Back to the Future

This past weekend I attended Abbey Medieval Festival as a 15th century reenactor with my new and improved textile workspace. Having a place I could permanently have my stuff set up in and having a few friends in the workspace with me worked much better than last year.

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There were some things that went well on the weekend, and some things that didn’t go as planned, but I’ll start with the positives.

I had a rainbow of woo! The naturally dyed wool got a lot of love over the weekend and it was great to see people interested. It got people talking about the colours of the middle ages and people were interested in both the actual science of dyeing as well as general discussions about the relative cost of different colours.

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Speaking of dyeing, my dyeing vats were fit for purpose and lasted the weekend. I got a lot of compliments on my “clay ovens”. Of course, what they were was a pot from bunnings, turned upside down and assaulted by an angle grinder, standing on an inverted bird bath top.

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I also managed to get the madder to the right temperature, which considering I had only my hand as a thermometer and a fire in a pot, I was pretty proud of.

I had a lot of fun with the magic of indigo. I discovered that people were continually stopping by so rather than dyeing big skeins of wool, a small bit of cotton string worked well for showing the same thing 50 billion times.

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We also had fun with cochineal and watching it change different colours. Oh, and I had a bunch of cool stuff.

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And yes, my dyes and mordants actually made it there and back in glass jars with no mishaps.

I really liked the signs I made

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I made over 30 or so of these all up, and also put them in our woodworking workspace.

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And of course I had some friends with me this year, two dedicated ladies with me:

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And some friends the dropped by:

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Finally I took a photo of me wearing the same outfit as painted in my sign which I’ve wanted to do for a while.

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While I had a great time, there are some things I want to change for next year.

First of all, we were meant to be set up by midday Friday, and due to a series of events that didn’t happen. This meant that I didn’t spend Friday doing videos as planned, nor did I spend it getting my dyeing all set up (I planned on getting some dyes soaking and some yarn mordanted ready for saturday morning). This put me half a day behind with my planned dyeing and meant I didn’t do a lot of dyeing that I wanted to do. We have taken note for next year what and when slowed us down and the elements we can control will be changed so next year we can plan to be ready earlier.

My spinning wheel looked fantastic, it was built by my friend who had never seen a spinning wheel before and he finished it the day before we started setting up. We were meant to spend some of Friday trying to tweak it to get it working, which didn’t happen. On the positive side I did receive some advice on the weekend and we know what needs to be done to get it operational.

I also should have laid some of my stuff out more neatly, I meant to but didn’t get around to it. oops.

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Group photo- we planned on taking a big group photo of all of us.  Group photos are very hard to do at events, by the time everyone has had breakfast and is dressed and ready it is close to 8:30 and the public are in and you’ve got to be working.  Especially this year, it was so cold I lazed in bed until 6am! Two and a half hours isn’t long when you have so much to do and need to get the fire started so you can make breakfast (not to mention hot water on to boil so you can wash up after breakfast). Everything takes longer in the 15th century.

Now I’m back to the future, and coming back to reality. There are many things I love about the future, like being able to have a hot coffee before I properly wake up. Or plugholes. You know, after you have finished with a sink full of wash water you just pull the plug and out it goes? No need to carry it somewhere away from camp to empty.

But of course, I’m already talking and planning the next event. I’ve applied to be a presenter at the Queensland Living History Federation’s conference, I presented the year before last (last year they ran it the weekend I was getting married so I obviously didn’t attend). So (Hopefully) the next event I’ll be attending is that where I’ll be presenting, but I haven’t heard back yet from the organisers so we’ll see.

 

Video Wednesday- Spindle Review of Niddy Noddy’s Custom Medieval Style Spindle Stick with a Spiral Notch

This week I bring you the last of my reviews of Niddy Noddy’s Medieval Style Spindle Sticks. This one has a spiral notch.

Video Wednesday- Reviewing Niddy Noddy’s Custom Medieval Style Spindle

Sorry I’ve been very lax with editing my spindle reviews.
This is my review of the first of the custom designed spindles Niddy Noddy made for me, THis one has no notch.

These spindles were re-shaped to fit my extant whorls below the ‘belly’ of the spindle, often spindle sticks are too thin to use these whorls.

This spindle has no notch, and next week I’ll post the video with a spiral notch.

35,000 Views!

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.

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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! 🙂

 

 

How to Use a Distaff While Sitting

A common sight in medieval manuscripts is ladies standing while spinning, like this lady spinning wool amongst the sheep.

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Also common, is the lady taking a break to spin, like this lady spinning wool amongst the sheep.

Which sometimes raises the question “How do I use a distaff while sitting?”

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Well, there are many answers and the right answer is what works for you.

This lady has a beautiful standing distaff.

Grabow Altarpiece, Bertram von Minden, c 1379-1383

Grabow Altarpiece, Bertram von Minden, c 1379-1383

Sometimes the lady clasps the distaff between her knees

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1380, Mary spinning

I would love a standing distiff, but I don’t have one yet.  People have asked how I sit with my distaff and as it’s hard to explain I decided to do a video.

This is simply how I sit with my distaff, what works for you may be different. Please feel free to share what works for you in the comments!

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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:

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Oops!

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!

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Sharing Saturday- Jane’s Distaff

Today I thought I’d share how Jane dresses her distaff after she kindly posted step-by-step photos on the Historic Spinning facebook group. Many thanks to Jane Hunt for allowing me to share!
I hand comb the fibres with my mini combs.

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Then I draw off the fibres by hand, not having a clamp means I can’t use a diz, but maybe one day.

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Next I plank the sliver, a fancy term for breaking it into suitable lengths for my distaff.

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Then I spread out each length into a thin layer about 10″ wide.

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I pile up the layers, one on top of the other, to form a batt.

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Then I lay my distaff along the long edge (the same direction that the fibres are going in) As you can see, this is my deluxe ‘from the hedgerow’ distaff!

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I then roll the distaff up in the batt fairly snugly.

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Finally I criss cross my linen tape down the distaff and tie in a bow at the bottom. I tie it tight enough for there to be some resistance to pull against, but not so tight I can’t draught the fibres comfortably. Hope this helps!

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How do you dress your distaff? Please do share your methods, and let me know if you’d like me to post your method on my blog for another Sharing Saturday.

You can read about some other distaff dressing methods here.

Video Wednesday- NiddyNoddy’s Medieval Spindle Stick Without a Notch.

This week I bring you the first review of my five new NiddyNoddy Spindles. This was the spindle I tried first but turned out to be my last favourite spindle (of the ones I bought from NiddyNoddy, it is far from being my least favourite spindle I own!). That said, it is still beautifully made and works well. I struggled on it with my 20 micron merino but did better spinning a bit thicker with the coarser wool that came as the packaging. A spindle choice is a very personal thing, and influenced by the spinner, their technique as well as the fibre they’re spinning and the end product they’re creating.  I’ve only spun a short time on this spindle, I’d like to sit down and do a spindle full of fibre then review it at that point also, but that would be some time away, so keep in mind these are my first thoughts with an empty- or almost empty spindle.

A few additional notes and information that I didn’t have for the video:
The wool in the packaging that I spun is Lleyn which is a welsh meat breed.
This spindle weighs 16 g which is a lot heavier than I am used to.

Video ‘Wednesday’- New Spindles!

How many spindles does a medieval lady need?

Answer, five more than she has!

Yes, I ordered a few (ok five) spindles from Niddy Noddy

When I first started spinning I couldn’t find many places selling medieval style spindles or spindle shafts, now I can find a lot. I think there is a lot more opportunity for small sellers to set up shop online these days. Maybe there are more people interested in spinning with appropriate tools at re-enactment events too? Whatever the reason, there are spindles out there that I don’t have and I thought I should change that.

I have a few other spindles on my wish list, but if you see anything you think I should buy… enable me!

One thing I find with my current spindles is that I buy the spindles and whorls separately (though both sellers sell whorls to match their spindles) and many of my whorls don’t fit my spindles as low as I would like.  Nothing wrong with the spindles, they are fantastic, but I do love my whorls too. So I talked to Neil first about my needs and he came up with a few ideas.

I bought two medieval spindle sticks (one with a spiral notch, one without), two medieval style spindle sticks which Neil shaped to my specifications (one with a spiral notch, one without) and a Dealgan just because I wanted to.

I’ve done a series of videos covering each spindle, but the below is just me chatting about the spindles I got and talking about what I got and why and how they fit my whorls.

I tried to upload this yesterday, but the internet was too slow, so I had to finish uploading it today, hence why video ‘Wednesday’ is on Thursday.

Abbey Medieval Festival- Sunday

Things started slow on Sunday morning. While I got to bed at a reasonable hour some of our group got to bed at 4am! It’s not unusual for people to be getting UP at about 4:30am. And no, it wasn’t just the young ones! Lol.
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I had a little more time on Sunday as we didn’t have the tournament and I was feeling a little better.

I managed to visit the 14th century encampment where I took a few videos.
Here is my friend tablet weaving:

The other videos I’m yet to edit, but I took some in the fantastic Historia encampment where they had a lot of artefacts on display. You can see some snippets of these videos in my highlights video here:

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I also had time to watch (and video) my group running the Tournament of Strength and Skill, which I’m still editing the individual videos for but you can see the overview here.

Once again I had my fingerloop and spinning demos.

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I was also really happy to see my first ever medieval dress worn again. This dress is about 13 years old and still has a lot of life left in it:

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Actually, a few of my dresses were worn by people other than me. The tally over the weekend also included:

My green and gold silk cioppa (you may have spotted it on my friend in the first photo of this post.
My gold silk sleeves
My green sleeves
My jaffa dress (orange gironea)
and
My pink wool kirtle

I have a friend who has borrowed my brown giornea for the past few events but she had a new kirtle of her own for this event

I was really planning on doing some videos of me spinning, but unfortunately I was too sick on Thursday and Friday (also it was raining on Friday) to get them done. At my demo on Sunday I did manage to give and film an impromptu spinning lesson.

Now things are finally settling down from Abbey. Taking the shop is a lot of work. I had the event itself off from helping on the shop, but am still involved of course in the pre and post work which is significant.  But I hope really truly to do some more videos soon. My husband bought me a bunch of spindles from a new (to me) shop so I hope to do a video review of each of them.