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2023 - Looking Back, Part 2 -- May - August

May kicked off with further prep for planting in the allotment -- got my flax in in time despite being a bit late -- with a bonfire. Good riddance to brambles.

Participation with the good folks at Little Woodham led to a fun filming opportunity as an extra in series 2 of 'Ren, the Girl with the Mark.' It meant mostly walking around in fantasy medieval clothes, but my big moment was playing 'woman baking bread' during which I was easily out-acted by a loaf of Tesco's finest. The cast and crew on the shoot were lovely people, and they are still as of this posting (late December 2023) working on post-production.

Also May I spent Eurovision weekend in Dorset, attending a two-day weekend workshop at the Ancient Technology Centre, led by Sally Pointer. Day 1 was all about prehistoric textile techniques, including cordage with flax and limebast and making an antler nalbinding needle with flint tools. Day 2 of the workshops was an all-day sprang workshop.

May's big event, however, was a two week volunteer stint at the Campus Galli near Messkirch, Germany. This is an experimental archaeology site where archaeologists, historians, and expert craftspeople are building the monastery described in the Plan of St Gall, a 9th-century manuscript showing a self-sufficient monastic campus. It was designed for Louis the Pious, emperor of the Franks, probably as an academic exercise. The site is overseen by the University of Tubingen and completion of the complex is expected in the 2040s. I spent my fortnight there alongside the weavers, weaving (tablet weaving on an Oseberg-style loom), hand-spinning, and nalbinding. The blacksmith forged for me an iron needle made with iron found on the site, which was a wonderful present. I was there for the weekend of sheep shearing, and then on the following weekend, dyeing fleece with weld and madder. I was also lucky enough to be there the day a TV crew were there from the Bavarian public television station and ended up in several short scenes to help illustrate a documentary on Carolingian archaeology.

I learnt so much from them, and I was glad to show them my techniques for handspinning and a quick lesson on sprang. It was a fantastic opportunity, and I look forward to returning in spring 2024.

June 2023 saw me back at Little Woodham living my best 17th-century life -- this is a living history village near Gosport that is open between April and October every year. With so much travelling in the spring, I wasn't able to get stuck in to working at the site til later in the summer. Out here I spin, weaving, and do other little bits such as cordage and nalbinding.

I attend monthly meetings at the Hampshire Weavers, Spinners, and Dyers guild in Shawford, Hampshire, and in June I led a nalbinding workshop along with a brief talk on the technique and its history.

(photo collage by Veronica Biddlescome)

Two of my flaxbeds also did well in June, but sadly the big one failed -- frizzled after growing about four inches.

The month closed with a trip to Cambridge to give my talk on spinning and sheep in the Roman period to the Guild there.

July 2023 started with the International Medieval Congress, which is held at the Univeraity of Leeds every year. I usually give a paper on a Carolingian poet on whose works I am writing. This year I was pleased to offer a workshop in handspindle spinning that went really well.

A side trip to Shibden Hall, home of Anne Lister, was an added bonus to the week.

I had a chance to visit the British Museum again in July -- I pop in every time I'm in London on a daily basis -- and spend some time hunting up textile tools on display.

I was back at Little Woodham in July

The two little flax beds continued to thrive into high summer and were harvested at about 90s days at the end of the month.

Later in the month I gave a nalbinding workshop at Fishbourne and spent a lovely afternoon in the museum itself demonstrating Roman textile techniques.

Mr Biggie and I finished off the month by setting up the small warp-weighted loom that I'd bought at TORM in March.

August 2023 started with a day out at Manor Farm, Botley, Hampshire, for their World War II fortnight -- happy to show off here my CC41 dress in action with 1940s shoes and a 1930s hat to complete the ensemble. I have jumped over looking like my mother and gone straight to my grandmother in this ensemble.

The Guild had a textiles residency at King Johns House in Romsey for the month, showing off weaving, spinning, and other handwork techniques along with some of the items produced by members of the guild. I went out once in civvies to demonstrate medieval handspinning.

But what really got attention was when I showed up looking like I'd just dropped in from the 13th century.

Switching gears, I was back out at Little Woodham several times during the month, as they have more opening times to coincide with the school holidays.

Late summer also saw me back at Fishbourne for their Gladiator Week event, this time in period clothes.

Then it was off to the Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners, and Dyers Summer School 2023 -- a whole week of studying flax and linen spinning, weaving, and knitting under the tutelage of Riita Sinkonnen-Davies. This was a terrific opportunity to spend 8-10 hours a day doing nothing but handwork with an exquisite fibre. We spent time processing fibre, spinning it, making blends, processing the spun yarns, and weaving samples.

The end of the month saw me back first at Manor Farm, this time for Victorian times. Ironically my real Victorian clothes don't look as 'authentic' as the ones pulled together from 1970s and '80s fashions.

And then back at Little Woodham.

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