Thanks to the Hands on History Travelling Foundation, I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Gudvangen Viking market 2017. Here follows a short summary of my trip as well as some personal reflections.
Travelling to Gudvangen was done by car on a sunny summers day, the weather was absolutely amazing. This made the trip very beautiful but also made the lack of AC in the car very noticeable. The compensation for us being boiled in our own sweat was amazing scenery, a fair trade to say the least.
For you who don’t know about Gudvangen, it’s located in the western region of Norway in the municipality of Aurland in Sogn og Fjordane county.
We arrived to Gudvangen at midday but waited until evening to put up the tent in order to avoid the busiest, as well as the hottest, hours. This unfortunately gives us no pictures from the first day with its sunshine so the majority of these pictures were taken on other days when it was cloudy (all pictures except one but you’d have to figure out which one that is by yourself).
It’s a scenic place, to say the least.
The fjord water was cold and had an amazing aquamarine colour, which was difficult to capture without the equipment of a professional photographer.
On the second day we ventured out along the fjord to go swimming in the cold fjord water. Despite it being at least 20°C during the cloudiest day it was no more than 10°C in the water due to mountain water and the ocean being close at hand. Nevertheless, going for a swim was refreshing and appreciated but also fascinating because you see the mountains at all time but you tend to forget that the fjords are the opposite of mountains. That is, when you go swimming you can see how the mountain disappears down into the deep, clear fjordwater. Beautiful, cold and awe inspiring.
Gudvangen being in a fjord makes it perpetually surrounded by the green mountains. It sound reasonable enough but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t breathtaking when you see it.
Turned out that green was an exceptional nice colour that worked very well with the surroundings. The particular green as seen in the picture above was made using yellow onion skin and indigo.
Above is one of the dinners; beer, salmon, cabbage, bread and butter. Tasted amazing, 10/10 would eat again.
The Nærøyelva flows through the bigger part of Gudvangen, even though it’s difficult to see it from these picture Nærøyelva continues quite a bit in.
It’s difficult to not be impressed by Gudvangens scenic nature but not only does it look unique, it smells and sounds in a particular way as well. I remember waking up one night wondering why there was such heavy traffic in the middle of the night. Took me a while before I understood that the low murmur that my modern brain translated as traffic was in fact the sound of the many waterfalls that surrounds Gudvangen.
It was an amazing trip and one of the many thoughts that I will take with me from this trip is that environment is not purely there for the aesthetics. There is a roughness to nature which I think is a part of its beauty and partially responsible for the fascination we have for it. But the roughness also bring demands; demands about how we dress and how we work to survive in it. Or at least it did.
There is an ingenuity with mankind that is rare, an ingenuity that gives us unique tools and skills based on the region and the time we happen to live in. Based upon these tools we develop a society surrounding them, cultivating and developing them for new possibilities. In order to understand more about a culture, understanding tools are crucial. To understand tools, we must use it and evaluate its products. For this purpose, I try to put my reenactment close to what available sources there are from each century. There is a reason to such a life, a feeling and a way to value workmanship and knowledge that is hard to come by without experiencing it.
There is, of course, different ways to approach reenactment and history but this is my approach which has been reinforced by my experience in Gudvangen. I want to understand, work and learn new skills in my reenactment and I want these skills to be based of what we actual know about a certain time and place. By working to learn these skills I will see what they saw and feel what they felt; curiosity, frustration and (hopefully) success. Hopefully I’ll learn something; if not about history then maybe about myself.
Last week I had the opportunity to do a quick visit to Stockholm and as such I naturally did what anyone would do, I spent the evening at The Swedish History Museum (Historiska Museet). Because, luckily enough, the museum had extended opening hours on a weekday that coincided (promise!) with my visit in Stockholm. As such, I spent the evening hours walking around in their exhibitions. It was a good time, I especially liked the iron age ceramics as well as the viking exhibition. I appreciated the opportunity to see source material in real life and especially some of these well debated findings; yes, I am thinking of the silver top that was presumably a part of a hat. There was a guided tour happening just at that display when I passed it so I didn’t have a good opportunity to photograph it, you can check it out here though.
When visiting museums I often think that “I don’t need to take pictures because there is a better picture of this somewhere else” but I have realised that I appreciate the pictures afterwards even though they might be shaky and out of focus. My photos are certainly not top quality but they kind of makes all the difference in the end on what I remember and what not. I’ll share some of the pictures I liked here because, as anyone with a pinterest account has discovered by now, there are a very finite number of pictures of available source material online so it’s nice to see something from a different angle for once. Remember though that they are taken through a glass window of the display with my cell phone and under less than perfect circumstances.
In order to support the museum and to get some decent pictures of the findings, I bought three booklets about their exhibitions and a bag with valkyries on it. Support your local museums!
I also happened to see some findings that I have replicas which is always fun! The findings were displayed in the museum but the since it was kind of troublesome to take pictures due to the lightning and display cases, I compare the replicas with pictures of the findings from the booklets instead. I really appreciate the effort people go through in creating replicas, especially when they look this good.
Note the differences in source material and replicas; I dare say we sure are fond of symmetry nowadays. I try to keep this in mind when working with reenactment, to not be bothered by asymmetry and ease up in our strive for perfection. Somehow, it’s more difficult than I would care to admit, especially when it comes to your own work.
There turned out to be a lot of viking items in this post but I enjoy the pre-christian designs and expressions. Not trying to be rude but I think there is a limited number of times that you can depict iconic bible moments and still keep it interesting. The amount of bible depictions in the source material for the medieval times and the 14th century clearly surpasses that number. On the other hand, this gives us some context so I guess it might be a good thing. Ah well.
Unfortunately enough, the textile department of the museum was closed at the time of my visit so I’ll have to revisit again at another time. But if nothing else, check out their database that I used to find information of all the above material; I’ll definitely keep this in mind in the future, extremely handy!
All in all, go visit The Swedish History Museum (Historiska Museet) in Stockholm if you have the opportunity to do so! They have a lot of nice things.
I’ll try to dig up som old corpses, dyes and crafts that I have done over the years to start with. First out is my very first plant dyed yarn! It was 200 gram of a thick, bone white, single ply wool yarn from Marks & Kattens.
I like thick yarns to naalbind socks and mittens, because it’s quick work and becomes soft, though I have heard that socks made from thicker single plied yarn supposedly gets worn out more easily. I have a pair of socks in this yarn and this has yet not happened to me but maybe I just have baby soft feet incapable of causing harm (not true) or feet sweaty enough to full the wool instead. For example, I can show you how socks made from this yarn has turned into a nice felted sole (if you’re into that kind of thing). But then again, these are just event socks; which means I only use them 1-2 weeks a year so the non existent wear and tear of these socks is not representative of everyday use.
Findings of a single plied sock is yet to be found, I somehow have an idea of it mostly being 2-ply, 3-ply and 4-ply yarn but right now I can’t seem to find anything about this except this small picture on the sock from of the Coppergate findings. If anyone can help me out with a better source on this I would welcome it.
Back to the dye! Done in December 2014, it is the most unregulated and unknown dye I’ve done since it was made from leftovers from a tansy bath that I got from my excellent partner in reenactment crime, Anna (check out her blog!). As such, I have no idea of weight ratio or actually anything about what this was. It could be a mixture of plants for all I know. However, the dye was made with about 2 L of left over bath so I just diluted it with enough water so that the wool could move around and get a even spread of dye in bath. The pot in the picture is a 15 L pot so I’d say that I might have used a ratio of 1:4 of left over dye bath to water; I don’t know why I used such a small amount of water, I should’ve used more but who knows, maybe I was having a bad day…
In the case of dyeing, if your pot is 50L or less, I’d recommend to use as much water as possible. Even though it’s diluted it’s still the same amount of dye just less concentrated (if anyone remembers m [gram] / M [gram/mol] = n [mol] where n is the mole that represents the amount of substance, in this case the amount of dyestuff. Using the formula for concentration c [mol/m3]· V [m3] = n [mol] we can see that n is unchanged since an increase in volume would affect the concentration as well and as such leave the mole unchanged). A larger volume of water is beneficial for the diffusion of the dye bath so that the dye can spread itself evenly through the bath and uneven colouring can be avoided (Dumitrescu et al., 2008; Lewis and Rippon, 2013; Mehrparvar et al., 2016). If possible, I will make a separate blog post where I briefly elaborate further on relevant thermodynamics, diffusion and heat transport.
Anyhow, don’t let confusion get to you just because I used some different words, standardised units and chemical formulas; all of you probably can intuitively come to terms with the idea that more water is needed to give a good flow throughout the yarn and it’s not bad to apply some basic science or analysis in your everyday life. Who knows, it might come in handy later on (the real struggle here is for me to avoid being overly vague or incorrect because if I at some point am, the internet hellhounds will haunt me for the rest of my natural life). Sandström and Sisefsky’s (1975) recommendation on this is a 5 L bath per 100 gram wool which I’d say can be considered a guideline as good as any.
The pre-mordant used was alum, KAl(SO₄)₂·12H₂O but is also known by the name of aluminium potassium sulfate dodecahydrate, used with the generally recommended ratio of 20wt% mordant (Conradi-Engqvist, 1978; Kierstead, 1950; Sandberg and Sisefsky, 1970). Deviations from this recommendation is Vrande (1982) and Råbergh (1978) with 15wt% alum but instead they commonly uses additionally 10wt% tartar or uses post-mordants with a 5wt% of copper sulfate, CuSO4, or iron sulfate, FeSO4, respectively.
It is sometimes considered that older recipes and ratio for pre-, post-, and meta-mordants are overdoing it concerning the recommended amount of mordant; I have not yet done any further testing of different mordant ratios since I only have two pots for dyeing at the moment and as such, I currently consider myself lacking enough equipment to do any good mordant ratio variations. Nevertheless, I think I’d like to give it a go at some point. But yes, I’d be inclined to agree that less mordant can be used but it will affect both the colour and the fastness against water as well as light. Less mordant means less colour intensity and also less wash fastness and less resistance to light. That is, using an insufficient amount of mordant will cause most of the dyestuff to eventually be washed out. Using mordant attaches dyestuff to the fabric due to the complex coordination properties of metals (Lee and Kim, 2004; Uddin, 2014; Mehrparvar et al., 2016), e.g. you can get different hues as well as increased levels of fastness against water and light using mordant (Waheed and Alam, 2004; Burkinshaw and Kumar, 2009; Dumitrescu et al., 2008).So, again, it all depends on what you want. If you want a dyed material with a well defined colour that should be relatively unaffected by both sunlight and washing, it would be suitable to use mordants. Nevertheless, it is also good to use resources sparingly and using too much mordant of any kind is a waste, the question is; how much is too much? What’s the smallest amount that can be used and still get an effect?
Anyhow, enough mordant talk for now, I will have to get back to that subject later.
I don’t have any notes from this dyeing but I think the pre-mordant was done for 60 min at ~90°C and then leave the wool in the mordant bath until cooled. Then I let it hang for a day or two to dry before it was time for the tansy bath. Same procedure with the tansy bath, 60 min at~90°C, let the wool cool in the dye bath.
Despite not having any exact knowledge of what I was doing it turned out Very Nice.
Considering the colour intensity of the yarn, I could’ve probably used the bath for several more dyes but for I had no further dyes planned so I didn’t. The plot twist of this story is that the yarn was supposed to be for my friend in Stockholm but the package was lost or stolen from the letterbox during the christmas holidays. I mourned for a couple of months but I still have a small piece left that I took for reference.
Anyhow, this is so far the most tragic tale I have in the art of plant dyeing so stay tuned for happy excitement as we prod at the dyes of the past.
Conradi-Engqvist, Cecilia (1978). Spinna, växtfärga och forma av tråd: från naturfiber till textil. Spinna ull och lin och forma av tråd : med färg- och kompositionsövningar : studieplan. Stockholm: LT
Kierstead, S.P. 1950, Natural dyes, , United States.
Lee, Y. & Kim, H. (2004), Dyeing properties and colour fastness of cotton and silk fabrics dyed with Cassia tora L. extract, KOREAN FIBER SOCIETY, SEOUL.
Lewis, D.M., Rippon, J.A. & Ebook Central (e-book collection) 2013, The coloration of wool and other keratin fibres: edited by David M. Lewis, Department of Colour Science, University of Leeds, UK and John A. Rippon, CSIRO Materials Science and Engineering, Australia, Wiley, Chichester, West Sussex.
Mehrparvar, L., Safapour, S., Sadeghi-Kiakhani, M. & Gharanjig, K. 2016, “A cleaner and eco-benign process for wool dyeing with madder, Rubia tinctorum L., root natural dye”, International Journal of Environmental Science and Technology, vol. 13, no. 11, pp. 2569-2578.
Råbergh, Hilkka (1978). Färga garn och tyg: växtfärgning, syntetfärgning på bomull-batik, syntetfärgning på ull. Västerås: Ica bokförl.
After much consideration and many thoughts about it I have decided to start blogging about my dealing with reenactment and crafts in general. Reasons? Everyone is doing it and I have a lot of pictures that are pretty nice and as such, I’ve decided to share some of them here along with some thoughts.
I’ll try to introduce this blog, the purpose and myself in this entry.
This is a blog that will cover my thoughts, ideas and pictures of my dealings with reenactment and crafting. I started doing reenactment and crafting more seriously in 2010, I have dabbled in somewhat vaguely related activities in my youth but it was first in 2010 that I started to spend serious time and money on it. I say reenactment and crafting because my part of reenactment mainly consists of crafting. I know that fighting is a big thing in reenactment but I have simultaneously to this interest trained muay thai for several years and has as such never felt the need to participate in the fighting part of reenactment. As such, my focus is mainly everyday life of civilians.
The periods that I am currently involved in is 10th century and 14th century in the Nordic countries. This is a choice based on my location in the west of Sweden, available events (because to be honest without deadlines, nothing would be done) and my limitation as a seamstress. As fancy as the later centuries are, I am not a tailor and will only shame the century and stress myself out by trying to achieve an acceptable level of quality.
In my crafting, I am aiming towards a simpler style. I am trying my best to stay true to the available source material in both eras; which doesn’t give much space concerning the 10th century in since most of the findings from the Nordic countries consists of a few threads and a lot of heavy gold and silver bling. Considering that gold is still pretty expensive you still have to be filthy stinking rich to wear everything true to many graves. Filthy stinking rich is something that I’ll never be so I’ll just try to stay humble and dirty instead.
Considering sources I do the best I can, as many other, by looking at available findings and books. This is loosely regarded to as research in this hobby, which kind of waters down the expression to be honest (as I have met very few who actually does professional scientific research). But then again, this is just a hobby and it’s just a matter of semantics in this case. What I do is that I try to look up available findings, discuss it and work out a decent framework that works for me based on what seems plausible and possible for me to do without going insane. It sounds deceptively simple.
Over the years I evolved a soft spot for plant dyeing so hopefully I can shine some light on this subject here. It is an activity that is in general somewhat vaguely described, with loose terms and its own trivial names; maybe so because it doesn’t have to be very precise to work well and therefore the precious skill of accuracy is sadly neglected in this case. I am a fan of choice and I promote accuracy so that eventual inaccuracy that takes place is a conscious choice . But considering that this is a hobby and takes place in our spare time, sometimes there is not time nor energy left for accuracy; which is also okay. For me, the point of crafting is not primarily accuracy but to learn something and to create something. Although I confess like to make progress in the things I do and in order to progress I need to evaluate my actions and in order to evaluate my actions I need accuracy. And here we are. In summary, I try to be accurate but I don’t beat myself up if I’m not.
(Un)fortunate enough, I am at the moment a full time student at a major technical university in Sweden and as such I have precious little time to do anything else than work and trying to have a working everyday life. My bachelor is in chemical engineering, my master is in nanotechnology and materials chemistry and I am currently writing my master thesis work at the department of chemical engineering / organic chemistry. As such, I am a scholar of science and I am not afraid to use it! But to be frank, most of science boils down to understanding that there are things that you don’t understand. Not much of a comfort, I know, but it actually helps and makes the world less unpredictable in some aspects. But then again, expecting the unexpected is a paradox in itself and quite tricky to do in real life but now I’m getting off topic. Anyhow, I’ll do what I can and I’ll make no promises.
Concerning the particular design and features of this blog in general, I’ll try to work out some decent theme here so if everything looks weird I’m probably trying something new and failing. Don’t give up on me though, I need the page clean and working as much for my own sanity as well as yours.
Also, as you might have guessed I am not a native speaker of English but I’ll try to keep this blog in english to the best of my abilities; because, it would seem that there are more people not speaking swedish doing this weird business.
If you’re reading this today (the 24th of February 2017) you are a very eager internet person and all of this information is up to date. If you’re reading this when accidentally scrolling to the bottom of my blog, then I don’t know where you’re from in time but you are a very persistent cookie and I’ll keep you in mind.