Monday, September 19, 2011

Demo and Cool Experiments.

This weekend, our group participated in a fabulous Norse themed event.   Our main themes of the weekend were early period cooking and wood turning.     We had two cooking fires going, an impromptu totally non-period bread oven experiment and a pole lathe, with a very patient wood turner who spent oodles of time showing people how to use the pole lathe and letting a myriad of kidlets have a turn using foot power to turn the lathe.

We had pots one one fire for boiling water, heating cider, cooking veggies, making stew and frying sausages.  The second fire started off with a dye pot, but reality is that I can either dye or make bread and never had enough time for both.  Quickly, the dye pot was removed and we kept the flat breads cooking and the spit soon held a huge roast beef for our dinner.

The bread oven was definitely a modern construct.  The land owners had hoped to make a real cob oven, but didn't have the time to get it done this summer.  Instead, they found all these materials for us to make a temporary oven with, which we had to play with.   This type of oven  uses residual heat to cook with.  It took over 4 hours to get the oven hot enough.  We then scraped out the fire, cleaned off the ash and promptly stuck a loaf of bread dough in, forgetting the "soak" period or the timing in which the oven temperatures get to even out.  The first loaf burnt to a crisp on the outside, but the inside was devoured quite quickly by people waiting to see our results.   The next 3 loaves cooked nicely, taking slightly more time than each previous loaf.   There wasn't enough heat to do multiple continuous baking like a true cob oven would hold, but enough for 3 loaves of bread was a pretty exciting result.

It was a very cool experiment.    We learned a lot from this and will be able to adjust our own cob oven in the future.   It was suggested by one member that we should have two doors.  None of the period examples I've seen have two doors and it is pretty obvious that we can't afford to lose the amount of heat that having two doors would entail.   We lost enough just opening the one door and removing a loaf.   Another member suggested a long and fairly tall prototype, which I think won't work as well either.  This experiment gave rise to lower and rounder ideas, which is what we see in the outdoor bread ovens still in use today.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Rafters go up!

Thanks to our friends in Torvik, we managed to get all of the wall plates and ridge pole, as well as half the rafters on the new kitchen!

Despite the heat we had one of the largest crews we've ever had. As a result the work went very quickly. We had people placing the rafters, others were nailing them in place, and still others were using the chainsaw to cut the rafters into shape.

Much of the time was also spent making the half laps in the wall plates. Lots of people got to play with the chisel and mallet to get the shape just so. Mark's mallet took quite the beating (literally) and looks like its been through a war zone!

Thanks again for all the help guys, hope to see you soon.


Monday, June 20, 2011


On Sunday, we were finally able to get to the longhall.  We were warned the grass was over knee high.  I believe however that it grew between that warning and when we got there as really, it was thigh high grass.   One of the members brought a scythe and a sickle.  Later in the afternoon, a second scythe arrived.   The grass was cut, placed into nice piles.  We then made stooks or shocks of the grass, so it would dry nicely.  The owners of the farm are sheep farmers and will be able to use our hay stooks for feeding the sheep this winter.

One of our members took a course on how to make a cob oven.   We've had plans for one in our kitchen area.  The skeletal frame is up and we're ready to put the roof on.   With a tape measure and some innovative thinking, we figured out where the best place for the oven will be.  Now we just have to figure out how high to make our tables/work surfaces.   We had waist high in mind.  That however turns out to mean very different things to different people..  31 inches for me and 45 inches for our tallest members.   We're still working on that one!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

More Bayeux Stitching

This is the final creature on the set of cuffs previously posted.    They are ready to sew on the new gown!  They will be machine washable due to using superwash wool, which will be a nice convenience.  The yarn is very thin so it took quite a while to embroider the two cuffs, with only 3 creatures on each cuff.  Imagine how pleased I was with my speed when my next two projects seem to speed along, despite one of them being a some what larger design!


Yes, this one is larger than the blue horse.  However when I thought about it, the decrease in embroidery time wasn't really that much.  First my threads are a tad thicker, so better coverage but I also forgot to track a couple of days time, so who knows, it may have taken more hours, although I doubt it.   The little green linen bag has a handspun, wool  lucet cord drawstring, is lined with an oatmeal coloured linen and is mainly stitched with linen thread.

For some reason I keep thinking of these creatures as dogs although I think they may actually be lions.  There are a couple of different maned creatures/cats on the Bayeux Tapestry borders.  One set of them looks an awful lot like real male lions, with full manes.  These are perhaps representative of lions, although I keep saying dogs when I look at them!  The first one I stitched is green and the second will be dark blue.   The linen I used here is coarser.  I won't do that again.  The stitches pull against the linen more easily, so you have to be much more careful when stitching. 

The next step in this project will be to spin and dye some wool yarns for a future tapestry / wall hanging for our Longhouse.  Of course it won't live there, but I can bring it out when we go to play.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Bayeux Stitch

I'm making a pair of cuffs for a new gown.  Normally I tend to wear working woman's clothing because I like to play around with dye pots, bread making, cooking fires, spinning and weaving.  If I get a stain on a washable kitchen tunic, I don't tend to care. This gown will be a little bit nicer, yet not by any means high status.  It's a madder pink colour and will have grey/buff linen embroidered cuffs.  Possibly an embroidered neckline too, but I may get distracted by then so I'm only focusing on the cuffs, mainly because cuffs will show whereas if I'm wearing a veil, the embroidered neckline probably won't.

I'm using the Bayeux stitch for the embroidery.   I like the Bayeux stitch, which is my main reasoning for this, although it is a good, Anglo-Saxon embroidery stitch.  There isn't a lot of evidence it was used on clothing but 68 metres or so of evidence that it was at least used..    The threads are wools.  I didn't dye or spin these.  They are commercial yarns that are pure wool but machine washable for convenience.  The centre beasts are not only reversed but the colours will be reversed as well, with one being black with white and the second being white with black.  I might actually get this dress done in time for an in kit day sometime this coming spring or summer.