Sunday 26 August 2012

Making wooden pattens

Writing about making pattens was quite out-of-place at the moment I started working on this post. Last week, it was very hot in the Netherlands, but now it is soaking wet outside: an ideal patten-weather ... Rain is destructive for medieval leather shoes: water stretches the leather and loosens the stitching. Water is transported through the soles, making the feet clammy and cold, and prone to foot diseases. Mud makes your shoes dirty and slippery. The medieval solution was to use wooden pattens (trippen in Dutch) as a protective layer between the ground and the shoe. This really is a fantastic invention that works very well and we all are happy to have one pair in case it rains. We did buy them (at the Gelderse Roos), but my son, who just had his first pair of shoes this year did not have them yet.

My sons shoes and pattens, both on 14th century patterns.

We did find a log of poplar in the Genniper Parc, next to the Historic Open Air Museum Eindhoven, which was a splendid opportunity to try to make his pair of pattens ourselves. We did have some patterns for period pattens in the books "Stepping through time" by Olaf Goublitz and "Shoes and pattens. Medieval finds from excavations in London 2" by Francis Grew and Margrethe de Neergaard. The process of making the pattens is illustrated in photos below, though I must confess that at the stage of leather-working my mind was solely thinking on the construction and I forgot to make photos of the different steps.

Bram is removing the bark with a draw-knife. The log is fixed to another log  with a dog to keep it stable. 

When you have a log, you start with the removal of the bark. One way to do it is with a large draw-knife. This is a very slow process as we discovered. Another method is to use a bark-spud or barking iron, a chisel like tool mounted on a long pole. This tool already existed in medieval times (see excavated ones from Novgorod, Russia) and luckily for us one was available at the historic open air museum as well. The bark-spud removed the bark very fast and efficiently.  

  The bark spud iron smoothly slices the bark from the log.
Bram using the bark spud.

Two barking irons from Novgorod, both dating from the 14th-15th century. The size and form are exactly like the modern (forged) bark spud. In the book 'Wood use in medieval Novgorod' they are however classified as adzes, which I think is incorrect. 

Next, the debarked log had to be sawn in two in order to split it easily. Also, for the pattens only half the log was necessary. We used our two-handed saw on a museum saw-horse, which was at the wrong height for us, making sawing a slow process as most of the energy was wasted. In the end, my son finished the job. One half of the log was split afterwards using a froe.

I am sawing with the log with the two-handed saw. The sawing horse is too high to use the saw efficiently.

The reward for sawing is waiting for me, and the job finished.

The form of the patten was marked on the shoe and roughly sawn with a frame-saw. Then the shape of the patten was cut on a shaving horse with a draw-knife and smoothed with a spoke shave. In the end, we did have two shaped wooden soles for the pattens.

Bram with the draw-knife on the shaving horse, working on a patten of a quarter of the log. 
On the right three other sets of pattens.

(Left) The finished wooden soles from beneath.(Right) The finished wooden soles from above.

The next step was to make the leather straps. In the book shoes and pattens, a nice 14th century leather pattern was shown, which was more elaborate than the leather on our own pattens. I had to scale up the pattern and try and fit it (using duc tape) on the wooden soles with the shoes. This also gave a good idea where the leather straps had to be nailed to the sole. The leather was cut with a sharp knife and holes where punched for the nails. Also a back-strap for the heel was added. This provides a more comfortable way of walking with the pattens.

The 14th century pattern and attachment to the sole. Many leather patten straps were decorated with stamps, stripes or stitchings, as shown here. Our leather proved unsuitable for such decorations.


(Left) The leather parts flattened out. (Right) Nails for attaching the two leather strap parts. 
Two are needed for each patten.

Nails are used to hold the two parts of the front leather together. By adding extra punch holes the size for the shoe can be adjusted. The nail heads were flattened with a file, to prevent damage to the leather or accidentally pulling the nail out and the patten loose.

The finished pattens. You can still see the pencil markings on the wooden sole where the leather should be fixed. 

Finally the shoes and pattens complete. (Left) From the front. (Right) From above.

Tuesday 21 August 2012

Some embroidered cloth from Kloster Isenhagen

Again a post on Kloster Isenhagen at the southern Luneburger moor in Germany ... and some more treasures of this convent will follow. There are several medieval embroidered tapestries and table cloths on display at Kloster Isenhagen dating from the 14th and early 15th century. Some of the embroideries have so-called brick stitch patterns, geometric patterns of repeated lines that are used to fill or divide parts of the embroidered cloth.

This cloth measures 54 cm with and consists of two fragments that are together more than 2 meter long. It dates form the start of the 15th century and has likely been a cloth for a refectory table. The cloth is made of red linen with embroidered images of angels and saints in silk. The cloth is divided into parts by rows of brick stitch patterns.

Some details from the edges of a linen altar cloth of 1,02 by 2,80 m. Embroidered images of angels, St Paul (with key), female saints, St George killing a dragon, a king and Maria with child in silk.

 A brick stitch pattern of the same hanging.
This linen measures 1.61 by 1 m and dates from 1350. Most (silk) embroidered scenes in the middle show animals or have something to do with Christ On the edges of the hanging are alternating (hooded) heads and heraldic shields.

  Detail of this linen hanging showing a man wearing the hood in an alternative way.

 Detail of the top of a hanging for an altar showing a brick stitch pattern and a small dragon. Dated 1300. Silk on linen.

An wool embroidered cushion for a bank dating between the 14th and 15th century. The wool is embroidered on a linen background. One of three cushions which were found in the church of the convent in 1962.

This is not an embroidered cloth, but a related item. This heavily decorated strip (Furleger in German) was used at the front of the altar as a weight for the (embroidered) altar cloth. It is made of leather and decorated with gilded metal medallions, pearls, silver, coral and pieces of coloured glass. The height is 10 cm.

Another "Furleger" with gilded leather and white eagles and added pearls. The height is 9 cm. Both furleger date from the second half of the fourteenth century.

Friday 10 August 2012

The strycsitten of Eugene Viollet le Duc

Eugene Viollet le Duc (1814-1879) was a renowned architect from the 19th century, famous for his restoration work on the cathedrals of Rheims, Amiens, Paris, to name a few, but also for his work on the city of Carcasonne, Avignon and the reconstruction of the Château de Pierrefonds for emperor Napoleon III. He was very much interested in anything medieval - a fashion at that time - and wrote a lavish tome "Dictionnaire raisonne du mobilier francais de l'epoque carolingienne a la Renaissance" on medieval furniture (still for sale as a reprint of the original and a shortened version). His critics often accuse him that he added to much of his own idealistic ideas on the middle ages into his work. This is true, but, in fact, this was part of his philosophy as an architect "to restore an edifice means neither to maintain it, nor to repair it, nor to rebuild it: it means to re-establish it in a finished state, which may in fact never have existed at any given time".

Chateau Pierrefonds, 19th century reconstruction of a medieval castle by Viollet le Duc(Pierrefonds, France).

Whatever his faults, he created 'new' old monuments, which are nowadays major (state) tourist attractions in France. One of them is Chateau de Pierrefonds, a casle which served as inspiration for 'mad' King Ludwig II of Bavaria to build Castle Neuschwanstein (he visited the building site in 1867), which was in turn the inspiration for Disney castle. Contemporary castle "reconstructions" are Castle De Haar in the Netherlands, Cardiff Castle and Castle Coch in the UK, and Haut-Koenigsbourg in Germany.

Chateau de Pierrefonds was planned as a residence for the emperor, but this plan was later changed into use as a museum. This means that the castle is only furnished for a small part, which was also designed by Viollet le Duc. Among the pseudo-medieval furniture is also a large strycsitten, of which I have taken some photos and measurements. 

Statue of Eugene Viollet le Duc at Chateau 



The strycsitten of Violet le Duc

In the imperial state room of the castle a set of five chairs and a strycsitten is centered near the fireplace. They are all designed by the architect. In fact the strycsitten looks very familiar to the one in his "Dictionnaire raisonne du mobilier francais de l'epoque carolingienne a la Renaissance". The back of the strycsitten only moves slightly - 30 degrees - (15 degrees to either side), which necessitates the large seating depth of 116 cm (twice 58 cm). This large seating space is also found in the strycsitten in his book, and is more than double compared to original medieval strycsittens.The strycsitten is lavishly decorated with floral motifs and has flowing organic curves, making the design a crossover between neogothic and art nouveau.

 The strycsitten and the five chairs at Pierrefonds. The style looks like a cross-over between neogothic and art nouveau with its flowing floral designs.

 The side of the strycsitten. The point in the middle is the turning point for the backrest. Beneath the left and right medallions you can see the seating board protruding.

Two medallions at the top of the strycsitten with floral motifs.

The medallion at seating height have carved heads, the bottom medallion a simple floral motif.

The backrest of the strycsitten consists of four panels with openwork floral designs. Between the backrest and the seating board is a 10 cm open space. There are no dowel holes here; this is a 'modern' construction using glue.

The backrest has an angle of 15 degrees (a total of 30 degrees).

The underside of the strycsitten. The seating board is made from smaller planks glued together and is supported by a rail. The medallions are also decorated at this side with a simple floral design, however the middle medallion (photo right) does not have any decoration.

Drawing with measurements of the strycsitten of Viollet le Duc at Chateau Pierrefonds. 
The drawing is based on the photographs. Note that the seating area also has a small angle.