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.


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.


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.



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.





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




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


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


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


And some friends the dropped by:


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.


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.


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- 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.

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.

New Loom!

So my young man (who is very attentive and observant) thought up a wonderful surprise for my Christmas present, only he is a)bad at keeping surprise secret and b) didn’t want to get the wrong sort. So he told me he wanted to get me a new “weaving thing to do my looming on”

My little spears loom has been ok for working out the basics and getting a hang of things but already I’m wanting to use double heddles which is do-able but tricky when they’re the wrong length and have nowhere to actually sit.

I’ve chosen an ashford knitter’s loom in the 50 cm width mainly because of the ease of getting it (buying something available locally means cheaper postage) and the versatile width, not too wide but wide enough for most uses.



Well I’ve read about a few people trying out the spear’s weaving look size 4 as a cheap but still useful loom. I’ve been keeping an eye out for a good six months for one and bid on a fe. Often I see the prices going over $100 which is a lot of money for an old child’s toy. If I was going to spend that much I might as well save up and get a new loom such as an Ashford rigid heddle.

But the other day I was on ebay and saw one for sale! It only had 55 minutes to go and was still at a low price. It was also located in Australia which is good because postage for this loom from overseas (where I often see them being sold from) can be very, very expensive. Well, I waited until the last-minute to put my bid on it, placed my bid and my internet went down! NOOOO! Then when my internet came back up I saw the bid had gone through just in time and I’d won! Yay. Cost me around $30. Not bad! And if I hate it there is good resale value on these things.

It arrived today and I’ve sat down and am warping it up with some wool I have lying around just to give it a try.



When the Fibre Stash Turns into Thread, What Then?

I figure that if I spin for long enough that my stash of fibre is going to turn into a stash of thread. What to do with said thread? Well, I figure I can weave it into something. I don’t own a loom of course… Looking at looms I keep coming across the ashford rigid heddle looms.

These appeal for three reasons. One is cost, at around $200 they’re 1/3 or half the price of a small floor or table loom. Second is size, theyre pretty small and I don’t have much room to store it or to weave with it. The third is width, they come in a variety of widths so I can choose the width I think I’ll need.

But what to make? I’ve thought of a few things.

Tea towels never go astray at an event, especially when it’s raining as we usually hang them over the rope around our fire to dry (we need to rope off our fire for safety reasons. Sad, but true. The amount of parents that tell their children “Oh yes little Johnny, you can touch that, that’s not real fire, that would be too dangerous for them to have real fire” is… lets just say the number is too high.  We want to teach the public about what it was like to live back then but we’d rather do it without burning kid’s hands.) and when it’s raining they just stay wet so we’ve learnt to take a big stash of them in the first place.

A table runner is another thing I could make. That’s a lot longer than a tea towel but doesn’t need to be any wider, unlike an actual table cloth.

I was also thinking a partlet, which is similar to a modern dicky. It’s a piece of fabric that goes over your chest and can keep the sun off and help keep you warm when it’s cold. These are both good things. BUT for my persona I should have a beautiful fine one and any fabric I make… well, I don’t think it’s going to be too beautiful. I just like the idea of a partlet because it is so visible. What? I can’t be a teeny bit vain?

There’s a lot of things to think about and choose from, but at least I’ve got a long time to do it! At least as long as it takes for me to spin enough thread to make something at any rate!