Tag Archives: crafts

A Newcomer

Last Saturday, I welcomed home a new member of the family.

Can you guess what it is?

Part of it looks like this.

Here’s a clue. A small piece of wool, probably quite old, stuck to the wood under the mark “FRS. BORDUA, ST CHARLES, R.C”.

If you’re still stuck, how about this?

Yep: it’s a new-to-me-but-actually-quite-antique spinning wheel.

Last week I was listening to a podcast that mentioned Canadian tilt-tension production wheels. I’m lucky enough to live in the general area where these wheels were manufactured, so on a whim, I stopped by ye olde Craigslist. The next thing I knew….

My spindles were a little nervous, but I’ve promised them that they won’t be neglected.

It’s a perfect fit for my needs, not to mention my tastes. I’ve been saving up for a Saxony-style wheel with a single treadle, and I knew that I wanted to make primarily fine yarns for weaving, and I like antiques, and this puppy fits the bill on all counts. It’s a François Bordua wheel from St. Charles, which according to this site dates it to somewhere between 1843 and 1903.

So it is an antique, and there are a few issues. The flyer was repaired sometime in the distant past, and it’s still a little wibbly. I’m telling myself that this has nothing to do with the fact that I DROPPED IT the first time I sat down to spin. (Yes, really. I almost cried.*) The arms of the flyer are wired together with what looks to be fairly heavy-gauge steel, so it’s not going to fall apart, it’s just… wibbly. Naturally, I’m a little concerned about doing further damage, so before I settle in to any serious spinning I’d like to research repairs, replacements, and what I should and shouldn’t do.

That isn’t to say I didn’t try it out.

And it was delightful! (For what my opinion is worth, anyway, since I’d never tried wheel spinning before.) It was also very fast. I love this thing.

As with most wheels of this kind, there’s only one bobbin, but that’s fine. No different than spindle spinning. Fortunately, my loom came with a swift and a ball winder, so I am well equipped.

Have any of you ever worked with an antique wheel? The owners of this one for the last twenty years used it as a decoration, so I don’t know how long it’s been since it was used. I think it’s time to put it back to work. Carefully!

*Actually, what happened was that the front leather bearing was too loose, so the flyer slipped out and skidded across the floor once the wheel started spinning. I think the skidding motion is what saved it: if it had dropped straight onto the floor, I suspect that it would have broken into pieces and that I would have been a sad blogger. Hopefully we will never find out.

Talking Craft: Thrums

As a kid, I had a penchant for unusual science fair projects. One year I undertook a detailed investigation of the limbic system. (I’d gotten hold of an illustrated anatomy book and liked the shape of the fornix.) But my favorite was the topic I chose at the age of eleven: etymology, the study of word histories and not of insects. Not that there’s anything wrong with insects, but my delight was in gluing a bunch of Greek and Latin roots to magnets, sticking them to the back of cookie sheets, and encouraging my fellow preteens in the haphazard construction of classical-sounding if ungrammatical neologisms.

A very few years later, I started studying Tolkienian linguistics.* Aside from permanently establishing my nerd credentials, this led me to approach morphological paradigms and grammatical structures in a way that many modern language courses, well, don’t. This interest led more or less directly to my university studies in linguistics. These days the field encompasses rather more than the casual collection of Greek roots**, but I still have considerable affection for good old dictionary-style etymology.

So what does all this have to do with the professed theme of this blog—crafts?

A surprising quantity of terminology from weaving and other ancient handicrafts survives into modern (if specialized) English. I’d like to make exploration of this terminology a regular series on this blog, so let me know if this sparks your interest!

Today’s word is one I mentioned in my last post: thrum. According to the traditional definition, thrums are loom waste: the scraps of warp (yarn) remaining after a piece of cloth has been cut off a loom. Merriam-Webster gives this etymology:

  • Middle English, from Old English –thrum (as in tungethrum ligament of the tongue); akin to Old Saxon thrumi end part of a spear, Old High German drum end part, fragment, Old Norse t-hrömr edge, verge, brim, Greek tramis perineum, term n boundary, end — more at TERM

Observation 1: thrum is a distant cousin of terminal. It is, indeed, the terminal portion of a warp.

Observation 2: Tungethrum is a fantastic word.

Thrums on the loom.

Webster’s also gives the obsolete but interesting definition of “a ragged beggarly lout”. There’s a joke in there somewhere about people who buy weaving equipment.

Anyhow, I get the distinct impression that weavers have been faced with the problem of what to do with thrums for as long as there have been weavers, resulting in such inventions as hooked rugs and thrum-decorated garments like these and these (using unspun roving rather than loom waste). Thrums seem like they ought to be useful, but if anyone has any suggestions for dealing with the heap below, I will be most grateful.

Continuing the blog theme of tangled yarn messes!

*On the off chance that you share this particular hobby, the lack of mutation in the compound of my blog title is out of fondness for the word “tintinnabulate”. I suppose a more probable but less reduplicative Sindarin name would be something along the lines of Tithinniel.

**Which might indeed be more entomological than etymological.