Picture Friday, St Elsbeth



Today’s picture is of St Elizabeth spinning in a woodcut from 1511.   There are a few St Elizabeth’s, but I think she might be St Elizabeth of Hungary whose charitable pratices included spinning wool for the poor.


© The Trustees of the British Museum


What I love about this picture is that you can see spinning in various stages in the one image.


This women here is holding her spindle how I do when I’m first drfafting out a thread across my body.



This woman looks like she is suspending her spindle after drafting it out to add more twist. She even appears to be putting her thread over the back of her spindle hand the same way I do.

There is a little basket of spindles with th whorls removed holding spin thread in the foreground.

Back to the 21st century!

Well I’ve almost finished unpacking and am in the process of catching up with my 21st century life.

I had a fantastic time in 1480. My demonstrations went well. As the organisers had listed my fingerloop braiding under activities for young children I took plenty of thick wool for kids to braid with and on the sunday the half hour demo just kept going and going and there was fingerlooping being taught for almost an hour and a half! As people left more people came to take their place. I taught the easy four loop braid which gives a spiral pattern and for those that did that well and wanted to learn another I taught them various five looped braids, either the broad or the round.

Finally the last person finished and we packed up, but the children in our encampment had gotten the fingerlooping bug and they spent hours making lacing ties for their dresses!

Spinning went well, better on the Sunday and I had more people interested in it on the sunday also.


This was taken by my friend on Saturday of me spinning. I’d just started with a new spindle and for some reason picked it up upside down! When I wound the thread on for the first time I realised and put it the right way up.

Picture Friday: Between the Knees

I’ve posted a sitting to spin picture before. If I’m sitting on the couch at home then I can trap my distaff between the couch, the arm and my leg. But what if there’s nowhere so easy to keep the distaff standing? Answer, hold it between the knees.

15th C broughton church Cambridgeshire

Here you can see a depiction of Adam and Eve. Eve holds the distaff between her legs and appears to be resting the spindle on the ground.


Here is an image from a book of hours. You can’t see her spindle as it’s hidden beside her in her right hand, but she grasps the distaff between her knees as she sits on a basket.


Hours of the Virgin: Terce Annunciation of Christ’s birth to the shepherds. Once again with the distaff between the knees.


In this detail of Proverbs bu Pieter Brueghel the Younger you get a good look at a spindle and once again the distaff is held between the knees.

Distaffs are pretty long and you don’t want one falling over as you’re trying to spin! How do you keep your distaff upright as you spin?

Off to the 15th century again!

Once again I’m off to the 15th century at the Abbey Medieval Festival.

Set up starts tomorrow and I’ll be leaving on friday and back on monday. Maybe I might even have some photos to share?

I’ll be doing a demo on fingerloop braiding which I’ve done for the past few years and is always popular. This year it’s been featured on the ‘what to do with young children’ list so I’m making sure to be taking some thick, brightly coloured wool set up for some simple braids so if there are kids wanting to have a go they can make a braid more quickly than with cotton.

I’ll also be doing a talk/demo on ‘how to turn straw into gold’ which covers how flax becomes linen and the spinning technique in the 15th century.  I’ve been working on wooden dowel spindles and clay whorls incase I run out of enough spindles for people to try spinning on. It’s the first year I’ll be doing this one and it clashes with a drop spinning class so I’m not sure how many people I’ll have to it, but best be prepared.