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Historically Fort Bend: Spinning Wheels and Spinning Fibers


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19th Century spinning wheel.

In Austin’s Colony, access was limited to finished goods such as clothing, blankets and other textiles. Instead, many families made these items for themselves from start to finish. They harvested cotton from their fields or sheared wool from their goats or sheep. Women spun these fibers with spinning wheels, which pulled and quickly spun the fibers twisting them tightly together to form thread or yarn. This thread could be used for sewing or be woven together on a loom to create cloth that would then be used for clothing or other necessary items. Women also knitted wool threads or yarn into winter garments or warm blankets. Cotton threads can also be knitted.

Spinning wheels twist and pull the fibers with a flyer and a bobbin that are turned by the wheel that is powered by a treadle. The finished thread or yarn is spooled around the bobbin. Some spinning wheels have the flyer and bobbin to the right or left of the wheel. Castle spinning wheels have the flyer and bobbin above the wheel. Spinning wheels basically work the same way regardless of where the flyer and bobbin are located.

Girls were taught spinning early and assisted their mothers in producing yarn from homegrown fibers. Dilue Rose Harris learned to spin from her mother in 1834 when she was eight. Her mother had been raised on a farm and knew how to spin and weave. After moving to the Stafford Plantation, she had a neighboring wheelwright make a spinning wheel for her and taught Dilue to card and spin.

Spinning is still taught and practiced today. People still appreciate the skills and satisfaction of turning fibers into finished textiles.

 

Historical facts and photos courtesy of the Fort Bend County
Museum Association, Richmond, TX

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spinning wheel 1

A flax or cotton wheel made in Germany about 1790.

A flax or cotton wheel made in Germany about 1790.

An Irish spinning wheel from approximately the mid to late 18th century.

An Irish spinning wheel from approximately the mid to late 18th century.


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