Once upon a time every thead in every cloth (clothing, linens, even the sails on ships) had to be spun by hand. Even though the spinning wheel had been introduced to Europe by the 15th century handspinning was still prized and considered superior. Indeed, many mandates dictated that the warp thread in cloth must be spun by hand to ensure a strong cloth.

Le_Roman_de_la_RoseMade_for_Louise_of_Savoy(OXF,_Bodleian,_MS._Douce_195)French,_late_15th_century_1 pinterest.com

Throughout history and around the world there have been many forms of handspinning but they can be divided up into three main types:
Suspended spinning, where the spindle dangles from the thread it forms
Supported spinning, where the spindle rests against a surface
Grasped spinning, where the spindle remains largely in the hand of a spinner.

We cannot visit the 15th century and there are no directions from the time to explain how to spin, so it is up to practical experementation based on pictures from the 15th century and study modern spinning techniques which appear similar to figure out the spinning techniques of the 15th century.

Grasped spinning is still seen in many parts of Europe where old traditions have not yet died out. Pictorial evidence suggests that spinning in the 15th century was either a form of grasped or a mixture of grasped and suspended spinning. Pictorial evidence alone only tells us so much, so if you’d like to read more about my experimentation in re-discovering the technique then please head over to my blog 15th century spinning or take a look at my pinterest board.
Follow the links below to learn more about spinning in the 15th century.



How to spin 15th century style

What is this “drop spindle” I hear about?

The research behind the method

One thought on “Spinning

  1. Hi Cathelina,
    I’m wondering whether you have seen any difference in how spindles are held for spinning linen and wool, and what the function of the whorl would be in handheld spinning – maybe we can compare notes?

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