Another beautiful and unique ring found in Utrecht

photo by Alexander van der Bunt

A very special gold ring was found in Utrecht: a medieval Love Ring, or Promise Ring. It is unique because it is the first of its kind found in The Netherlands. The discovery was presented to the world by Landschap Erfgoed Utrecht.

This ‘black letter posy ring’ was made between 1375 and 1550. On the inside this gold ring has a poetic line: Amours portent mon cuer à mon ami. Translated it reads ‘love leads my heart to my beloved’.

We do not know who the beloved was, or to whom the ring belonged. Promise rings like these were not uncommon in Europe. Especially in Great Britain these rings were common to declare your love for a person.

The Utrecht ring is unique in several aspects. Not only is it the first one found here in the Low Lands, but the text is remarkable as well. Who is ‘mon ami‘ ?

Usually this type of ring was given to a woman by a man. But then, following the rules of French grammar, it would have been ‘mon amie’ with an E.

Was it, in this case, a woman who gave the ring to a man? Or was it a ring from a man to another man? The French language from those days was studied but that gave no clues as to why there was only an I at the end of ‘ami’. It is extraordinary to say the least!

Three Ravens

My dear traveller, come and sit, warm yourself by the fire. How good of you to stop by! In times like these friendliness is much needed. Is the plague wreaking havoc where you are from? I sincerely hope not! This village, where I live, is a safe place. Friendly folk, enough food and wool for spinning.

In my house you, too, will have a safe place. Have you met my new neighbours? Allow me to introduce you… I have named them Tristan and Iseult. Iseult is actually the one peeking over the fence. Tristan is forever looking for food and not interested in humans…. aren’t they adorable?

Tristan & Iseult

It is in times like these that I turn to music. Perhaps it may offer you some solace as well. This next balad is gloomy. Really gloomy, and fitting for the times we live in. The music, however, is simple and easy to learn. And you know, that is the main reason I am sharing it with you. You can learn this too! The song was composed around the year 1611 by a gentleman named Thomas Ravencroft. Here, have a look at the sheet music.

Knitted hats

The snow in my country makes me long for hot cocoa and knitting. Yes, knitting. I am not going to show you what I knit myself. That really isn’t something to write about. Instead, what I am going to share with you today, is just a bit outside the SCA time frame. But you know what? I don’t care! These hats, because it is hats I am going to show you, are absolutely adorable and date from the late 17th century.

In 1980 archaeologists investigated the graves of 185 Dutchmen – whale hunters and workmen of the train oil refineries – who had died on or near Spitsbergen during the 17th century. The skeletons were still wearing their knitted woollen caps! Each cap was individualized; the men recognized one another only by the pattern of stripes on the caps. The men were bundled up so tightly against the fierce cold that only their eyes were visible. And, if you have ever been in a snowstorm, you know you can barely see. So those hats were important to recognize a particular co-worker.

The amazing re-enactor Sally Pointer also has a pattern available on Ravelry, or you can order from her shop. She describes these caps as doubly knitted. The hats are without seams, so made on a circular needle OR on 4 separate needles. You then create a very long tubular shaped item, Sally describes it as a “large flat rugby ball”. You then fold one end into the other, thus creating a very warm double layered hat. You can felt them, as was costumary back then and will of course also give you warm ears today 😉

This hat from Marken you see hereunder, dates from the 1800s. You can see how the lighter knitwork can become the lining by folding it inwards.

If you look on elsewhere on Ravelry, the knitting community online, you will be able to find a pattern if you look for ‘Dutch whaler’s cap‘. So, what’s keeping you? Get your yarn!

The entire Spitsbergen excavation is documented in this book by archeologist Sandra Comis, I will try to find an English version and post it here as well.

Merovingians

Archeologists have uncovered quite a few remarkable graves in Belgium from the 7th century. Read on if this is your thing!

The river Durme, near Elversele in Belgium, has been a place of habitation since the beginning of time. Some 47 Merovingian graves and grave finds were uncovered in 2018. The finds are quite unique for the area.

On a small sand dune, archeologists discovered a grave field of 32×18 metres with 47 graves in total. The graves and grave finds all dated from the Merovingian era. After analysis of the grave items, it was discovered the graves were from the 7th century and a discovery like that is quite rare in Flanders. The site has a ton of information on burial rituals, status and culture of these early medieval people.

In Flanders, the Merovingians ruled from the 5th till the 8th century. Men, women and children were buried individually, usually in a wooden grave chamber or coffin. The deceased received a lot of goods for the journey to the Other Side. Beads, amulets, fibulae were found, but also daggers, swords, knives and shields.

About a house and a cannonball

This pretty canal in my birth town Alkmaar has a very special monument. You can see it on the left corner by the bridge. Yes, that green house is almost entirely built of wood (except for 1 stone wall inside), and it is one of 2 wooden houses still surviving in Alkmaar.

According to legend, this house was built a few years before the Spanish siege of 1573. The owner was a preacher named Jan Arentsz. When the cannonball hit the house, only a spinningwheel and a tub got destroyed, and the occupants of the house miraculously survived without so much as a scratch….

Two royal children

This song “Twee Koningskinderen” about 2 children of kings goes all the way back to the Greek myth of Hero and Leander, who lived on either side of the Hellespont. Hero lit a lamp each night for Leander so that he could swim across the waters to meet his beloved Hero. One night, a storm blew out the flame in the lantern and Leander drowned when he lost his sense of direction. When Hero finds his body, she kills herself to be with him.

A very old and familiar tale of love! And one we have seen in Tristan and Iseult (dating from the 8th century) and of course, at a later date, Romeo and Juliet (written between 1591-1595).

The Dutch version of this song dates back to the year 1525; one of the singers in this clip is a familiar face for me from historic theme parc Archeon. I think it is marvellous! I am sharing the music score with you here, from the great Jan Wolters (who has tons more! check it out!)

Here is another version of this song, by two Flemish artists called Rum:

Decor for the pants from Skjoldehamn

A day after I wrote my last post, someone very justly pointed out to me that we have quite an excellent 2nd hand shop ONLINE, very similar to Craigslist. It is called Marktplaats and I had completely forgotten about it! Silly me….

It meant I was able to shop for 2nd hand fabric anyway to start recreating the Skjoldehamn breeches soon. I found a lovely light brown linen (my guess is that this used to be a curtain) at 6€, so I have now €30,50 left. I could not find white wool, like the original but such is recreating on a budget. The fabric is still in the mail, so I haven’t actually received it. You DO realise on moments like these that patience is only a virtue to those who have it…right?

Over the past few days I had also -sort of- decided a purpose for this garb set. I really would like to go back to cooking again and this seems to be the perfect outfit for it. I don’t know about you, but I find long flowing skirts rather spooky in an event kitchen. Also, it is ok for garb of non-authentic fabric to get stains from cooking; makes me feel less guilty 😉

As the fabric hasn’t arrived, but my hands were itching to do something anyway, so I decided to go through my left-over yarn stash to see if I could find something to recreate the decorative woven bands found on the Skjoldehamn breeches. You can see them here on page 113 of Dan Lovlid’s thesis.

The decoration includes embroidery, couching, woven bands and braids (page 109). This is my attempt at the woven bands, the colours of the original are brownish red, yellow and green, according to this pattern:

pattern woven band

The reconstruction by Lovlid can be found on page 153 of the thesis. This is my own reconstruction of the woven band. I have used 2 different colours of red, because I felt it was becoming a bit bland and I am quite happy how this is turning out! I very much look forward to your comments!

Quick update & quick project

Hi all! I am still alive and healthy. Like most people these days, the mundane world is demanding most of my time: homeschooling our amazing 11 year old because of the lockdown in this corner of the world and trying to stay on top of the household chores. Oh, and there is a job somewhere too….. Right, you get it: I am a tad bit busy.

With regards to the Skjoldehamn project, all the thrift stores are closed again, so I have to postpone fabric hunting. Stay tuned though and watch this space! I do have the numbers for you, in case you lost track. I initially intended to spend not more than €40 on the fabric, which I was all going to buy in 2nd hand shops. I made the hood out of fabric out bought, and the total was €3,50. The socks were made from donated fabric, so €0. It means I still have €36,50 left for the rest of the garb. All I need now is open shops….

I know that many of you are preparing for the next SCA event season nonetheless and more power to you! Don’t let this pandemic get to you. I would like to join those preparations by sharing an easy little project here. Have fun with it!

A really cute project for those left over scraps of fabric is to make Wax Covers. I don’t have to tell you that ‘back in the day‘ there was no aluminium foil…. Wax covers really come in handy when you need to cover food during a camping event, or any other SCA event!

So, here is a list of items you need:

  • left over fabric (linen works best)
  • an old frying pan/ skillet
  • beeswax (at least 100 grams)
  • a place to dry the wax covers
  • old newspapers to protect your floor

How to make them: Melt the wax in the pan, when it is all melted, put the scraps of fabric in the hot wax (be careful not to burn yourself!) until they are saturated and then hang them to dry. Put the newspapers on the floor for the dripping of the wax. When the covers are dry you can use them time and time again.

When you are not using them, store them in an air tight container.

Socks!

What’s a person to do on a boring Sunday afternoon? Well… make socks! I really wanted to make some progress on my Skjoldehamn garb project but on a Sunday all thrift shops are closed where I live. So, I rummaged through my fabric stash and found a lovely wool.

Dan Lovlid’s thesis has quite an fantastic analysis of the socks on page 123. Please tell me you have bookmarked this document by now! Anyway, page 123 is what you need for the socks. The fabric pieces that were excavated are a tabby colour, the original colour was either white or a very light yellow.

To be quite honest, I don’t understand how a seam right under your heel (top part of the pattern image) can be comfortable. This also goes for a seam right on top of your foot where your shoe is…. This type of construction, the way I see it, only makes sense if the sock is made of left over fabric and therefore consists of ‘shrapnel’…..

Back to the drawing board. I am not making socks like this, I can see blisters in my future…. I didn’t want to abandon the idea of a fabric sock, so I started drawing a new pattern, that I am happy to share with you here.

Ok, so in PURPLE is the actual foot. The ORANGE line is the seam allowance. Please don’t forget that because you do need a bit of room to get into your sock. The pattern piece on the right is for the instep, as you can see, I added 2cm on both sides to create a comfortable instep.

Now, sew the instep to the sole. Leave 0,5 cm because that is where you need to attach the ankle shaft. The ankle part is a rectangle folded around your ankles, from one point of the instep to the other. So, it is a shaft open on one side. This is the only piece of the pattern I used following Lovlid’s finds: 17,5cm high.

The shaft, as you can see on the pattern, is not a perfect rectangle. You must cut 2 corners here, to fit the curve over your foot, attached to the instep. Please send me a message if this is unclear!

I really had fun making these! They need a bit of decoration but I will get to that. A boring Sunday afternoon wasn’t so boring after all!