Friday, 11 March 2011

Weaving in the Medieval Times

Last Saturday, courtesy of Chelsea College of Art and Design, I found my way to that brilliant museum, the Museum of London.  As a child, I used to visit the museum when in was housed in Kensington Palace and I can honestly say seeing Queen Victoria's wedding dress was an inspiring moment for me.  It was so beautiful.  The historic dress collections in the Museum of London and the V & A have had a profound affect on me.  I wouldn't be doing what I do today if it hadn't been for my regular FREE visits to those institutions.

Back to last Saturday and my attendance of the The Medieval Dress Society Conference.  As per usual  I had to rush to get there as the bloody Jubilee line wasn't working however, I did arrive in enough time to hear Professor Gale Owen Crocker from the University of Manchester talking about continuity and change of Medieval textile production.  Fascinating and it really did fill in some very necessary gaps about weaving and spinning.  By the 15th century the English textile manufacturing industry (run by men) was making a lot of money and we all know what money buys .....power.   The wool industry was highly profitable .   There was a huge army of spinners but good cloth cannot be made without good yarn.  Fibre selection and preparation influences the character of the yarn.  The way the wool is stored can also affect the yarn.   Processing such as plying or washing affects the appearance of the yarn.

In the coffee break there were several live demonstrations and this photo shows the wool being pulled before it would be spun.

There are two type of woollen cloth.  There is worsted and broad cloth.  For worsted the the cloth is combed so the fibres are running in a straight line.  Worsted is a tough strong wool cloth and with broad cloth the fibres and carded to go in different directions producing yarn which then will make a soft light fluffy cloth.  Flax, which makes linen, of course, is best spun when wet (traditionally with spit).  The spinning wheel demonstration was fascinating.  It was a new experience for me as many of the demonstrators were Medieval re-enactors!

Here wool is being combed to then be spun to make worsted.  Additionally, all the lanolin from the has to be washed off before the wool is combed.  Oil is then reintroduced back into the wool before it is spun

Just a lovely picture of an late Medieval woman at her spinning wheel. Sorry no idea what her name is I just snapped the pic 
on my phone before we were ushered back in for the next 
round of lectures.

What other interesting news for this week? Well, on my way
home from the lecture I was given a free book. On Willesden 
High Road, I was handed a lovely new book as part of World 
Book Night. I can't tell you how delighted I was. Funny how good it made me feel, being handed a crisp new book. So all 
my academic reading is on hold while I read "Love in the Time of Cholera" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

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