Is Pinterest Authentic?

“Pinterest isn’t authentic”

“Avoid Pinterest it is in no way authentic.”

“Don’t use Pinterest for your research, it’s not authentic”

Pinterest, love it or hate it? I hear a lot of criticisms about the use of Pinterest in research, specifically for research amongst medieval living historians, reenactors or other recreationalists. The above are verbatim quotes I’ve come across recently. “Pinterest is in no way authentic”- what does that even mean? It’s a website, they didn’t have websites in the middle ages right? Well, the point they are all making is that pinterest should not be used for researching our hobby. But are they right?


What is Pinterest?

While we’re on the subject of bad sources, lets see what Wikipedia has to say:

“Pinterest is a web and mobile application company that operates a software system designed to discover information on the World Wide Web, mainly using images and on a smaller scale, GIFs and videos.”

Hmmm… well, obviously not a good source, right?

Lets see what pinterest has to say about what it is:

“Pinterest is where people discover new ideas and find inspiration to do the things they love!

Pins are ideas that help you get creative or try something new, whether you’re planning a camping trip or collecting home improvement hacks.

Pins are saved to boards, keeping your ideas organized and easy to find. Follow other people or boards that are saving ideas you’re interested in, so you can do even more of what you love.”


“What are Pins?

Pins are ideas people find and save from around the web.

Each Pin links back to the website it was saved from. If you click through the Pin you can learn more about it—like how to make it or where to buy it.” [emphasis mine]

Ok, so it seems that both our sources agree to some extent:

Pinterest is a way of saving information or ideas from the internet. The ‘pin’ links back to the source.

The way I see it?

Pinterest is an advanced version of your computer’s ‘bookmark’ or ‘favourite’ function.

Yes, that’s right. Lets look at the similarities and differences.

Pinterest Bookmarks
Is a way to save information or an idea you’ve found on a website Is a way to save information or an idea you’ve found on a website
Designed to take you back to the source of the idea/information Designed to take you back to the source of the idea/information
Uses a visual and text prompt to remind you of the idea/information you’ve saved/bookmarked Uses a text prompt only to remind you of the idea/information you’ve saved/bookmarked
Can be organised into categories Can be organised into categories
Can be kept private Can be kept private
Can be shared publicly, with your saves/bookmarks viewable and saved by others Generally are not shared publicly, however, Pinterest isn’t the only bookmarking site to have this feature
If the original source is moved or deleted, you will now have a dead link. If the original source is moved or deleted, you will now have a dead link.
If the original source is moved or deleted you have both a text and visual prompt to track down a new source If the original source is moved or deleted you have only a text prompt to track down a new source

Ok, so there are some differences, but there are a lot of similarities.

Interestingly I’ve never come across someone saying “Don’t save sources to your bookmarks, your bookmarks are not authentic.”  Or “your browser bookmarks are not authentic and shouldn’t be used for research.”


What is Pinterest not?

Pinterest is not a source. It is a way to collect and bookmark sources. The difference is key.

I will use an example.

Ten years ago (ok, now I feel old) I made a Italian dress that was burgundy in colour. I put it on deviant art. Some years ago someone bookmarked it on Pinterest with the caption ‘Simple burgundian.”


“Burgundian” is usually used in historical costuming circles to refer to a style of dress popular in France in the 15th Century. This dress is very different from the dress I had made.

So, if you’re using Pinterest as a source, you’d see this Italian dress being billed as a French dress.

If you use Pinterest correctly (as it was intended), and click the picture to go to the source, you get the following:



The source clearly identifies that this dress is NOT French, but Italian. And you know what? Even if the source hadn’t been clear about the origins of this dress it’s still not the fault of Pinterest, the fault would lie with the person who put the source up in the first place (in this case me).

So now we have the source, and we can look critically at the source (uh oh).

What sort of source is this? Is it a good source?

No, this is not a good source. In my post I included no research, no primary or secondary sources. At best, this is a tertiary source with nothing to back it up. This was posted on an art website. I used the website to show off what I had made, not to store or my research.

In this case the pin didn’t lead to a good source, but many do. They might lead to a museum website or a journal article—you never know until you click.


But mislabeled pins are a huge issue? They mislead people and say something is what it isn’t.

No, they’re not really a huge issue. They’re an annoyance, but we’re researches, we follow the bookmark to the source and then critically examine the source.

I think about some of my old computer bookmarks.

“Awesome medieval corsets” lead to a page that sold modern, Victorian inspired corsets, but they sold some that were medieval themed, as in were made out of fabrics with medieval images on them. The name made sense to me, but if this was on Pinterest someone else might misinterpret that as me saying the corsets were medieval and use it as an example of how ‘Pinterest is wrong.’

Another example, I had a link saved as “Kim song medieval.” The song lyrics linked were the lyrics of a sing I heard a lady named Kim sing. I had bookmarked the lyrics to go back and research IF the song was medieval (it wasn’t).


But what about broken links?

Broken links are a pain- no matter if it’s a broken pin or a broken bookmark. But there is an advantage to a broken link on Pinterest- you have both text and image to help you track down the source. It gets really annoying when you end up going in a circle (google keeps taking you to Pinterest again and again and around and around… see, annoying!) but your chances are better with text AND image than with just text.


But what about people uploading pins?

This is annoying when people do this and then don’t put the source in the caption. But Pinterest is not a source, you’ll need to track that down. See the point above.


In summary:

When I started researching we were told not to use the internet at all for research, because everything on the internet is wrong. My answer then was the same it is now, and the same as what I was taught at university when studying history and archaeology—look critically at the source.   Save your research on Pinterest if you wish, start your research on Pinterest if you wish, but don’t DO your research on Pinterest.  Pinterest is not a source.


Video Wednesday- Norwegian Crafts

Today I share an old film showing Norwegian crafts. There is weaving, spinning, and other historic crafts you don’t often see in films such as fingerloop braiding and naalbinding.

Of interest is the spinnin technique uses a hook in place of a distaff. It also shows the plying technique which Norman Kennedy speaks about, where the yarn is run through a hook in the ceiling.

Spinning Experiment- We Need You!

Tell a bunch of spinners that the output of a medieval spinner could be no more than 20 metres per hour, and they’ll want to prove you wrong. As such, the folks over at the Evangelical Church of Distaff Spinning are conducting a spinning experiment, looking at the production rates of modern spinners. The experiment collects a wide range of date, from spinning method, years of experience to fibre spun, tools used and more. Collecting all of this data means that we can use the results for different things. For example, we could compare grasped spinning production rates to that with suspended spinning, or we could look at how years of experience affects production.

I encourage you all to take part, here is the form you need to complete and you can take part multiple times.

When you are filling out the form, pay attention when it asks you to enter in the amount spun- just do that! There’s a slot for time spun also so your production rate per hour can be calculated. Don’t be clever and work out the average you spun in an hour, otherwise you’ll confuse the results:



At least it gave me a laugh! The preliminary results (without my mistake) are up on the facebook group so if you’re not a member, join to check them out. But we need more responses, so please take part!



Where have the videos gone?

I was working on writing a guest blog post today, and I was talking about a specific spinning video I have seen. I went to re-watch it to reference it, but it has disappeared from you tube. I notice this quite a bit. A lot of videos I have watched and loved have gone. I don’t know why, often they just look like old home videos so I don’t think it can be copyright? Sure I’m finding new videos all the time, but I miss the old ones. I consider the European style spinning with spindle and distaff a dying art so it is sad to see an old video gone.

Mythbusting Monday

Grasped spinning is slow, therefore it would never have been used when production spinning was needed, such as in the middle ages.
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.

Them old folks, oh they was smart they were.

So I was searching around and I discovered this Video and I went “hey, he’s spinning flax just like I do!”

I did a bit of investigation and I found his one and went “Hey, I want my wool on my distaff to look like this!”

His name is Norman Kennedy and he’s some old codger who’s bloody brilliant.

He grew up in Scotland and started spinning after WWII. He learned from the old people back then and managed to learn a TON of information that didn’t get passed onto the generation above him and then was lost for many people.

Guess how he spins?

And he’s not just a hobby spinner, he’s done real work spinning. Spinning and weaving sheets, towels, blankets and even fine linen shirts. Also knitting clothing from homespun.

He has a video for sale on wool and one on linen and cotton and because I found them for download and on sale I decided to download one. Well, I soon after downloaded the other. There’s a lot of information, he talks about fibre prep and spindles and different types of spinning wheels and a million things besides, but I found it all really informative, even the bits I thought I wouldn’t be interested in (like modern spinning wheels).

So anyway, this old Scottish guy uses a spindle the same way I’ve been using mine. They way I’ve been spending a long time trying to document.

His documentation for this method? I’ll summarise it below.

This is a spindle. Not a drop spindle, I hear folks saying drop spindle and I think ohhh that sounds clumsy, like them old folks was always dropping things. Oh no, they was smart those old folks. And this is how they taught me to spin it, none of these hooks and letting it go, just like this and you see them old folks was smart, they didn’t just hang out, no, always working and if they were going to market or herding sheep then they’d be working at their spinning even then. They got a lot done, all Henry the 8th clothing started out being spun like this and oh that was very fine, I know, I’ve seen some of it! But they wouldn’t drop their spindles like the folk of this country [he now lives in Canada] do.

So yeah. His documentation is “this is how I was taught by the old folk in my day, and they learned from information passed down through the generations.”

He doesn’t need a million pictures and videos because someone taught him.

But he seems a fascinating man and I’m really glad I’ve watched his videos, they taught me more than I thought they would!

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  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!