What can female reenactors can do?

I read a blog post recently saying one of the down sides of re-enacting was being a female reenactor as they weren’t allowed to dress as a male off the battlefield and women were only allowed to do four things in their camp—and spinning wasn’t even one of them!

So I thought I’d start compiling a list of historically accurate tasks, crafts and roles for female personas and make a page for these on my other blog.

So, if you have anything you’d love me to add to the list, leave a comment!

 

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Photograph of Cathelina di Alessandri spinning thanks to http://rosaliegilbert.com/

Mythbusting Monday

Myth:
Grasped spinning is slow, therefore it would never have been used when production spinning was needed, such as in the middle ages.
Fact:
If grasped spinning is slow or not is objective. People learned how to spin grasped from a very young age, they would have found it faster than a modern person who has spun using a different style for, say, ten years, pick up grasped spinning, try it once and find it slow.

Many people say Continental knitting is faster than English, however some of the world’s fastest knitters knit English style and English style knitting has been used for many years. All my cardigans as a small child were knit English style and my mother had to knitt them or I went cold. If only the fastest method was used in situations where people had to produce or go cold then why did my mother not use Continental or my Nana’s knitting machine?

If speed was the only factor, why was the wheel not embraced more readily? The wheel was considered to produce thread of poorer quality and it was hundreds of years after it’s introduction before it really gained hold.

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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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.

Large cop and many things to do!

Well it’s been a while since my last post! I’ve been very busy (sadly not with spinning related things) including helping organize a major event to raise money for a local museum.
The first reenactment event for the year, History Alive, is here already and takes place on Saturday and Sunday. The plan is for me to arrive on Friday morning and help set up and stay through until Sunday night. I say that’s the plan because, with rather ill timing, I am sick! I am resting up and hoping to be well. This is our winter in the Southern Hemisphere and though many of my readers might not think our weather is cold, it gets very cold (for me!) at night time this time of year, especially in a 15th century style tent.

I have a Victorian ball dress to make for the 27th but I’m not feeling up to fitting the mockup of the bodice right now so I’ve been working on my spinning and using this time to get it all ready for HA as well as the next major event, the Abbey Medieval Tournament.

I’ve had a few UFOs sitting on my spindles so I’ve cleared most of them off. I had been spinning my first attempt at hand combed wool (I used dog combs because I can’t justify the expense of real combs) which was turning out ok, but a little coarse and lumpy. I’ve taken that off my distaff and have put on some more of the organic wool I’ve been spinning for the most part. I wanted something easy to spin at the event! But also I’ve been inspired by a thread on one of my ravelry groups entitled “large cop, small spindle” and want to make an entry on it and I have plenty of this wool to spin and nothing to stop me.  I’ll be interested to see how big the skein turns out. It will be good to say to people “a full spindle of my usual spinning weight can give me around this many metres of yarn.” And if people ask how long spinning takes I can say “it takes me this time to fill up a spindle and that time to ply the same amount.”

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I started spinning for my large cop, small spindle yesterday afternoon.This is my first spindle of singles so far. I’m already down to my smallest whorl (a new addition from ebay, a stone whorl that is supposedly from ancient Rome) but I think I’ve got a lot of yardage left to spin before I go no whorl and a lot to spin after that. I move to a lighter whorl when my thread keeps breaking.

At the Abbey Medieval Tournament I’ll be presenting a talk/have a try on my spinning method so I’ll need to prepare for that also.  I want to put together some pictures showing the process of taking flax from seed to cloth (as many medieval images as I can!) as well as some images showing the spinning method used.  I also need to get my dad to help me with my flax distaff. I’ll also be carving some spindles out of wooden dowels and making some more clay whorls for people to have a go on. Finally I need to put together some starter spinning kits to sell, not to make money but to give people the chance to try their hand at spinning now rather than having to go away and source/make the materials themselves. My mission is to get more people (especially reenactors) interested at recreating 15th century spinning techniques and if I break even money wise then that’s a bonus!

I hope to do a proper update soon talking about my current techniques and my new whorls (I have two!) but for now that will have to wait.

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…