Sunday, 3 May 2009

Spin and save

As it’s a Bank Holiday weekend, I’ve decided to start the new theme for May next week. In order to fill in the gap, I thought I’d spin you a bit of a yarn – excuse the pun, but this blog is all about the lost art of spinning.

Did you know that the spinning wheel was a standard piece of equipment in the 18th century home? Until the Industrial Revolution, ladies would spin whenever they had the time – in fact it would seem to have been the main preoccupation of the dutiful housewife, whether rich or poor.

Spinning actually started long before this - the first tools used to spin thread were rocks, but a stick was later added to wind the fibre. This type of drop spindle was used to spin the threads for Egyptian Mummy wrappings – and we all know how style conscious the Egyptians were.

Amazingly, you can still buy an original antique spinning wheel today – in fact we’ve got a fine example at ShopCurious. There are many different types of spinning wheel, but every single one is individually handmade and unique. Spinning wheels aren’t simply useful, they look homely and are very collectable as ornamental pieces of furniture – they can even look stylish in a modern, minimalist setting. Plus, when the nights draw in, you can always ‘draw the latch’ and ‘sit by the fire and spin’ – now how eco-friendly is that?

I was reading that ‘the story of weaving is interwoven with the history of man’ – but surely this should be ‘woman’, since recorded history shows that weaving has always been almost exclusively a female occupation. Of course, it took a man to revolutionize spinning with, firstly the Spinning Jenny – usually attributed to James Hargreaves, and then the invention by Edmund Cartwright of the power loom in 1787.

However, the very essence of spinning is female – as documented in a wealth of mythology and folk lore. These days nothing is confined to one sex or the other, so if you’re so inclined, do feel free to weave away. It might turn out to be a useful cost-cutting exercise during the recession – and you could even take a leaf from Mahatma Gandhi’s book and try to help stimulate the economy by making your own cloth. I’m sure that budding fashion designers are already instantly inspired to take to the wheel? Just don’t expect anyone reading this to still be around when your first collection’s ready.

Will you?

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