Winter Tea Party winners: Angela's book,THE SCARLET COAT, will go to: Print copy- Andrea Stephens; e-book copy - Catherine Wight!

LUCY REYNOLDS has a table topper quilt on the way, and winners of the Valentine Ebook Collection are: Deanna Stevens, Caryl Kane, Anne Payne and Winnie Thomas. With thanks to all who joined in!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Spinning on a Great Wheel

Great Wheel beside a modern treadle wheel
A couple of months ago I shared the story of finding and restoring a Great Wheel. Similar Great Wheels existed from medieval times. The American Colonists revived them when England started its shenanigans with the Wool Act of 1699, and it became patriotic to produce and wear only their own cloth right up through the Revolution and beyond.

The Great Wheel I bought had no lacquer, shellac, or vanish on it. It had been stained and most likely oiled to preserve the wood. According to my research, that dates it pre-1850s. He's an old one, but he spins the same today as he did more than 165 years ago. 

Most people mistakenly think the wheel does the spinning, but it doesn't. The actual spinning of fibers into thread or yarn happens in the spinner's hands. The wheel does only two things; it creates the twist, and it stores the spun fibers. 

As the drive band runs around the large wheel, it also turns the small spindle. Yarn, attached to the spindle, is twisted. That twist runs up the length of yarn and begins to twist with the unspun fibers in the spinner's hands. The spinner controls how much fiber is gathered into the twist before drawing it out into a continuous thread. 

Sound complicated? It's not. It just takes practice. In this age of digital everything, spinning is so basic and simple, it's almost hard to grasp. 
Dark llama fibers being spun on the Great Wheel

Once the spinner has drawn out a comfortable arm's length of thread, it is wound onto the quill or bobbin (depending on the style of the spinning wheel) and stored there while the spinner continues to draw out more thread. The process is repeated over and over again in a soothing pattern of back and forth.

On the Great Wheel, the spinner turns the large wheel with one hand, while holding the unspun fibers in the other. With a treadle wheel, the spinner has both hands free to work the fibers while their foot - or feet for a double-treadle wheel - turns the wheel.

Once the spinner has filled two quills or bobbins, those threads will be twisted together in the opposite direction to make a 2-ply yarn. Most fibers are spun clockwise and plied counter-clockwise. The 2-ply yarn is then washed, dyed if color is desired, hung to dry, and then it's ready to be woven or knitted into useful items for the spinner's household.



PeggThomas.com

Debut story will release in April 2017 from Barbour

20 comments:

  1. So interesting to hear about the history...You can watch someone spin at Green Field Village in Dearborn Michigan. I also met a lady who spun yarn and silk together from her Alpaca farm...She sold it by the hank at the sewing expo in Novi....It really is a lost art now

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    1. I remember watching a spinner when I visited Green Field Village about ... oh ... 42 years ago! Yikes! Just typing that makes me feel old. ;) But spinning really isn't a lost art anymore. It's had a huge uptick in popularity since the late 1980s. Do a google search for a spinning guild in your area. You might be surprised!

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  2. That is really cool, Pegg! So glad you found your spinning wheel. Thanks for sharing this interesting post!

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  3. Interesting post Peggy. I find it fascinating the way the spinning wheel works.
    Blessings, Tina

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    1. They are ingenious machines in their simplicity and efficiency.

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  4. Replies
    1. You're welcome. Always happy to share something about my favorite craft.

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  5. Nice to read about things you know longer rarely think about. How times have changed! Love anything historical.

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    1. Quite different from buying clothes at WalMart, that's for sure!

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  6. I followed until the 2-ply in opposite directions, then I got lost. Very interesting. Thank you.
    Looking forward to The Pony Express Romance Collection!
    Kathleen ~ Lane Hill House

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    1. Most yarn used is made of multiple plies - or singles - of yarn. Yarn is typically spun by turning the wheel clockwise, which twist the singles all in the same direction. If knitting with these singles of yarn, the fabric would bias in the opposite direction of the twist. But by plying two or more singles together - in the opposite direct with the wheel spun counter-clockwise - the twist in the yarn is balanced by the twist of the plying. Therefore, the knitted garment will hang straight, with no bias. Not sure if that makes any more sense or not. It's easier to see than to explain.

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  7. Very interesting post. Thank you
    Marion

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    1. You're welcome. Thanks for stopping by.

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  8. Pegg, You are amazing! lol ~ I will have to put my order in for a tea cozie. Kathleen ~ Lane Hill House

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    1. Ha! Thanks. Not sure how amazing I am, but I can manage some fibers in my hand, anyway. :)

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  9. I always think of Rumplestiltskin when I see a Great Wheel! That's so cool that you have such a neat piece of history.
    jennydipton at gmail dot com

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    1. Sleeping Beauty too, she pricked her finger on the spindle. Thankfully, my spindle isn't *that* sharp. ;)

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  10. Imagine my surprise when I walked into our small town library. One of the meeting rooms had about 6 ladies spinning. Some had old fashioned wheels and some modern!

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    1. How fun! We have a local group who occasionally spin at the library too.

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