America and the Spinning Wheel – The First Hundred Years

spinning wheels

Antique spinning wheels come in all shapes, sizes, nationalities, designs and capabilities. My knowledge revolves around American made wheels though I have knowledge of Canadian, German, Dutch, Ukranian etc.

I love the American wheels, because of their connection to our countries unique infancy and the time they represent.

By the time settlers arrived in the New World from England, cloth was being manufactured in mills. Both spinning and weaving was done there, though traditional spinning wheels and looms were used.

When the first settlers arrived here, our relationship with the mother country was of course intact and England expected the settlers to harvest and export the abudant raw materials the new land had to offer.

She also expected to export finished goods to the settlers who had no enterprise established to supply their needs nor the time to devote to producing much needed material goods.

For the first 30 years or so I’m told, we didn’t even have enough of a domestic sheep population to supply the demand for wool, let alone the ability to process it. The first settlers spent their life energy building homes, growing food, and performing the work necessary to establish towns and harvest the raw material to be exported.

It’s even been said that England refused to let anyone travel to the New World who had working knowledge of  weaving and spinning technology of the day, for fear they would set themselves up in business and refuse to buy from her or export the much desired materials.

Initially, anyone in this fledgling country who found the time to spin and weave their own cloth was penalized – it was a forbidden act!

 Fast forward to our revolution, our becoming independant and severing ties with England, and you will see that it was essential to produce ALL of our necessary products. Importing was impossible, even with other countries due to the alliances  formed between England and France, Germany, Spain, etc. No one allied with England wanted to risk angering her by exporting to us.

Independant spirits that we are, we set about to supply our own demand and we did. Where once it was an illegal act to spin and weave for your family and neighbors, in the 18th century it was rewarded with a stipend, and each household was under edict to produce a minimum amount of yarn and cloth per year.

What a difference a revolution makes!

Kathryn

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