On the 30th of June 2012 I posted on my Live Journal “I have a spinning blog!” An excerpt is below:

My journal is friends only, has been for a while. I post a lot of costuming stuff to the dress diaries community when I want to share it with the world because I know I appreciate reading other’s diaries as they have helped me in the past. Also it is just interesting and inspiring reading what other people are doing. My spinning progress is something I’d like to share with the world because I know I would have found it very helpful. Still world, actually, if I found someone else doing it. I’ve joined a few communities, mostly yahoo groups and I’ve joined ravelry because there are some spinning groups on there. I’m reading lots of interesting stuff but a lot of it is modern based or based on non-European peoples. So I’ve started a blog as my portal to share my progress with the world. I don’t expect it to get high traffic or a stack of hits, that’s not what I’m after, but I feel better knowing that I’m contributing my research to the re-enactment community at large and it’s out there for anyone to find and access…


When I started this blog it was really because I felt a duty to share my knowledge in a public place. I expected that a couple of people might look at it, as in, one or two people. I thought it would be wonderful if a handful of people saw it and found it useful.

Well, today I have past 35,000 views which is (to me) a lot. Like, tens of thousands more than I expected a lot.



When I started learning about these spinning techniques I knew no one that did them. In my early research I found a few old films showing it, but the first person I ever saw talking about it was Norman Kennedy. While there are still people out there who argue that this style of spinning ‘doesn’t exist’, I come across a lot of re-enactors who, like me, are trying to learn about the old European spinning traditions and how they might apply to their period of historic interest. Also, I have come across modern spinners who aren’t re-enactors spinning this way or learning about it. The Evangelical Church of Distaff Spinning Group on facebook has over 300 members and is growing.

There is so much to learn, and so much to figure out, but I feel both proud and privileged to have become a part of this little spinning movement.

So I‘d like to say thank you to my fans and supporters, but an even bigger thank you to everyone who is learning about these techniques and sharing your learnings online. Please keep posting, and if you need a platform to publish anything let me know, I’m more than happy to share your work on my blog- even if you are just begining your efforts are of interest to other spinners. If you’ve published something on a blog or website of your own and would like me to link to it- please let me know.

And finally, this is a lot of views for me, if this isn’t a lot of views for you, or your blog has a wider audience than mine, then PLEASE POST ABOUT DISTAFF SPINNING! Because that way even more people can see it! 🙂



Video Wednesday- Busy Not Spinning

I’ve been pretty busy these past few weeks.

First I got married.


Then this past weekend I attended History Alive, a multi-period re-enactment event that sadly got mudded out on the Sunday due to excessive rain on Saturday night and early Sunday morning. The rain eased early but the mud was there to stay and the mud made the entrance to the grounds and the car parks unsafe.

I did manage to enjoy myself on the Saturday though, and had the best time I’ve ever actually had at this event. The morning I spent helping with our shop, Make Your Own Medieval. The afternoon I spent visiting some other re-enactment groups and talking to them about their crafts and activities.

I visited my friend Rosalie from Rosalie’s Medieval women and saw her display of artifacts.


The ladies of my re-enactment group had a go at fabric stamping at the encampment of Karvan-saray and now have plans for fabric stamped wall hangings.



I took a short video of the fabric stamping.

My friend and I then decided to attend a shoe making workshop, but took a wrong turn and as we walked past a display of coloured wool we stopped to ask if it was naturally dyed. Well, it was and the group spent almost half an hour talking to us about their crafts- it was like a private show.


I took some video of this as well.

My friend is also interested in researching 15th century dyes and doing some dyeing of our own, so I’ll see if we can get something happening at our reenactment group’s den after the reenactment season.

After this we watched a woodworking display, which I videoed but haven’t yet put up (I might not, there were a lot of people in front of me so the video might not have come out too good and an inkle weaving workshop done on modern inkle looms. The looms were for sale and I was very tempted, as I was last time, but I don’t think I have room or time for another modern loom. I’d rather a box loom I can use at home and take to events.


I planned on spending Sunday doing some spinning videos but due to the cancelation I had to pack down the stall in four inches of mud instead.

My schedule is pretty jam-packed for the next few weeks, but I hope I might be able to get some video at Abbey Medieval Festival in July- we’ll see, I’ve got a couple of shows planned each day and things can get pretty crazy at Abbey.

Tribute to Spinning Around the World– Supported Spinning

And now for the last instalment in the spinning around the world tribute, supported spinning. I really enjoyed sharing all the spinning videos and loved the comments people shared with me.

To start our supported spinning week I shared a video of Support spinning on the go from the Hills of Himachal, this isn’t the first video I’ve seen of a women using a spinning spoon tucked into her belt for support sIpnning on the go, but it is the most recent. See, support spinning isn’t always a sit-in-one-spot type spinning!

Next I share some supported spinning from the Himalayan Mountains

This is a longer video featuring the Navajo spinning, which starts about 1:30 in. This spinning is done with a long spindle that is supported on the ground next to the seated spinner and spun by rolling on their leg.

Tribute to Spinning Around the World– Suspended Spinning

Continuing in my celebration of spinning around the world, I bring suspended spinning.

Here is a video from Peru, note that she uses a hand distaff but does not USE the distaff in the same way as with grasped spinning, she uses her left hand to hold onto the fibre and has to take her right hand away from the spindle to draft the thread out. Compare this to most grasped spinning we have seen last week where the distaff held the fibre and the left had drafted it out while the right hand spun the spindle.

Next I shared another suspended video from Peru, this one without a distaff.

Then a video of plying from Western Mongolia

And then off to see a Himalayan yak herder spinning yak wool

Then we we traveled to Northern Thailand to see cotton being spun

Tribute to Spinning Around the World– Grasped Spinning

I realised I never posted the compilation of my facebook posts featuring videos of the three main spinning styles, grasped, suspended and supported, from around the world.

So today I bring you the compilation of videos of Grasped spinning.

First up is this well-known romanian clip of a woman spinning with a distaff and spindle. I’ve seen much finer thread spun using this method, the spindle hand forms a funnel shape and the wrist flicks the spindle and as it rolls in the hand it spins.

This video is from Ecuador but I have seen similar technique in other parts of the world also. Here the spindle is spun from the ‘other’ end and supported between the hand and the thread comming off from the disaff.

This is a wonderful video from Western Serbia of a whole room full of grasped spindle spinners

I had a video from Bosnia showing a lady spinning with a distaff and spindle but it has sadly been removed from youtube.

D.Benta shows us how to spin with a “roca” and ‘fuso”, or a distaff and spindle

This video is of Trinidad Catagua, Master spinner and weaver from Zapote, Manabí spinning cotton. We saw a similar grasped style of spinning earlier, this one features a distaff that stands on the ground.

And I finished the week with a video from Ethiopia. There are just a few snippets of a woman spinning cotton on a top whorl spindle as you watch this video.

Mythbusting Monday

While writing a presentation on spinning I was working on a section on Myths about the European Medieval Spinning technique. I though it would be fun to share some, so for the next few Monday’s keep an eye out for them here 🙂

Distaffs are only used for flax.


Distaffs are only used for long fibres such as long haired sheep and flax.
Distaffs are used for short fibres like cotton. While for some spinning techniques such as drop spindle spinning a distaff does not take an active role in the spinning process and thus tends only to be used for longer fibres to help organise them, in many European styles the distaff is needed for the drafting and spinning technique regardless of the fibre length.


Come See Me at Abbey Medieval Tournament!

Once again I will be doing a talk/demo/hands on show with my re-enactment group at the Abbey Medieval Tournament in Queensland, Australia. So if you’re interested in seeing spinning 15th centry European style, come on over either day at 2pm.

large image of floral paper canvas or parchment


I will be located in the Company of the Phoenix encampment in Kirkby Village. You can see the Village on the map here https://abbeymedievalfestival.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/AMF_2016Program_A5_Map.pdf?398d6a My group is underneath the part that says “14/15th century village”

I adapt the show to the interests of my audience so let me know if there’s anything particular you’d like to get out of the demo, but the sorts of things I cover include fibre prep of both wool and flax, how the spinning technique is different to the drop spindle style practiced by modern crafters, the research needed to piece this spinning method together, how to spin, various interesting tidbits and historical information and I’ll be able to let people have a go at spinning to.

Who’s Responsibility is it to Keep History Alive?

Amongst the many things I enjoyed about my recent museum outing, talking to people about different spinning methods across different cultures and the importance of keeping cultural practices alive has stuck with me and I’ve been thinking on it. I’ve been watching some youtbe video and google translating the comments. There was one video of a young girl spinning in an Eastern European technique and there were a few comments by older women who were joyed to see a young person spinning because they worried the techniques would die out with their generation. There are many more videos of old women spinning and comments from other old women saying that their skills are dying out because they know no young people who spin using their traditional methods. Mr Norman Kennedy tells a story in one of his videos how he visited a community to see their traditional spinning, and was surprised to see them spinning not with the traditional technique but an American one. He asks them how they learnt to spin and the answer was not from their mothers or grannies but from (American) books.

It is SO EASY for skills like this to be lost. No one writes them down because everyone can do it. Better to learn by being shown anyway. Then technology takes the role of the hard work that was done by hand and people stop, they don’t care for the hard work their mothers’ used to do. Then, often when the skill is gone (or almost gone) a new generation comes along that is interested in preserving this skill, but can they? If there have been too many generations then maybe not. But what if someone from another culture took the time to document and learn the skill that their mother’s turned away from?

As a living historian I do what I do to keep history alive, I research the social history, the skills and traditions that were passed down. My main field of interest is Western Europe in the late 15th century. When researching spinning techniques I come across a lot of different techniques from Western Europe, from Eastern Europe, from Asia… and I always wonder the same thing. Why is nobody talking about these. After that I start wondering, whose job is it to talk about these? To keep them alive? Should future generations be punished because the generations now aren’t interested? Are we, those with an interest in fibre arts, with the money and time to peruse fibre arts as a leisure pursuit responsible?

The great American craft revolution of the 1960s and 70s was fantastic, it has kept so many crafts alive and rebirthed interest in many. But when it comes to spinning its drop spindle spinning, oh and there’s support spinning too. Grasped spinning hardly gets a mention because the American craft revolution passed it by.

Spinning gets broken up into three main categories, suspended, supported and grasped and within those categories there are many variations and many techniques that cross categories. If I was categorising spinning I might not chose these divisions, in the same draw I can use my spindle grasped, suspended and supported with hardly changing my technique! But I’ll work with the divisions I have.

Starting next week I’ll do a tribute to supported, suspended and grasped spinning, a different one each week, and aim to post a video a day showing the variety of methods seen throughout the worlds.

I’ll post these on my facebook page and then do a roundup at the end here, so if you don’t follow my facebook page then be sure to like it!