Textile crafts

Within the Garrison, you will have the opportunity to learn a variety of medieval textile crafts from throughout western Europe. You can then use the skills you gain to demonstrate these crafts to the public at our summer shows and museum open days. We have members who can teach you the following crafts.


Distaff spinning

Two members spinning using distaffs at the Newport Ship Centre.

This form of hand-spinning is the traditional form used in Europe up until the 18th Century. A long stick (the distaff) is used to hold the combed or carded fibres neatly and drafting occurs between distaff and the non-dominant hand. It is a very easy, high-production method of hand-spinning and rather addictive – enough so that we founded the Evangelical Church of Distaff Spinning and are busy spreading the word to re-enactors and spinners around the world.


A pair of naalbound mittens, produced by one of our members.

Naalbinding is a technique which pre-dates knitting by several millenia. Within the 14th Century, it was predominantly practiced in Scandinavia. There are a number of stitches you can learn and all of them make robust, hard-wearing yet snuggly woollens for winter wear. Perfect for both medieval and non-medieval crafting!

Fingerloop Braiding

Three of our members work on a complex fingerloop braid.

This braiding technique is known from archaeological examples and from three surviving late medieval and early modern instruction manuals. By using ‘bowes’ (loops) instead of loose ends, complex braids with numerous strands can be made with comparative ease. Even more complex ones, using dozens of strands, can be made using up to four people working together. It’s a little like a cross between braiding and cat’s cradle, but lots of fun!

Sewing and Dressmaking

Hemming a veil.

Many of our members make their own 14th Century clothing, often hand-sewing everything. Each item of clothing is based on simple geometric designs which are then draped to fit. There are a number of archaeological textiles which you can use as inspiration to learn more about authentic sewing techniques. Reproduction tools are easily purchased, for those wishing to experiment.


An example of laid-and-couched work, produced by one of our members.

There are several embroidery techniques that were in use during the 14th Century which you can learn. These include laid-and-couched work (as made famous by the Bayeux Tapestry), Opus Anglicanum (a form of silk shading combined with goldwork backgrounds, which the English were internationally famous for), Westphalian brick stitch (a counted form of embroidery from Germany), Opus Teutonicum (a form of whitework embroidery particular to Germany), applique and intarsia. So, you have lots of scope for creating beautiful pieces of work.

Tablet Weaving

Using tablets to create a simple band.

This form of weaving uses small punched cards (called ‘tablets’). Each warp thread is placed through a hole in a tablet and therefore turning the tablets creates a shed for the weft to pass through. It is an adaptable technique which can be carried out on a small loom or woven ‘back strap’ (i.e. by simply tying the warp threads to a fixed point). It’s easy to pick up the basics and get weaving.

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