Oct 2015 — MUS, MUN and moose

It was a bit strange to spend most of my second month living in Denmark travelling to other places. The first week I was actually in Copenhagen. It was taken up with administration, including preparing for and having my first “Medarbejderudviklingssamtal,” known as a MUS (pronounced moose but meaning mouse in Danish). This is what is called a Performance and Development Review (PDR) in the UK. Having a MUS/mouse meeting is much more fun, even if it is the same thing — especially with Professor Marie-Louise Nosch (aka The Fairy Godmother), who is pleasant, pragmatic and professional.

The Marie Skłodowska Curie Fellowship application requires very clearly stated targets with a painfully detailed work plan (in a GANTT chart — very 1980s). The MUS meeting identified more targets and deadlines — in particular, how I go about finding more funding to further my research after my fellowship ends in July 2017. This is not something I have much experience of because I have mostly worked as an entrepreneur in the heritage industry. I’ve raised plenty of funding in a commercial context but I’ve only had two post-doctoral research grants. Both contributed to the Costume Research Image Library, which I worked on at the Textile Conservation Centre, when it was part of the University of Southampton.

My grand plan is to find a commercial sponsor to co-fund a knitting history research centre at the CTR, with scholars looking at all periods, considering technological developments, and modern design. I also need to see if I qualify for any of the conventional European academic grants and, if so, learn more about them. The MUS also brought me the unofficial title of CTR Communications Director — partly because of my enthusiasm for publicity, sponsorship schemes and outreach projects.

Rather fittingly, my other administrative task was to formally announce my research project. I completed my online profile on the CTR’s university website, set up a Facebook page called Strickersvej and a group on Ravelry. I also posted it on The Tudor Tailor’s website and Facebook page. I was very gratified by the speed and enthusiasm with which people joined my volunteer team. I now need to decide how best to manage my plans for collaborative test knitting and communicate with everyone in an appropriate way (the Horizon 2020 programme requires a data management plan with privacy protocols and ethical etiquette). Now I know I have a substantial team I can start to employ their talents. But before I could do that, I had to travel the known world …

I went on a course in Leiden in the Netherlands, which is a lovely place. The best bit of the course was seeing original textiles — badly in need of conservation — up close (see photo).

Examining original textiles in Leiden, Netherlands

In Regina, Canada, I ran workshops on c16th dress with my Tudor Tailor colleague, Ninya Mikhaila. I met enthusiastic recruits to my collaborative knitting team and people who work with the scientific techniques I am hoping to apply to some of the c16th material, including Tracy Walker (Canadian Light Source) and Kataryna Tkach (Alberta Innovates). I now need to propose appropriate collaborations with them and their colleagues.

Me in a basement (again) viewing the knitted cap and what is probably its lining

At Memorial University, Newfoundland (MUN), I undertook my first official field work. I examined three knitted items I expected to see: the knitted cap from Red Bay I saw previously in October 2014 (which Parks Canada curator Cindy Gibbons had brought to the campus at St John’s especially for me), and what are catalogued as two caps but are probably a cap and its lining from the same excavation (see photo). I also saw a fragment of knitting that might be part of a sleeve. This item is ribbed and darned (see photo). As far as I know, this is the earliest example of each technique in a knitted item — but is it actually from the 1570s?

Item 31258C from Saddle Island, Red Bay, Labrador, Canada — potentially c16th ribbing and darning

Ninya and I have done a lot of detective work on the textile finds from Red Bay trying to work out which garment remains come from which burial site. We were hugely helped during our visit by Maria Lear (archaeological curator), Donna Teasdale (conservator) and Lori White, who wrote her masters thesis on the burials. There is one part of Saddle Island where much later items were mixed with 1570s material. More careful digging into the documents may reveal whether item 31258c is from the c16th or c19th.

I also met Dr Catherine Losier, archaeologist and knitting enthusiast. She invited me to give a paper on my research project to which 20+ people came at very short notice. We recruited a team of willing volunteers to help us with our work in the archaeological store. They took photos, did acetate tracings, digitized documents and dressed up as Basque mariners for the occasion — well, it was Hallowe’en (see photo).

Basque team.

Meanwhile, the support team — TLG and The Terrible Terriers — held the fort back home. And to remind me of Denmark, students at MUN were given a presentation by Canadian vikings (see photo) who wore what looked like knitted caps! But I didn’t get a chance inspect them closely — maybe they were nåhlbinding. I couldn’t visit L’Anse Aux Meadows, which is known for its reconstructions of Norse clothing, as it is an unsuitable destination in October. My other disappointment was that having started my month with a MUS (pronounced moose), I was rather hoping to see a real moose (pronounced moose) but apparently they don’t mooch about much at the mall in urban Canada. This is nearest I got to one.

A Canadian Viking
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