October 22, 2009

Spinning in Historic Nova Scotia

In No Place Like Home: Diaries and Letters of Nova Scotia Women 1771-1938, edited by Margaret Conrad, Toni Laidlaw, and Donna Smyth (Halifax: Formac, 1988) there are a few diary entries that mention handspinning. They are rather maddening because the diarists give little detail about what, how, and why.

Twelve year old Anna Green Winslow who was at school in Boston, Feb 14, 1772: "My cousin Sally reeled off a 10 knot skane [sic] of yarn today...The yarn was of my spinning. Aunt says it will do for filling. Aunt also says niece is a whimsical child." Feb 18th: "Another ten knot skane [sic] of my yarn was reel'd off today. Aunt says it is very good." Feb 22: "I have spun 30 knots of linning [sic] yarn, and (partly) new footed a pair of stockings for Lucinda." p. 37

Louia Collins, September the 6, 1815: "I have bin [sic] carding and spinning all day"; September the 12: "I was carding and spinning all morning by myself...in the afternoon mama and the girls came up in the spinning room with me." On the 16th, she "spun a large ball." p. 69-72 I wonder why she measured it as a ball?

Winslow and Collins, out of fifteen diarists, are the only ones pointed out by the editors as wearing homespun clothing, Winslow because of the boycott of British textiles (p. 28) and Collins because she came from a farming family and hadn't yet married into the middle class (p. 78). They are in the first section of the book, which is arranged chronologically. After them, there're still mentions of store-bought clothes, darned socks, laundry, and sewing, but not handspinning. In 1936-1938, Laura Kaulback Slaenwhite, a knitter, writes in her diary of dyeing a sweater, seeing weaving on cardboard forms with wool taught at the Women's Institute, and attending a guild meeting where she learned to "knit a nice cover for a hot water bag." p. 284, 289, 288.

And there was this quote in the book by Rebecca Byles writing to an aunt in 1779, a quote which I think speaks to blogging:
I have now I think discuss'd the usual Topicks in telling you we are alive and well and have not forgot you & what more shall I say? Why if I Remember right, you told me my most trivial Transactions would give you pleasure. Well then...

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