Today is a holiday in the spinning world. Not a holiday in your world? Then you must not be a spinner. Today is Rock Day.
Traditionally, in places like England, Germany, Netherlands, today would have been the day when women returned to their spinning chores after a break over the Christmas Holidays. They were not required to keep up the ever present tasks of preparing or spinning wool or flax or cotton or whatever they spun in their region through Christmas. I’m sure they had plenty of other work to do, though. Even if not celebrating Christmas, there would have been Yuletide celebrations or Solstice observances. With food to prepare, family visiting, etc.
Spinning was a job that was ever present in peoples lives. From the time you were about four years old, you would have had some part in the preparation of wool. It is hard for us to remember that there was a time where every stitch of clothing or bedding or cording or rug or rope was made by hand, thread by thread, spool by spool. Time would not have been wasted on play, no matter how young you were. If there was spinning to do, you helped. And there was always spinning to do. Children learned to spin on drop spindles. Even beginner yarn would have some value. I would think a child would pick this skill up and progress at it very quickly.
Consider too that only the more well off families would have owned a spinning wheel. They are very expensive today, and I’m sure even more so then. So not only was every yard of yarn or thread made by hand, but it was made by hand on a drop spindle.
So over the Christmas holidays, women would not be required to spin. On the 7th of January, they returned to these daily chores. In our modern world, we consider it a joyful holiday. Spinners guilds and groups have special day long meetings to celebrate. People bring pot luck lunches and enjoy each others company and cooking while they spin. Maybe a class is given on a different technique or developing a new skill. We look forward to this day as a fun time to celebrate one of our favorite hobbies, women 300 or 400 years ago would face this same day with dread. A return to the drudgery that they would consider spinning to be.
I have no group or guild to spin with, so I will keep this day in my own way. I have not been spinning for a few months as I was trying to get Christmas presents ready. As I said in an earlier post, Christmas is not the time for spinning, it is the time for frantic knitting. I have been missing the spinning though. I wanted to do some spinning right after Christmas, with the relief of completed gifts, but I thought that in the spirit of Rock Day, I would wait until today to get started again.
Below is a picture of one of my wheels. I have the great good fortune to have two wheels. This one is an Ashford Traditional. I will discuss the other wheel that I own in a later post. It was greatly used when I got it about five or six years ago. A neighbor of my mothers sold it to me for $50. That was a HUGE bargain. This same wheel, which is still made and very popular sells for anywhere between $450 and $600 new. And for $450, you still have to finish it yourself. And probably do some assembly. And pay a big shipping fee.
My old girl has her quirks. The wheel is slightly warped. This does not affect the spinability too much, but still, an unwarped wheel would be nice. I have had to repair a few things on it, but it works great anyway. It is not exactly portable, even though in the summer I will pack it into the van and find a spot outside to spin. I have to stop doing that, as every knock and bump shortens its life. The newer designed wheels actually fold up and fit into a carry bag. But those are greatly out of my reach.
I am still learning about maintenence. I read once that a well oiled and maintained spinning wheel will last 300 years. A poorly maintained one will last 3 years. Since this wheel has not been touched in a few months, it has a layer of dust on it, which should be taken care of prior to spinning. The wheel could use a bit of oil too. So this will be my job this morning, to get the wheel back to where it should be for spinning.
My wheel has a dark stain on it, and it is getting darker with age as well.
Each of the bobbins that came with this wheel (3) have dried out and lost their glue. I have glued them as needed, but not done a great job at it as you can tell. New bobbins are easily available, but are $10 to $15 each. I had someone try to make some for me, but none of them were useable. The diameters and spacing are very precise, and if not exactly right, they just don’t work.
I started spinning this on a drop spindle but then decided to switch to the wheel. The fiber is wool and alpaca mix. The greens and blues are hand dyed alpaca and the gray that I mixed it with is commercial wool. After dyeing, this fiber was mixed together on the drum carder to make a batt, then pulled by hand into roving. This ball that you see in the bowl is a ball of that roving.
So completing this roving will be my first project in 2012. When the yarn is completed, I will post pics.
You’re still wondering why it is called Rock Day. A spindle is basically two parts–a stick and a weight. And a spindle is really a very ancient tool. In the very beginning, waaaaaay back in the earliest times of spinning, this would have been achieved with a stick and a rock with a hole bored into it. Hence, Rock Day.
Happy Rock Day everyone!