Ancient Pants for a Rider Reconstructed

The precise construction of ancient textiles is often a matter of educated guesswork, since fibers—if they survive in the first place—tend to rot in most soil types. Now we have a little more to go on: in March 2022, a study was published on the technical details of fabric and finishing techniques of eight wool garments, including a spectacular pair of pants, belonging to a rider buried ca. 1200-1000 BCE.

One of the oldest preserved pairs of trousers in the world, the garment was found at Yanghai, Turfan (also known as Turpan), in the Xinjiang area in Northwest China. It’s an area with a long history and multiple tombs, as befits a stop on the Silk Road.

The breeches were made from three pieces: one for each leg and one for the crotch to combine the two sides.

HS Archaeological Research in Asia Wagner et al Turfan Rider Pants1

All three pieces included some woven patterning. Besides striping, the leg pieces also had a decorative band in a T-hook pattern (a kind of geometric design) around the knees.

HS Archaeological Research in Asia Wagner et al Turfan Rider Pants2

Interestingly, it seems that the pant pieces were woven on a loom into the final size and shape; no cutting from a longer length of cloth was involved. A combination of multiple techniques was also discovered: regular twill weave on the majority of the work, the weave on the knees, and a third method on the upper areas to create a thick waistband.

All this means a high skill level was needed in gauging not just the size of the future wearer, but also the amount of yarn required, plus naturally the various weaving techniques.

In the course of studying these clothes, reproductions were made. The outfit consists of the trousers, a poncho with belt, two pairs of braided bands (one below the knees and another at the ankles), and a wool headband.

HS Archaeological Research in Asia Wagner et al Turfan Rider Pants3

I’ve recently done some reading on recreating prehistorical clothing from scratch, and let me tell you, all of the shearing, washing, sorting, carding, spinning, dyeing, and—only at the very end—weaving plus sewing was no mean feat. The gorgeous (pre)historic garments we have managed to find must have taken a simply enormous amount of work to create. Even with a little weaving and band making plus a lot of sewing under my belt (pun intended—sorry, not sorry) I have a hard time imagining the magnitude of effort required in textile production before modern machinery.

Found and images via Helsingin Sanomat. (NB. Finnish only.) In English, you can read more at Science News.

How It Happens is an occasional feature looking at the inner workings of various creative efforts.

DIY Wheelchair Spoke Covers with Crocheted Solar System

Caoileann O’Mahony crocheted some wheelchair spoke covers and blogged the instructions for the Glasgow in 2024 Worldcon bid. This isn’t your sleepy granny square crochet, though, oh no; O’Mahoney also made little planet appliques and turned the spoke guards into a model of our solar system.

O'Mahoney Wheelchair Spoke Covers w Solar System

And round and round it goes. I like the color selection (although I wish the photo were a little clearer). Saturn and Uranus even have their rings. How cool is that?!

Found via File 770.

Image by Caoileann O’Mahony at Glasgow in 2024

In Making Stuff occasional feature, we share fun arts and crafts done by us and our fellow geeks and nerds.

Estonian Muhu Skirts Dyed with Mine Chemicals

Kadri Liik shared on Twitter some of her family history of using mines to dye fabric for colorful folk skirts in western Estonia in 1930s.

Strictly speaking, of course, it’s not mines themselves that were used in dyeing, but the picric acid in them. Russian World War I battleship Slava sank in 1917 between Muhu island and mainland Estonia, only 12 years after putting to sea.

Google Maps Muhu Estonia

Estonians scrapped the ship in the early 1930s. During that process, picric acid was extracted and put to use. According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, picric acid was first used in dyeing in 1849, initially of silk. In Muhu, it was apparently used with wool.

The bright yellow derived from picric acid was locally known as mine yellow (miinikollane). Below is the Muhu skirt made from scratch by Liik’s grandmother or great aunt in 1930s:

Twitter Kadri Liik Muhu Skirt

Apparently, Muhu skirts enjoyed such popularity that older women might be doing their everyday chores in them as late as the 1960s.

It’s quite striking, isn’t it? It seems that some of these traditional patterns survive, either in traditionally woven textiles or as prints on modern fabrics, which is fabulous. I’m not sure I’d like to know exactly how the picric was extracted in the 30s, though…!

Images: map of Muhu island by Google Maps. Skirt by Kadri Liik via Twitter.

How It Happens is an occasional feature looking at the inner workings of various creative efforts.

Fine Art as a Three-in-One Quilt

Check out this mind-blowing quilt simultaneously copying three fine arts pieces, namely Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night, Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam, and Edvard Munch’s The Scream:

Tumblr Good Stuff Flora Joy Quilt1
Tumblr Good Stuff Flora Joy Quilt2
Tumblr Good Stuff Flora Joy Quilt3

Even the intricate gold frame is sewn!

This astounding piece is called “Sleep, Play, Scream” and it was made by Flora Joy. She was deservedly awarded for her innovative trispective technique.

Any time I come across someone, typically an older white man (seriously, dudes, you’ve got to do better), sneering at sewing or other textile work, I can’t but shake my head. Poor twits, showing what they emphatically don’t know jack shit about.

Images via Good Stuff Happened Today on Tumblr

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.

Socks with Sandals, Ancient Egyptian Style

This amazingly preserved sock comes from the late Roman period of ancient Egypt. The colors of the stripes give us some idea of how bright and cheerful this sock must have been when it was new.

The notch at the end separated the big toe for wearing thong sandals. The question of whether this means “wearing socks with sandals has an ancient and honorable pedigree” or “ancient Egyptians could be huge dorks, too” is left as an exercise for the reader.

Image: Sock via National Museum of Scotland (currently National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh; 4th-5th c. CE; wool)

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.

Beautiful, Breathtaking Planetary Embroidery by Ophélie Trichereau

Scotland-based French artist Ophélie Trichereau illustrates fantastic visions in gouache and watercolor. It is her embroideries, though, that I find most impressive, especially the planetary ones. Below are a few of my favorites.

At this writing, she has two different views of Jupiter available. I like this one:

Etsy Ophelie Trichereau Jupiter

Here’s Callisto:

Etsy Ophelie Trichereau Callisto

Last but certainly not the least, the Sun:

Etsy Ophelie Trichereau Sun Embroidery

So impressive! Every shade of every color is carefully selected, and shapes created with the stiching make the whole even more expressive. The intricacy of the patterns means they can’t be a fast project to create, but, then again, is anything worth doing worth doing sloppily? Trichereau’s effort really shows. Kudos!

See more of Trichereau’s work on Etsy or via LinkTree.

Found via N.K. Jemisin on Twitter.

In Making Stuff occasional feature, we share fun arts and crafts done by us and our fellow geeks and nerds.

Macramé Inspiration Photos for Speculative Writers

There are times when my expertise and interests affect my response to the stories I consume. (I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one.) Lately I’ve been noticing the presence or absence of textiles in my media, and how those textiles came to be.

I’m using macramé as an example of a technique that’s not getting much attention—in fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a story using macramé even as a background element—despite its versatility.

For example, in a fantasy world, you don’t always have to have woven or embroidered wall hangings decorating the lord’s hall. You could also have a ginormous macramé room divider like “Ocean”, below, by Bali-based fiber artist Agnes Hansella:

Colossal Agnes Hansella Ocean

Apart from being refreshingly non-Eurocentric (if we consider the earliest records of macramé-style knots coming from Babylonian and Assyrian carvings), large-scale macramé works obviously require a high level of skill to complete, which makes them a perfect option for displaying a character’s wealth and social capital.

And even in smaller sizes, macramé can come in intricate shapes that in no way resemble the 1970s handiwork that may stereotypically come to mind (plant hangers, wall hangings, or cute but perhaps not entirely flawless friendship bracelets).

Etsy TBiaDesign Macrame Wall Shelf

Speaking of small, when writing this blog post I leared that some people make micro macramé, where the working yarn or cord is quite thin. The result is almost lace-like:

Etsy AmeEtTiss Macrame Fillory Cuff

You can make an almost endless range of items with macramé. If you can make cording (like bracelets), you can make anything used for supporting, holding, or edging, for instance like belts, suspenders, bands, animal harnesses (think of ceremonial processions etc.), pulls, straps, or decorative edges.

Macramé also does not need to be made from only unbleached or single color cord; on the contrary, colorful combinations can be quite eye-catching:

Etsy Toni Lasee kitdesignsbykith Green Macrame Belt

If you can make flat surfaces (like wall hangings), you can create items that could also be made from fabric, like table runners, curtains, cushion covers, pouches, or bags.

Pinterest Blue Macrame Bag

I could also imagine a macramé-style outer garment worn over fabric clothes looking fantastic. Indeed, someone else has had that very thought—check out these outfits promoted as Coachella or Burning Man costumes:

Etsy SeyanaStyle Macrame Vest and Dress

Depending on the type of cord, you could even make more utilitarian household items like chair seats, hammocks, lampshades, or baskets.

Etsy CraftingMode Big Macrame Basket Birch Green
Etsy Irina Kharebava Macrame Lamp Shade

As with all creative work, the maker’s skill and imagination are the limit.

Images: Agnes Hansella via Colossal. Wall shelf by TBiaDesign on Etsy. Lacy cuff by AmeEtTiss on Etsy. Green belt by Toni Lasee at kitdesignsbykith on Etsy. Blue bag with macramé strap via Pinterest. Macrame vests by SeyanaStyle on Etsy. Rectangular basket by Phing Chutima at CraftingMode on Etsy. Lamp shade by Irina Kharebava on Etsy.

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.

A Huron/Wyandot Glengarry Cap

This decorated hat was created by an indigenous North American Huron/Wyandot artisan around 1840. It is made of wool, silk, and moosehair, worked using traditional techniques, but patterned after the Glengarry-style cap of the Scottish highlands and decorated with a Victorian floral motif.

Hats and other decorated objects like this one represent a complex interplay of cultural, artistic, and economic influences. Indigenous artisans from Iroquoian, Wabenaki, and other native nations had long created trade goods intended for exchange with European settlers and adapted to European tastes. In the nineteenth century, indigenous creators took advantage of the growth of a tourist industry around the Great Lakes region to market a broader range of wares combining forms that white customers would recognize and find useful, like this Glengarry cap, with decorative schemes that appealed to Victorian sensibilities while preserving traditional techniques. Such objects were created in a combination of traditional and modern materials, such as moosehair and leather combined with wool, silk, and glass beads.

The creation and sale of these goods—often produced by female artisans—provided both a means of preserving traditional artistic methods and a valuable economic resource to indigenous and First Nations peoples at a time when other opportunities in white-dominated American and Canadian society were hard to find, and indigenous cultures were often suppressed, sometimes violently.

Image: Glengarry-style cap via Metropolitan Museum (Metropolitan Museum, New York; c. 1840; wool, silk, and moosehair; unknown Huron/Wyandot artist)

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.

The Royal Huntress Owl Quilt

This magnificent quilt is not exactly new anymore, but it’s still very much worth sharing.

At the Houston International Quilt Market & Festival in 2018, “The Royal Huntress” quilt by Karlee Porter won third place in the alternative techniques category.

Sulky Karlee Porter The Royal Huntress

Just look at the incredible detailing in this closeup:

Sulky Karlee Porter The Royal Huntress Detail

Apparently it took over 450 hours to make, and no wonder. The meticulous piecing, incredibly detailed quilting and multiple accents all serve a purpose in the overall design. Serious kudos!

As an image, it kind of reminds me of druids in World of Warcraft. It’s also the kind of sewing I’d like to do; to be quite honest, though, I know I don’t have the skill nor patience. Especially the latter. 🙂

Found via Sulky blog.

Crossposted from the Playfully Grownup Home blog.

In Making Stuff occasional feature, we share fun arts and crafts done by us and our fellow geeks and nerds.

Game of Thrones Now Also on Fabric

Another adaptation of the hugely successful tv series Game of Thrones is out. Embroiderers at the Ulster Museum and the Ulster Folk Museum produced a 77-meter long textile in the style of the Bayeux Tapestry.

NMNI GoT Tapestry Webpage Banner

Originally the embroidery depicted events, locations, and story from seasons 1 through 7, but in June 2019 further panels depicting season 8 were due to be added.

The R-rated tapestry was on display at the Ulster Museum earlier this year, but the exhibition page and a few small photos are still up on their website.

National Museums Northern Ireland GoT Tapestry1 Game-of-Thrones-400-b.xc97d611f

National Museums Northern Ireland GoT Tapestry2 Game-of-Thrones-400-c.x0c90f6d2

While we loved the production values for the show and the intricacy of the writing, we stopped watching after season 3 due to the upsetting amount of violence. I do confess, however, that this project really tickles the textile history geek part of my brain!

Found via Helsingin Sanomat (NB. Finnish only).

Images: Embroiderers at work by Paul Faith / AFP via Helsingin Sanomat. The others: Tourism NI via National Museums Northern Ireland.