Wovember Words #18
More Wovember Words from “The Wool Pack” by Cynthia Harnett. It’s aimed at young adult readers and was published in 1951. So do forgive its traditional thoughts on the division of labour, because clearly the fun of spinning with a spindle hadn’t escaped this young man. It is set in 1493 in The Cotswolds when the British Mediaeval Wool Trade is in full force.
Nicholas left the fields just where the muddy road ended, and the cobbles of Witney Street began. The fine spring evening had bought all the women to the doors of their cottages, each with a distaff tucked under her arm, busily dropping, twisting and winding up a spindle as she gossiped. Some of the well-to-do possessed new-fangled spinning wheels; but spinning wheels were heavy cumbersome things, and, wheel or no wheel, every good wife carried the old-fashioned distaff and spindle with her always. There were odd moments all through the day when she had at least one hand free, and every spool of spun yarn was of value. Nicholas would not for worlds have admitted it, but he loved a spindle. Meg had taught him to use one when he was young. He liked dropping it on the end of a length of rough wool drawn from the distaff, and watching it twiddle round and round, winding the wool into a firm thread. It was fun catching it again at the exact moment before it began to untwist, just as much fun as whipping a peg top in the market place, but because it was woman’s work, he never dared to confess that he liked it.
Cecilia Hewett dropping her spindle on a crag, just the kind of thing I could see Nicholas doing. Image ©Cecilia Hewett