Valhalla's Things


Welcome to my blog, where I post sporadically about the things I do and the ones I make.

Recent posts

Swiss Embroidery Princess Petticoat

Posted on March 16, 2023

a person wearing a blue sleeveless fitted dress with
calf-length skirt; there are small ruffles on the armscyes and
the hem, and white lace on the collar and just above the hem
ruffle, and small white buttons on a partial placket down the
center front.

A few years ago a friend told me that her usual fabric shop was closing down and had a sale on all remaining stock.

While being sad for yet another brick and mortar shop that was going to be missed (at least it was because the owners were retiring, not because it wasn’t sustainable anymore), of course I couldn’t miss the opportunity.

So we drove a few hundred km, had some nice time with a friend that (because of said few hundred km) we rarely see, and spent a few hours looting the corps… er… helping the shop owner getting rid of stock before their retirement.

A surprisingly small pile of fabric; everything is blue or

Among other things there was a cut of lightweight swiss embroidery cotton in blue which may or may not have been enthusiastically grabbed with plans of victorian underwear.

It was too nice to be buried under layers and layers of fabric (and I suspect that the embroidery wouldn’t feel great directly on the skin under a corset), so the natural fit was something at the corset cover layer, and the fabric was enough for a combination garment of the kind often worn in the later Victorian age to prevent the accumulation of bulk at the waist.

It also has the nice advantage that in this time of corrupted morals it is perfectly suitable as outerwear as a nice summer dress.

Then life happened, the fabric remained in my stash for a long while, but finally this year I have a good late victorian block that I can adapt, and with spring coming it was a good time to start working on the summer wardrobe.

scan from a vintage book with the pattern for a tight fitting

The block I’ve used comes from The Cutters’ Practical Guide to the Cutting of Ladies Garments and is for a jacket, rather than a bodice, but the bodice block from the same book had a 4 part back, which was too much for this garment. I reduced the ease around the bust a bit, which I believe worked just fine.

The main pattern was easy enough to prepare, I just had to add skirt panels with a straight side towards the front and flaring out towards the back, and I did a quick mockup from an old sheet to check the fit (good) and the swish and volume of the skirt (just right at the first attempt!).

The mockup was also used to get an idea of a few possible necklines, and I opted for a relatively deep V, and a front opening with a partial placket down to halfway between the waist and the hips. I also opted for a self-fabric ruffle at the hem and armscyes.

same dress, same person, from the side, with one hand in the
pocket slit.

The only design choice left was the pocket situation: I wanted to wear this garment both as underwear (where pockets aren’t needed, and add unwanted bulk) and outerwear (where no pockets is not an option), and the fabric felt too thin to support the weight of the contents of a full pocket. So I decided to add slits into the seams, with just a modesty placket, and wear pockets under the dress as needed.

I decided to put the slits between the side and side back panels for two reasons: one is that this way the pockets can sit towards the back, where the fullness of the skirt is supposed to be, rather than under the flat front, and the other one is to keep the seams around the front panel clean, since they are the first ones to be changed when altering a garment for fit.

For the same reason, I didn’t trim the excess allowance from that seam: it means that it is a bit more bulky, but the fabric is thin enought that it’s not really noticeable, and it gives an additional cm for future alterations.

Then, as the garment was getting close to being finished I was measuring and storing some old cotton lace I had received as a gift, and there was a length of relatively small lace, and the finish on the neckline was pretty simple and called for embellishment, and who am I to deny embellishment to victorian inspired clothing?

A ruffle pleated into a receiving tuck, each pleat is fixed
with a pin, and there are a lot of pins.

First I had to finish attaching the ruffles, however, and this is when I cursed myself for not using the ruffler foot I have (it would have meant not having selvedges on all seams of the ruffle), and for pleating the ruffle rather than gathering it (I prefer the look of handsewn gathers, but here I’m sewing everything by machine, and that’s faster, right? (it probably wasn’t)).

A metal box full of straight pins.

Also, this is where I started to get low on pins, and I had to use the ones from the vintage1 box I’ve been keeping as decoration in the sewing room.

A few long sessions of pinning later, the ruffle was sewn and I could add the lace; I used white thread so that it would be hidden on the right side, but easily visible inside the garment in case I’ll decide to remove or change it later.

A few buttons and buttonholes later, the garment was ready, and the only thing left was to edit the step-by-step pictures and publish the pattern: it’s now available as #FreeSoftWear on my patterns website.

And Of course, I had to do a proper swish test of the finished dress with the ruffle, and I’m happy to announce that it was fully passed.

a person spinning on herself, the skirt and the ruffle are
swishing out. Something in the pocket worn under the dress is
causing a bit of bulge on one side.

Except, maybe I shouldn’t carry heavy items in my pockets when doing it? Oh, well.

I have other plans for the same pattern, but they involve making some crochet lace, so I expect I can aim at making them wearable in summer 2024.

Now I just have to wait for the weather to be a bit warmer, and then I can start enjoing this one.

  1. ok, even more vintage, since my usual pins come from a plastic box that has been probably bought in the 1980s.↩︎

Forgotten Yeast Bread

Posted on March 7, 2023

Yesterday around 13:00 I started my usual ”I’m being lazy” bread recipe:

  • 400 g flour
  • 250 g water
  • 6 g salt

worked for 8 minutes (by machine), left to rise until about 18:00.

For the record, it was a strong flour (310 W), type 1, so white, but somewhat coarsely ground.

And then, when it was time to cook bread for dinner I realized that something was missing. Something critical. See if you can spot it in the list above.

The yeast.

Some bread was taken out of the freezer and defrosted in the oven, but I didn’t want to throw away the flour, so I mixed 2-3 g dried yeast, 10 g flour and 10 g water, and left it to rise until after dinner.

Then I added it to the dought, added some more water (I know. I should have measured it. I didn’t expect having to repeat the thing. It was probably about 20 g), mixed for 5 minutes, covered it to rise.

This afternoon, around 15:30, I took the dought, folded it 5-6 times, formed a round loaf on the lined baking tray and left it in the cold oven until 17:45. Then I removed it from the oven, turned it on at 240°C, scored the top of the loaf and sprinkled it with water.

When the oven was hot I baked the loaf for 10 minutes at 240°C, then turned it down to 160°C for 20 additional minutes.

And then I realized I need to repeat this.

No, there are no pictures (there is some left, but it’s too dark to take pictures).

Bookbinding: photo album

Posted on March 6, 2023

an open book with a watercolour of a costume pasted from two
corners on one page; near the spine there is a sliver of paper
as a spacer.

When I paint postcards I tend to start with a draft (usually on lightweight (250 g/m²) watercolour paper, then trace1 the drawing on blank postcards and paint it again.

I keep the drafts for a number of reasons; for the views / architectural ones I’m using a landscape photo album that I bought many years ago, but lately I’ve also sent a few cards with my historical outfits to people who like to be kept updated on that, and I wanted a different book for those, both for better organization and to be able to keep them in the portrait direction.

If you know me, you can easily guess that buying one wasn’t considered as an option.

A closed hardcover book in uniform dark grey.

Since I’m not going to be writing on the pages, I decided to use a relatively cheap 200 g / m² linoprint paper with a nice feel, and I’ve settled on a B6 size (before trimming) to hold A6 postcard drafts.

For the binding I’ve decided to use a technique I’ve learned from a craft book ages ago that doesn’t use tapes, and added a full hard cover in dark grey linen-feel2 paper. For the end-papers I’ve used some random sheets of light blue paper (probably around 100-something g / m²), and that’s the thing where I could have done better, but they work.

Up to now there isn’t anything I hadn’t done before, what was new was the fact that this book was meant to hold things between the pages, and I needed to provide space for them.

a book seen from the top: near the spine all signatures are
made of 4 sheets, but two of them for each signature are just
stubs, and leave open spaces between the pages.

After looking on the internet for solutions, I settled on adding spacers by making a signature composed of paper - spacer - paper - spacer, with the spacers being 2 cm wide, folded in half.

And then, between finishing binding the book and making the cover I utterly forgot to add the head bands. Argh. It’s not the first time I make this error.

The same book, open on an empty page.

I’m happy enough with the result. There are things that are easy to improve on in the next iteration (endpapers and head bands), and something in me is not 100% happy with the fact that the spacers aren’t placed between every sheet, but there are places with no spacer and places with two of them, but I can’t think of (and couldn’t find) a way to make them otherwise with a sewn book, unless I sew each individual sheet, which sounds way too bulky (the album I’m using for the landscapes was glued, but I didn’t really want to go that way).

The size is smaller than the other one I was using and doesn’t leave a lot of room around the paintings, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because it also means less wasted space.

I believe that one of my next project will be another similar book in a landscape format, for those postcard drafts that aren’t landscapes nor clothing related.

And then maybe another? or two? or…

Traceback (most recent call last):

TooManyProjectsError: project queue is full

  1. yes, trace. I can’t draw. I have too many hobbies to spend the required amount of time every day to practice it. I’m going to fake it. 85% of the time I’m tracing from a photo I took myself, so I’m not even going to consider it cheating.↩︎

  2. the description of which, on the online shop, made it look like fabric, even if the price was suspiciously low, so I bought a sheet to see what it was. It wasn’t fabric. It feels and looks nice, but I’m not sure how sturdy it’s going to be.↩︎

git status Side Effects

Posted on February 17, 2023

TIL, from a conversation with friends1, that git status can indeed have side effects, of some sort.

By default, running git status causes a background refresh of the index to happen, which holds the write lock on the repository.

In theory, if somebody is really unlucky, this could break some script / process that is also trying to work on the repo at the same time, especially on a huge repository where git status takes a significant time, rather than the usual fraction of a second2.

There is a way to prevent this, by running git status --no-optional-locks ( or by setting GIT_OPTIONAL_LOCKS to 0, as writing the updated index is just an optimization and git knows it can be avoided.

I don’t think there are many chances to actually stumble on this in the real life, but I’m writing this down so that if I ever do I have an easy way to remember what happened and find the solution.

  1. I won’t name name or provide details to protect the innocents (and the guilty), but thanks to all of the people involved in the conversations who helped find the answer.↩︎

  2. Related, but unrelated TIL: there is a place called Secondo (second), near Venice, but it’s already a frazione (fraction / subdivision of municipality).↩︎

My experience with a PinePhone

Posted on February 15, 2023

I’ve had and used1 a PinePhone for quite some time now, and a shiny new blog sounds like a good time to do a review of my experience.

TL;DL: I love it, but my use cases may not be very typical.

While I’ve had a mobile phone since an early time (my parents made me carry one for emergencies before it was usual for my peers) I’ve never used a typical smartphone (android / iPhone / those other proprietary things) because I can’t trust them not to be designed to work against me (data collection, ads, tricking users into micro payments, and other antipatterns of proprietary software design), and bringing them to sanity as most of the people I know do is too much effort for my tastes.

Instead, as a phone I keep using an old nokia featurephone2 which is reliable, only requires charging once a week, and can easily survive falling from hand height to the ground, even if thrown 3.

And then I’ve been carrying a variety of other devices to do other computer-like tasks; earlier it was just a laptop, or a netbook, a Pandora (all of which used a dongle to connect to mobile network internet) then I tried a phone with FirefoxOS (it could have been better) and now the PinePhone has taken their place, at least when I’m not carrying a laptop anyway.

So, the tasks I use the PinePhone for are mostly:

  1. sending and receiving xmpp messages, with no need for notifications (when somebody needs to tell me something where urgency is required, they know to use the other phone, either with a call or an sms);
  2. tethering an internet connection to the laptop;
  3. reading djvu scans of old books while standing in a queue or something;
  4. checking something on the internet when I’m not close to a real computer (i.e. one with a keyboard and a big screen);
  5. running a timer while heat-setting fabric paint with an iron (and reading a djvu book at the same time — yes, this is a very specific task, but it has happened multiple times already :D );
  6. running a calculator with unit conversions;
  7. running the odd command line program;
  8. taking pictures, especially those that I want to send soon (I often also carry a DSLR camera, but I tend to wait a few days before I download them from the card);
  9. map related things.

3 and 5 work perfectly well, no issues there. 1, 2 and 4 usually work just fine, except for the fact that sometimes while the phone is suspended it forgets about being a phone, and needs to be restarted to turn the modem back on. It’s not a big deal while using the phone, I just need to check before I try to use it after a few hours.

For 1, I also had to take care to install dino-im from experimental, as up to now the features required to fit the interface in a mobile screen aren’t available in the official release, but I believe that this has just been fixed.

Somewhat related to 4, I’ve also installed kiwix and the dumps of wiktionary and wikivoyage, but I haven’t had a chance to travel much, so I’m not really using it.

For 6 I’m quite happy with qalculate, the GUI version of qalc (which is what I use on my laptop), even if it has a few minor interface issues, and 7 of course works as well as it can, given the limitations of a small screen and virtual keyboard.

8 is, let us say, problematic. The camera on the PinePhone is peculiar, only works with a specific software, and even there the quality of the pictures is, well, low-fi, vintagey pictures are a look and that’s a specific artistic choice, right? Thanks to the hard work of the megapixels maintainer the quality has improved a lot, and these days it is usable, but there are still limits (no webcam in the browser, no recording of videos).

9 is really bad. A few times I can remember getting a GPS fix. A few times in many months, and now and then I keep trying, to see if a miracle has happened, but usually I only get a vague position from wifi data (which isn’t great, when walking through less densely populated areas).

I’ve seen another PinePhone running gpsd and getting data from an external GPS receiver via bluetooth, and if I really needed it I may seriously consider that solution.

Also, the apps available in mobian aren’t great either, even when compared to running tangogps on an OpenMoko with pre-downloaded maps (I mean! I don’t think my expectations are too high!).

I’ve heard that PureMaps is quite good as a software, but a bit of a PITA to package for Debian, and I really hope that one day there will be a linux-first mobile device with good GPS hardware, so that people will be encouraged to fix the software side.

Thankfully, I don’t usually need GPS and navigation software; when I’m driving into places I don’t know I usually have a human navigator, and when walking into places I can do with just a static map (either printed on paper or on the PinePhone), maybe some pre-calculated route from the OSM website and looking at street names to find out where I am.

Overall, for my use cases the PinePhone works just fine and is an useful addition to the things I always carry with me, and I don’t feel the pressing need to get an android phone. I don’t think it’s ready as a daily driver for everybody, but I think that depending on one’s needs it’s worth asking around (I’d recommend doing so on the fediverse with a #PinePhone and #mobian hashtag), as there is a non-zero chance that it may be a good fit for you.

  1. which, if I’m not mistaken, is often not implied by the fact of owning it :D↩︎

  2. for very low values of feature: it doesn’t have any kind of internet access, and there are only 3 games, one of which is snake.↩︎

  3. don’t ask.↩︎

Cernit Sets for the Royal Game of UR

Posted on February 13, 2023

Some months ago I stumbled on the video where Irving Finkel teaches Tom Scott how to play the Royal Game of Ur and my takeout was:

  1. Irving Finkel is Gandalf or something;
  2. the game sounded quite fun!;

so I did the almost sensible thing, quickly drew a board with inkscape, printed it on 160 g/m² paper and used my piecepack pieces to try a few games.

two copies of a game board made of plain squares: a 3 × 4
squares area at the top, a 3 × 2 area at the bottom, connected
by a 1 × 2 corridor in the middle.

I say almost sensible, because rather than drawing the rosettes with inkscape I decided to carve a rubber stamp and use that to print them on the board (which is why the svgs on this page are missing them: if you print them you’ll have to add the rosettes in some way).

And if I had been a sensible person, that’s where I would have stopped, since that’s perfectly enough to play games and find out that it actually is quite a fun game, and one of our staples.

As some of you probably know, I’m not a sensible person.

I also have quite a few blocks and half-blocks of cernit, and one day after I’ve had used some, my hands were still moving and accidentally made some pyramidal dice, and a handful of tokens.

Royal game of Ur pieces in marbled grey and white plastic:
the tokens are small coins in one colour with a small circle of
the other colour in the middle, the dice are tetrahedrons in one
colour with two points marked in the other colour.

And after baking and trying them I liked them, but they had not been planned in any way, and they were a bit too small for the board, so the next time I was using cernit I tried to make a new set.

And while I was doing that I tried a new shape for the dice, as coins marked with a dot in the middle of one of the sides, because I don’t really like tetrahedral dice.

A set of red and green tokens, like the ones above, plus
tetrahedron dice and four more coins with a dot of a
different colour just on one side. Everything is on top of
a board that folds up.

And now, I realized this wasn’t going to be my last set, and urgently felt the need for some container to keep them in and avoid missing pieces.

(Yes, in the picture above one piece was already missing. While taking it I didn’t realize it, and neither I did when picking up everything to put it away, getting the missing piece and storing it safely together with the rest of the set. It must have been hiding in plain sight nearby, but I will never know where.)

Anyway, back to Inkscape, and to a board printed on scrap paper that I tried to fold up until I came up with a layout that folded up in a small drawer, and then I added a case to wrap around it to keep it closed.

A white box, about 2.5 cm × 2.5 cm × 7.5 cm; a drawer is
sliding out of one small end.

The drawer from the box above, extracted to show it's made of
a folded game of Ur board and contains a set with tokens and

I played around with the case until it was big enough to actually slide around the folded board, and this is the result, ready to be printed out on A4 paper, cut, folded and glued. (This takes most of the sheet, and I’m not sure that the case would still fit around the board/drawer if printed with scaling, so if you want to print it on Letter paper I’d recommend to move the pieces around.)

two copies of the game board above, plus two cut / fold / glue

Now, the only problem left was that green isn’t really my colour, and while I did like the stone effect of this set, I wasn’t exactly pleased by the colour scheme. (why did I do it this way in the first place? probably because I was trying to use up old cernit blocks before opening new ones.)

So, the only possible way out was to make yet another set, right?

A set of red and grey tokens, tetrahedron dice, coins with
one side marked with a dot that are square-ish rather than
circular and four lozenge-shaped coins with each side of a
different colour.

I still used stone effect cernit, but this time in a red/grey scheme that knew I would have liked more, and while I was doing it I tried a few improvements on the randomization devices.

The tetrahedral dice are still the same: they work, it’s what they use in the replica sets, so I keep making them even if they’re not my first choice.

I’ve changed the coins to make them almost square for two reasons, however: one is that the round one tended to roll away into inconvenient places when throwing them with emphasis, and the other one is to make it easier to recognise them from the tokens with no need to flip each one around before starting the game.

The lozenges were a bit of a failure, instead. They work fine when thrown, but I don’t think that there is a self-evident way to decide which side should be counted, and the only intuitive way I can think of (count the ones in the player’s colour) would be unbalanced.

Speaking of balance issues: of course the hand-modelled dice and coins aren’t perfectly balanced but:

  • they don’t feel obviously unbalanced;
  • both players use the same set, so any subtle unbalance isn’t going to affect the chance of winning in an uneven way.

Maybe one day I will find a way to easily roll them a statistically significant number of times, collect data and analyze it to find out how imbalanced they are, but that’s not going to happen with manual data collecting, and I’m not really ready to go down the yak shaving filled road to automatize it.

To wrap up: is it going to be the last set I make for the Royal Game of Ur? lol. Is it going to be the last cernit set I make this month? definitely yes, I now have one I’m happy with, I’m routinely playing with it and I’m currently doing other crafts rather than cernit.

How To Verify Debian's ARM Installer Images

Posted on February 2, 2023

Thanks to Vagrant on the debian-arm mailing list I’ve found that there is a chain of verifiability for the images usually used to install Debian on ARM devices.

It’s not trivial, so I’m writing it down for future reference when I’ll need it again.

  1. Download the images from (choose either hd-media or netboot, then SD-card-images and download the firmware.* file for your board as well as partition.img.gz).

  2. Download the checksums file

  3. Download the Release file from ; for convenience the InRelease

  4. Verify the Release file:

    gpg --no-default-keyring \
        --keyring /usr/share/keyrings/debian-archive-bullseye-stable.gpg \
        --verify InRelease
  5. Verify the checksums file:

    awk '/installer-armhf\/current\/images\/SHA256SUMS/ {print $1 "
    SHA256SUMS"}' InRelease | tail -n 1 | sha256sum -c 

    (I know, I probably can use awk instead of that tail, but it’s getting late and I want to publish this).

  6. Verify the actual files, for hd-media:

    grep hd-media SHA256SUMS \
    | sed 's#hd-media/SD-card-images/##' \
    | sha256sum -c \
    | grep -v "No such file or directory" \
    | grep -v "FAILED open or read" 2> /dev/null

    and for netboot:

    grep netboot SHA256SUMS \
    | sed 's#netboot/SD-card-images/##' \
    | sha256sum -c \
    | grep -v "No such file or directory" \
    | grep -v "FAILED open or read" 2> /dev/null

    and check that all of the files you wanted are there with an OK; of course change hd-media with netboot as needed.

And I fully agree that fewer steps would be nice, but this is definitely better than nothing!

Hello World!

Posted on January 29, 2023

Welcome to my new blog!

Or rather, strictly speaking, welcome to my first blog!

Back when everybody had a blog, I had an old-fashioned personal website where pages were organized by topic rather than by date, so now that blogs are dead (or so they say), I guess it’s time for me to have one :) .

The old website is still online, but updating it is getting harder, both for organizational reasons and because the static generator I’ve used is no longer supported and requires python 2; lately I’ve started publish some specific categories of material such as sewing patterns into their own website (you can find a list in the about page), but I was missing a place to post about the history and experiences of the things I publish elsewhere, as well as more uncategorized things.

Of course I’ve chosen to use a static site generator, but since I’m picky I’ve discarded most of the common ones mostly because they enforce assumptions I don’t agree with.

On the other hand, one day I wouldn’t mind learning a bit of Haskell, so I decided to look for trouble and use Hakyll, hoping that nobody will add a level 20 wandering monster to it.

Right now I’m using mostly the default theme, because I know that if I start fiddling with it I’m not going to start posting content ever; maybe one day I’ll decide to completely change the look.

As for contents, on the bits side of things you can expect me to talk about Debian, the Fediverse, Python, my inventory manging program and a bit of arduino-level electronics; on the atom side you should definitely expect sewing, modern and mostly historically inspired, some fiber crafts (spinning, knitting, crochet), maybe some bad attempts at painting (watercolours and acrilics), printing (screen and linocut), things that are written on paper and, well, any other craft I will happen to collect.

Before the blog gets too full I plan to add tag management to help people who are only interested in some of these contents.

This being a blog, of course it has an atom feed you can add to your favourite (and ideally self-hosted) rss reader, and since this is a personal blog there will be no periodicity, posts will happen when I’ll have something to say on some topic.

Until next time

…this is probably not the beginning, you can find more in the archives.