Tag Archiv: spinning wheel

SPINNING, WEAVING, AND FULLING (This is the House)

Mrs. Warden taught Molly the household arts of cloth production. The colonists had become proficient at this long before the Revolution because trade was so restricted. As I understand it, cloth production was actually against the law, because you were supposed to buy everything from England. But the supply wasn’t always at the ready, nor was there money with which to purchase anything, (colonists had to use the barter system because England didn’t want them to have coinage, which might contribute to their functioning independently.) So spinning did take place, thus weaving happened, too.

Now, weaving is an ancient art and traditionally had been accomplished by men, members of a guild. But with cloth scarce, looms somehow became available and  began to appear in the keeping room where yarn produced by the Goodwife was ready to be woven. Wool was the material of choice, or flax, which could be grown almost anywhere. (I don’t think much cotton was actually grown in the south, because the Virginia planters were wealthy enough to buy their cloth and until Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin, it wasn’t worth trying to process it except in very small batches.) As far as I know, it didn’t grow in the north at all and wasn’t worth buying in order to spin, because of the difficulty in getting it ready for the wheel. So wool was the material of choice.

Mrs. Warden spinning wheel
According to Wikipedia, numerous types of spinning wheels exist, including the great wheel also known as walking wheel or wool wheel for rapid long draw spinning of woolen-spun yarns; the flax wheel, which is a double-drive wheel used with a distaff for spinning linen. We, of course, are interested in the Great Wheel, because that’s the kind Molly was taught to use.

colonial loom

It was kept in the attic, and the loom she was taught to use was most likely stored there, too, able to be reassembled when the need arose, as it did when Molly had finally accumulated enough yarn to weave.The loom, as you see, is large. My mother-in-law had one, and I can remember being in awe of it. The keeping room must have been pretty crowded when everyone was snowed in and Mrs. Warden, Molly and Isaac all hung out by its fire together! No wonder he could watch her without his mother knowing.

Then there is fulling, which is pretty clearly described in chapter 3. At the mill itself, a wheel on the same shaft as the waterwheel had projecting cams which lifted heavy wooden hammers. These hammers or fulling stocks fell on to the cloth placed in a trough with water and the cleansing agent.

fullingmillfullingmill2

That’s all I need to know, and it’s probably more than you, the reader, ever needed to know! There was, of course, the problem of sharing the flow of water with the grist mill, but that whole issue is discussed sufficiently, I think, in chapter 3 also.

Of course, there’s no need to discuss what happened once Molly had finished her weaving and her cloth was ready to be fulled and Isaac took her to the mill…