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Tartan Ferret
Test

Highland Yarn


According to I.F.Grant (Highland Folkways) the Saxony type of spinning wheel had become common in the Eastern Highlands by the end of the eighteenth century but had not reached Gairloch by 1820 while, in the Hebrides, most of the women were still using the spindle in 1850. It is possible that the Saxony wheel was antedated by the so-called 'big' wheel but this, contrary to the general supposition that it was merely a mechanised spindle, was actually a specialised machine by which an exact and constant amount of twist could be put into the yarn, a particular requirement of real worsted-spinning which, it must be remembered, was part of the large and highly organised textile industry in England. For the Highlanders, who could offset the spindle's slow rate of production by employing many spinners, the cost-effectiveness of the spindle was its outstanding advantage; the spindle can also be carried around and used at any opportune moments amidst other tasks. Cost, complication and the monopolising of the spinner were all major disadvantages of both types of wheel so far as the Highlanders were concerned
The constant weight of the spindle and the 'touch' of the individual spinner, couple with the running-back of the twist when the yarn is wound on, makes for an even twist and the sole remaining disadvantage is that many spinners would produce a wide variety of qualities of yarn. Old tartans usually have the weft thicker than the warp and it has been noted that different colours in the weft may be of different thicknesses, from which it may be deduced that the weaver chose the finest and strongest yarn for his warp and let the weft take care of itself.
The old Highland sheep had a long, straight fleece which was taken by hand at the point of moult; it seems probable that, if this was done carefully and the separate locks laid out instead of being bundled up, no carding or combing would be needed in preparation for spinning. The old breed of sheep is now extinct and so supplies of yarn for experiment would be problematical; it is said that similar breeds remain extant but this kind of information is commonly passed down from book to book without checking and liaison with Rare Breeds Societies and even zoologists would be desirable.
J.S. 05.02.03.





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