Spinning and Weaving – Maidens and Castles

Spinning and Weaving – it’s been a winter of learning new skills.

These are such fundamental textiles crafts. It’s a wonder that it took so long to discover them round these parts.

Part of this is learning a whole new vocabulary. And the words are so evocative. There are maidens and the mother-of-all, a footman and even a castle. These conjure up just the right sort of images of damsels and chivalric knights as you sit at your spinning wheel or loom. Whilst many others are deeply satisfying old English words.

Here’s a quick, but by no means comprehensive list of some of the most pleasing:

  • The Maidens are the uprights that hold the flyer (which houses the bobbin) on a spinning wheel.
  •  Bobbin: from the French ‘bobine’. A pin or spool around which thread or yarn is wound.
  • The  Mother-of-All is the base holding the maidens – it can be moved back and forth to adjust the tension.
  • The Footman is the piece of wood that connects the treadle to the wheel.

  • Heddle: Middle English helde, from Old English hefeld. One of the sets of parallel cords or wires that with their mounting compose the harness used to guide warp threads in a loom.
  • Warp: the threads running lengthways. From the Old English ‘wearp’, of German origin ‘warpo’. In Old Norse ‘varp’ means the cast of a net. There is also the Old High German ‘warf’ – the Warp is sometimes called the Woof (owef in Old English – ‘o’ meaning on and ‘wefan’ meaning weave).  

Prepared warp ready to go onto the loom.

       Incidentally the process of putting on the warp is called ‘dressing the loom’.

  • Weft: Old English related to ‘wefan’.
  • Sley: to draw the warp ends through the heddle eyes or dents (teeth) of the reed.
  • Shuttle: Old English scytel ‘dart, missile’, of Germanic origin; compare with Old Norse skutill ‘harpoon’; related to shoot – how the weft is moved from one side of the loom to the other and back.

  • And last but not least: The Castle: the upright part of a table or floor loom that holds the shafts (that house the heddles).   
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