Re: Historic Spinning question

P George

Hello Jean!

First, the news of Louie’s passing is a sad surprise. Sincere sympathy to you and your family. Thank you for your effort to complete the publication of your husband’s incredible research into historic sails and maritime textiles.


A few years ago you connected me to Louie after I asked something on this list. We exchanged a few long messages about the construction of Viking sails, and he shared his vast experience with restoration and reconstruction on historic ships.  I have never forgotten his detailed information on the exact  fiber quality, twist level, and twist direction, of yarns used in different parts of the sails, especially his analysis of selvedge strength.


Those messages are archived somewhere on my old storage drives, so I can’t access them at the moment. But, I wonder if his statement about spindle vs wheel spinning was related to a specific ship or site he worked on? The possibility of a hand spindle spinning stronger yarn with higher twist may have been true for only a short period of history, when mechanical spinning was first introduced in Europe.  Even the Viking era lasted several centuries, so there was probably a difference yarn production quality as time progressed.  If there is a written source of medieval spinning technology Louie referenced, it may only be published in German, or one of the Scandinavian languages. 


Looking forward to more ideas from the yarn experts in this group (I am not one of them!)


Patrice George




 A maritime historian friend and I are trying to complete my deceased husband's book on the evolution of sail design and construction.  Louie felt that a full discussion of sails had to include info on the production of thread, yarn, and cloth in order to be complete.  In his section on spinning in the draft we found this statement:

Although output was greatly increased (with the advent of the spinning wheel), the basic, cord-driven spindle-wheel produced a yarn that had less twist and was softer.  Therefore, it would not necessarily hold up under tight warp tensions on the loom as reliably as well-spun yarn from a drop spindle. For the majority of purposes, however, the vast increase in quantity outweighed the decrease in quality.

Neither of us knows where Louie came up with this!  He didn't cite any source. I've never spun on a whorl wheel, so have no personal knowledge of the quality of the yarn.  Can someone help?  My books say next to nothing about this type of wheel so I'm at a loss.

Thanks for helping us!
    Jean Bartos

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