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Three children *** One big, grey dog *** Two parents *** Country loving *** Cottage dwelling in the South-West of the UK. That’s us!

We’ve been blogging since January 2010.

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Debs Random Writings

history crafting

Crafting in History

dyed skeins

Yesterday, we headed into Bristol to the M Shed. I’d spotted in the Primary Times magazine that they had a medieval craft exhibition. History and craft rolled into one sounded like a good event.

medieval spinning

They had spinning, weaving and dyeing exhibits. There was a room where children could have a medieval hair do, dress up and have a photo taken sitting on a throne.  Another room for making medieval themed crafts. Each of these rooms had queues, so we opted out.

medieval dye

I really wanted to see the craft exhibits.


I was struck that all the objects were very familiar to me. I spin and knit, so we do have spinning paraphernalia in the house. The carding brushes, the niddy-noddies (I love that name!) and the drop spindles (above), for example, are objects that my children recognize. AJ even has a knitting fork and a cord maker like the ones in the photo below.medieval weaving

Producing yarn is now mechanised to meet the demand of our consumer-hungry society, but for the home crafter, the tools stay pretty much the same. If I want to convert a sheep’s fleece into yarn, I use the same tools. Admittedly, I’d opt to use my spinning wheel, which, from what I read, was more common in the late medieval period, but there are plenty of people who use drop spindles.

medieval finished products

I would have liked to stay longer and find out more about the dyeing process. The colours were amazing. My fingers were itching to make something with all the fabulous fibre.

spun silk

The children were keen to head off and see the rest of the M shed exhibitions. Turns out that climbing onto the double decker bus was more of a draw to them. Not something that we have at home!

Before leaving, we stopped at the medieval music stand. Along with pipes and fiddles, they had a lap harp. AJ, our harpist, had a go. Instead of using your finger tips, you pluck the metal strings with your finger nails. She said that it felt awkward.

medieval harp

While we were in Bristol, the children were keen to see their Morphs at Aardman Animations. They were thrilled to find them by the door. Ready to greet everyone.

finding morphs

The M Shed exhibition was free, as is most of the M Shed. They do suggest a £2 donation.

Sharing. Good idea.

“Oar-some” model boat


This is a Viking long boat that AJ made for her homework this week. We picked up the instructions and templates here. At 10 years old, she was able to follow the instructions and do it pretty much by herself.

I sometimes think it is tough on my children as everyone wants to join in with this type of project. The other two children stood around dropping big hints that they wanted to make one. The parents hung around and wanted to suggest modifications, but the project had to be hers. She did allow us to make some suggestions. (I did help with some of the cutting out. I think it was to keep me from interfering anymore.)

We suggested using a fabric sail and wooden skewers for the sail, so that the sail could be lowered and pulled up again.

We had read that the Vikings may have had an advantage at sea as they understood how to make good use of their sail.

She added a straw with tissue paper, so that it works the same way as our fire breathing dragons. I’m pretty sure I’ve read that their boats were decorated to scare the locals and a fire breathing sea dragon would fit the bill. Imagine the sight of such a beast approaching your coastal village from the sea. Maybe at night. I’d run!

She fixed the shields on with metal split pins. Holds them secure, as well as adding embellishment to the shields. All the shields have the names of the owners written in runes on the front. Very sensible. I picked up some wood effect scrapbook paper, which she cut into planks and glued on the boat.

Also added six wooden skewer oars on each side and burlap sacks, which either hold supplies or their ill gotten loot. This is a battle ship, which is why it is low at the sides and open.


I grabbed a few photos before she whisked it off to school this morning. Not bad for an eleventh hour build…. inspiration is always more sharp at that hour I find. Good job too!

I’ve promised the others that they can make one too or something of their choice this half term, which starts in just a few hours. Glue stick to the ready! And yes, we have made lots of “Oar-some” jokes about it. Not sure we’ll have another chance.

(AJ has written a bit more about how she made her boat on her blog. Read it here. )


Sharing. Good idea.

Castle jumper is finished

The castle jumper has taken much longer to knit than I planned, so I hope you will forgive me for including lots of photos.

“Oh, its got a castle on the front.”

He likes it. Even donning it on a hot day, so that I could take some photos.

“I am a knight of the round table.”

Oh the energy of a four year old.  Even the faithful hound was curious.

“Take that.”

See, he has already slayed one of his sisters. Any excuse really. She is so good to play along.

But all knights have their softer side.

Every knight needs a loyal hound.

See how he places the paw gently to the ground.

Paw up again. Surely not begging!

But this knight’s hound has a job to do.

Who else would a knight trust with his armour and shield?

The jumper is finished and been enthusiastically received. Could he be St George, ready to take on the nextt dragon to wander haplessly into the garden? Nothing like dressing up.

I’ve learnt loads on this project and there are parts that I would have done differently. Not bad for a project that I made up as I went along!

So, if you happen to be in any English Heritage site this summer and spot a small knight in a familiar jumper, please come over and say hello. You won’t be able to miss him. Truly one of a kind!

Please note: No sisters were really harmed during the taking of these photos.
When I wasn’t looking – maybe!

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Sharing. Good idea.


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