Spinning Wool into Yarn

Spinning Wool into Yarn


– The other fiber being processed at Mount Vernon was wool. After the sheep were shorn, the fleeces were carried to the Wash House on the South Lane of the
main mansion house estate. Here they were skirted and cleaned. Skirting involved trimming
away the dirtiest part of the fleece from the belly
and backside of the sheep. Wool that had been cut, washed, and combed was then spun into thread and yarn. Here’s how it worked. The spinner pressed down on the foot pedal to activate the machine. The foot pedal turned
the larger of two wheels, called the drive wheel. The drive wheel turned a
cord called the drive band. The drive band had no connection
to the spinner’s thread. Instead, the drive band acted
like the chain of a bicycle. It turned the small, U-shaped flywheel. The spinner’s thread was
twisted onto a bobbin in the center of the flywheel. Every time the flywheel rotated, the thread twisted onto the bobbin. The twist worked to
bind together any fibers the spinner fed into the machine. The spinner could see
the twist of the fibers taking place between her hands. She controlled the size
of the thread she made by drawing the fibers
out between her hands just a bit at a time. Thick thread required more fibers, while thin thread required fewer fibers. An unsung task, but a very important one, was winding off of the thread from the spinning wheel bobbin. Wound off onto a device
called a niddy-noddy, the thread was measured into yards and stretched into a
skein of yarn or thread. This task was most likely done by the elderly members
of the Spinning House. The next step in the
life of a skein of thread was to be gently washed
in warm, soapy water, then to be rinsed in cooler, clear water. Finally, the skein was stretched to dry. The enslaved Nima and Letty
might finish this work. Measured, cleaned, and stretched, the skein could then be used for knitting, weaving, and dyeing with color.

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