Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Time to Spin You a Yarn.

Sherry over on Conservatively Bohemian is, amongst many other things, a weaver. She said that she thought that she might try her hand with a spinning wheel. I replied that I had made a working spinning wheel, but it had never been used.


Here it is. I said to her that I would do a post about the parts of a spinning wheel,  as they fascinate me. But first let me set the scene.

In Britain an old fashioned name for an unmarried woman was, Spinster. They reckon that years ago these women were usually quite young and would stay at home to look after the children.  They also did the spinning. They would sit spinning the yarn on the wheel, as they 'spun yarns' (told stories) to the children. 

When she married the spinster would change her family (maiden) name to her husband's family name. However, another name for 'maiden-name' was 'Distaff'. At the top of the spinning wheel is a post called the Distaff.

The Distaff

Just below it, but hard to see from this angle is, the 'Mother-of-all' it is a thick horizontal cylinder of mahogany  (you can see the end of it on the extreme right). From it project the  two 'maidens' which between them hold the 'spinner.' 



The Mother-of-all, Maidens and Spinner.
This all sounds a little sexist ... so let me introduce some fellows, to bring some equality into the story. If you look back at the first picture, you may see that I made the actual wheel part from joining 8 pieces of wood - see how the grain varies? Well these are the 8 'Felloes' (pronounced the same as Fellows). But that is not all the males have to do, for, joining the foot treadle to the brass piece at the centre of the wheel, is, 'The Footman'.




The Footman
If you look back at the first picture you can see that the footman passes though a slot I cut in the 'stand' and is attached to the treadle by leather thongs!

Hope you didn't find this too boring.

29 comments:

  1. The spinning wheel is ,for me,a very charming object!
    I have often seen the spinners in action, when there are exhibitions on ancient crafts.
    They are sometimes also young people who have a surprising dexterity! When fabrics was spun, woven and dyed with their own hands, we understand why textiles were used endlessly, turned, patched, transformed into patchwork and quilting!
    The linguistic side of the post is truly amazing!
    John, you're really a craftsman of great skill with wood!

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    1. Ciao, Rita. I'm so glad you enjoyed the post

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  2. A very well written article John, well crafted as is the spinning wheel.

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  3. A very entertaining piece John. I am glad though that you added some male terms, for I was thinking spinning yarn was really quite sexist--except it occurred to me that males made these things for the spinsters the same as you did oh so beautifully. Does Pat spin? :-)

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    1. Hi Linda, thanks for the comments. No Pat doesn't spin, but she wanted a spinning wheel to complete a Country Kitchen look!

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  4. I think its fascinating to see someone work these amazing machines. I admire Sherry for working it...I know I wouldn't have the patience! I thought this post was interesting, John!!

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  5. I find it most interesting, and your spinning wheel is a beauty!

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  6. No not boring, that is an interesting 'yarn you spun'!

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    1. Quite appropriate with your logo, Judy! :0)

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  7. I can't believe you made this, John! It is beautiful and you've taught me a few things indeed. Funnily enough, I was just looking at spinning wheels online yesterday. They are so expensive so buying one is not in the cards for me right now. But for once I'm going to be wise and take a class before I even think of purchasing one. It takes me so long to dress the loom for weaving that I fear I wasted money in buying the loom. I also have a tapestry loom that I've not even attempted to use yet, though admittedly, I'm close to getting ready to give it a go since my art/drawing/painting seems to have dried up. I just can't justify it since I have a half dressed loom that needs me to finish the throw I've started on it.

    Life is too short and I'm too tired! LOL

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    1. You are so fortunate to be multi-talented, Sherry. You can move from one thing to another as the mood takes you. Yes looms can take so long to dress. Instead of 'individual reels' for each thread, we used a warping beam that needed a fork-lift truck to move, and it took 2 people, 2 or 3 days to dress it ... but it was worth the effort to mass produce items.

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  8. Is there anything that you don't know John? I'm going to start nick-naming you 'John Wikpedia Simlett'!!
    I didn't find it boring at all - quite the opposite! But if she (the Spinster) was unmarried, who's children would she be looking after? I thought that being unmarried with children in those days was frowned upon? ;0)

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  9. (chuckle) If you make something you have to know the names of the parts :0)

    Think of the children as being her brothers and sisters, and everyone else is out working. It is doubtful if family, as we know it, existed before 1800.

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  10. I see you are an artist at wood working as well as with pen and ink! And such a fascinating explanation of the intricate parts of the spinning wheel - who would have thought?! My dad loved working with wood and,in addition to making motor boats and furniture, he made each of his (four) daughters a grandmother's clock as a wedding gift. Mine is cherry with a hand painted face and is my most cherished possession!

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    1. Antithetically ... I could, perhaps, argue that I am an artisan, in both wood and pen & ink, and not really an 'artist'. Your dad sounds a man I would have got on with really well. The Grandmother clock story, brings a lump to my throat, thanks for sharing.

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  11. You can "spin your yarns" (sorry, couldn't resist) as long as you want. I love reading your stories. I think you are as talented with words as you are with the pen and now I have to add carpentry to the list. Quite amazing.

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    1. Glad you liked it, Julie. For a man of few (spoken) words, I prefer writing to talking ... most of the time :0)

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  12. Hi John, I was not surprised by this interesting post, I do not know why, but I had the feeling that you are a man that, besides creating magnificent paintings, are also able to make things like this beautiful spinning wheel. This post is not boring at all! Ciao.

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  13. Glad you liked it, Tito. May I say that your English is perfect!

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  14. Not at all boring, but fascinating! I never knew there was such history behind it! Thank you so much for telling xx

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    1. I'm really glad you found it interesting, Pat - thank you

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  15. Not in the least boring....so interesting! I know one thing, growing up when I did, NONE of us wanted to be spinsters (and yes, that is the term that was used along with "old maid"). I remember when I got married being so relieved that I would never be referred to as a spinster (a fate worse than death where I grew up! lol!) Your spinning wheel is just gorgeous...you are such a talented man!

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  16. Yes spinster was just as unpopular over here - Bachelor-girl, on the other hand, became very trendy!

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  17. Wonderful handiwork! I am impressed. It sounds like a whole village resides in each wheel. Fascinating - I never knew that about spinning wheels.

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    1. Thanks Dan. It started off as a project in wood and became a cultural revelation in the process!

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  18. You MADE a spinning wheel!!? I am not surprised, for you are the king of detailed work... but I am still impressed beyond adequate expression. Very amazing!

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    1. Wood and Metal are the basics of me! The art came later!
      Thanks for the kind comments, Minnemie

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