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Needles, Haystacks, Pins, Sighs.

One of the things on my list of things I would like to do is make a short overview article about the sources for the different kinds of goods I carry – for myself, for the crafters who make these things for me, and of course for my customers. It’s one of the things, however, that are usually a) not urgent, b) not crucial for being able to carry on, and c) taking a lot more time than expected or readily available.

From time to time, though, something comes up that prods me into looking for more info, and trying to collect that, and this has happened recently. The things under my scrutiny? Pins and needles. And oh, I can tell you… it’s an abyss.

As is often the case, there is a little bit of literature that is easy to find, and that does give some information. For Germany, it’s Stefan Krabath’s work Die hoch- und spätmittelalterlichen Buntmetallfunde nördlich der Alpen, and for Britain, Chris Caple has written a number of things about pins. In addition, some pins and needles are listed in the context of works about textiles or garments or textile/garment accessories.

Overall, though, this is a group of finds which is hard to find – and even if pins or needles are listed in some archaeological publication, there is often not much information about them. Ideally, I’d like to know the material (brass? bronze? copper? some other alloy?), the length, the thickness of the shaft, the date (which can be a real problem, as these things are typologically long-lived) and in addition, I’d like to have a drawing or at least a photograph. In many cases, there is none of this apart from the mention and a very rough date… which does not help me at all in looking for pieces to get someone to replicate.

Added difficulty: Germans like to use that “needle in a haystack” idiom, which means that it’s a very good idea to put “-heuhaufen” in your searchwords (though that in turn might toss out valid results, the usual dilemma).

So I’m looking into articles and trying to get enough material together – to both write up a little info thing, and to decide on what I would like to have made (and then the next step is to find out if the metalworking people I’ve contacted can, and will, do it).

And this, of course, is where I segue into a bleg – if you have any nice documentation of pins (preferably high medieval, as the late stuff is way easier to get info about), please let me know – I might end up with replicas of these in my shop…

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