Norway 2

One of my favorite parts of this trips was seeing an Iron Age farm. Man, times were hard. The people lived in longhouses with sod roofs.

Peopel lived in the south, animals in the north, so the heat from the animals came down, Also the smells and other less nice things. I’ve read about the custom of keeping the animals in the house. Diseases that began in animals then jumped to humans.

But I digress.

I was very interested in the loom. The weaving was done top to bottom. The warp threads at the bottom were hung with weights. Weaving, which for me is a fairly quiet operation, must have been noisy.

loom weights

One of the things I found interesting was the green tape and the interpreter’s green shirt. I knew from my research for “Death of a Dyer” that there was no green dye in Europe. In Peru they used some plant but that had not been discovered in Europe. But they did have yellow, blue (indigo) and red (madder).


So, where did they get green? Here is a better shot of the green tape.

green tape

I asked the interpreter and he referred me to the Archaelogy Department. Answer: they over dyed, beginning with yellow and then blue.

For pictures of the dress and shoes I refer you to the blog by ArchaeoFox.

Goodreads Giveaway – One Day Left

I cracked the 500 level of requests. Yay! I am so close to 600 I am optimistic that I will cross that too. So, if you want a free book, put your name in. Reviews have been great.

Weekend talks

Well, there was no housework done in the Kuhns household this weekend. I left the house on Saturday at 7 am to attend the steering committee meeting for my sisters-in crime chapter. The regular meeting began at 10:30 and I left at 12:30, after a very fascinating talk by a Colonie policeman, for a talk at Cohoes Public library.

What a great talk it was too. And I met an old friend from my days working with the New York Library Association.

On Sunday I spoke at a meeting of the Arlington Women’s group to an assemblage of 78 people. Another great talk. And they fed me lunch.

Now I have to return to real life. Sigh.

Death in Salem Goodreads Giveaway

Well, I’m excited. After the first day of the giveaway, almost 200 people requested the book. Fantastic!

Salem tunnels late eighteenth century

So there were already some tunnels in Salem linking the fine houses, the docks, the brothels and the counting houses. Many of the men who had made their fortunes running privateers became Senators, a Secretary of State, and other wealthy and influential men. As Salem shipping  imported cargo from Russia, India, the East Indies, and finally China, Salem became not only the sixth largest city in the U.S. but the wealthiest.  Custom duties to a large degree supported the Federal Government.

To collect these duties during the time Rees visited Salem, the merchant ships were required to tie up about three miles out. The customs inspector would row out to inspect the cargo and assess the duties. Do I believe that this prevented smuggling? Not a chance. I’m sure a number of shippers found ways to circumvent these efforts and used the already existing tunnels to transport goods to the counting houses out of sight of the prying eyes.

In 1801 Thomas Jefferson became the third president of the United States and began, not only enforcing the already existing laws on the books but put in new strict laws on the collection of duties. The harbor was silting up and New Bedford, Boston, and other ports would soon become more prominent. Elias Haskell Derby Jr. found it difficult to maintain his lifestyle.  He embarked on a building program in the Commons, and put in tunnels to the wharves, the counting houses and the banks. But isn’t 1801 is several years after Death in Salem? Yes, that is so but a number of the houses listed as having tunnels connected to them were built before 1797.

I made a leap and decided to claim there were many tunnels prior to the Derby scion in 1801. The tunnels would have been helpful during the Revolutionary War and the British incursion, especially when it would have been important to move goods without British knowledge.

Finally, my excuse for this bit of slippery history is: Well, the story is fiction and I think the tunnels could have been there and been used as I described.

The Industrial Revolution and the Loom


The Industrial Revolution mechanized the entire process of cloth making. According to Brouty, prior to the invention of the flying shuttle in the 1750’s, three to four spinners were needed to produce enough yarn for a weaver. The statistic I’ve read other places is nine. Anyway, many spinners are needed for each weaver. The flying shuttle, again according to Brouty, quadrupled the weaver’s output. If you think that then people would try to find a way to increase the yield of the spinners, you would be right. The spinning jenny was invented in the mid 1700s and the first spinning factory was set up in 1761 by a gentleman named Richard Arkwright. Samuel Compton invented the spinning mule ten years later (unfortunately for him, he was a talented inventor that had his life threatened several times and died in poverty) and now handweavers were hard pressed to keep up. Pressure mounted for a mechanical loom that could keep up with the spinning machines.

Hand spinning and weaving, a honored and important job (primarily done by women) became a ‘craft’. Most people don’t even think of the connection between the clothing on their backs and the process by which it got there.

The Jack Loom

The jack loom is a horizontal loom; i.e. the warp runs horizontally and most of the size is front to back, not up and down. The weaver can sit on a bench. With the vertical looms, like those still used in Scandinavia and previously in Greece, the warp threads hang down and the weaver must stand on a stool or the floor itself must be lowered to provide enough room.

folded loom

A loom this size could easily be put into the back of a wagon and transported from place to place, as I have my main character/detective doing in my historical mysteries. This is a back view, by the way. The white canvas is for the back apron. I prefer to have my finished cloth roll up on the back beam so i tie on the warp threads to the back and then thread them through the heddles and the reed.

Heddles; what are they? I’ve mentioned them several times and then someone emailed me and said I don’t know what heddles are. Well, mine are long metal wires with an eye exactly like a needle. Mine are made of metal, but the looms I saw in Greece had thread heddles. I think I would find weaving with those confusing.

heddles one heddles two

In the first photo, it is possible to see three of the four sheds. Each one has its own set of heddles. Threaded and tied up to the treadles, these sheds make it possible to weave many patterns.

And finally, the reed. The dents, or spaces, determine the fineness of the fiber and is another mechanism for keeping each thread smooth and untangled. I hope you can see the spaces here. Weaving with silk, for example, requires a reed with many many slots,



More about treadles

My husband and I just returned from Greece. Partly research, partly vacation. Anyway, I spent some time looking at looms. The vertical loom seems to have disappeared. At least I didn’t see any. The looms I saw were similar to the jack loom I own, except less sophisticated. Instead of metal heddles ( the needle like things that the warp threads go through), these looms used string. Instead of a castle, or upper frame that holds the heddles, posts were erected on each side. And instead of five treadles, these looms only had two. Only simple weaving could be done with these. Like my loom, however, these treadles are tied up to the sheds so that the threads are raised and lowered in turn.

loom - greece

Some semi-modern looms

There are any types of looms other than those previously discussed.

The drawloom and the jacquard loom both allow a weaver to weave a complex pattern without manually lifting individual threads.

First, a description of harnesses. A loom that makes four sheds (remember: that’s the space that allows the shuttle to pass through )allows a weaver to construct more complicated patterns than one with two. An eight harness loom allows more variation than four.  The compound harness loom, also described as a staggered harness loom, allows a loom to function as though it has many many harnesses. The invention has been ascribed to many different countries but it certainly appeared in China, allowing weavers to create silk brocade. Drawlooms required an assistant to sit on top of the harness and pull the heddles that controlled the pattern in the proper order. The assistant was call the drawboy (or sometimes the drawgirl  Can you imagine this job? Can you imagine that job?).Pre-constructed  patterns were required to produce the desired result.

The very thought of putting a child on top of a loom makes me shudder!