We had an order for an arrow basket last autumn but it had to wait until our willow supplier in Somerset had harvested because they had run out of the sizes we needed when we tried to order fresh materials last year.
We now have some loveky fresh willow but the weather has been ... taxing; willow doesn't soak well in sub freezing temperatures! Luckily Hugh spotted a window of warmer weather last week so we were able to get enough soaked to make three arrow baskets. One is The Order but the other two are for stock.
Judging by the current weather forecast it's a good job we got them done as the temperatures look set to plummet again - frozen willow wins no prizes.
We had two different orders for quoits this winter. We've made A Lot of quoits now.
Sadly all but one set are orders so we haven't even had the fun of a game or two. But there is still one set for stock. If the sunshine keeps up we may even challenge each other to a game.
Where possible we like to make replicas of museum artefacts. (Failing that we sometimes work from images in documents or artworks). Leather doesn't usually survive well in the soil unless it's both waterlogged and anaerobic so there are not very many surviving Medieval leather pouches to copy. There are several in Holland, which are well documented but only a handful of fragments in Britain.
One of the best preserved English pouches has puzzled Alison for years because ...it is Tiny. The largest surviving part is just 4 1/4" * 4" (110 mm x 100mm) and that's the flat meaurement not the size of the pouch sewn up.
In cases like this the best thing to do is to try making a replica to see how it comes out. So that's what Alison did. The resulting pouch is super cute but tiny tiny. It would still work to hold medieval coins but is rather too small to be really practical it fits in the palm of a hand.
Next Alison looked at figures for the amount of shrinkage you can expect from leather that's been buried for centuries and decided to try making a version 25% bigger. That one was still small, and still very cute. Again it's useable but much much smaller even than the smallest of the pouches that most reenactors are used to seeing.
So Alison tried one at twice the size of the existing piece. This version is just a little smaller than the smallest of "normal" pouches.
Here's a photo of all three lined up, with a replica medieval coin for scale.
This brings us to pondering just what Mr. Medieval would have kept in his pouch. We will probably never know, but it was probably not much more than some coins, maybe a comb and possibly a set of dice.
The 3rd of February is the feast day of St. Blaise, patron saint of woolcombers, who was martyred by being torn by wool combs and then beheaded. He was a physician and a bishop in what is now Turkey but was then Armenia.
Wool combs are nothing like the combs you use for your hair; the tines are set perpendicular to the head and are long and sharply pointed sometimes straight, sometimes curved. The combs were massive heavy things - weighing several pounds each. They were of...ten warmed on special stoves before use to speed the work as warm tines help the lanolin in the wool to slide better.
Wool combs were used in pairs, one comb was loaded with locks of wool and was mounted onto a stout post then the other comb was repeatedly driven down through the wool until the long stands were combed away from the shorter ones. Once this happened the short bits were removed and set aside to be carded for woolen yarn. This carried on until the wool was nicely combed like Santa's beard. Then the fibres were drawn off through a small hole in a device called a diz (usually made of polished cow's horn) into a long thin strip called a "sliver" which would be spun into Worsted Yarn
The basic design of wool combs didn't change much from medieval times until the nineteenth century; although the size, weight and number of rows of teeth varied, the overall shape and method of working stayed much the same - at some times and in some places the wool comber sat while at others he (usually he - it's a very physical job) stood to work but the techniques were much the same.
Wool combing was about the last of the textile skills to be mechanised; it continued to be manual work until about 1850 when a mechanised combing device was invented.
Here are a pair of original nineteen century wool combs stored safely with their tines interlocking.
Plus a brother from the Nuremberg Housebook sitting at his work. http://www.nuernberger-hausbuecher.de/75-Amb-2-317-64-v/data
We had a commission to knit a toddler-sized hat recently so Alison decided to make several small hats.
She asked Dave the Head of Modelling to model them but he is Not Happy - he says its beneath his dignity to wear such tiny headgear as it makes him look unnatural. He was very cross about the black one even though we explained that it is really historically interesting as it's based on an extant hat which was knitted in the round as a closed shape, fulled and then cut open. He replied "that's all very well but it makes me look silly" (he does have a point).
Winter isn't just for hibernation; it's for voyages of discovery and research trips to places with fifteenth century carvings.
Wishing all our customers a very merry Christmas and a happy 2018.
The office is closed till after the holidays so we won't reply to messages.
Thank you all for your custom this year and we hope to tempt you with Things again next season.
Today was not a day for being in the workshops (6°C with the stove alight and a whole degree warmer an hour later, with the windows plastered with blown snow): instead we caught up on admin, did some research and then walked down to the farm to check they were ok.
It's the "quiet" season here at Handmade HQ.
But it's anything But quiet: we have orders for Things to go to museums and other heritage sites, hats and pouches are whizzing off to new owners who decided after TORM that they really wished that they'd bought the Thing that they liked. Plus we are busy thinking what sorts of Things to make for next year as well as actually making Things.
Some of Alison's linocut cards will be winging their way out as greetings this winter but she's printed more so if you'd like some Handmade cards instead of mass produced ones theres still time to get some to you. There are three designs - all based on medieval leatherwork.
We are back home after a very busy (best ever) TORM The Original Reenactor's Market Thank you to everyone who came, bought, said nice things and were generally amazing and to the TORM team who made sure it all ran smoothly.
This beautiful cupboard is sold but Hugh already has thoughts for other Things he wants to make (he's been looking at books of furniture pictures again ) but first we are going to have at least a day off.