“Did they have sewing needles in the Middle Ages?” Absolutely! The first sewing needles were made from thorns or animal quills. Later needles were made from bone. The oldest known bone needle is estimated to be about 25,000 years old and was found in France. Copper and bronze were used to make needles in ancient Egypt and one dating back to the 3rd Century B.C. was found in Germany. With the advent of the Iron Age, the Romans made needles of iron. All these materials were available to people of Northern Europe in 1226, the date of the Ozark Medieval Fortress. Like today, however, the quality of the tools a person has depends upon how rich he is. In the Middle Ages, the wealthy had metal needles and the peasants had thorn or bone needles. Native Americans used porcupine quills and bone needles. By the time of colonial America, needles were metal and highly valued.
Bone needles are hard to make. I wanted to have some authentic needles and, in the Ozarks, the locust tree is a great supply of thorns. My grandson, Christian, helped me harvest thorns, drill eyes, and hone any rough spots on the needles. This proved to be a practical way to make needles. Of course, as is the case with the bone needles, they are fragile and most fabric needs to be pre-pierced with holes using an awl before stitching.
At the Ozark Medieval Fortress, our Good Wife has bone needles made for her by a good friend and extremely valued by her. Nevertheless, she enthusiastically passes them around to guests on the tour for personal examination. Look for them at the Wool Cottage, a recommended stop for any visitor to the castle.