Spinning and Weaving

Learn From Home Activity

Background Information

An entire discussion of clothing worn by early settlers can take place when considering the source of the fabrics and items used. With early residents relying on their own sewing, weaving, knitting and crocheting skills, many were capable of producing clothing for their entire family using the necessary tools and simple, raw materials. 

With many of the settlers bringing animals like horses and cows from their previous home, others would also include sheep in that account. Sheep would provide wool which proved to be an excellent material when worked into yarn. However, before knitting could take place, a number of steps would have to be taken to ensure that the wool was properly prepared. 

In the spring farmers would prepare their flock of sheep by shearing their wool. This would be the perfect time, as the sheep were likely wanting to remove their heavy winter coat before the arrival of warmer summer weather. Using metal shears that resemble scissors, farmers would trim the wool, almost like a haircut, yielding the equivalent to a garbage bag full of wool from one adult sheep.  

Once all of the wool had been collected, it would then need to be washed to remove any sticks, leaves or dirt. This could be done at the bank of a river or creek to ensure a constant source of fresh water. From there, the wool would be dried. Following drying, the wool would then be brushed using carders.

Carders, which are paddles with metal teeth, would be used to brush out any left over knots or sticks from the now cleaned wool, working the material to ensure all fibres were arranged in the same direction. At this point, the wool could be dyed, if desired. This could be done by using natural dyes from strategically planted dye gardens - flowers, berries and vegetables could all be used to produce a variety of colours. Once successfully dyed and dried, the wool could then be worked into yarn using a walking wheel, spinning wheel or drop spindle. 

Within a strong agricultural community like Sharon, it should come as no surprise that wool and woolen products like flannel were readily available in the community, either on farms or at the General Store. As documented by John McIntyre, "Of the thirty-two farms worked by members of the Children of Peace ... twenty-five produced flannel ... averaging 26.5 yards for each producing farm" (Children of Peace  1994, 119). With this volume of production the community would be well outfitted with essential clothing items for any season. 

Another method for working fabric and utilizing scraps was weaving. Communities would often have a designated "Weaver". According to the  1861 Census East Gwillimbury's Weaver was William Smith, a non-member of the Children of Peace. Utilizing a loom (we have a tabletop version and a larger barn loom on display at the Museum), the weaver could create textiles with different patterns using a method to interlace the fabrics. Weaving was often a team effort - men were primarily weavers while women worked to prepare and spin the thread they needed.

Curriculum Connections

Social Studies - Grade 1: Strand B. People and Environments: The Local Community (B1.1)

Social Studies - Grade 2: Strand B. People and Environments: Global Communities (B1.3, B2.5, B2.6, B3.6, B3.7)

Social Studies - Grade 3: Strand A. Heritage and Identity: Communities in Canada, 1780-1850 (A1.1, A1.2, A2.5, A3.3, A3.6); Strand B. People and Environments: Living and Working in Ontario (B3.5, B3.6)

Science - Grade 2: Understanding Life Systems: Growth and Changes in Animals (2.2, 2.5, 2.7, 3.2, 3.3)

Science - Grade 6: Understanding Life Systems: Biodiversity (1.2)

The Arts - Grade 1: Visual Arts (D1.2, D1.3, D2.3)

The Arts - Grade 2: Visual Arts (D1.1, D1.2)

The Arts - Grade 3: Visual Arts (D1.1, D1.2)

Activity

We won't ask you to shear a sheep or work a barn loom on your own if you want to try your hand at weaving. Instead, gather your supplies and follow these simple instructions to create your own miniature loom to weave your own creation!

 

Supplies

Thin cardboard (cereal box, tissue box, etc.)

Scissors

Ruler

Pencil

Thin string/yarn (warp thread)

Yarn (weft thread)

Popsicle stick 

Instructions

1. Begin by cutting your cardboard into a rectangle measuring 15 cm (height) x 10 cm (width).

2. Make pencil marks along the top and bottom every 2 cm. Make sure these marks are aligned at the top and bottom. 

3. Using scissors, cut lengthwise along these marks to create slits. These slits will then hold your thin string/yarn or warp thread.

4. Begin creating your loom by placing the thin yarn on the front side of the cardboard and wrapping around the tab between the two slits only (you only want your warp thread to be on one side of your loom - it should look like a guitar!). 

5. Make sure the thread is tight but not too tight - your cardboard should remain flat, not curved. 

6. Carefully cut a slit into one end of the popsicle stick. This will act as your shuttle and will hold your yarn or weft thread. 

7. Begin by using your shuttle or popsicle stick as a guide to weave your weft thread through the warp thread. Follow an over, under, over, under, etc. pattern. 

8. Once your first line is complete, alternate the direction and make sure you continue to work in the opposite pattern as the previous line (ex. if your last line ended on top of your warp thread, make sure your next line starts under your warp thread). 

9. When you run out of length on your yarn, another piece can be tied to the end to extend your loom design - consider switching colours at this point. 

10. As you work down your loom, continue to push the completed weaving work upwards to make sure it remains tight. Do your best to keep it rectangular - if it begins to look like an hourglass, you may be pulling your weft thread too tight!!

11. Once you reach the end, tie your loose ends of the weft and warp threads together at each end. You can then slip off the loops around each of the "tabs" or cut them. 

12. Share your woven work with us by tagging us @SharonTempleNHS and using #STLearnFromHome!

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