05 August, 2011
Handspun in Newfoundland
Meet Bill. Bill is from Newfoundland. Up through his late teens, Bill wore handspun, homemade clothes exclusively. His grandfather kept sheep and made Bill's mother a great wheel so she could spin yarn, and that's where the family's clothes came from. He thinks he remembers the sheep breed was called Shetland.
Bill says other people he knew in Newfoundland at the time wore handspun too. They did it out of necessity. People kept their spinning wheels until the late 1960s when Americans came and paid five to ten dollars a wheel.
Bill is wearing a handsome fisherman's sweater he knit himself with commercial yarn. It has honeycomb cables in the middle, seed stitch at the sides, and what he calls "some sort of cable" in between. He enjoyed doing the math to change the pattern from a crew neck to a shawl collar, which he likes better.
Bill learned how to spin yarn with his mother's great wheel when he was young. Mine was the first drop spindle he'd seen. I showed him how my drop spindle works and he could see the similarity between its action and a great wheel's.
Newfoundland and Labrador's tourism site is here. If you need some orientation, the province is Canada's easternmost. I'm from the westernmost province.
I wonder what they thought, when they sold their spinning wheels. Maybe they told themselves they didn't need spinning wheels anymore and it would be good to have the money. Maybe they figured they could always build another.