I’m tangentially involved in the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA), which does medieval stuff (through 1600AD). I want to get into Arts & Sciences (ArtSci) competitions, where people make things the way they would have been made back in Ye Olden Times. You document each step of the process, saying why you did a thing a certain way, and cite your sources for that information. (“I spun the yarn in this manner because they found yarn like it in this particular grave site,” that kind of thing.)

I thought it would be pretty simple to recreate a Tudor-period knitted item. I mean, there’s a book of Tudor knitting and sewing patterns out there, recreated by archaeologists. (It’s called The Tudor Tailor. I was lucky enough to borrow a copy, as it’s not in print in the US right now.) I knew from SCA research I’ve seen that early knitting was done with very fine yarn, so I spun some up and knit a sample piece.

I knew people used the equivalent of size 0003 knitting needles. My yarn works perfectly for these needles. I got 12 stitches per inch, and 16 rows per inch. Perfect size for things like stockings and sleeves. (In the Tudor period, sleeves were often detachable.) I have a sleeve pattern from The Tudor Tailor, too. So I’m all set, right?

Except that I misunderstood something. I had read they used two-ply yarn for knitting, and really they just held two single-ply yarns together. Argh. So that’s a point against me, because I made a two-ply. I guess I could make more and not ply it, but I wanted to be done with that part already.

Also, I’m confused about yarn thicknesses for other items. Apparently yarns for hats were thicker? Which makes sense, especially since they were fulled after knitting. I wish I could check the Tailor book again, but I only had my hands on it for a small amount of time. And I can’t afford to spend $80 on it.

I will be spinning more yarn for an SCA weaving project though. But that’ll require more research. I know very little about the late medieval period. To me the clothes from that time were ridiculously fussy, so I’ve never studied them. But I’ve done enough handspinning (using the technique and equipment used back then, called “spinning in-hand”) to know I don’t want to do enough for a knitting or weaving project that way. I want to use my spinning wheel. Which means I have to stick to the later period.

That isn’t such a bad thing. They made some cool fabrics at that time. And I don’t plan to sew anything fancy, or spin/weave/knit enough for adult size garments. I don’t want to wear what I make, just show it in competitions.

Anyway, I need to get some books on late period fabrics. Suggestions welcome.


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