What year is it?!

This blog’s having a bit of a Rip Van Winckle moment, waking up, bleary-eyed, from a long nap, staggering around and wondering if it can survive in this strange new world.

Ok, slight exaggeration there.

What with studying an MPhil in textile conservation, I decided it would be wise to focus my time and writing efforts on studies.


This is what a textile conservator looks like (working on a bloodstained jacket from Annan Museum)

The course has been a mighty learning curve; I’ve learnt about the science behind textile fibres, and how and why they degrade, researched an ornate Afghan coat, seen the weavers in action at the fantastic Dovecot Studios in Edinburgh, unwrapped and humidified 1500-year-old archaeological fragments from a burial site in Sudan, talked my socks off at the Centre for Textile Conservation Open Day and the Edinburgh College of Art, and conserved  an amazing  bloodstained military jacket from Annan Museum.

More than that, I’ve met, made friends and shared way too many embarassing stories with my coursemates (two of whom write awe-inspiring blogs: https://textileinvestigations.wordpress.com/ and https://hannahsuthers.com/blog/).

Right now I’m applying for jobs and preparing for the trip of a lifetime to Japan next week. I’ll be taking part in a traditional Japanese indigo-dyeing workshop in Fujino, so thought it would be a crime not to share what I see and learn while I’m there. Check back here for updates!


Thursday’s Paradigm Knit

Sion relic purse

Here’s a page from Reverend Rutt’s A History of Knitting, a book mentioned previously in this post. Along with information on a fourteenth-century knitted purse found in a Swiss cathedral, Rutt has helpfully included a pattern of the purse’s design, so I tried it out in Rowan fine tweed. HoKtweed1tweed3tweed2

Historical Hairdos

‘Sappho’: fresco of a lady holding a stylus to her lips, with a writing tablet in her left hand. From Pompeii.

Recently my sister told me about this amazing lady called Janet Stephens who makes youtube videos on reconstructions of historical, mainly ancient, hairdos. A lot of them actually involve using a needle and thread to stitch the hair in place, and so also require a handy slave to do all the work.

I also found this wonderful quote in the catalogue for the current Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum exhibition at the British Museum:

Ovid in his Ars Amandi (III, 133ff) “…in the same way you can’t count the acorns on an oak tree, so you’ll never be able to count the different ways of doing women’s hair … many women look great with a bedraggled careless look. You’d think it was yesterday’s hairdo (but she’s only just done it…). Contrived styles must look casual.”

Paul Roberts, Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum (British Museum Press, London, 2013), p. 135

Deathshead Buttons

Talking of buttons.. these are the ultimate for me. Handmade true-to 18th century buttons with the best button name in the world.

Please take a look at the rest of Hannah’s blog – it shows all the other incredible things she does on her Costume Interpretation course, like recreating 1860s underwear and a 1770s French Sack Back (made with handprinted fabric).

Hannah Sutherland

My third and final uni project is a 1770s Sack Back with compere front. Like many 18th century buttons, the ones featured are known as “Deathshead” (or deaths head). These are created by winding lengths of thread/silk/yarn around a button mould. Today i got far too into trying to conquer the art, so i didn’t stop to take progress photos. I have 12 to make in total, so plenty of time for that. I’ll try and do it step-by-step as i found it really confusing trying to follow the written instructions i had initially. Thank God for YouTube!! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=deRMQ0I16TA

So these are the buttons i need to recreate…


and with a little help from the wonderful people at WM Booth, Draper. (http://www.wmboothdraper.com/)I managed to create these..



It took me about 1 1/2 hours to go from knowing nothing to making these 3, so it wasn’t too…

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The knitting bishop

A new (to me) book! I’ve discovered A History of Hand Knitting, written by Richard Rutt, Bishop of Leicester, and published in 1987. I haven’t come across any other writing on the history, techniques and regional variations of knitting that go into as much depth or are as well written as this one. At 26 years old, Rutt’s writing still holds its own but is unfortunately out of print.

Sadly he died last year, and donated his collection of knitting-related reading matter to the University of Southampton. This has all been scanned and made available online by the University here. The items are in chronological order, from c. 18oo to 1911. Just click on any of the images and a pdf of the full item will download.

Eivor Fisher’s ‘Swedish Embroidery’

In an earlier post I mentioned finding this beautiful book on Swedish embroidery, written by Eivor Fisher for an Anchor series in 1953. Here is a sneaky peek to show you how inspiring this book is. I loved reading about the traditional bridegroom shirts, made by their future wife to be worn on their wedding day, and “often not used again until needed as a shroud”.