Donna Hughes came
from her home in Bolton to speak to us about the history of hand
spinning. She came in character, dressed as a 17th century woman
and she spoke about the history along with a practical
demonstration. She was brought up in a family that were employed
in the cotton industry and she was fascinated by the
conversations that she heard. Eventually she decided to teach
herself all about the industry and its roots. The spinning of
yarn can be traced back more that 25,000 years and in recent
centuries there was little progress in the methods used.
Previous to the mid 17th century most of England’s cloth was
woven from yarn that was hand made in the original definition of
the ‘cottage industry’ it wasn’t until the men folk began to
travel across the county during the English Civil war (1642–51)
that they became aware of other systems that could be employed.
Donna with her spinning wheel.
The Spinner by William-Adolphe Bouguereau.
A delightful 1873 painting showing a woman
hand-spinning using a drop spindle.
Lancashire climate was suited to the spinning process. In the
coastal areas flax was used for yarn, in the central area cotton
was used and to the east and Yorkshire it was wool. Donna’s
fascinating demonstration took us up the start of the industrial
revolution when mechanised methods and mills took over.