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Wool gowne update

Fell stitching the sleeves
Fell stitching the sleeves

The early 14th century wool gowne is taking shape!

I've pinned and sewn and fell-stitched both sleeves now and all that remains is to attach them the the gowne body itself.

I deliberately didn't add buttons to the sleeves as the forearms need to be tight enough to go under other things. I may open them up in the future. I'll see how I feel.

I'm liking the over the wrist cuffs and as well as being an outer gowne for hotter days, it will double as an undergown for other outfits.

comeheresaythat

Getting it wrong on social media

It's not the thongs melting
It's not the thongs melting

One of the things I love about social media is that fact checking is a bit arbitrary. Once a "fact" is out there, other blogs include it in theirs. It's on the internet, so it must be true!

This picture has been bandied around in blogs and posts lately in Ten Things You Didn't Know About Australia and it's absolutely killing me. 

The caption and the paragraph connected to it always goes to great pains to stress that sometimes it's so hot here, that it melts our thongs. I've seen it again and again.

Oh, honey, no.

Our thongs aren't melting in the heat. Our road is. That's the tar of the road melting and sticking to the thong, not the thong itself. 

Blog writers, if you're going to horrify people overseas with our unseasonal weather, please horrify them correctly!

mybook

Getting sexy at the library

I'm delighted to be doing a "The Very Secret Sex Lives of Medieval Women"  Author Talk for Brisbane Libraries at Carindale Library which is situated in Carindale's Westfield Shopping Centre.

As with all Brisbane Libraries talks, this one is also free to attend, although bookings should be made via the staff on (07) 3407 1490 as we have limited numbers. As always, refreshments are provided courtesy of Brisbane City Council and Carindale Library. Arrive early for your tea or coffee and biscuits before we start.

I will have books available for sale at the very special Author Event price of $25.00 Cash Only (sorry) for anyone looking to buy a copy on the night. Everyone who attends will have a little something from me to take home as a personal thank you for coming out in our current Covid climate.

I do hope to see you there! This is the last of the Brisbane Library Author Events I will be doing for a while, so please join me for a fun evening!

highfive

A rose by any other name... is still a lot of work!

Under construction- linen bed hangings with roses
Under construction- linen bed hangings with roses

I really am making a concerted effort to finish off some almost finished projects and the next on my list is this one! A set of 7 panels of hand-appliqued roses with 28 roses plus several half-roses on each! Applique is a period-appropriate technique which we see on flags, banners and heraldic clothing.

Roses!
Roses!

This mammoth project has been very close to finished but since it's not been needed, it's taken a back-burner to more important things. next year, however, I want to be using these in my medieval Ladies Solar (bed and bath room) tent display and these are the bed curtains.

1330-40 MS Gg4.6.f3r Cambridge Roman de la Rose
1330-40 MS Gg4.6.f3r Cambridge Roman de la Rose

Many early 14th century manuscripts have great roses backgrounds which might be nothing more than manuscript decoration but, as historians know, was a very popular motif for painting on bedroom walls. The very popular stones-and-roses motif having been popular in the previous century, we now see more walls painted with murals and scenes. We also know that beds had curtains, so my thought process was to melt these together and use the roses motif on curtains to surround the bed.

X-ray film makes the best stencils
X-ray film makes the best stencils

Firstly I made a stencil for the roses from X-ray film are drew around it on the red linen. Next the cutting. as anyone who sews with linen knows, fraying is quite a concern, so all care had to be taken!

Stencil time!
Stencil time!

Rose placement needed to be fiddled with, but on the whole, 28 entire roses and several half roses at the tops and bottoms seemed to be a good fit.

After marking each centre with a dot, the question of the centres of the roses arose. 

coffe-dyed linen rose centres
coffe-dyed linen rose centres

I had no linen in a colour I liked, so I took some yellow linen and over-dyed it with coffee which brought  the colour to a really nice gold-tan. Each of these needed to be hand-stitched onto the centres of the roses, and then, carefully, carefully, each rose hand-stitched on to each drop of fabric.

red linen roses
red linen roses

As I'm drawing closer to finishing this part of the project, I am now wondering if I really need to add little leaves around the petals as seen in the top stencil photo, or just leave them like the manuscript.

I'm also wondering whether the centres need to have little dots in the centres, like some of the medieval rose pictures do. 

All that will remain then will be attaching the rings to the top of the curtains and joining the curtains together at the sides to make a super-snuggly area with no drafts around the bed.

28 full roses and some gaps for the half-roses top and bottom where the pattern repeats
28 full roses and some gaps for the half-roses top and bottom where the pattern repeats

I have another fabric which I hand painted roses onto which was a huge amount of work in green and white stripes with red roses, but I feel very much that linen hangings are much nicer.

To be honest, bed hangings would have more likely been wool in my mind, although we know that according to household accounts of Richard III, bed coverlets were also made from embroidered silk. Wool would have been arm, bright and available in large pieces and was widely used for almost everything warm. 

Linen, of course, was used for actual sheets. 

I'm already thinking what I really need is a canopy over the top of dark blue material which I can put stars onto. 

But as Scarlet O'Hara said- that is "another day!"

butisitlove

When opinions collide

Image from the Luttrell Psalter, 14th century, England
Image from the Luttrell Psalter, 14th century, England

I'll be honest. I'm not a man-hater (as some book reviewers suggest) but I do hate the way medieval women get thought of by many medieval people. Not all, obviously, but many others shared the views of Thomas of Cantimpre and other religious men.  

The medieval church of old felt quite strongly about the women and they were usually in two camps, never mind all the complex in betweens. No, they preferred their women clearly sexed and in one of two places: with Eve, as a foul temptress or with Mary, as a sainted and shining example of womanhood.

They preferred nothing in between, leading to statements like this one. Marriage was to be endured for the procreation of heirs or the expansion of empires. Intimate relations, ditto. 

I look around the world today and wonder how history will remember us and how we are, or how we try to be. Part of our world is inclusive, neutral, welcoming and supportive of strong women. There is welfare and social justice. Other parts still embrace female circumcision, forced marriages, sex trafficking and shame about the body's most basic workings. 

We still have a long way to go.

leatherboundbooks

Kenmore Author Talk

peek-a-boo!
peek-a-boo!

Hello Kenmore Library! 

What a place! The staff hosting this event were again so nice, and Tanya, my hostess with the mostess was warm and welcoming (but this seems to be a common theme with our Brisbane Library librarians) and were fantastic hosts and the place itself was an absolute surprise.

Nestled in behind the Kenmore Shopping Village, and an easy bus ride out from the city,  the exterior of the library does in no way prepare the visitor for the amazing views from the library windows upstairs.

How the staff get anything done here and not spend their hours gazing out at the scenery and birds, I do not know! It's such a tranquil spot!

Views of Kenmore from the library windows
Views of Kenmore from the library windows

The enormous windows offer a gorgeous view of the surrounding landscape and I can't imagine the staff here ever wanting to leave. Curling up in a chair near one of these windows is a bookworm's paradise!

an unexpected welcome!
an unexpected welcome!

With Covid making talks and events uncertain, many of the usual channels of print media for the author talks were bypassed in case of sudden cancellations and lockdowns, so staff took it upon themselves to grab some whiteboard pens and get creative on their own! 

I was quite touched that they had gone to this much effort for my talk but again, their efforts had paid off and another small but enthusiastic turnout joined me for a fun evening! Refreshments were again provided by Brisbane Libraries, free of course, and I made sure everyone who attended took home a free bookmark as a little token of my thanks!

I've been really pleased that staff feedback for the Very Secret Sex Lives of Medieval Women Author talks have been so positive and I really hope that I can be involved in more of these events next year. Only a few more to go in this round.

My thanks to Kenmore Library for being such gracious hosts and Brisbane Libraries for hosting the series of talks altogether.

mybook

Sandgate Author Talk

Shhh! it's a secret!
Shhh! it's a secret!

The Very Secret Sex Lives of Medieval Women Sandgate Library Author Talk was delightful!

First of all I was surprised to find myself in the tourist booklet of What's On In Sandgate with one of my favourite photos and a great write up! Once again, the headline focusing on the sex lives and not the medieval women made me feel a little uncomfortable, but it clearly did the job because we had a completely full house!

The library staff and my hostess, Amanda, were welcoming and kind and wasted no time in offering refreshments and giving me a tour of the library. I found the best spot in the library was in one of their gorgeous red, brocade-covered armchairs looking outside through huge, arched windows while sipping coffee and chilling with a magazine. I heartily recommend it!

The library itself was not big enough to hold everyone who hoped to attend my talk, so it was relocated into the beautiful town hall right next door.

Sandgate Town Hall.
Sandgate Town Hall.

The hall had an abundance of natural light and the room retained echoes of its former use as a performing arts venue with a now-disused balcony and tiered seats overlooking the main hall, seen above.

My favourite features of the Town Hall and the Library itself were the pressed tin ceiling panels and lighting rosettes which came in a number of designs.

pressed tin ceiling panels
pressed tin ceiling panels

I've always really loved this feature in a lot of old, heritage buildings and private residences and many old theatres and cinemas still have these in their foyers and above the footpaths outside the buildings proper. It's a little sad that our modern houses don't take this kind of attention to their ceilings, although restorations often include the lighting rosette features and fancy cornicework. 

The ceiling patterns, though, were lovely!

Looking upwards
Looking upwards

Before the hall was ready, I took half an hour to sit under some enormous fig trees in the park across the road and have lunch. The weather was sunny and even though Spring has just arrived, the warm weather was making itself known.

The event itself was Covid-appropriate with spaced out chairs which limited the numbers attending. A curious crowd made their teas and coffees before finding their places and joining me for our afternoon, and I think it's safe to say that a good time was had by all.

Masks were permitted off once seated as we were spaced out, so that was nice!

What a lovely crowd they were, too. Several men attended, which was quite lovely to see, including one of the librarians from The Braille House who chatted about making a braille edition for their lending library. 

I'm so thankful that at the moment I have these small opportunities to get out and spread the medieval history love into the broader community. Our Brisbane Libraries are the best!

secretsquirrel

Can you feel it?

Exciting news, lovers of books! 

I was approached by the lovely Jack, a Librarian from the Braille House Library in Brisbane. Jack came to one of my Brisbane Libraries talks at Sandgate Library and hoped I would be pleased to hear that my book, The Very Secret Sex Lives of Medieval Women was pegged for transcription into braille.

Braille House, free lending library, Queensland Braille Writing Association.
Braille House, free lending library, Queensland Braille Writing Association.

Braille House is run by the Queensland Braille Writing Association and it houses a free lending braille lending library. Classics and well as modern books are translated into braille to make books of all genres and interests available to readers.

As with other libraries in Brisbane, it's a free service and relies heavily on volunteers to make books accessible to their wider audience. Since 1897, Braille House has  supported literacy for children and adults who are blind or have low  vision and on Saturday August 17th it launched a second-hand book shop, Bookshop 507 at 507 Ipswich Road, Annerley as a great way to help fund making Braille books so that they can ensure that readers have access to them into the future.

This is such a really great service, and I'm very excited to have my book considered for inclusion.

How seriously great is that?


leatherboundbooks

Ashgrove Library Author Event

For something completely different, I've be dropping by Ashgrove Library in Brisbane this Saturday morning between 10.30am to 11.30am for morning tea and a talk about medieval women from the Very Secret Sex Lives of Medieval Women.

This is the first and only Saturday event hosted by Brisbane Libraries this time round, so if weekends are your best option, book now for our Saturday!

Ashgrove Library will be providing a free morning tea, coffee and biscuits for attendees and I'll be adding a free bookmark with the book cover art as a take-away treat.

Bookings are through the Ashgrove Library on 07 3407 1940 or Eventbrite. Bookings are free, but are required for Covid-safety planning. I hope to see some of you there!