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 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!

Taking a Spin Around the Museum

This Saturday I will be off to my first event of the year! It’s just a short day trip to the Queensland Museum where I and a few ladies will be assisting with the behind the scenes tour of The Medieval Women as part of the Medieval Power exhibition. I shall be demonstrating spinning 15th century style with a distaff and handspindle. We shall also have demonstrations of goldwork embroidery, Illumination and a talk about the very secret sex lives of medieval women. So for those located in Brisbane, Australia, please feel free to drop by!

Cathelina di Alessandri spinning with a distaff and spindle


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.