15th Century Sewing!

My other wordpress site Cathelina di Alessandri is set up to be navagated more like a blog. It’s got my 15th century spinning research on it as well as a lot of other stuff. My new 15th century Burgundian wardrobe and research will be posted on there, but it is more set up for finished articles than to show the research and construction process. Thus, 15th Century Sewing was born. It’s basically the sewing version of this blog. So if you’re interested in the creation of my new wardrobe, don’t forget to hop on over and follow the blog!

new dress


A 15th Century Burgundian Wardrobe, Photography and Wool

One of the great things about changing reenactment groups last year is the fact I am not restricted to 1480 Italian clothing. As much as I love that period, before I joined my old group I was interested in the clothing from other parts of Europe including Flanders and Burgundy. I’d done a LOT of research, but not much making and even less wearing. I have dresses I’ve never worn or have no reason to finish. That said, these dresses are all over ten years old so it is time for new dresses.


1460 Flemish outfit-an example of my early sewing

Over the next few months I’ll be making lots of beautiful dresses I’ve been waiting ten years to make and I’ll be posting them up over at my sister blog Cathelina di Alessandri so make sure to follow that one to keep up with my sewing progress.

It’s great to get back to crafting, the past few months I’ve been working on our business Make Your Own Medieval. I got some new photography equipment for my birthday so I’ve been re-photographing every product we sell, which is a time consuming but rewarding process. Here are the before and after pictures:

DSC_1316  Medieval reproduction of a strap end cast from brass for Cosplay, LARP and renaissance clothing and costume

I miss the red background but it was so hard to photograph consistently and was showing up from deep burgundy to pink depending on the photograph, and that didn’t look good. The white is less personal but much easier and less distracting too.

Running the business is great, we are meeting so many more people in the living history community and making lots of new friends. It (and changing groups) is allowing us to do many more events than we were previously able to. My partner’s re-enactment persona was always a merchant (and mine either a merchant’s daughter or wife) so re-enacting merchants also suits our persona’s. It is great being able to support the re-enactment community through the business and the support we have received from reenactors has been amazing.

On a spinning note, I’ve also acquired some lovely longer stapled fleece that I need to wash and comb, so keep an eye out for my progress with that on this blog.

Wool Combs and Spinning Video

On Saturday I picked up some new wool combs! I meant to take a nice phoeo of them on Sunday put up but there was a storm on Sunday and I spent sunday night without power (camera battery dead) and Monday starting to clean up 5 and a half acres of fallen trees, tree limbs (many of which sailed over our house) and busted fences etc.

I will have to take a photo at another stage. In the meantime I stumbled across this fantastic video from Caroline from Hershey Fiber Arts showing spinning flax with a spindle. She also makes great spindle sticks (a review is on my to do list) and whorls.

New Wool Combs!

Thank you for the comments on my last post. I stumbled across a gentleman selling two sets of wool combs (one big, one small), the stand to clamp them in and a few extras for $100, pick up only. Sadly this is the last of the fibre equipment that he’s selling, he still spins and weaves though, just nothing more to sell. So in a couple of weeks I’ll make the trip up with my beloved to fetch them. I’ll post photos once I have them, it’s a 5-6 hour round trip to get them so it will be a couple of weeks before we can make the trip, but I’m excited in advance!

Wool Combs

So on my really really wish list is wool combs. It sucks that the Aussie dollar is so bad right now, but it’s probaly not getting any better so I’m thinking if I want any in the next few years then sooner rather than latter would be an idea. Only, I’m not sure where to start! Viking, english, single row, double row, big, mini, fine what have you.

Any sugestions?

Long Time No Post

I know it’s been a long time since I posted, but I thought I’d stop by and let you all know how I’ve going. Plenty has happened in my life since I’ve been posting here I have (in no particular order) moved on from casual employment to working full time, lost that job and got another even better full time job, Met a wonderful man and have moved. Now I live with the love of my life on acreage which we’re slowly fencing for livestock, have a nice vegie garden and are planting and orchard.

I’m still spinning and weaving, would love to do more but more recently my life has been taken up by another venture, I’ve started a new business!

Our new business has two main focuses. The first is to be able to offer those items that beginners need and have trouble finding such as basic kit, that doesn’t cost the earth but is good enough to get them through. To provide them with a positive and supportive experience in the hobby and to make it easier for new people to get started. Right now we have a few of these items (such as shoes) but are looking to work with the local groups and supply what it is that they need. The second is to encourage creativity. There are some wonderful people out there making things for themselves and others, and it’s hard to get things to make things with. There are budding artisans and merchants that, if supported, will be a wonderful addition to our community. There’s people that WANT to say “I made this” but don’t know how, or don’t have the tools required. We’re selling the small ‘things to make things with’ to help support all of these.

If you want to look you can see the webpage here or like us on facebook

In other news my partner and I have recently left our re-enactment group, it was a long decision coming but we disagreed with quite a few things in how it was being run and the focus of the group. The good news is we’ve joined another group, which gives me the opportunity to make new, pretty (and non-Italian) dresses. Not that I don’t love the Italian clothing (I do), but I love some of the other styles too. I really hope to be more active on this blog in the future, but we’ll see, I will be very busy with a full-time job, running a business and managing the property!

Not dead yet!

Just letting you all know I’m not dead yet! Real life interviened. I hate doing things half-assed so I tend to dissapear when real life calls rather than have a diminished presence. I keep saving up for the time to catch up fully and so it never happens! Anoying! I’ll try to catch up with everybody, I’ve missed you all!

Spinning progress has been a big fat zero but I have had a chance to play with my new loom and will try to post pictures soon. In the meantime I’ve managed to update my other blog with some of my more modern costuming, so take a quick look.

New Loom!

So my young man (who is very attentive and observant) thought up a wonderful surprise for my Christmas present, only he is a)bad at keeping surprise secret and b) didn’t want to get the wrong sort. So he told me he wanted to get me a new “weaving thing to do my looming on”

My little spears loom has been ok for working out the basics and getting a hang of things but already I’m wanting to use double heddles which is do-able but tricky when they’re the wrong length and have nowhere to actually sit.

I’ve chosen an ashford knitter’s loom in the 50 cm width mainly because of the ease of getting it (buying something available locally means cheaper postage) and the versatile width, not too wide but wide enough for most uses.


Not Just Drop Spindles!

One of the criticizms I see directed at those of us who are researching medieval spinning techniques is “here is a picture where the spindle was suspeded, therefore they are drop spindles and they are doing drop spindle spinning” or words to that effect.

My methods aren’t about prooving they never suspended the spindle, to the contary the more research and experementation I do I see the more the spindle can be suspended using the methods I’m developing, especially with wool. That, however, doesn’t mean they were ‘drop spinning’ or using ‘drop spindles’. People will look at my spindle and say “oh, that’s a drop spindle.” Really, it’s a spindle. It could be used in the drop spinning method (though is’t ideal for that style), but I don’t use it that way. I call my spindle a spindle. If I were French I might call it a fuseau or if I were German I might call it a spindel or a handspindel but, and forgive me forign speakers if I’ve missed this but I don’t see other languages calling them anyhing to do with dropping. Their names all seem to revolve around things that, well, revolve, twist and turn and spin upon an axel. I don’t see any dropping. Is it just English that does this? And what makes a drop spindle anyhow? The fact it was designed to be a dro spindle, that it is used as one, that it could be?

And back to these drop spindles in the middle ages. You see re-enactors spinning on a drop spindle at living history events. They aren’ using a distaff because yo don’t need one with wool, and they’re usually spinning wool because flax is ‘hard’. And no, you don’t need a distaff to spin wool with a drop spindle, but you know tht medieval image ofthat lady spinning wool without a distaff? No, you don’t? That one from 1453 that was painted by a monk who drew an arrow to the spindle and wrote “this is a drope spindle from ye olde shoppe?” nope? Really? Well, it doesn’t exist. I’ve never come across a picture of spinning that didn’t involve distaffs with one exception:


(which I discuss a little here)

I don’t think they’re actually spinning thread here, they might be plying or making gilt thread as in this image,


(Gilt thread-making
Lockwood Kipling, John, born 1837 – died 1911)

but I think we can hardly be calling this “spinning fluff into thread” because I don’t know about you, but I see no fluff there.

The other thing is have you heard of the distaf side? The distaff side referrs to the female sid of the family. You see a few instances where ‘disaff’ is associated with women or women’s work, and why not sindle? Or drop spindle? Who ever heard of the drop spindle side of the family? If distaffs are something that wern’t needed in spinning throughout Europe and the UK then why is spinning and women’s work so closley associated with them?

Now, I’m wandering away from my initial discussion which is “is evidence ofsuspended spinning proof of drop spindle spinning?”

First, we have to define drop spindle spinning. People jokingly say it’s called a drop spindle because when you are learning you accidently drop it when your thread snaps! But it’s not such a joke. In drop spindle spinning your thread slowly drops down as the thread is formed. Is this the full definition? If I suspend my pindle to th side and set it spinning I can drop the spindle down as i’m drafting my thread. I could not, however, do this without a distaff, as because of the length I’ve already spun I need one hand to draw my thread to the opposite side of my body leaving only one hand to arrange and draft the fibre. Every thing I’ve ever read on drop spindle spinning and the distaff says you don’t need to use a distaff when spinning wool, though you may if you wish to keep more fibre in reach. My distaff does a LOT more than keep my fibre in reach!

So, could we say drop spindle spinning is spinning where the spindle drops down as the thread is being formed and where a distaff may be ued for oranising and holdingfibe but must not play an ‘active’ role in th pinning process (ie, you could spin without it without changing your technique).

So, it’s not so much the spindle that defines the method, but the involvment of the distaff. Which means the saying “spun on the roc (distaff)” makes a lot more sense.

And I guess ll this means that if the spinning fo the 15th century couldn’t be done without a distaff then it’s not really drop spindle spinning, even when the spindle is suspended fully.

So I’m not fighting against suspending the spindle or even the dropping down of the spindle.  I’m just saying not all suspended spinning is drop spindle spinning and while we may be seeing suspended spinning in the 15th century I don’t think we’re seeing what I would call drop spindle spinning.

You might also be interested in reading my Don’t drop that spindle! and my Research Behind the Method.