Janet's thread

A weblog, mostly about knitting but other topics appear

Saint Distaff Day January 7, 2016

Filed under: Spindle spinning,Spinning,Spinning wheels — Janet @ 2:22 pm

As a textile person I can’t resist honoring this day.  January 7

St. Distaff Day


Scarf Number 7, and other miscellany December 17, 2014

IMG_4751  a pale/muted scarf this time

I know I wrote that I  was going to knit something different after I finished Scarf 6, but the the needles were nearby. as was the stash, and I just wanted to carry on with  another scarf.  Call it convenience, or call it compulsion – am I being influenced by another blogger, The Sock Lady – she (Lynne Rettburg) lives in the wilds of British Columbia and spins and knits beautiful multicoloured socks.

Last Sunday I went to the local monthly meeting of the Northwest Regional Spinners Association.  They meet once a month in the Ballard Library using the same venue as the weekly story reading for little ones.  So I knew the venue well and I had been to the spinners meeting once before two or three years ago.  I enjoyed the group but somehow what with one thing or another it took me a long time to return.  What is the saying?  Life intervened.

Life nearly intervened again.  Church in the morning, lunch, Ballard Farmers Market (had to skip this), assemble my knitting and arrive at the party minus my wheel an hour late.  This was a conscious decision since I had read somewhere (My Ballard weekly paper?) that it would be 0.k. to just knit at the meeting.  My wheel is getting heavier with the passing years!

When I arrived, a group of singers, dressed in red, were singing carols just outside the meeting room in the lobby of the library.  Lovely.  I entered the room, looked around, no familiar faces, couldn’t see any empty chairs.  Hmm.  Tried to feel confident since after all I was a member, although a lapsed one.  Soon, a person named Chantal came up to me and was very welcoming.  Another chair was fetched from the cupboard and I plunked myself down next to another very friendly woman named Miley.  After a refreshing plate full of festive goodies, Miley introduced me to each of the 10 plus members sitting in the circle.  All busy talking and spinning.  Needless to say this turned out to be a very enjoyable afternoon.  And next month I’ll make every effort to attend AND bring my spinning wheel.

Pictures to follow when I figure out how to post photos from my I-pad.


Syttende Mai May 26, 2011

Last week, 17th of May, was the big day.  Norwegian Constitution Day.  And the big parade in Ballard, and elsewhere of course, Oslo!  I wrote about the Ballard Parade in this post.  The parade here in Ballard was great fun.   And earlier in the day I just happened to have my Norwegian language class at the Nordic Heritage Musuem.  In honor of the day, there were some special items for sale.  And I just happened to buy 2 cards and a magnet which interested me.  The cards were done by an American artist of Scandinavian descent.  Sharon Aamodt.  www.nordicfolklore.com  She had a large selection of cards reproduced from her lovely paintings, but I chose 2 of spinning and weaving interest.

            Spindle spinning with the upright looms in the background.  Presumably these women are wearing simple garments of earlier Viking times.

I don’t know at what point the bunad, the traditional Norwegian folkwear, became more popular.  There were certainly many men and women wearing their bunads the day of the parade.  And yesterday in Norwegian language class one of my classmates wore her bunad and explained all about it.  Here she is with her husband, and their dog, on the day of the parade.

      National dress for Syttende Mai

My other purchase was a simple magnet with nice painting of a Norwegian Elkhound.


More Postcards – These Ones Relating to WSD February 13, 2011

As readers of this blog know, I collect postcards, and one of my themes is postcards relating to weaving, spinning, and dyeing.  My friend Bettina of Woolly Bits  – in the west of Ireland –  recently sent me a few cards to add to my collection.  Thank you Bettina.

The cards are from the National Museum of Ireland, Country Life,  near Castlebar in County Mayo.  A wonderful museum if you ever have a chance to visit.

  this card is of an Aran sweater but a most unusual colour.  I know red was worn by the women in the Aran Islands but a red gansey I have never seen.

     the caption on this card is Spinning and Carding Wool, but as Bettina has pointed out, this caption is incorrect.  Only one person is spinning and the other person is beating flax, I think.  Is that retting?

  the caption here is Carding wool, Connemara.  She certainly is carding wool – and looks very hard done by.  Poor woman looks very care worn.


Generations Past February 3, 2011

Since 2002 I have been a member of the Online Guild of Weavers Spinners and Dyers.  Each month the Guild has a workshop on an appropriate theme.  I have followed each of these workshops with great interest even though I have not necessarily been an active participant step-by-step.    This month’s workshop is on wool combing.  I have been involved with textiles for many years but it is really only fairly recently that I have become more aware of some of the processes involved with wool.    So what is meant by wool combing?  I knew about wool carders but never thought about wool combs.  And now I find that I indeed have an ancestor who was a wool comber, in Edinburgh in Scotland and then in Limerick in Ireland.  According to one of those little blue books that my sister is guarding closely, back many generations on my paternal grandmother’s side, there was a John Murdock who is described as being a wool comber.  Following the loss of his property in Edinburgh, he emigrated from Scotland in 1690 to move to Limerick in Ireland.  Reading between the brief lines in the family genealogy I gather that my great great great…. was a Jacobite.  Following the Siege of Limerick in 1691   in which the family lost property again, my Jacobite ancestors emigrated to the United States, settling on Long Island and then later in Saybrook Connecticut. 

So what did it mean to be a wool comber?  According to a link in Wikipedia giving explanations for old occupations:

Wool Comber Worked machinery combing – separating – fibres for spinning


Well, in the late 1600’s my ancestor would not have been operating machinery – he was living long before the industrial revolution.  So wool combing for him probably meant a lot of washing and cleansing of the fleece by hand and then preparing the fibres for spinning by using handheld carders or strong combs made of wire.  According to this link, he might also have been called a Carder. 

•[L. carduus = a thistle] a cloth-worker who untangles shorter fibers with a wire brush or similar instrument prior to spinning as a step in cloth-making, a/k/a scribbler.

From a site regarding Medieval London I found an illustration of a leather comb  with wires that would have been used further back in time, maybe in the 1500’s.

and from this site I found this illustration:

  woman spinning and carding wool, artist george walker 1814

 And from another site, I found out a bit more about George Walker, as follows:

Walker developed a reputation as a good artist and in 1814 and a local bookseller commissioned a series of paintings for the book Costume of Yorkshire. The book contained forty pictures of local people including: The Horse Dealer, Cloth Makers, The Collier, The Cloth Dresser, Stone Breakers, The Milk Boy, Whalebone Scrapers, Wensley Dale Knitters, Leech Finders, Sheffield Cutler and Factory Children. The book also included the first ever painting of a locomotive. The picture was of Salamanca at Middleton Colliery that had been produced by John Blenkinsop and Matthew Murray.


More Postcards Relating to Spinning February 1, 2011

       caption for the above postcard, Old Woman at Spinning-wheel by E.E. Taylor, 1886.  Published by J. Arthur Dixon Ltd., Great Britain, and Printed by them for the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, Co. Down, N. Ireland

       caption for painting above – Standing Spinner, Jean Francois Millet, French, 1814-1875, Oil on canvas……


Old Postcards Relating to Spinning January 25, 2011

Filed under: Postage stamps,Postcards,Spinning,Spinning wheels — Janet @ 11:56 pm

What could be better than finding my collection of old postcards relating to spinning.  This just fits right in with the theme of what were my grandparents doing when.  Not that there is any mention of spinning wheels or weaving looms in my family history but my grandmothers certainly were needleworkers and knitters – like most women of their time.

My first postcard is not old at all.  But it is reproduced from an old photograph.  I purchased the card in Edinburgh at the National Museum.  The caption on the card reads Carding and spinning in Sutherlandshire, late nineteenth century, Scottish Ethnological Archive.

This card is somewhat old judging by the stains on the back, but it is the subject that is really old.  This card is of one of the Unicorn Tapestries, The Lady and the Unicorn, in the Musee de Cluny in Paris.  The Lady is not spinning on a spindle, as I first thought when I stumbled upon this card in my collection.  Rather she is making a floral wreath and the maidservant is holding a tray of flowers.  I’ll still include the card here because this is such a famous piece of weaving – and before weaving comes spinning.

  This isn’t a postcard – it’s a photo of a girl doing spindle spinning.  The photo was taken in Bhutan by my husband Ian when he was there for four months in 1984.

       a postcard printed in Kobenhavn but with 10 different languages to say A Small Chat.  Note the spinning wheel.


a postcard of a painting by Millet.  Am Spinnrocken     published by a firm in Liverpool England


A postcard from 1906.  Postmark Rathdrum.  (Note the British stamp)  The message is to a Miss Webster in Tullow County Carlow.  Rathdrum is in County Wicklow.


This card is of a Welsh woman at her spinning wheel.  The postmark is 1906 Menai Bridge.  It is addressed to County Wexford Ireland

     a card with the caption Irish Life, Children Spinning and Reeling Wool.  Sent from Johnstown in County Kildare to a Miss Maxwell in Belgium.  Note the Irish stamps.

  this card is of An Irish Spinning Wheel but it is postmarked Jersey and addressed to someone in Jersey.  The date is 1909

  Irish Spinning Wheel, 1905, Kingstown (presumably present day Dun Laoghaire), addressed to someone in Queensland Australia.  Note the Dublin postmark and the stamp.    

        a simple card, really  just a modern photograph.  But it was done for Cleo Ltd., a famous old firm in Dublin where wonderful handwoven and handknitted items are to be found.  The caption for the photo reads Donegal Spinner, Glencolumbcille, Co. Donegal


Farewell to my Glimakra Loom November 6, 2009

Filed under: Art works,Spinning,Spinning wheels,Weaving,Weaving looms — Janet @ 6:37 pm

My first loom was a Spears rigid heddle loom which I purchased in a local toy shop in 1975.   We were being posted to Fiji and I wanted to learn to weave.  During our previous posting in St. Lucia in the Caribbean I had wanted to weave but couldn’t figure out how to go about it.

So I included this small rigid heddle loom in our shipment to Fiji and eventually got going after we got settled in Suva, the capital of Fiji.  Soon I wanted a bigger loom and ordered a table loom from New Zealand.  That wasn’t enough so I ordered a bigger floor loom, a Squirrel loom.  On that loom I wove my first rugs.  We brought the Squirrel loom back to Dublin but there was not a suitable space for it in our house.  Off we went to Bangladesh and my husband Ian built a very sturdy loom for me.  It was made of Chittagong teak and it was a splendid loom.  Too heavy to bring back to Dublin however. 

So when we were settled back in Dublin in 1983 I decided to order a Glimakra 10 shaft loom from Sweden.  And it is that loom which has served me well for over 25 years.  It has just gone out the door.  Alas.  But I’m not really sorry.  With the passing years, it is now too big and heavy and I no longer want to crawl around underneath it.  And also, I found that I was weaving on only 2 or 4 shafts – I had no need for the 10 shafts.  When I get to Seattle I want to replace that loom with a smaller but equally sturdy loom, on which I can resume my path of weaving rugs.



close up of janet at loom April 04   At my Glimakra loom in 2004

Mary Shiel's potatoes 061  My Glimakra loom, well wrapped in 20 parcels, on its way to its new home in Limerick


Now for a word or 2 about spinning wheels.  My Ashford spinning wheel, imported from New Zealand in 1976 when we were in Fiji.  I have not used the spinning wheel as much as my various looms.  However, I have a certain affection for it, given its provenance.  It too is soon to leave us, but it has already been replaced by a Louet wheel, a nice reminder of my friends in Dublin and the Netherlands.   I am looking forward to getting to know it.

Mary Shiel's potatoes 062  Ashford spinning wheel from New Zealand


Mary Shiel's potatoes 029  the Louet wheel being used at the Dublin Knitting & Stitching Show