February 21, 2012

Arts of the Pennsylvania Germans

I like drop spindles and I wish that living history museums would interpret the use of spindles more often so that people can see them in action.  The decision to exhibit spindles depends on the museum being able to collect authentic spindles or prove that spindles were used during the time period the museum portrays.  Therefore, I keep on the watch for passages in books that might offer proof, such as this:
The small wheel, usually used only for flax, allowed the spinner to sit while she worked.  The large wheel, primarily for wool or occasionally for cotton, required her to walk backward and forward while the shorter wool or cotton fibers twisted onto the spindle.  (The use of the simplest spinning tool of all, the spindle, did not appeal to the Pennsylvania Germans, although it was common in other areas of Pennsylvania and the country.)
Spinning occurred in most households.  By 1810 Montgomery County had one spinning wheel for every three people, a ratio that is probably typical of the other Pennsylvania German rural counties.
-Susan Burrows Swan, "Household Textiles," Arts of the Pennsylvania Germans, ed. Catherine E. Hutchins, (New York: W.W. Norton, 1983), p. 222.
And, having found the passage, I am left with questions.  Why didn't spindles appeal?  In which areas were spindles common?  What types?  Which sources did the author draw on?

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