15th Century Spinning will be at Abbey 2021

Yes, long time, no post!
The past year and a half have been different for us all, and I’ve been focusing on my growing family and less on my medieval textile crafts and social media. But rest assured, I’m still here and still passionate about textiles.

But I wanted to drop by and let you all know about the Abbey Medieval Festival this year. As many of you know, the Abbey Museum of Art and Archaeology is a small museum located in Caboolture, QLD (Australia). It runs several fundraising events to help fund the museum and their conservation projects, the biggest of which is the Abbey Medieval Festival.

If you’ve seen my blog or Facebook page prior to know, you’ve probably seen photos from the Abbey Medieval Festival. It’s big and offers so many different things with reenactors from the dark ages through to the renaissance all coming together to share their passions and knowledge. I’ve been attending for over 15 years and I haven’t seen everything yet. Like many people and businesses, the Abbey Museum has been hard hit by the impacts of COVID.  The good news is, that the government is allowing the festival to take place this year and it will be on from 2nd-3rd July and I will be there!

large image of floral paper canvas or parchment

They’ve made some changes to ensure it will be a COVID safe event, along with the usual social distancing, hand sanitiser and so forth, they’ve capped the numbers of visitors each day, but are running it a whole extra day!    

There’s a LOT on offer and the great news is there’s still plenty of tickets left! So if you’re local do consider grabbing your tickets, at the moment they’re only for sale online until the end of this month (and yes, if the event does get cancelled they’ll refund your tickets).

My re-enactment group “Make Your Own Medieval Experience” will be attending. Our group consists of various “guilds” through which our members learn and share their knowledge of a particular craft or activity. Part of this is our Textile Guild’s “15th Century Textile Workspace” which some of you may have seen photos of over the years.

This workspace will run ongoing demonstrations/presentations and workshops. It will be open from 10am-3pm on Friday and 10:30-3:30pm on Saturday and Sunday. The sorts of crafts you can come and learn about include:
Spinning (obviously!)
Fibre Preparation for Spinning
Fabric Stamping
Fingerloop Braiding

Our Moneyer’s Guild is setting up a static display about the history of coinage and how it was made, and will be running a coin minting demonstration at 1:30pm On Saturday and Sunday.

Our woodworker’s guild and blacksmith’s guild are also setting up displays. The woodworking workspace will have ongoing demonstrations on Friday between 10am-12noon then from 1pm-3pm and on Saturday/Sunday from 10am-12noon. The Blacksmith and metal craft workspace will have ongoing demonstrations Saturday and Sunday 1:30-3:30.

An finally, what festival would be incomplete without some carnival games? Friday only, 10am-12noon then 1pm-3pm


Is Pinterest Authentic?

“Pinterest isn’t authentic”

“Avoid Pinterest it is in no way authentic.”

“Don’t use Pinterest for your research, it’s not authentic”

Pinterest, love it or hate it? I hear a lot of criticisms about the use of Pinterest in research, specifically for research amongst medieval living historians, reenactors or other recreationalists. The above are verbatim quotes I’ve come across recently. “Pinterest is in no way authentic”- what does that even mean? It’s a website, they didn’t have websites in the middle ages right? Well, the point they are all making is that pinterest should not be used for researching our hobby. But are they right?


What is Pinterest?

While we’re on the subject of bad sources, lets see what Wikipedia has to say:

“Pinterest is a web and mobile application company that operates a software system designed to discover information on the World Wide Web, mainly using images and on a smaller scale, GIFs and videos.”

Hmmm… well, obviously not a good source, right?

Lets see what pinterest has to say about what it is:

“Pinterest is where people discover new ideas and find inspiration to do the things they love!

Pins are ideas that help you get creative or try something new, whether you’re planning a camping trip or collecting home improvement hacks.

Pins are saved to boards, keeping your ideas organized and easy to find. Follow other people or boards that are saving ideas you’re interested in, so you can do even more of what you love.”


“What are Pins?

Pins are ideas people find and save from around the web.

Each Pin links back to the website it was saved from. If you click through the Pin you can learn more about it—like how to make it or where to buy it.” [emphasis mine]

Ok, so it seems that both our sources agree to some extent:

Pinterest is a way of saving information or ideas from the internet. The ‘pin’ links back to the source.

The way I see it?

Pinterest is an advanced version of your computer’s ‘bookmark’ or ‘favourite’ function.

Yes, that’s right. Lets look at the similarities and differences.

Pinterest Bookmarks
Is a way to save information or an idea you’ve found on a website Is a way to save information or an idea you’ve found on a website
Designed to take you back to the source of the idea/information Designed to take you back to the source of the idea/information
Uses a visual and text prompt to remind you of the idea/information you’ve saved/bookmarked Uses a text prompt only to remind you of the idea/information you’ve saved/bookmarked
Can be organised into categories Can be organised into categories
Can be kept private Can be kept private
Can be shared publicly, with your saves/bookmarks viewable and saved by others Generally are not shared publicly, however, Pinterest isn’t the only bookmarking site to have this feature
If the original source is moved or deleted, you will now have a dead link. If the original source is moved or deleted, you will now have a dead link.
If the original source is moved or deleted you have both a text and visual prompt to track down a new source If the original source is moved or deleted you have only a text prompt to track down a new source

Ok, so there are some differences, but there are a lot of similarities.

Interestingly I’ve never come across someone saying “Don’t save sources to your bookmarks, your bookmarks are not authentic.”  Or “your browser bookmarks are not authentic and shouldn’t be used for research.”


What is Pinterest not?

Pinterest is not a source. It is a way to collect and bookmark sources. The difference is key.

I will use an example.

Ten years ago (ok, now I feel old) I made a Italian dress that was burgundy in colour. I put it on deviant art. Some years ago someone bookmarked it on Pinterest with the caption ‘Simple burgundian.”


“Burgundian” is usually used in historical costuming circles to refer to a style of dress popular in France in the 15th Century. This dress is very different from the dress I had made.

So, if you’re using Pinterest as a source, you’d see this Italian dress being billed as a French dress.

If you use Pinterest correctly (as it was intended), and click the picture to go to the source, you get the following:



The source clearly identifies that this dress is NOT French, but Italian. And you know what? Even if the source hadn’t been clear about the origins of this dress it’s still not the fault of Pinterest, the fault would lie with the person who put the source up in the first place (in this case me).

So now we have the source, and we can look critically at the source (uh oh).

What sort of source is this? Is it a good source?

No, this is not a good source. In my post I included no research, no primary or secondary sources. At best, this is a tertiary source with nothing to back it up. This was posted on an art website. I used the website to show off what I had made, not to store or my research.

In this case the pin didn’t lead to a good source, but many do. They might lead to a museum website or a journal article—you never know until you click.


But mislabeled pins are a huge issue? They mislead people and say something is what it isn’t.

No, they’re not really a huge issue. They’re an annoyance, but we’re researches, we follow the bookmark to the source and then critically examine the source.

I think about some of my old computer bookmarks.

“Awesome medieval corsets” lead to a page that sold modern, Victorian inspired corsets, but they sold some that were medieval themed, as in were made out of fabrics with medieval images on them. The name made sense to me, but if this was on Pinterest someone else might misinterpret that as me saying the corsets were medieval and use it as an example of how ‘Pinterest is wrong.’

Another example, I had a link saved as “Kim song medieval.” The song lyrics linked were the lyrics of a sing I heard a lady named Kim sing. I had bookmarked the lyrics to go back and research IF the song was medieval (it wasn’t).


But what about broken links?

Broken links are a pain- no matter if it’s a broken pin or a broken bookmark. But there is an advantage to a broken link on Pinterest- you have both text and image to help you track down the source. It gets really annoying when you end up going in a circle (google keeps taking you to Pinterest again and again and around and around… see, annoying!) but your chances are better with text AND image than with just text.


But what about people uploading pins?

This is annoying when people do this and then don’t put the source in the caption. But Pinterest is not a source, you’ll need to track that down. See the point above.


In summary:

When I started researching we were told not to use the internet at all for research, because everything on the internet is wrong. My answer then was the same it is now, and the same as what I was taught at university when studying history and archaeology—look critically at the source.   Save your research on Pinterest if you wish, start your research on Pinterest if you wish, but don’t DO your research on Pinterest.  Pinterest is not a source.


Back to the Future

This past weekend I attended Abbey Medieval Festival as a 15th century reenactor with my new and improved textile workspace. Having a place I could permanently have my stuff set up in and having a few friends in the workspace with me worked much better than last year.


There were some things that went well on the weekend, and some things that didn’t go as planned, but I’ll start with the positives.

I had a rainbow of woo! The naturally dyed wool got a lot of love over the weekend and it was great to see people interested. It got people talking about the colours of the middle ages and people were interested in both the actual science of dyeing as well as general discussions about the relative cost of different colours.


Speaking of dyeing, my dyeing vats were fit for purpose and lasted the weekend. I got a lot of compliments on my “clay ovens”. Of course, what they were was a pot from bunnings, turned upside down and assaulted by an angle grinder, standing on an inverted bird bath top.



I also managed to get the madder to the right temperature, which considering I had only my hand as a thermometer and a fire in a pot, I was pretty proud of.

I had a lot of fun with the magic of indigo. I discovered that people were continually stopping by so rather than dyeing big skeins of wool, a small bit of cotton string worked well for showing the same thing 50 billion times.





We also had fun with cochineal and watching it change different colours. Oh, and I had a bunch of cool stuff.




And yes, my dyes and mordants actually made it there and back in glass jars with no mishaps.

I really liked the signs I made


I made over 30 or so of these all up, and also put them in our woodworking workspace.


And of course I had some friends with me this year, two dedicated ladies with me:


And some friends the dropped by:


Finally I took a photo of me wearing the same outfit as painted in my sign which I’ve wanted to do for a while.


While I had a great time, there are some things I want to change for next year.

First of all, we were meant to be set up by midday Friday, and due to a series of events that didn’t happen. This meant that I didn’t spend Friday doing videos as planned, nor did I spend it getting my dyeing all set up (I planned on getting some dyes soaking and some yarn mordanted ready for saturday morning). This put me half a day behind with my planned dyeing and meant I didn’t do a lot of dyeing that I wanted to do. We have taken note for next year what and when slowed us down and the elements we can control will be changed so next year we can plan to be ready earlier.

My spinning wheel looked fantastic, it was built by my friend who had never seen a spinning wheel before and he finished it the day before we started setting up. We were meant to spend some of Friday trying to tweak it to get it working, which didn’t happen. On the positive side I did receive some advice on the weekend and we know what needs to be done to get it operational.

I also should have laid some of my stuff out more neatly, I meant to but didn’t get around to it. oops.


Group photo- we planned on taking a big group photo of all of us.  Group photos are very hard to do at events, by the time everyone has had breakfast and is dressed and ready it is close to 8:30 and the public are in and you’ve got to be working.  Especially this year, it was so cold I lazed in bed until 6am! Two and a half hours isn’t long when you have so much to do and need to get the fire started so you can make breakfast (not to mention hot water on to boil so you can wash up after breakfast). Everything takes longer in the 15th century.

Now I’m back to the future, and coming back to reality. There are many things I love about the future, like being able to have a hot coffee before I properly wake up. Or plugholes. You know, after you have finished with a sink full of wash water you just pull the plug and out it goes? No need to carry it somewhere away from camp to empty.

But of course, I’m already talking and planning the next event. I’ve applied to be a presenter at the Queensland Living History Federation’s conference, I presented the year before last (last year they ran it the weekend I was getting married so I obviously didn’t attend). So (Hopefully) the next event I’ll be attending is that where I’ll be presenting, but I haven’t heard back yet from the organisers so we’ll see.


Further Adventures in Natural Dyeing

So I havent had much chance to do dyeing for the past couple of weeks. This past weekend I went to a reenactment event where I met up with some dyeing friends from Rafnheim who dyed a beautiful array of colours.

So I was itching to get back to some dyeing and yesterday I put aside half a day and played with some new colours.

First I wanted to play with some of my flowers, so I soaked some marigold.



The first colours I got were a nice sunny yellow.

I read adding iron would make green.

So I added iron. I didn’t quite get green, so for the last skein I added a hint of gardenia blue. The results below.


From left to right, the skein with a hint of gardenia blue, marigold with iron (three skeins) and just marrigold.

When I bought these inside today the middle ones did look a bit more greenish.

With the fustic I found I had to leave the skeins in the iron overnight to get the green to develop, so maybe I’ll have to try that next time.

Meanwhile, did you notice that purple in the earlier photo? I know, right?

While not a new dye to me, I bought some different cochineal from a different supplier. I ordered it from America and this came in bug form that I ground. I dyed one skein and I got this beautiful deep purple.



This second photo is a little brighter than it is in real life, the other photos are more colour accurate on my monitor.

Then I had still colour in the dye bath, so I kep going, and so did the cochineal!


I dyed three more skeins in varying shades of pink. I then dyed another skein! But there was so little cochineal left I added a smidge of my powdered extract and a small amount of cream of tater.


I got the very bright colour to the left. Te middle is another marigold with gardenia (I dyed two, only one is in the above photo).

I tried dyeing with brazilwood. I should have looked up instructions because I just added some to some water and added my yarn. The brazil wood was powdered but all the bits stuck to my yarn, maybe it would be better to have chips and soak then drain? or try to pass the water through a mesh before using to filter the powder out?

But at any rate, I got a couple of pretty colours pictured below, and the one to the far right int he photo above.


Here are all (except three) of my happy colours out on the line.


Now I just need to hope I have time for dyeing next weekend and to decide what colours to do!



I’m not dead, I’m dyeing!

I know it’s been a while since an update, once again I’ve been busy.

At work I’m seconding in a position I hope to one day become permanent in (I work full time).

Our home business is growing in leaps and bounds, as is the time it requires. We’ve taken the shop to a few events recently too which is always a lot of work (but generally a lot of fun too!)

We have 5 and a half acres to maintain. We’re working on renovating our home, getting it up to the building code and extending it (land is huge, house is the size of a postage stamp and built in the 1950s with a ‘she’ll be right’ attitude to building safety. We’re talking stairs with no railings and doors that open into mid-air two stories up people.)

I’ve been growing and doing some exciting work concerning 15th century spinning and my presence at events.

Apparently I still have other hobbies and a life outside all of this- like family birthdays and my parents love me and want to spend time with me and how is it almost June already?

You’ll notice I didn’t mention housework anywhere in the above list. I’m also not inviting you over to my house any time soon unless you’re here to clean. Just saying.

Bu today’s blog post is about the point I glossed over above and referenced partially in the title- growing 15th century spinning.

Last year at Abbey Medieval Festival I had a little 15th century spinning display.

DSC_5480-Edit DSC_5489-Edit

It was a partial success, but room for improvement. One issue is I was really sick at Abbey and not up to talking all day. Another issue was I couldn’t be there all the time and couldn’t see the display when I wasn’t there, which meant every time I left it I had to pack down and set up again.

This year I will have a bigger tent that can be closed, meaning I can leave it. I also have some friends helping me so that there will always be someone there. I’ll have more crafts… including dyeing!

I’ve been experimenting with all sorts of natural dyes, some medieval, some not so, and have been dyeing up a storm.

Which brings me to the title of the post.

I’ve bought a large range of different dyes and am having a lot of fun.


I’ve dyed a bit with cochineal, I have an extract as the shop I bought it from idn’t have the whole bugs.

DSC_6926 DSC_6928

I’ve managed to get some really red reds from it, some slightly orange reds and some nice pinks.

DSC_6937 DSC_6941 DSC_6955

I’ve yet to get purple. I’ve ordered some actual cochineal bugs and am looking forward to seeing the difference in colour.

DSC_6924 DSC_6972

I’ve really enjoyed the colours I’ve got from madder and want to order more.

You can see me talking about my results with madder and cochineal in my video.

I’ve also dyed a range of yellows and blues and greens, which I talk about in part two of my video.

DSC_7044  DSC_7052DSC_7051

Something else which I’ve done recently is attended my first LARP event. I only went for one day (there was a three-way clash that weekend, so I managed to go to two out of three events). I really enjoyed it, it was interesting seeing the role-playing and quests. Some of the costumes were just fantastic. I only spend 15 minutes in the afternoon taking photos so I missed some fabulous ones. For example, there was one group dressed as cats and they had prosthetics on their nose and mouths to make them more cat-like and painted their whole face to look like cats! Just really awesome. So I thought I might share some photos of the LARP below.


DSC_7020-Edit DSC_6993-Edit

So that’s all for today, I know I have some lovley messages and comments to catch up on- I feel bad when I can’t reply to them all so I tend to leave them until I have time to reply to them all… You know how it goes.

But look out for future dyeing posts as I have lots of yarn left to dye and lots of dyes to try!








Video Wednesday- Drafting on the Distaff Side

Today I share a video that shows a clear view of the drafting hand. You can see that this wool is not as finley prepaired as the comercially combed top we find widley available today for handspinners. She appears to really need to tug down on the wool, and I think she is working at keeping her drafting up with the spindle. By this I mean the drafting, not her spindle or spinning technique is the time limiting factor.