A Note to People Everywhere Who Run Events or Attend Them

As some of you may know, we are currently at an event. And as often happens, the event, and the things that have happened here, reminded me of running events myself. It has reminded me of the need to say thank you to all of those who give their precious time and energy so that we can have a wonderful place to go to be with our friends. And it has reminded me of the affect that bad behavior, premeditated, or not, can have on people.

To me, one of the most important things that we can do at events is to reward good behavior. The person who follows the rules and cooperates should be rewarded, by at least civil behavior, and perhaps even a thank you. That is not to say that we expect all people to be perfect all of the time. Have I ever forgotten to pre-register for an event? Yes. Have I ever left my membership card at home? Yes. But it would never have occurred to me to harass the people at gate because of my mistakes. I remember leaving our membership cards home many years ago at Pennsic. The people at troll were apologetic that they had to charge us the non-member surcharge, because this was before you could pull up memberships on line. I said it was my own darn fault and that they should not feel bad. They breathed a sigh of relief. What would being mean to them have accomplished?

And then there are the unintentional goofs. A poorly marked boundary line for a camp or shop that causes confusion. People are not mind readers. If we ask for clarification, because we are trying to follow the rules, do not be short with us. We are simply trying to follow the rules. If we assume that we are setting up our shop in the same way that we have for five years, and it is not what you intended, admit that the markings may not have been clear.

My favorite events have the boundary lines for encampments and shops so clearly laid out that there is never any question. That is what I have always tried to do when I laid out merchant areas. I wanted to make sure that every merchant got every inch that they paid for, and there would be no confusion, or difficulty, for merchants who came in later.

In the case of households, they are always free to renegotiate boundary lines with their neighbors, but the bottom line is, you asked for a specific amount of land, and that is what you get. Do not tell me on the day of the event that you have an additional twenty people coming. I may not be able to accommodate you.

And finally, if you screw up, no matter how “important” or “unimportant” you are, say you are sorry. We are all human beings, and we all make mistakes. A simple, “gee, I am sorry if I was crabby” can make all the difference in someone’s experience at the event. No one is too “important” to say “I’m sorry”.

Play nice and help everyone have a good time!

Finding My Peeps! (Sorry I Couldn’t Resist!)

In between some of my longer blog series I often like to do a blog about something that I think might be helpful to folks who are doing specific research. I was recently contacted by a person who was interested in finding out more information about Bohemia. She said that she was of Bohemian ancestry and was having problems finding good information on the area.

I admit, my knowledge of the old Soviet Bloc nations is considerably less than western Europe and other areas. So I looked it up online, and found myself immediately comparing a bunch of obscure and annoying maps of the general area. Many of the maps had no modern city names on them, and the use of different names for the same geographical locations made it more of a challenge. I found myself using the Baltic, Mediterranean and Black Seas as major landmarks. What I realized after a few moments of fumbling was that I had studied portions of the general area, but that I had approached it from a different angle than she was. I did not look for Bohemians, I looked for information on Slavs. I was aware that this was a tribal area, which probably had a much greater sense of “tribe” than Slav or Bohemian.

The tribes inhabiting the Baltic Sea VIII-IX c...

The tribes inhabiting the Baltic Sea VIII-IX century (Slavs, Balts.) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The research that I had found previously pointed me to Moravia and the Moravian Empire, and a rereading of the original request for help did mention an interest in the Slavs. Checking the dates associated with the area showed that Moravia existed between the time of the great Slavic Migration, which occurred between 450 and 550 AD and the annexation of the area by the Bohemian Empire in AD 973. And that explained everything! Most of the previous requests for information and temple rings that I had had were for earlier Slavic materials. Most of my later Slavic research (13th through 16th century) has been in the areas of Kiev and Novgorod. Then I went looking for information on the exact dates for the creation of Bohemia. Well, I found several sources that agreed that the Duchy of Bohemia was created in 870, but the contradictions between sources about the exact progression of political entities in the area reminded me that this was really NOT something that I was interested in, and had nothing to do with the point of this blog.

If  you are interested in a particular group of people, figure out what the name of their ethnic group is, and skip as much of the later political designations as possible. When archaeologists study groups, they look at their ethnicity, not what country they lived in, and that is how their material will generally be catalogued. If you are looking for archaeological information you can then search for the nearest large museum online, and see if there is any information available. National Museums often have pages available in English, just look for the British Flag at the top of the page.

If you need a basic class in online research, I have an eleven part blog series on my website, called “Researching on the Cheap”. Just go to www.eirny.com and choose Nov 2014 in the drop down “Blog Archives” menu in the right column. You can easily reach all eleven episodes from there!

Thimbles Part 7

Were there other sorts of needle pushers besides thimbles?

Yes! Sail makers, leather workers, tent makers, and probably others, used various sorts of “palm pushers” to force their needles through the thicker and more dense layers of cloth and leather. Remember, industrial sewing machines did not become available until the 1800’s.

Like this modern sailmaker’s palm, the pushers had pieces of metal, often lead, which survive archaeologically. Here is an antique sale maker’s palm from Maine. Remember, antique does NOT mean historically accurate.

And if you are wondering how they are placed onto the hand, here is another picture.

As with broken pieces of thimbles and thimble rings, the rather lumpy bits of metal that are used in the palm pushers are hard to identify. But a quick search in the Portable Antiquities scheme produces lots of metal from palm pushers. Random pieces of lead or bronze are often designated as “palm pushers”. This example is a good one, even if the shape is not typical. Most of them appear to have been cast in the bowl of a spoon, and are therefore more spoon shaped, but this one is well preserved enough to show the two depressions on the one surface. The other side (the back side) is plain.















To see how a modern sail maker’s palm is used, here is a video from a company that sells them.

And just in case you want to make your own, here is an Instructable about how to make one.

So where does this leave us as re-enactors? Well, as a re-enactor specializing in pre-1600 studies I would be tempted to just use a thimble ring. That would be “safe” for just about anywhere, except the Romans.

And what strange side trips has this line of research taken me off on? Well, probably the oddest was this one. And it is an excellent example of why we should not jump to conclusions about an item, based solely on a picture. I was searching through Google Images, and this picture popped up.

I was looking for good pictures of Hispano-Moresque thimbles, which actually look a lot like this in shape, but the decorations on these were obviously Pictish. There is no indication of size in the pictures, but fortunately the title along the bottom gave it all away. These are part of a Pictish hoard, found in Scotland, containing silver and silver gilt, and they are mounts – decorative pieces, possibly from a sword or knife handle, and they are waaay to big to be used as thimbles.

And then there was the modern Arabic thimble, that so easily could have been portrayed as something of greater antiquity. The form is modern. The dimples are too regular and the decorative band on an earlier thimble would have been engraved, rather than having raised letters. But the clincher is the meaning of the Arabic: Wrinkle Free Natural Silk Textiles. Not exactly a verse from the Koran.

And another odd bit? Seeing my own pictures of thimbles, from my collection, show up on Google images. It sure didn’t take them long to grab them!

I hope that this brief survey has been helpful to all those who enjoy sewing and the humble, but immensely useful, thimble.