Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Numbers 3

See :

Note that there is no treadle, but the drive wheel is driven by a crank in the right hand.  Note that the date on this painting is 1894 - long after mill spun had put professional spinners out of business.

Compare the above wheel to:

Note that the date on this painting is the second half of 17th century. If you look carefully you can see the crank on spinning wheel just like that in the Millet painting.  Thus, we have two paintings separated by 230+ years that show the same spinning technology even when it is clear that professional spinners had dramatically changed their technology from hand spinning to spinning frames. From the sequence of paintings we have no confidence that the design of the wheel in Dou's painting is not 250 years old and thus, the design of the wheel in Millet's painting some 500 years old.  In fact, we do know that foot treadle wheels were available in Flanders in the mid 1500s, and thus Dou's wheel is at least a hundred years out of date.

Either wheel would be an almost exact miniaturization of room sized silk throwing equipment in use in Italy at the end of the 13th century. And, either wheel would be somewhat faster than a drop spindle for spinning worsted warp. 

Let us allow 7 yards of fabric for all of Dou's spinner's clothing, a yard for the cloth on the table and 2 yards for the cloth in the basket, for a total of 10 yd^2 of rather coarse cloth woven from  ~5,600 ypp singles. That comes to about 800 hours of spinning with that wheel. Then, we have what appears to be a few yards of a much finer blue cloth in her lap.  Let's assume that it is a couple of yards of shirting weight.  That is another 800 hours to spin the required yarn with the visible wheel.  Thus, the yarn for the cloth in the picture would require almost a year to spin with the spinning wheel depicted.  Add in weaving, and the cloth depicted represents more than a year's work with the technology of that wheel.

We can assume that most (all?) of the yarn for the cloth depicted in the Dou's painting was woven from yarn spun else where by others - using different equipment.  Given the cloth depicted, we can deduce that the spinning wheel is a prop, just like the spinning wheel as a prop in the Millet painting above and the photo below:

Princess Louise,
Daughter of Queen Victoria and a Spinster.

How many years would it take her to spin the yarn for the clothing she is wearing?


Note the tapestry in the background, and that spinning studio is not set up to prepare gold, silver and silk wrapped tapestry yarns. The spinning for the cloth in the picture is again being done elsewhere.


Here we see the same artist (Millet) present different spinning technologies in the same time period. Art is not a reliable indicator of the spinning technology in use by professional spinners at the time of the painting.

Not even multiple images of the same spinning technology by different artists is an accurate indication that the technology is being used by professional spinners.

Here we have a lady in silk dress spinning linen at a time when linen was actually hand spun:

At that time and region, professional linen spinners used 2- thread wheels. We know this because 150 years earlier parliament past a law requiring spinning schools to teach spinning on 2-thread wheels  Again, the spinning wheel in the painting is not an indicator of the technology then used by professional spinners.

Depictions in art are very poor indicators of the then current professional spinning technology!


Holin Kennen said...

Your images and statements are, as usual, chosen and interpreted to fit your imaginary version of history.

Aaron, there were no photographs during the periods you are referencing, so painting and drawing were the only way of recording what spinners did. In case you haven't noticed, photography hadn't been invented yet. Several different kinds of wheels were available at different times, just like today. We are still spinning on treadle wheels even though current, mechanized spinning is done on gigantic machines. Does that mean that a photo of a spinner using a treadle wheel is inaccurate? Of course not! Some of these spinners you show may be using older styles of wheels handed down through the family, just as they are now. We still use great wheels today, and they've been in use for about a thousand years. People don't abandon usable tools.

There are images everywhere of people - most of them women - spinning wool and other fibers into yarn/thread to be used for clothing Now unless you want to assert that there was some secret conspiracy among all the artists of Europe over 900 years or so to misrepresent the details of daily life - including spinning fiber into yarn to make fabric to be worn - you'd best get back to learning how to warp up that loom of yours which is gathering dust because you haven't figured out how to use it yet.

Aaron said...

Last year the US textile mills produced $16 billion worth of fabric. How much of that was hand spun? No hand spun commercial textile production has been less than one part in a million for for a long time.

Tell us truthfully, how many bolts of fine fabric have been woven from yarn that you spun by hand?

Holin Kennen said...

And how many bolts of fine fabric have been woven from the yarn that you spun by hand, Aaron? Your point would be what?

Aaron said...

My point would be that I do not have many teachers, so it takes me a while to figure things out.

I have been spinning for ~7 years. The people that have been spinning for 20 years just do not seem to me to be "professional quality".

That means that weavers do not have professional quality hand spun yarns to work with, and thereby have not gained the experience to produce professional quality hand woven fabrics from ( professional quality) hand spun yarns.

I started knitting 19 years ago, and this winter, I changed my tools, developed some new skills, and moved on to a much higher level of knitting.

In this last step, I did not have any teachers -- only naysayers telling me, "Don't be stupid, that will never work!" However, it does work. And as I look again at the pictures of old knitters, I see that it is in fact how they worked.

Holin Kennen said...

You've got it backward, Aaron.

Clearly you haven't looked at the work of many professional hand weavers who are using handspun yarns. Just because their textiles do not look identical to machine manufactured yarns does not mean that the weavers nor spinners are not professionals. Why would a weaver want to replicate a commercially available product when they could create a unique textile instead? Weavers are artists, not mass manufacturers, and as such, they look for yarns that do not look like the mass-made, mass-marketed products available everywhere (and "everywhere" includes Saks, Nieman Marcus, etc.). It isn't that the weavers - nor the spinners - lack the skills. They just don't see any point in replicating something that is manufactured in Asia at a pittance to the workers who do the weaving and sold at an exorbitant price in Neiman Marcus. There are weavers and spinners, such as those I have met at Colonial Williamsburg, who are interested in reproducing period textiles, but those fabrics are, for the most part, not of interest to the Neiman Marcus customer. How many people do you know who want to make something from linsey-woolsey? Not many, I expect, and yet that was a common fabric in the 18th century. When was the last time you spun flax and wool for a bolt of linsey-woolsey?

Brianna said...

There are many fine textiles being made in India with hand spun cotton. And those spinners and weavers do produce enough to sell commercially. Peruvian spinners are still spinning and weaving for commercial/tourist sales.

Hand spinners are definitely still producing commercial goods.

Aaron said...

In india, "hand spun" now includes those 7-frames that are driven by a person pedaling. I tried to get such a frame, but they are not being exported. Anyway they require a mill prepared roving.

Likewise, modern Harris Tweed hand looms are driven by the weaver pedaling, but there is a Dobby mechanism and sensors, so all the weaver must do is pedal. The same technology is used in India for modern weaving for export.

Still they are called "hand spinning" and hand weaving. As I write this I am wearing such a hand spun, hand woven shirt. Not only is the spinning and weaving excellent, the tailoring is very good.

On the other hand, the price I paid for the shirt was so low that I do feel sorry for the spinners, weavers, and garment workers.

The question remains: Why is hand spun garment grade wool yarn so rare?

purplespirit1 said...

I actually use (and own) one of those 7-frames you're speaking of. I've managed to use - successfully I may add - non-mill prepared roving. If you're interested in seeing my work, let me know and I can show you how it's done.

"The question remains: Why is hand spun garment grade wool yarn so rare?" - is that a rhetorical question? Because the answer is fairly obvious, isn't it?

Aaron said...

Do you have pix? post a link