02 December, 2009

The Spindle, and Long-lost Routine Skills

Earlier this month I posted about America turning to a crash course in domestic handspun production shortly before gaining national independence, then dropping production. Wealthy Americans turned back to imported Asian silks.

In Respect the Spindle, Abby Franquemont states
although Europe's production of fine flaxen and thicker of heavier-weight wool yarns had expanded thanks to the flyer wheel, almost all fine yarns and fabrics were imported to Europe from other parts of the world, specifically Asia and the East Indies, where such textiles were still produced with handspindles, driven spindles, and relling systems for silk.

Because practically everyone in the English-speaking world (and much of Europe) has been accustomed to buying these goods from far away for centuries, they've lost the routine skills needed to produce them. (p. 40)
She urges people to develop skill with the spindle.

She also points to the spindle for getting skinny yarn. For skinny, read fine, refined, smooth yarn that yields a luxe fabric. She describes on page 39 the physics that make rapid insertion of twist, and very skinny yarn, difficult for a flyer wheel.

Right on the cusp of the Industrial Revolution, spindle-spun Asian silks were produced in quantity for export. Shows you what can be done when there's enough monetary incentive, a desirable luxury product, a trade monopoly, capital investment, established trade relations and trade routes, and a skilled workforce. Low carbon production and distribution, too. The mind bogs.

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