Photos by Beatrix Nutz, 2016

Monday, November 7:

Arrival day

Possibility to set up tools etc. for demonstration

17:00 Starting the fermentation vat with Micky Schoelzke

19:00 Welcome and official opening of the Forum

Tuesday, November 8:

Morning session:

Katrin Kania (Germany): The things we can learn from mistakes.

Mistakes that happened during textile production can often tell us something about the production process that, otherwise, would be impossible to know. The paper looks at examples of mistakes in extant textiles and what they can tell us.

Round-table discussion: What is a mistake, anyways?

Micky Schoelzke (France): Smelly vats, gorgeous colors. Trials in blue fermentation vats (indigo and woad)

Blue dyes, as it was done since very ancient times, can be produced by using fermentation vats, with various ingredients, depending on time and place. These sometimes smelly procedures give birth to glorious shades of blue. In this talk, at least two kinds of fermentation vats will be presented, with all the trials, errors and sometimes horrors that came with their experimentation.

Afternoon session:

Introduction to experiments/test runs planned for the week:

Micky Schoelzke: Linen Mordants with protein

Mordanting and dyeing linen is a complex topic, and while vat dyes typically work better on plant fibres than mordant dyes, there is some evidence that linen was dyed as well. How this was done, and what kinds of mordants work well on these fibres is, however, still unclear.
Mordanting with protein addition might help bind the mordant and the dye to the fibres and the test run will explore this.

Harma Piening, Beatrix Nutz, Katrin Kania, Micky Schoelzke, Sabine Ringenberg: Tests on dye penetration of fabrics with different weave densities and different yarn spinning angles

It is technically possible to dye fibres in the fleece, in the yarn or in the (woven)piece, but it is not necessarily possible which method was used from the finished fabric. Some dyed fabrics clearly show that they were piece-dyed, as the places where the threads touch are not dyed through. If a yarn has an undyed core, it is clear that it was not dyed in the fleece, but either as yarn or in the fabric. Something that is dyed through might, though, have been dyed in either of the three methods.

We have planned dyeing tests for piece-dyeing with two different spinning angles and with different weave densities to explore the probable influences of yarn hardness and weave density on the dyeing result.

Katrin Kania, Sabine Ringenberg, Heather Hopkins: Influence of Metal Kettle Walls on Mordanting and Dyeing Second Experiment Run

A previous run of this experiment has shown that a lead metal kettle, as used by the Roman dyers in Pompeii, is a neutral kettle that allows to dye a true yellow. Copper and iron kettle walls, however, will influence the dye outcome when the textile is mordanted or dyed or mordanted and dyed in these kettles. The rerun of the experiment aims to a) repeat the original experiment to verify the findings, and b) compare the influence of the metal when present only in the mordant, only in the dye, or in both.

Experiment work

Wednesday, November 9:

Excursion to the RGZM

No regular Day Passes available for Excursion Day please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you are interested in joining our excursion.


Thursday, November 10:

Morning Session:

Beatrix Nutz (Austria): Pieces and Patches Getting the Most Out of Fabrics and Garments; Or: Mistakes That Aren´t

Looking closely at extant medieval and post-medieval garments today might sometimes lead to the assumption that tailors in former times may not have been well-versed in cutting fabrics. Garments appear like a jigsaw puzzle, sewn together from more pieces of fabric than would strictly be needed when following the pattern. But what at first sight looks like mistakes to modern eyes was well thought through. The tailors sought to cause as little waste as possible and preferably used the costly fabric to its utmost extent. In turn the wearers, with the exception of the very well to do who could afford new clothes on a regular basis, strove to wear the garments as long as possible. This lead to repairs, adding patch after patch, sometimes reaching a point where more repair patches than original fabric was left. Some repairs were undoubtedly carried out by the wearer him- or herself or by someone in the household, but many were also performed by professional menders. This paper will present examples of jigsaw puzzle garments and repairs on woven and knitted 15th-18th-century clothes from archaeological sites in Carinthia and Tyrol and discuss the value of fabrics prior to the modern throwaway society.

Angelika Rudelics (Ireland): The things that go wrong - Textile analysis and it's many problems".

One could argue that textile analysis is the scientific base for most further research regarding archaeological textiles. But is it all just staring at a little bundle of fibres and suddenly knowing the answer?

Sadly, no.

From the state the artefact arrives in, to figuring out if it actually IS a textile (and if so, what kind), on to proper storage – any step can have its difficulties and problems. This paper will be giving an insight into the methodology of textile lab work and the complications one can encounter.


Afternoon session:

Experiment work


Friday, November 11:

Morning session:

Heather Hopkins (Great Britain): Potatoes, paint and photographs: why making mistakes is vital to accuracy, a case study of the dyeing industry of Pompeii.

Like a weed is only a plant out of place, a mistake is only an unintended consequence. In archaeology, it is through mistakes made during manufacture or reconstruction that a better understanding of artefacts, processes and the wider context occurs. Intangible elements of language and background form a wider paradigm, affecting the approach, directing a study or opening new horizons to explore.

This study began in the realm of classics and archaeology, but moved into engineering. At each stage all evidence used and each finding gained had to be validated by each field of expertise. Differences between subjects of definition and approach expanded the questions asked, leading to unexpected outcomes that continually challenged the theoretical foundation and practical predictions. An overlap of experiment and experience led to an understanding of the scale of the dyeing industry of Pompeii, which on presentation to craft specialists was de-constructed and re-formed.

Without mistakes this study would not have evolved. It is only through making mistakes that this study has expanded its theoretical and practical foundation, resulting in a better triangulated and accurate understanding.

Aislinn Collins (Ireland): Scattered Feathers: A Case Study in Effects of Errors in the Reporting Process.
The study of textiles and textile history often includes consideration of extant items that are too fragile to be personally examined by every interested party. These artefacts may be unable to withstand frequent handling or exposure to unsuitable levels of light and humidity. Further, there can be geographic and logistical obstacles preventing researchers from accessing artefacts in person. For these and other reasons researchers depend on the accuracy of records and reports published in digital and traditional media. This paper will look at what can happen when errors creep in during the recording and reporting process.

Afternoon session:

experiment work


Saturday, November 12:

Morning session:

experiments finish and discussion of results

Afternoon session:

vat dyeing with the fermentation vat set up by Micky Schoelzke


Sunday, November 13:

departure day 
possibility for a scenic walk in the area