Thursday, February 28, 2013

Family Living Center (Spinning)

Here is where we do our wool & flax demonstration.  We have a cute little sheep to represent the sheep that were here in the 1840's.  During the summer he gets a  bit wobbly from all the little ones (and some big ones) who like to ride him.
We show how to card the wool.

We explain how the spinning was done but we don't actually do it.

Remember the song "Pop Goes the Weasel"?  Well this is the weasel they were singing about.  It's used to measure the wool after it is spun into yarn.  When a certain amount of yarn is wound on, it makes a popping sound.

After the yarn was spun, it was dyed using natural dyes.  My favorite is the red - they used Cochineal.  Anybody want to guess what that is? 

It's a red bug.  If you squish it, it explodes with this beautiful red dye.  Then they had to set the dye with vinegar, cream of tartar, alum, or salt.  Then they could make an article of clothing  with the yarn, but Nauvoo is VERY hot in the summer so I don't think wearing wool would be very comfortable. 
They had an alternative but it took a lot of time and work and patience.  Someone knew what to do with the flax that was growing around here.  It kind of looks like a weed and it has a really hard, tough stalk, but inside it has long, beautiful silky looking fibers.  It took up to two years to get them out.
They would soak it in water, beat it, and hackle it with this wicked looking hackle board.

After this two year process, they could make fine linen.  Linen is not as durable as wool but it is cooler.  It also would not hold a natural dye, so it always stayed that natural color. 
To get the best of both fibers, they wove the wool and the flax together and made linsey-woolsey.  They used a simple weaving pattern for clothing.

And they made beautiful things for their homes with more elaborate patterns.  All the home sites in Nauvoo have linsey-woolsey on the beds and some have tablecloths.
When I do this demonstration I usually ask the guests if they can think of a project that has taken a lot of time and patience.  The one I think of is raising children.  It certainly takes a lot longer than two years but it is soooooo worth it.  


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