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Page 22 - Mary Red Dan Smith and a Spindle

Published by Ronald Caplan on 1979/6/1 (3704 reads)

Mary Fted Dan Smith and a Spindle Mary Red Dan Smith of Jersey Cove showed us a spindle • a piece of wood about 5 inches long, carved at one end something like a thigh bone and tapering above to a little roimd pea shape on the other end. In Gaelic it was called dealgsin beag, small spindle; the dealgan literally means collarbone, probably because of its shape. Dealg, from which it is derived, refers to a small fastening pin. The spindle is a very simple item, a good rich brown from years of handling; as Mary put it, she spent hours and hours and hours twisting yarn with this little tool. Its whole pur? pose was to take single threads of home? spun wool yarn and twist two threads to? gether, usually for 2-ply yarn for knit? ting mitts and socks and full-length men's long underwear. "The way we used to spin," Mary said, "you wouldn't knit with just one strand. You'd want two twisted together." Occasionally the process would be repeated • two balls of 2-ply yarn would be twisted with the spindle to make '-ply yarn used in hooking floor mats. This would not be new wool. This would be yarn ripped from some worn- out garment. Mary said that Red Dan's mother would use the spindle for twisting together strands of burlap pulled from a sack. This would often be used in hooking a mat. "I spent hours and hours at that work. I was twisting yarn with a spindle when I should have been in school. But you know, I liked it. But it was work, work, work, work, work. I'm telling you • hours of my life. And my mother spent more, much more. My mother always did it. It is a common thing that everyone did in those days. When you'd have a lot of it to do you'd use the spinning wheel • do it in a hurry • but if you only want a little you do it like this. My mother would do this any time of the night or day she had a minute to spare. She'd be doing it and I'd be do? ing it. Every kid then learned to knit and make things with yarn. It's the only thing they had to get something to put on your? self." To begin twisting yarn, you take two balls of single yarn and put them side by side, each in a dish or basket on the floor. Then putting the two ends together, the two balls are wound up into a single ball • the two threads now side by side but not twisted. Then the two ends are held with the thumb against the body of the spindle, about two thirds of the way down. You go twice aroimd the body as shown in the drawing, down and under the knobby bottom (there's a slight cross of grooves in the bottom to keep the yarn from slipping), then up to the top, looping a half hitch over tip. Some people tie the yarn to the body of the spindle; others just wrap it twice and it holds. Normally this work is done sitting down. The ball of yarn is in a bowl on the floor. The left hand is high, holding clear the yarn running from the ball to the spindle. And the spindle is held in the right hand, by the tip. It is held between two fingers and the thumb and spun like a top. It is spun counter? clockwise. The spindle is spun and dropped several inches, the yarn running down be? tween the thumb and forefinger. The yarn is quickly pinched and the spinning spin? dle sends the twist up the length of the yarn to the fingertips. When you are twisting two different colour yarns you CONTINUED NEXT PAGE
Cape Breton's Magazine
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