Tutorial: A 14th Century hair and veil style

A popular fourteenth-century veil style is to have a pair of plaits framing your face which are visible under your veil.

Follow our tutorial to recreate it.

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Guide: Medieval camp cooking

Cardiff Castle Garrison provides an authentic hot lunch cooked in our living history camp at many of our shows. For anyone interested in trying their hand at cooking for the group, or those who’d like to know a bit more about cooking authentically in camp, read on!


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Guide: Modern foods unavailable in 14th Century Britain

Following on from our camp cooking guide, here is a list of common modern foods which were unavailable in fourteenth-century Britain. This list is by no means comprehensive, but is intended to cover most of the basics.


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Show report: Newport Ship Open Day – October 2016

Cardiff Castle Garrison were thrilled to return to the Newport Ship for another Open Day. The charity are continuing to preserve the 15th Century timbers of the ship found in the River Usk in 2002, and hope to finish this process over the next year. They then plan to display the ship in a purpose-built museum.

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Show report: Caldicot Castle Medieval Weekend – 17th & 18th September

We enjoyed attending the medieval festival at Caldicot Castle on Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th September.

This event was a multi society event with members of the Early Medieval Alliance, The Vikings, Historia Normannis, falconry displays, fashion shows and the historic jousting group Destrier in attendance.

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Show report: Bank holiday at Caerphilly Castle – 28th & 29th August

Garrison had a lovely time this August bank holiday with a show at the thirteenth-century Caerphilly Castle.

Craft, clothing, cooking, weapons and armour displays were provided for the public.

Please check out our photos below, and thanks to everyone who came and made it such a fun event!

Show report: Grand Medieval Melee at Cardiff Castle – 13th & 14th August

Another old favourite this weekend at Cardiff Castle’s Grand Medieval Melee: a show Garrison have been attending for many years. As usual, we had a wonderful time demonstrating crafts, clothing, arms and armour, and even had authentic music provided by one of our members. Have-A-Go archery was also a great hit with the public. Thanks so much to everyone who came along and made it such a special show for us.

NB: Garrison are going to be super-busy over the next couple of weeks. Please drop in and see us at the Newport Ship Open Day on 20th August, or at Caerphilly Castle on 28th and 29th August. See our event page for more detail.

Show report: Big Cheese at Caerphilly Castle – 30th & 31st July

It was another amazing year greeting the thousands of visitors who came to Caerphilly’s Big Cheese at the end of July.

The event is a long-running cultural celebration set in and around Caerphilly Castle, and featuring large numbers of traders, street entertainers, falconry and a traditional fun fair.

We provided have-a-go archery for members of the public, and craft, arms and armour and cooking displays.

See our pictures below:


Show report: Joust! at Cardiff Castle – 17-19th June

We had a terrific time again at one of our favourites events – Joust! at Cardiff Castle.

The Garrison provided a full living history camp, with displays of fourteenth-century crafts, cookery and weapons and armour.

Check out our gallery for some lovely shots of our weekend (thanks so much Andrew Forster!).

Sewing workshop with Christine Carnie, The Sempster

Members of Cardiff Castle Garrison set up and attended a sewing workshop by Christine Carnie, aka ‘The Sempster’, one of the UK’s leading experts in making historical clothing using period techniques. The workshop was both fun and extremely valuable, with everyone who attended coming away with a great deal of  information on authentic stitching techniques, and how and when to use them. Take a look at our day and some of the things we learned…


Authentic stitches

Unfortunately, there are few surviving seams in the extant garments that we have, due to several factors, including decay and in some cases bad treatment from archaeologists. There are, however, some details that have been  deduced from what exists:

  • It was likely that seams were often stitched in linen thread, due to the fact that wool usually survives where linen does not and seams are not present where the wool garments are preserved. There is, however, also evidence for seams sewn with woollen and silk thread.
  • Stitches are usually tiny, to the point that they are hard or impossible to see, with stitch lengths of around 2 mm each, placed 2 mm apart. This is a good stitch length to aim form when sewing medieval garments, even if it does take some practice to achieve.
  • When hand-sewing, it is common for re-enactors to sew most of their seams using backstitch, and then flat-fell the seam allowance afterwards. While this can be effective, backstitched seams are not as common in the medieval period, and there are many different examples of seam-sewing methods which vary depending on the fabric used.

Christine was kind enough to show us a wide variety of examples based on historical finds which are appropriate for a variety of fabric types. Two very useful types are featured here:

A Seam For Wool

A simple and authentic seam used for attaching two pieces of woollen fabric: a running-stitched seam with both seam allowances then whip-stitched to the underlying fabric.


Christine pointed out that in her experience most 14th Century garments will hold very nicely using this technique, and that using backstitch to join the stitches often holds the seam too tightly which can lead to the fabric tearing when it’s placed under strain, rather than the stitching. Using running stitch is also more time and thread efficient.

Note: If you are using wool pulled from the fabric as thread, remember that this works perfectly on wool that has been woven with a higher-twist thread, but most soft wools nowadays are woven with a very fluffy thread, which will break easily, and a felted wool will make it very difficult to pull out a thread. If you have a non-fulled fabric, it should work very well.

A Linen Seam

Authentic seam suitable for joining two pieces of linen: a seam sewn with running stitch, then the seam allowances folded together and whip stitched down.


This seam is particularly helpful for making underwear as in the fourteenth century there is usually little strain on underwear seams, and it binds the fraying-prone linen fabric edges in nicely.


Buttons and buttonholes

Buttons were all the rage in the fourteenth century, and Christine showed us a helpful method for producing both buttons and buttonholes. Check out her video here to see the construction technique…



Christine’s workshop was an extremely valuable experience for those who attended it, and Christine and her work come thoroughly recommended by the Garrison.

Christine Carnie – The Sempster

Christine is available for talks and courses on historical clothing and dressmaking, and also accepts commissions for historical clothing. Her Facebook page has some wonderful pictures and videos of the techniques featured in this article, along with many more examples from across history.

She focusses on the mid-13th to early 17th century clothing of common people, and makes all of her garments herself.