Behind The Scenes Again

I love that the museum will be selling my books but there's all the behind the scenes stuff to do- so a bit of time was spent over the weekend cutting and folding the dust jackets for each book, signing copies, adding a bookmark and a postcard for each book.

I've also finally managed to package and seal up the Online Valentine Winner's prize (and since it was a kitty-related contest, my kitty added a little something to the packet for the winner's kitty too!)

It's the little things in life which are the best!


Books at the Museum!

After a very busy week I was thrilled beyond everything that my book order from Mango arrived today! And by my book order, I mean quite literally my order of MY books. I'm so thrilled! What's more thrilling is that the Abbey Museum Gift Shop will be stocking my book, The Very Secret Sex Lives of Medieval Women in their shop very soon. As a special deal for shoppers supporting the museum, each book comes with the uncensored dust jacket, a book mark and a postcard!

This is particularly timely as I have a talk to give at the Abbey Museum of Art & Archaeology next Saturday the 27th of March on Medieval Feminine Hygiene, which should be a wonderful fundraiser!  Tickets are available here and 100% of the ticket goes to the museum! The talk includes a light afternoon tea.

Medieval Feminine Hygiene Talk by Rosalie Gilbert
Medieval Feminine Hygiene Talk by Rosalie Gilbert

As well as donating my time, I'm donating a book, two flavours of elderflower cordial and hand-dipped beeswax candles to the raffle.

It's been a while since I've been able to get up to the museum, so it'll be great to catch up with friends there!

This weekend, however is all about preparing- cutting and folding dust jackets, checking my notes and making sure the images for the talk are loaded onto a USB. All of those behind-the-scenes things.


The Clock and The Camshaft

The Clock and the Camshaft, by John W Farrell.
The Clock and the Camshaft, by John W Farrell.

I really enjoyed reading The Clock and the Camshaft- And Other Medieval Inventions We Still Can't Live Without.  

As a medieval enthusiast, I had prior knowledge of many of the things author John W Farrell  discussed here, but I was delighted to find that he added a great deal of extra information and sources about the subjects in each chapter.

I  enjoyed his accessible writing style which made the book easy to read and follow without over-simplifying the information. A really good balance which is often lacking in books about technology.

I learned many great things reading this book- including what kind of mill  powered the fabric mills and where some of the earliest ones were  located. I have read a lot about fabric in the middle ages, so this was of particular interest to me.

Undoubtedly, my favourite chapter in the entire book was Chapter Eight- Through a Glass, Not Darkly. I had thought that there wouldn't be a lot for me to learn here about medieval glasses, and was surprised to discover that I was quite wrong. John W. Farrell's sources indicated dates and places much earlier than I had supposed and I was astonished to discover the sheer volume of reading glasses being exported by 1380. I had believed they were much more of a  luxury item than the records indicate.

Don't believe me? I heartily recommend you get yourself a copy and read it for yourself.


Attaching the Baden Baden Belt Mounts

This is the perfect example of how sometimes I have these great ideas and they just don't work. I'll share my thought and actual processes here, so that others can see what I did and why I did it. I'm really pleased with the end result.

Step 1 was to assemble the things I thought I'd need. Hammer for peening, pliers for holding, belt and mounts, pins and ruler, roves and a cloth to make sure I didn't damage the enamel of the mounts when I hammered them on the back. I was primarily concerned with the mounts just slipping off the posts as the belt was worn and the weave moved with my body. For extra security, I decided to put roves on the posts before peening them down.

To begin...

I'd already attached the buckle, plate and chape, so I lay the belt out on the table making sure I had the side I wanted to attach the mounts onto facing up. It would be absolutely not hilarious at all if I attached half on the out side then half on the inside through sheer lack of planning. Quick double check to make sure the right side was up.

The next step was to space out the mounts and roves for the posts at the back. I just needed to make sure I had them evenly spaced and allowed a gap where the belt would pass through the buckle. I didn't need a mount right there, so needed to leave a gap. At this point, they're just resting on the belt.

I made sure I had enough spaced out roughly. Now to grab some pins and measure out the gaps properly.

After doing the math, I needed gaps of 65mm between each mount (and a gap where the buckle went through. Pins and more pins made sure everything was spaced out properly. You can see in the top right of this picture, that the roves fitted neatly over the posts of the mounts. I bought these at a bead shop, and they were sold as spacers, but they were perfect for roves.

Carefully, I wriggled the mount through the belt and placed the roves on. As usual, I trimmed the first post down ready to peen. The peening is done with a ball headed hammer in a circular motion to flatten out the end so it splays out over the edges. There are many U-tube videos on how to do this.

At this point, it became painfully obvious where my problem lay.

The three mount posts are so close together, that attempting to hit one with a hammer also flattened the other two. Peening was impossible.

There was a short interlude when I swore a bit in frustration.

Having decided to remove the roves, I though about my next best option. The mount posts were quite long, so I decided to use the pliers to simply fold the posts outwards. I decided outwards would give a greater grip and less likelihood of falling off.

Always thinking ahead, I helpfully clipped the top mount shorter to neaten it up. If you're playing along at home, DO NOT DO THIS! Yes, the post was shorter, but the posts are made with a rounded end which will not snag on fabric or clothing. Snipping the end shorter made a very sharp end almost certain to tear clothing.

Another short interlude for more swearing and some tears.

I was grateful I'd only done three. I needed to file the ends that I'd snipped so they would be blunter again, but filing so close to the tablet woven silk was a whole barrel of tears also. The end was very close to the belt and I was frantic with worry that the filing would cut the fibres.

I began to suspect this was why the posts had been made with a rounded end- to prevent this from happening.

In the end, it was extremely quick and easy to bend the posts over and give a gentle squeeze to tuck the very ends into the band. I've had a lot of trouble with brass belt mounts being extremely hard to do anything with, but these ones were good to work with. I wore the belt this weekend past and none of the mounts rubbed against my silk dress enough to tear or cut the silk.

The mounts, belt fittings and chape came from Gothic Cast Accessories. They also sell the lions which are on the original belt, but I dressed it down a bit and left the lions off.


Book signing

Esquire Anthony Wright and Rosalie Gilbert
Esquire Anthony Wright and Rosalie Gilbert

The book signing... my very first one in the real world... went really well! I was so fortunate to have amazing friends who came and made the day a success. friends who traveled, friends who bought books, friends who dressed in armour in the sweltering heat, friends who came and dressed up and kept me company.

Biggest shout out to Lauren and Ben, who really stepped up and were amazing! Also a huge shout out to Books@Stones who hosted the signing and sold quite a few books in the process.

The Valentine Giveaway went really well and had quite a lot of entries. The book shop reported a great morning of sales, so having me there signing and with my little medieval display, clearly caught people's eye. The fact we had a knight in shining armour handing out roses may have had quite a lot to do with it.

I was pretty excited to wear my new circlet with the jewelled roses and the new Baden Baden belt with my new early 14th century gown. I'm glad I went with the wimple in the end, as it worked really well with the rest of the clothing.

I'm now looking forward to our next hosted event- our Medieval Night Out at Lady Marmalade Cafe at Stones Corner.


Fair ladies in medieval times

Ellie and Lauren. photo by Neda Lundie
Ellie and Lauren. photo by Neda Lundie

With Valentine's Day around the corner and media full of impossibly flawless women promoting the supposed ideal of modern beauty, I thought I'd just remind us all of the medieval standard of what made a lady fair.

A woman was described as "fair" if she had unblemished skin, not only if she was very, very white.    

Pale skin was the ideal in many countries, but for those ladies born with a Spanish or Italian complexion, her "fairness" was judged on her lack of acne, scarring, scrofula or other skin diseases, not her actual whiteness.


Achievement unlock'd

Reproduction Baden Baden Belt fittings
Reproduction Baden Baden Belt fittings

I got the belt mounts attached in time to wear the belt for this coming weekend. I'm so excited! This will be the first time I've worn the outfit completely finished and with the new belt.

The original Baden Baden Belt has alternating lions between the letter As, but I'm keeping it simple with just the enameled buckle and chape and enameled mounts.

I'll be doing a How I Did It post for those on Facebook who are asking. I must confess that it didn't go at all according to plan, and my ideas for attaching needed to be re-thought. 

Baden Baden Belt buckle and chape set and mounts on a silk tablet woven girdle
Baden Baden Belt buckle and chape set and mounts on a silk tablet woven girdle

In the end, it all came together well and I'm looking forward to sharing photos with the people who made the castings, Gothic Cast Accessories and the Mervi Pasanen, from Swan River Crafts who made the tablet woven silk belt.


When you have awesome friends...

I'm so grateful that I have the most awesome friends in the world! My friends have been helping me out with bookish things and I just couldn't believe my luck when I heard that Esquire Anthony Wright (not his real name) from Companie Draco Routiere was armouring up for the book signing on Saturday.

I'm so excited that he's prepared to brave the heat to help lure people into the book shop that I've asked him to draw the winner of this giveaway as well!

I'm hoping he gets a bit of attention. His good Lady and I will be in medieval clothes and have a few medieval things on our table and may have sewing to do as well, and I'm advertised as being available for chat and questions, so hopefully it will be quite a merry little time.

This will be far more fun than being stuck behind a table with a pile of books!


Stones and Roses

Durham Cathedral wall
Durham Cathedral wall

What's keeping me up late tonight is thinking about the new bath display and whether I'd like to paint a new backdrop for the tent walls- a stones-and-roses one like I first came to see in the documentary about Guedelon Castle in Burgundy, France. It's a very mid 13th century thing though, so possibly not appropriate for early 14th century displays. Durham Cathedral also has some, pictured here. How late were they used? I simply don't know for sure.

I really think I'd like some. I think they'd really look fantastic with the roses bed hangings I haven't used yet.

I'm idly wondering how to keep my kitty off the paint while it was drying. I feel like I actually have all the right colours of paint already, so I'd just need fabric...


Website updates

After a lot of thought, I figured it was well and truly time I updated the links of the tutorials pages to actually say "tutorials" in the html page names in stead of DIY patterns, which was how it started out. Other tutorials have been added, and it's just neater page naming. This kind of thing bugs me so much.

Of course, that means I need to reload the entire website again.

I'm going to take the Bohun Psalter stuff off for now too, since I really have abandoned that project since the book came out