It occurred to me recently that I haven't posted many (any?) spinners from the US.
(click for BIG) So I give you this intent spinner and her pouting child from West Virginia from the late 1800's. This is a photograph rather than a postcard and is, consequently, precious as it is very probably the only one in existence. I wish I knew more about her, but the photo bears no more identifying information.
One very interesting aspect of this photo is the preparation of the wool she is spinning--rolags produced by a wool carding mill. I have seen very few images of spinners working with this form of fiber. Her rolags are quite
different from what we contemporary spinners call rolags; they are very thin and airy and are two or three feet long.
The bit of fiber hanging from her left hand is the unspun part of the rolag. The white bundle hanging off the tension handle of her saxony wheel is a large number of these rolags, waiting to be spun. Rolags such as these are a perfect preparation for woolen spinning; they practically spin themselves.
In the 19th century in the eastern US almost every stream--no matter how small--and every river was lined with mills.
Mills for every purpose from wood turning to manufacturing brooms,to grinding grain and corn. Chief amongst such mills were have been woolen mills.
With the advent of the industrial revolution, one of the earliest uses to which
mill machines were put was to process wool. Everyone needed wool for clothing and bedding, and at this time many people raised sheep and spun and wove their own fabrics, especially in rural areas.
People would deliver their wool to the mill and receive back the processed fiber, either in rolag or batt form. People who did not raise their own sheep could also purchase the processed wool from the mill.
I have witnessed this process, myself, at Old Sturbridge Village in central Massachusetts on these water-driven carding machines. The one in the
foreground produces rolags, and the one behind produces batts. If you are ever in the area, a visit to the woolen mill would be well worth your while.