex’ needles, and helping to get colours sorted out. It was wonderful to see pictures from the work in progress.

I also particularly enjoyed Ninya Mikhaila’s stories from behind the scenes of  reconstructing the Arnolfini gown – which was done for the BBC series “A Stitch in Time”, and accordingly had its very own, and very special challenges.

I thoroughly enjoyed meeting up with everybody (and I finally got to meet some more people in person, in addition to Geeske, that I only had contact before via the Internet). We had a table to place items related to our presentations, so there was additional things to look at during the coffee breaks. All in all, the day could have been much longer for me!

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Recently, I’ve recommended the travel mug I’m using to someone else. Again. Then I started wondering since when I’ve been lugging mine around… and today I’ve finally looked it up.

The battered trusty mug. 

I bought this mug back in fall of 2012, when it was much more shiny and only available in this one single colour, at least at the place I bought it. I wasn’t too excited about the brown, but really excited about the promises that came in the description: stainless steel (so very sturdy), large capacity, completely leakproof, and holding beverages hot for a really long time. Especially the completely leakproof was something I had been looking for.

It cost me 45 Euro back then, and I did think hard about whether I wanted to spend so much money on a travel mug – but then, the plastic to-go mugs I had before hadn’t been leakproof, and they had given up rather quickly, and they had a theoretical insulation (being double-walled) which was not very good.

So I did buy it. And I used it a lot – when travelling, of course, but also at home when I wanted a large coffee that would keep hot for a long time. The lid gave out in 2015; I got a replacement lid with very little hassle and for about 8 Euro from the German main distributor.

I’ve been totally happy with this thing ever since I got it. The lid can be a little finicky to clean if you’re having milky beverages, but rinsing it out as soon as possible, using a brush or a toothbrush to get into the crevices, and occasionally taking it apart and bathing it in hot water with soda added will keep it nice and eliminate all traces of sour-milk odour, should the dire thing have happened. I’ll usually fill it with coffee at home when I am travelling to have it on the road, and when I need a second one (or when I’m not starting from home), it doesn’t only eliminate the need for a disposable cup, it also keeps my drink hot for long times. Since I tend to stretch out my coffee-drinking, that counts as a rather large bonus. (Downside: if you fill it with boiling hot water, it will take forever for it to cool down enough to drink. Brewing tea in there means keeping the lid off for a while, until cool enough to sip, or else you will have to wait for about 6 hours before drinking…)

When we were in London, I was even happier about the mug than usual, as there were some coffee shops that only had disposable cups, even for the people sitting down in the shop. So out came the mug… which, usually, also meant a discount on the price of the tea or coffee. And I did mention it’s rather large, right? Which means that in most cases, you’re getting a little more hot beverage of your choice for about the same price. Even without that bonus, though, we then did the maths… and realised that getting a pricey thermos mug, if you use it regularly, will amortise itself really quickly.

My mug has cost me 45 €. Say you’re getting an average discount of 0.20 € per cup of hot beverage. That’s exactly 225 hot drinks – a year has about 250 work days, so if you get a cup of something every day you are going to work, this mug has paid for itself in one year. And that’s without taking the bit of extra filling into account.

Soon now, my coffee-holding travel companion could celebrate its seventh workbirthday*, and while I’m not using it every single work day, it has long since gone past the 225 hot drinks. It also has seen a lot of different countries, sat inside my car with me for hours and hours, was dropped onto hard floors (hence it can wobble a little now when it’s standing), and also has seen the wrong level in a dishwasher (it’s okay in the upper level, but the lower one is too hot – which is the reason a lot of the colour has peeled off). I love it, even though it looks battered and not too fancy anymore… and I’m pretty sure there are a lot of coffees and teas in its future still.

Thus, the moral of the story – if you think about getting a travel mug, go ahead and get a good one. Even if it sounds ridiculously expensive at first, it will pay for itself rather quickly!


*Probably by having coffee!

Posted in green living, things that I don't want to be without, travel | Leave a comment

So much for planning – I had planned to post something here yesterday, but things happened. More specifically: a root canal happened.

I had woken up with some dull kind of a toothache on Monday, which was solidly in the “it’s not too bad to ignore, but annoying” category. Since that had not gotten better until Tuesday morning, I did decide to do the grown-up thing and call my dentist. To my sort-of-delight, I did get an appointment right that morning, and it was quickly resolved that the tooth must have died a quiet death a while ago, as there was no nerve action in it anymore. (That, for those of you lucky enough to never have had such an experience, is done with a super-cold stick that is touched to the tooth. A living one will complain quickly, which is not pleasant. A dead one will not complain at all, which is even less pleasant on a different level and in an entirely different way.)

So the dead tooth was duly opened, the pus was drained, it was cleaned of most of the decayed nerve tissues, X-rays were taken, and I was sent home again with a provisional filling and a new appointment for the proper cleaning. All in all, I’m obviously not happy with pain and having to have dental treatment, but even though there is no good time to have something like this (apart from, obviously, “never” due to not needing it), my timing is impeccable. There’s so much action going on these weeks that I could have done far, far worse in finally feeling that pain – at least this week, I’m at home, and though it is sort of mangling my schedule a bit, things are far from really bad. Which brings me to the final two fun facts.

Fun fact number one: After this procedure, which is basically taking away some of the issue that causes the pain (as it drains the infected site), there was much more pain than before. Though the tooth is well and truly dead and thus incapable of causing pain, the surrounding tissue is very much alive, and it seems to have woken up by the preliminary treatment… resulting in a very definitive signal that it was not content with the situation.

Fun fact number two: I spent Thursday to Monday at the Dannenberg Convent – a Living History camp close to a castle ruin (now partly restored). “Tannenberg” was one of my first yearly events, and I was there many times. I’d skipped it the past few years, due to a number of reasons, but this year was their 25th anniversary and, at the same time, the last time the event would take place in its old form. So I spent four days with friends in the rain, and we broke camp and packed up on Monday. That dull ache in the tooth, and some accompanying light pounding that came with exertion, was with me all through my treks up and down the meadow, as I was carrying my stuff back to the car. It really, really heightened my appreciation of being able to get up out of a comfy warm bed on Tuesday, grab the phone, place one call, hop on my bike for a short trip across town, and then get 21st century state-of-the-art dental care, followed by some rather safe and fairly quickly acting 21st century painkiller pill. Yes, there was medical knowledge and medical care in the Middle Ages, too, and it was sometimes a lot more sophisticated than people expect, but it was still a very far cry from dental X-rays, modern drills and modern painkillers. Which reminded me of one of the things that Living History does to its participants: It does remind us both that not all modern things and modern ways are good (or better than old methods), and not to take all good modern things for granted.

Posted in health, Living History | 1 Comment

As usual, somehow there’s an astounding lot of stuff going on once the summer comes to an end. Not only is the European Textile Forum coming up (November will, according to experience, arrive quicker than expected… as always), there’s also the MEDATS Study Day (for which I’ve finally managed to compress everything I want to say to the time allotted for my paper – hopefully I can keep to it at the conference), there’s a medieval fair which I’ll be going to, and the Nadelkunst fair as well.

So I will do what I always do when things come thick and fast: I take a little break off the blog. Expect me back here on October 8 – at least for a while, before I’ll take another timeout for the utterly delightful craziness that is the European Textile Forum!

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When I was at WorldCon, chatting with one customer, she answered a question on how much she knows about a specific topic with “not a sausage” – meaning “exactly nothing”. That was an expression I had never heard before, and there ensued a short but fun conversation about where it came from (she got it off someone else, but it seems to be rather rare) and that Germans use sausage in a different way in their (very common) idiom: Das ist mir Wurst (it’s sausage to me, meaning “I don’t care”).

Which reminded me of a much longer conversation that we had during one dinner at the last Textile Forum, resulting in the insight that Germans have a lot of expressions that concern food. And when I say “a lot”, I mean a huge lot.

So I thought it might be fun to go and collect some of them here, and maybe even get some input from people in other places, with other languages, if you have similar expressions – or not.

Here you go. Some German food idioms. The German phrase, the literal translation into English, and an explanation.

Das ist mir Wurst. It’s sausage to me. I don’t care.
Das ist nicht mein Bier. That’s not my beer. It’s not my problem.
eine beleidigte Leberwurst sein to be an insulted liver sausage (liver paté, or sausage with liver in it) to be easily offended, or more offended than warranted by the circumstances
seinen Senf dazugeben to add one’s mustard state one’s opinion about something (unasked and usually also not too welcome)
mit dem ist nicht gut Kirschen essen this person is not good to eat cherries with it’s hard to get along with this person
seine Brötchen verdienen earn one’s bread rolls make money for living/work
das macht das Kraut nicht fett this doesn’t make the cabbage greasy it’s not accounting for much in the overall picture
die dümmsten Bauern haben die dicksten Kartoffeln the most stupid farmer has the largest potatoes usually said when someone gets a lot of money without effort
nicht die Bohne not a bean not at all
Tomaten auf den Augen haben to have tomatoes on the eyes to be blind/not see something that should be obvious
Petersilie in den Ohren haben to have parsley in the ears the audio equivalent to the tomatoes – to not hear something
ein armes Würstchen sein to be a poor sausage poor devil/poor thing
der schaut, als hätten ihm die Hühner das Brot weggefressen that one has a look as if the chickens ate his bread to look helpless or perplexed
sich ein Ei legen lay oneself an egg to dig a hole for yourself
für’n Apfel und ein Ei for an apple and an egg for very little money
dumm wie Bohnenstroh dumb as bean straw dumb as a post
es wird nichts so heiß gegessen, wie es gekocht wird nothing is eaten as hot as it’s being cooked it won’t be as bad as it seems at first
der satten Maus schmeckt das süße Mehl bitter the satiated mouse finds the sweet flour tastes bitter things lose their appeal when you have had enough of them
wie Kraut und Rüben like cabbage and turnips completely dis-ordered
das ist nicht das Gelbe vom Ei that’s not the yolk of the egg that’s not the best situation/solution
die Rosinen aus dem Kuchen picken to pick the raisins out of the cake only take the best bits and leave the rest

Funny how many there are, right? And I have probably forgotten quite a few. Let me know if I did (and which ones) – and let me know if there’s similar food-related idioms in your (non-German) language!

Posted in and now for something completely different | 6 Comments

There’s a lot of wonderful colleagues in my field (and it’s a small field, so you get to know most of them after a while). One of them is Eva Andersson Strand, who has been doing textile archaeology for a very, very long time now. She’s also one of the people who feel strongly about the importance of practical work in textile research and reconstruction, and that tools and their use are a wonderful way for us to learn about the past processes in making textiles.

I’ve had a good number of discussions about spinning with her, which were always vastly interesting – even though we’re not completely in agreement in regard to a few things. But I feel that discussions like these are one of the ways that we, together, as a field of science, can progress.

And by now you’re probably wondering why I am writing this – well, Eva and her work are featured in a long and very nice article in Science News (for which I was also interviewed, about one of our favourite discussion topics – the influence of the craftsperson vs. the tool in spinning). The article is a well-deserved praise of her research efforts, on a variety of textile tools and techniques, and worth a read – I hope you’ll enjoy it!

Posted in archaeology, spinning, textile techniques and tools | 1 Comment

Here are some random links for you:

German article about dye analysis in textiles. And a second one about the same team and topic.

At the Unperfekthaus in Essen, there’s a tablet weaver meeting on November 16 – read more about it here if that sounds like you want to join in.

An early medieval whorl with inscription has been found in Poland.

The Textile Research Centre Leiden has an exhibition about socks and stockings that will run until December 19.


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