Author Archives: m d b

Finally a break!

For months now, possibly a year, I’ve been blocked from real research and writing progress due to an issue with the thumbnails of my folders of research failing to be created. I was able to only get around this by force quitting the process involved. But then only getting a few files to load and then nothing. Turns out a lot of us have had this problem but no solution actually seemed to work. Some people had malware, some corrupted media files. Then I found someone who solved their own issue.

They had a system file try to tell the OS there was a file on the desktop that wasn’t there. They were told to not delete the system file, but also that it would be recreated on start up if they did. The file is apparently used by the OS what folder options to use- icons, thumbnails, columns etc.

So I turned on “view hidden files” found the same system file , I opened it in notepad and yep. I saw a file name for something that hadn’t been in that folder ever as far as I know. Probably once in a transfer from one drive to another.

So I quickly did a search for the files on my research drive and my “user” folders, deleted every single instance in dozens, but not all, folders then reset folder options, and restarted and wow.

Not only do thumbnails load instantaneously in folders but in searches.

It’s so exciting.

And a massive relief.

But that a crappy little unneeded file caused so much delay and extra work and set back my health hugely. It’s taken time away from everything good in my life because it really needed fixing but no one is willing to say that this is a known issue.

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This is not a real word but it needs to be. To be both over and underwhelmed at once. This is me today in finding some incredible and extremely important work on trades and guilds. But. And it’s a big but and I cannot lie it’s the same but as always. It’s a near black hole of information between 1500 and 1560 for women’s clothing. There is a mix of issues. All of which are incredibly difficult to tackle at this temporal and physical distance.

So I have yet another dissertation on its way.

I’m now fatigued, again, so back to being just whelmed. I’m protecting my excitement though. It’s precious.

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Research breakthrough

I decided to do a bit of a blunt search for the term for a specific craft in the hope I might, might, break through the big gaps in OCR of so many of the digitised books online have. I didn’t realise entire pages were missing in the I think 1600 pages I have on trades, let alone all the dictionaries (cries). It may not seem like I need to search the documents about, say, fishmongers but sometimes the documents are wills or letters, in which clothing items can be found. But also it’s fascinating to read the quantities and types of fish sold.

My hope is to find documents about where their product went, and how many crafts it took to reach it’s final form. There are some obvious uses, but I’m trying to be able to get the specific document archival names so no one else has to fight this OCR mess.

Luckily the index of my main trades resource does reveal when a trade was mentioned in the records of another trade, also when it’s a surname. So I’m pretty sure I have everything that can be found in it.

Online options to strip the OCR layer have failed, my only option is to pull out all images (ie the top layer) then get google to transcribe and translate page by page.

Anyway, back to being excited because yes I found a couple more books about trades that didn’t show up in more general terms for trades and crafts.

In one instance I have a timeframe needed and number of journeymen needed to embroider a garment: 6 weeks and I think 8 journeymen. Apprentices not counted, I suspect due to the nature of the work which was for a Duke. It’s fantastic as it reveals just how fast these pieces were made but also how many people were involved for each piece. I’ve always suspected this, but in part because of other references like how the heck did you make all of those costumes for the parades and festivals. Maximilian used his own tailors to design and make the Freydal costumes. I think also some of the clothes of the partners of those in the dances as usually the all wear matching clothes too.

There are also massive amounts of fabric ordered in the North Rhine for festivities like this that could also be for these same kinds of clothes worn to denote loyalty.

It’s all very cool, and I’ve started to save files in named folders in my downloads now to avoid what I’ve done in the past which is to accidentally lose important documents due to naming conventions of the digitisers.

Given the leap in progress yesterday I can face at least renaming some more books.

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patterning update- spiral sleeves

I wanted to do a fast blog about spiral sleeves including art, extant garments, tailors manuals and I’m overwhelmed. It’s actually a [censored] ton of work. But it’s kind of in my niche and I want to show how that niche is not really niche but part of a 4D continuum in time and space that reaches right up to today.

My pattern book is wrong, it’s rare for me to be wrong in patterning but I’ve been open about that for a while. It’s part of my complete overhaul of my book to make it more accessible.

The main reason for my book to be in this state is that I destroyed a bunch of older saves of my linework for the figures and I have to redraw them all. The patterns themselves have already been converted to an easier to read font and the line art with plain lines rather than mimicking a pen/quill.

I’m genuinely excited to be able to fix this and share the more accurate, if less precise, method to pattern and craft them. It’s just that it has to be with all the evidence and it does mean creating image files and properly citing every single example. At this stage I’m lucky that yes I have my files almost entirely sorted to pull images out and edit and create a specific nomenclature for them.

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At least I can still…

.. Every time I have that thought I wind up not being able to do the thing I was grateful to still be able to do. Unfortunately my Achilles tendon issue has turned a bit catastrophic and I’m now high priority to see an orthopaedic surgeon. Terrifying when you know how hard it is to get on waitlists.

So my thought that at least I could still go for the occasional walk for a bit of exercise now feels like I cursed myself. But it goes well beyond difficulty walking. It’s difficulty standing, going to the kitchen, bathroom, in and out of bed.

My risk of rupturing my tendons is real. Risk of rupturing them via steroids too. And finally risk of rupturing them with surgery and recovery.

I’m feeling quite sick with the pain as well. It’s not sharp but that deep pain you don’t really notice until it’s gone too far. So I’ve found myself also less able to tolerate my limits or anything that dings those limits.

What would have been a 5min overlocking task (sum total of 2m, yes, 2 meters) took an hour because the needles kept shredding the thread. I swore so very much.

It’s also making it harder to focus in general so my “at least I can use my computer” has turned into “at least there are dozens of series of QI to catch up on while I rest.”

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Gelderlander update

Apparently I decided I didn’t need as much blue wool as I would actually need so yet again I’m experiencing delays. I think I only have an issue with the sleeves which should actually be easier than I keep thinking once I get the wide crimson velveteen guarding sorted. PHEW! It’s not obvious from any artwork so I’m combining so many sources to figure out what the sleeve outers should look like.

I had to though cut the skirt panels on the fold and so lost 10cm each panel which means I also wasted so much calico that it’s very embarassing.

The layers are pressed and carefully folded so I can have a rest and then put each panel on the table to baste and trim.

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Pearls- part 1

Well. That’s a bit of an unexpected turn. I’ve been collecting bits and pieces about artificial pearls as I have projects where I use them and wanted to know if glass or plastic carry the properties they would have.

But now I’ve managed to digitise and translate sections of one of the most important works on North Rhine clothing and I find this:

“If one also considers their high prices, it is clear that the countless pearls listed in Cologne in the 15th century are largely imitations.”

Are they though? They are suggested as being Venetian glass which I’m pretty sure was even more expensive. But I also know that the glass industry in Cologne were reproducing Venetian glass so it is possible. But then I’d also expect the inventories to state this.

But I’m always reviewing my own theories so to the glass trade information I have.

So first, yes copying, but without the techniques to de-green glass, but there were techniques to add iridescence and it really is very beautiful.

Becher auf Fuß mit Nuppendekor | 1546/1550
Aus Monschau, gefunden 1931 in der Burg Montjoie (Eifel)

Köln, Museum für Angewandte Kunst Köln, Inv.-Nr. F 522

So in theory these skills should transfer. But what about the evidence it did?

I can’t find it.

The source is J Faulk who wrote in the middle of the 19thC and he didn’t cite his source.

If we look through the trades, pearls feature heavily in the goldsmiths records. They also feature in the “Wappenstickerei” records (including a series of letters threatening legal action.)

It’s hard to find records of glassworkers but if we go back to the inventories then we do find a lot of pearls that are carefully counted. We also find fake gold in the form of silver that is gilded. So if pearls were fake then they would be described as such.

The visual record also seems to support pearls as markers of sumptuary laws. You wouldn’t be recorded breaking these laws, but on top of this the visual record seems to follow the massive economic loss that occurred in the later half of the 16thC.

I know!

I hope this helps explain just how wide you have to search for information for a seemingly niche topic.

But one of the reasons I’m interested in that fake pearls

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170 steps forward 340 steps back

There have been so many issues making it impossible to publish let alone work on costume projects that this title is no exaggeration. I’ve needed to digitise some older books but the OCR layer is only applied in one direction by my scanner so it’s been actually harder to fix than had I not applied it at all. But it was worth stripping it out and putting a new layer in as now I can do some boolean seaches to find what I miss in just reading them.

I actually read straight transcriptions better than I can modern German and Dutch.

The other massively draining issue is that I rely on thumbnails of my files and thanks to proprietary issues generating them for PDFs not just heavily impacts GPU but power consumption! It also means letting apps access my folders to do so. I think I’ve finally sorted one issue but I’ve also noticed harddrive space is filled up (temp files I think) then back to normal after shutting down and starting up again.

But combine all this with how little time each day I am able to focus and this kind of blog update is the result.

I need to make little blog updates like this though as little reminders of what I have done.

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Oh no lost files

In order to track the etymology of different headgear terms I wound up in some lovely sites for tracht worn now. But I’ve lost them all. I’m sure I saw pieces of a hauben on a frame that included breaks in the pattern to allow the back to fold in without losing so much work. It might be in my 9thC folder but I suspect I just didn’t save information thinking I’d find it more easily when I wasn’t tired.

Part of the reason I am doing this is because pattern shapes, support layers, materials, decoration really don’t offer clues as to what an item will be called unless you happen to know for sure via a dictionary of the time. But they do help identify time and place if there is a decent record and solid provenances for extant items.

I may have to start putting quote marks around the terms when I use translation software as this etymology issue means modern dictionaries can be very imprecise.

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Some much needed good news

It can be very difficult to be taken seriously when you work outside of academic circles and yet I’m incredibly pleased to say that what I have worked on untangling for the last 15 years or more is indeed taken seriously. And I feel so privileged when anyone looks at my content over my lack of credentials.

I’m not able to chose between arts and sciences because I think they are equally vital to understand Us as human beings. And so I do think it’s a strength to have rejected the pressure to choose. I’m also so very lucky that have dedicated so many years to formal study.

I’m not going to lie: I find styles and other publishing expectations to be very difficult. But there are ways to build on strengths and use open access sources for a good deal of the rest.

This does mean I’m taking my difficulty with my operating system a bit more seriously and am going to back up my research even further than I expected.

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