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Abigail’s Debut

As I’m sure you noticed from yesterday’s photos, I brought Abigail – my Canadian Production Wheel – with me to our living history event. Now, I bought Abigail last summer and she came with one bobbin and a teeny tiny orifice opening – not really a set up conducive to lots of spinning.

So, I brought her flyer assembly to Dave at Rhinebeck and ordered 3 more bobbins from him. I got the extra bobbins at SPA and Dave also drilled that orifice opening to be a bit bigger. All of this went a long way towards making Abigail a more pleasurable wheel for spinning. And yet I still avoided her. I think it’s partly because I’m so comfortable with the Reeves and the Lendrum and I just didn’t want to take the time to really get to know a new wheel. However, Saturday’s event forced me to do just that and I’m so glad I did!


I was spinning some Shetland lamb that I bought from Spirit Trail at last year’s New Hampshire Sheep and Wool. I know I bought it there because the label was completely smudged and practically erased due to all the rain we had! This fiber was a perfect match for Abigail and I had no trouble spinning a pretty fine yarn. And boy is she fast. It seemed like I had one bobbin filled in no time at all.


The spectators really enjoyed seeing the spinning, too. I was surprised at how many people had never seen anyone spinning before. Most of them had no idea how the wheel works and quite a few thought that the fiber I was spinning was actually going around the drive wheel. It was fun to explain the process and tell people about the history of spinning. I passed on the information I have gleaned from Dave about the use of CPWs here in New England, including the fact that women weren’t spinning much by the 1860s since textile mills were so widely present in the area. Nevertheless, I’m confident that women in rural areas would have still been spinning at home and I feel okay about offering this impression at a Civil War event.


I actually enjoyed it more than knitting at an event. It was much easier to stop and start with the wheel than pick up and put down knitting all day long. Dale was thrilled that I brought the wheel and I know he’ll be encouraging me to do this more often. Who knows? Maybe the enticement of lots of spinning time will get me to give up more fiber festivals in favor of reenactments.

But I doubt it.

This Post Has 57 Comments

  1. You are *so* making me feel the need to start spinning. Thanks for sharing your experiences with Abigail and your reenactment day.

  2. You and Abigail look great together!

    Believe it or not I demonstrated spinning to a group of 3-year olds. I let them treadle while I drafted then draft while I treadled. They all took home some interesting looking yarn. It was a lot of fun!

  3. Have you read “The Age of Homespun” by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich? It has a lot of interesting info on textile history in New England. I’m only about 1/4 of the way through (got sidetracked with another book group book) but I’m really enjoying it!

  4. I have been bringing my CPW with me at earlier Living History events this year. I do French & Indian, Revelutionary & 1812 events. I also demonstrate a walking wheel at these events. When my legs tell me to sit down for a while, I spin on my CPW. It breaks down so nice for travel. Mine is very easy to treadle. It just keeps on going. I love how fast it goes. I get alot spin in now time. I’m glad you are enjoying spinning at Civil War events.

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