When the Fibre Stash Turns into Thread, What Then?

I figure that if I spin for long enough that my stash of fibre is going to turn into a stash of thread. What to do with said thread? Well, I figure I can weave it into something. I don’t own a loom of course… Looking at looms I keep coming across the ashford rigid heddle looms.


These appeal for three reasons. One is cost, at around $200 they’re 1/3 or half the price of a small floor or table loom. Second is size, theyre pretty small and I don’t have much room to store it or to weave with it. The third is width, they come in a variety of widths so I can choose the width I think I’ll need.

But what to make? I’ve thought of a few things.

Tea towels never go astray at an event, especially when it’s raining as we usually hang them over the rope around our fire to dry (we need to rope off our fire for safety reasons. Sad, but true. The amount of parents that tell their children “Oh yes little Johnny, you can touch that, that’s not real fire, that would be too dangerous for them to have real fire” is… lets just say the number is too high.  We want to teach the public about what it was like to live back then but we’d rather do it without burning kid’s hands.) and when it’s raining they just stay wet so we’ve learnt to take a big stash of them in the first place.

A table runner is another thing I could make. That’s a lot longer than a tea towel but doesn’t need to be any wider, unlike an actual table cloth.

I was also thinking a partlet, which is similar to a modern dicky. It’s a piece of fabric that goes over your chest and can keep the sun off and help keep you warm when it’s cold. These are both good things. BUT for my persona I should have a beautiful fine one and any fabric I make… well, I don’t think it’s going to be too beautiful. I just like the idea of a partlet because it is so visible. What? I can’t be a teeny bit vain?

There’s a lot of things to think about and choose from, but at least I’ve got a long time to do it! At least as long as it takes for me to spin enough thread to make something at any rate!

Plying Along

When I first started investigating spinning I ordered a few spindles. The first to arrive was a large one with a hook on the end. I went with the hook because I thought (rightly) that I’d have problems learning to use a half hitch to hold my thread and I thought (partially wrongly) that a hook would be easier. I’ve learnt a hook is easier, in that if your thread slips off the cop it just coils around the hook and eventually stops. It’s harder in that sometimes the length the spindle can slip off is the same length as the bit you’ve just spun which means you have to uncoil the mess around the cook, rewind it and hope this time you do better.

What have I been using this spindle for? Well, I had two small spindles of wool singles and one of them was rather uneven in spots and the other one not so bad so I thought I’d ply them as neither were much good for singles. Pied they are very strong.


I think I’ve put too much twist in, but when my niddy-noddy arrives I’ll make a skein and then wash the wool which I’m told helps sort out and set the twist.

New Whorl and the Half Hitch

So I’ve been working on my spinning. I’ve managed to suspend my spindle with the wool a couple of times now and also managed to take a chunk out of my whorl. That chunk actually happened when I was making the whorl and I just plastered some more clay over the break so it’s not surprising it broke again. Need to make a new whorl for it.

I’m still sure there’s a trick to suspending the spindle. I’ve got the knot down pat, a visual is here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1l3tAMFu3c  It sounds silly to need a video to learn how to do a half hitch, but my version of a half hitch was something different and I always wondered how people could be doing that with one end attached to the spindle and the other to the distaff. The reason my half hitches sometimes don’t hold is because the downward pull pulls the thread up off the cop and up the spindle shaft which then means the knot pops off the top. I’ve noticed spinning tends to help stop this—as in it’s more likely to happen if the spindle’s hanging rather than spinning fast. I’m sure there’s a trick to do with how you wind the cop. Need to trial and error to find it I think.

I’ve started reading through my copy of the Museum of London Textiles and Clothing book.  According to the glossary Woollen is a yarn made of carded wool fibres and Worsted is a smooth thread spun from wool fibres which have been laid parallel by combing. I’m reading a bit about the different preparations and the technology available and the spinning weel and so on, so hopefully I’ll have more to say about that next time!

I’m off to the 15th Century

This weekend I’ll be off camping—15th century style.

I’m in a living history group and every year we take part in the Abbey Medieval Festival, the biggest of its kind in the southern Hemisphere. This year it started on the 30th of June with a medieval banquet they hold every year on the weekend before the tournament—which is the main attraction. The tournament runs on Saturday the 7th of July and Sunday the 8th, though the re-enactors get there as early as Thursday and stay as late as Monday.

There are usually around 35 different re-enactment and living history groups that go each year and each group is given a plot of land at Abbeystowe. These plots are arranged by time, so my group will be camping near all the other 15th century groups.  My group is big on living history so if you wander past our encampment you will see some beautiful 15th century styled tents (quite a few, actually. We have quite a high tent to person ratio because, well, we love our tents! Some are furnished with historically accurate furniture and furnishings so come, take a look), an awesome camp fire where we do all our cooking, a whole series of tables set up as dining tables, sideboards or places to play games or do crafts on and a bunch of people in 15th century Florentine dress going about their daily tasks. We’re often seen eating (we love to do this also. We have a whole tent just for storing and preparing our food!), playing games, doing embroidery, making fingerloop braids, kneading bread, making pasta, cooking the dinner or any number of tasks! This year I hope to be spinning which will be a first for me. Members of the public can wander along at any time and have a chat to find out what our life is like or they can come along to one of the scheduled times for a demonstration of something specific. But wait, there’s more! That’s just our encampment I’ve talked about. Now times that by thirty-something. Yup.

But wait, there’s more! As well as the encampments there are other arenas. There’s the main tournament field, the jousting lists, the archery range and smaller areas such as the village green and there’s almost always something going on there, be it a dancing lesson or a full scaled battle.

But wait! There’s more! How could I mention Abbey without mentioning the shopping? Or the street performers? No wonder tens of thousands of people visit each year.

It’s held at around the same time each year in Queensland, Australia. You can see where it’s located here http://candela.com.au/abbey/tournament/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/AMF_LocationMap_2010.jpg and while you’re at it take a look at the main page here http://abbeytournament.com/ where you can read more about it.

I’m looking forward to it and hopefully I can return with some more spinning practice under my belt! Literally, that’s where my distaff will be…

Clay Whorls and Spinning Wool

So I finally took off my hairtie whorl and replaced it with one made of clay. Here’s a photo of it with my current spinning on it. To celebrate the new whorl I’ve been practicing suspending the spindle from a half hitch at the top. It works not to badly. I think there’s a trick to how you wind on your cop to help the knot not fall off the top. Sound gross but a bit of spit on the top helps as well, makes it stick a bit better. More practice at this is needed I think!

While I was making my whorl I made another spindle (with a clay whorl) and because my beautiful organic wool arrived I took my flax off my distaff and had a go dressing it with wool. Because I still don’t have a period correct distaff (remember the “I don’t do woodworking” thing?) I put a curtain rod end on my distaff to secure my ribbon and woo onto. It actually worked pretty well.

Then of course I had to have a go at spinning it…

What can I say? Spinning wool is very different from spinning flax. It’s easier to keep a consistent thread width and if I draft too thick I can easily stretch the thread out thinner before adding more twist. I also don’t need as much twist to hold the stuff together.

Here is my early progress with the wool.

I’ve heard people say you need a distaff for spinning line flax but don’t need one with wool. Well, I can see why a distaff for wool is so great! You just reach up and pull when you need to draft more fibre. Even though I didn’t do a great job at dressing it, it still worked out fine. I found if I let the twist travel a little into the wool in the distaff I could just pull the spindle away as I spun it and the wool more or less “drafted itself” at an even thickness with little impact from me. I believe this is called spinning the wool woollen so I’ll have to investigate that. The other option is to spin it worsted which is where you don’t allow the twist to go into the drafting area. I’m sure there are more differences than that, but it’s something to learn!

That’s all for today, next I’ll investigate woollen vs worsted spinning and of course keep practicing!

A Great Wheel

As you’ve probably gathered I’m not interested in learning how to spin on a spinning wheel. My investigations in this department are limited into looking at how and why the introduction of the spinning wheel changed the spindle spinning of the time. Why is this? It could be because I’m not a wood worker and thus have no way to make a great wheel. Then again, I sew even modern garments by hand so maybe I just prefer the more direct method. At any rate spindles are cheaper the wheels so I’m happy. But googling around found me this http://www.togs-from-bogs.blogspot.com.au/2012/06/more-wheel-pics.html and I thought I’d share it. It’s a nice reproduction of a great wheel.