Grantville needs people to work in the munitions factories. And the steel mill. And the brick factories. Where will they come from? Why, all those poor women who have to spin and weave all the time can be emancipated right away—just build a spinning jenny and power up those looms!

Grantville needs more cloth, to make uniforms and to provide everyone with a change of clothing. What can be done? Why, build a spinning jenny and power up those looms!

Now, wait just a doggone minute—it is not that easy!

Among the up-timers there are no textile mill workers, no hobby spinners, no hobby weavers. Some up-timers will be sure that great-grandmother's spinning wheel and loom in the attic must be better than anything down-time and want to show them off—those wheels and looms that have not, over the years, been fed to the stove (Foxfire 10, 362). But the down-timers may be hard put to keep straight faces. The spinning wheels used in American homes were great wheels, a design that down-time spinsters on the Continent abandoned over a hundred years before the Ring of Fire. American home looms were simple two- or four-harness looms; seventeenth-century weavers use multiple-harness or draw looms.

The spinning jenny pictured in encyclopedias is not the original of 1764, nor even the patented jenny of 1770, but an improved version from 1815. Except in the Encyclopedia Americana, the parts are not labeled. Even there, the description of how it works is incomplete, and the drawing does not show how the drive wheel at the side turns the spindles. Constructing a spinning jenny from the up-time knowledge known to be in Grantville will be a long, frustrating engineering exercise involving much experimentation.

The seventeenth-century loom is not suited to power. Several inventions and adjustments must be made before weaving, just of wool, can be mechanized.

First Steps

Spinning Wheel.

The simplest improvement that up-timers can suggest is that the down-timers convert their spinning wheels from hand power to foot power: crank the hub of the drive wheel of a low spinning wheel, set a treadle below, and put a connecting rod (known in OTL as the footman) between.

Later historians assumed that the low wheel, with the flyer/bobbin spinning mechanism and the treadle to power it, appeared complete in 1530, replacing the thirteenth-century great wheel. Perhaps, in the absence of written evidence—women's work was seldom documented—these writers assumed that spinsters enjoyed walking a prescribed course while spinning, manipulating the supply of fiber, the thread being spun, and the drive wheel, and that only the treadle could have convinced them to sit. The crank-and-connecting-rod system has been known since about 1500 (HOTb 653-4), for turning wood lathes. But would a wood-turner watch his wife spinning and thereby realize how useful a treadle would be? Not to mention that these later writers attribute the invention of the treadle and/or flyer/bobbin to a mason of Brunswick, one Johann Jürgen. A drawing of the low wheel with flyer/bobbin appears in a household journal of about 1480 (HOTa 204); there is no treadle.

Spinning wheels were hand-powered until late in the seventeenth century (Feldman-Wood). "A Woman Spinning," painted in 1655 by Nicolaes Maes, of Amsterdam, shows the earlier, treadle-less design, as do several earlier paintings, while "Interior with a Woman at a Spinning Wheel," by Esaias Boursse, also of Amsterdam, from 1661, shows a primitive treadle. "The Spinner," painted a generation later by Willem van Mieris, of Leiden, shows a wheel with a fully developed treadle. This indicates that the treadle was first applied about 1660, and modified later.

A few minor tweaks may be necessary: The crank and the far end of the treadle must be in line, and making the table three-legged instead of four-legged is advisable. The treadle must be able to drive the wheel in either direction, according to need, so footman and treadle are tied together with a bit of leather lacing through a hole bored in each. The bearings, probably of leather, between crank and footman and between treadle bar (replacing a stretcher) and the table legs, should be firm enough to hold the wheel in position when the spinster stops it, so that she can stop it exactly when she wants to, and restart it going in the same direction easily.

Photographs of a treadled spinning wheel in operation can be found in the newer encyclopedias (not in the 1911 Britannica), and in Foxfire 10 (356; not in the article on spinning and weaving found in Foxfire 2). Grantville's museum contains a low wheel with treadle, but no up-timer knows anything about spinning wheels and may not even notice the differences between it and the wheels used by down-timers.


The first improvement to the loom is the flying shuttle, which will provide some ease for the weaver. The two looms in Grantville's museum do not have flying shuttles; although of late twentieth-century manufacture, they are simple versions of the looms used in the home by women of the seventeenth century. However, the text and drawings available in several encyclopedias should be sufficient once the desire for the invention occurs.

A loom holds the warp, the lengthwise threads of a textile, taut, and provides a mechanism to lift certain of these threads—in the simplest case, every other—while pulling the rest down, creating a shed for the passage of the shuttle. The shuttle carries the weft, the crosswise thread, over and under the warp threads. The usual shuttle of the seventeenth century is a shape known and used at least since the thirteenth century—a boat shuttle. This is a rectangular block with pointed ends; in the top is a trough wherein a bobbin full of yarn can spin, letting the weft pay out through a small hole in the side of the shuttle as it travels across the warp. The weaver opens the shed by pressing treadles with his feet. While holding the treadles down, he stretches forward and to one side to throw the shuttle through the shed with a snap of his wrist, then quickly reaches to the other side of the loom to catch it. A man of average height, or less, can weave on a warp two ells in width, an ell on most of the Continent being 26 or 27 inches. Before opening the countershed and throwing the shuttle back, the weaver swings the beater (or batten) to snug the shot (British: pick) of weft against the growing edge, the fell, of the cloth. The beater is made of two heavy lengths of wood hung vertically from above, holding the reed between the lower ends. The reed, extending across the loom, is strips of reed, set vertically and edge-forward, between two laths. The warp threads pass through the dents between the individual reeds. As well as beating up the weft, the beater and reed help keep the warp threads from clinging to each other.

The flying shuttle, invented by John Kay in 1738, will permit one weaver (instead of two or more) to produce wider cloth, and will improve the ergonomics of weaving. But it will increase the speed of weaving very little. Although Aspin uses the term "doubled" for the increase in speed (p. 14), the actual numbers recorded at the time, and reported by Aspin, show that after the invention, a weaver needed yarn from five or six spinsters instead of only four.

Invention of the flying shuttle begins with modification of the beater. The bottom lath is widened so that it extends forward of the reed to make a shuttle race on which the shuttle can slide. At each end of the beater, beyond the edges of the warp, a box big enough to hold the shuttle is added, with the end toward the beater open for the shuttle to leave by and enter through. The shuttle is thrown from one box to the other across the warp by the impact of a pick block, a small wooden block deep in the box that is jerked or knocked so that it hits the end of the shuttle and then encounters a stopper. There are several ways to move the pick block: the original invention had the ends of a loose cord fastened to the pick blocks through a slot in the front of the box, and the weaver jerked a handle fastened to the center of the cord to left or right.

The shuttle used in the twentieth century with the flying shuttle mechanism is the boat shuttle, but having metal caps on each end with a spring inside instead of being a solid block of wood. These caps came fairly early in the development, as did tiny wheels set in the bottom of the shuttle.

The weaver will still need to check the length of weft left behind by the shuttle before beating it into place. It must be enough to keep the weft from pulling the edges in, but not so much that there are loops of it beyond the edges of the cloth. A neat selvage is the mark of a good weaver.

The treadle and the flying shuttle are minor improvements—they are evolutionary, not revolutionary—but they could incline down-timers to look favorably on more up-time innovations.

Changes: Down-time to Up-time

The modern, up-time, textile industry depends not only on machines—a multitude of them!—but also on improved crop yield, good transport, and, yes, cheap labor even yet.

The down-time European fiber crops are wool, linen, hemp, and silk. The first three are grown almost everywhere; silk is produced in Italy, and in France in an area around Lyons. Cotton is grown elsewhere and imported. Ramie, jute, and other natural fibers are native to, and used in only, the Far East.

Raw Material Supply.

Wool (undercoat of Ovis aries) is from sheep that have been bred for the purpose for millennia. A major part of the wool supply comes from Britain, which, in the 1630s, does not tax its export. For more wool, there must be more sheep. What will they eat? Australia or America could feed them, but not Europe. Breeding for quantity as well as quality of wool has been underway for something over 6,000 years; formal Mendelian theory may be of interest to down-timers.

Flax (Linum usitatissimum) and hemp (Cannabis sativa), bast fibers, can be grown anywhere in Europe; at this time, flax is a major crop in areas just south of Thuringia, and hemp is major in several areas of Germany. They will grow in almost any soil, as long as it is deep enough for the roots.

When grown for the fiber rather than the seed, flax is sown thickly, to keep the plants growing straight with little branching. Weeding is necessary only once, when flax has grown to about six inches. Modern fertilization might help, but if the soil contains too much nitrogen, each flax plant will yield less fiber (EB14f 430). When grown for the seed, flax is sown much less thickly, so that each plant branches and produces more seed.

Flax is subject to wilt, and several other fungi and viruses. For this reason, flax is not planted in the same field year after year; a field should have at least five years between crops of flax. Resistant strains of flax were developed early in the twentieth century, becoming available around 1920 (EB14f 431). No flax was grown in the area transferred in the Ring of Fire, however, and redeveloping resistant strains, starting with only the conviction that it can be done, will take some time.

Cotton (Gossypium spp.) is a tropical plant. It is imported from the Levant (Syria to Egypt); most of it is grown in India, and nearly all of it, no matter where it is grown, is G. herbaceum, Indian cotton. Some is G. arboreum, tree cotton, also a native of India. Up-time Egyptian cotton is not a native of Egypt; G. barbadense is a native of South America and, down-time, is grown only as Sea Island cotton, not having been introduced to Egypt yet. The English colony of Virginia began cultivating G. hirsutum, Upland cotton, which is native to tropical North America, in 1621 (Hartsuch 164); there was still very little cotton in England as late as 1640. The German states, being closer to the Levant, may have more cotton at this time.

Cotton is subject to many insect pests; the boll weevil is simply the most famous. Cotton must be hoed to reduce weed growth, chopped, constantly, as the plants are grown too far apart to shade out weeds.

Grantville can do little to affect the cultivation of cotton, as most of it is grown far away.

Silk (cocoon of Bombyx mori) needs a warm climate. James I of England tried to find one in his own territories, but was unsuccessful.

Silkworms cannot be cared for by machines; in fact, up-time silkworms get more human attention than down-time worms did. In the nineteenth century, the silk industry experienced a great die-off. Pasteur was consulted and determined that the worms must not be crowded, that the eggs must be microscopically inspected for disease, that only the best cocoons should be allowed to produce breeding stock (Barker 297–8).

An important part of sericulture is the cultivation of mulberry; an ounce of silkworm eggs plus a ton of leaves yields 12 pounds of reeled silk (EB14h 522).

* * *

Up-timer biological and agricultural knowledge will be useful. While specifics known to Grantvillers may not be applicable, the general principles can be applied in the search for improvement.

Harvesting and Processing.

Much of the initial processing of the fibers is done where the product was raised, primarily because of the cost or difficulty of transport and the lack of any use for the by-products. Wool grease and the accompanying dirt are washed out of the fleece a week or more before the sheep are sheared. Cotton seeds weigh about three times as much as the lint, and are discarded in place.

Wool. The shearing of sheep is much faster up-time than down-time. With the old-style hand clippers, a man could shear 30 plus or minus 10 sheep in one day; with modern powered clippers, he can do about 100 plus or minus 20 (Van Nostron). This does not mean that the same shearing will be accomplished by a third as many people; individual sheep will have to be captured and dragged to the shearer at the greater rate, and their fleeces folded and packed. Up-time, a shearer works four two-hour sessions in a day.

Down-time, all sheep are sheared with scissor-style clippers: shearing blades set on a flat spring. Up-time, most sheep are sheared with an electric handpiece, invented about 1900, much like the ones used to shear recruits in boot camp. But the desired outcome of shearing sheep is not a bald sheep; it is a good fleece. While the up-time handpiece can shear closer than the old clippers can, it also requires more care in avoiding skin tags and bits of sheep that protrude. Nicking the sheep's skin is a very bad thing—it exposes the animal to infection and infestation, and besides, blood is so hard to get out of wool.

In the twenty-first century, the modern shears are powered by distributed electricity or individual batteries. Before the power grid spread everywhere, they were powered by small motors set on the rafters of the shearing shed, or by someone turning a crank.

When a sheep is sheared, the locks of wool cling to each other, forming a fleece. Shearing usually begins down the middle of the underside of the sheep, so that the edges of the fleece are belly wool. This permits skirting of the fleece, the removal of the matted belly wool, which can be sent to the lanolin boilers. Then the fleece is folded, tips in and cut ends out, rolled up, and tied. The fleeces are packed into woolsacks—the English woolsack held 364 pounds of wool (Hartley 135)—ready for shipment by the wool merchants. Up-time, compressing the pack is done with a mechanical press, instead of by people walking on the fleeces in the sack.

Flax and Hemp. The harvesting of flax is done by hand—even up-time. These plants must be uprooted, pulled up by hand; if the plants are cut from the roots, or the roots removed later, the fibers will be degraded in the process that separates pith and outer coating from the fibers of the phloem (EA 576). A field of flax is harvested all at once, by a line of all available people crossing the field, although the shorter plants and the longer are separated. Harvesting of flax for fiber is best done before the seeds are ripe; harvesting later yields less flax of poorer quality. A field of hemp is harvested in two passes, the male plants first and the female plants ten days or two weeks later.

Different regions handle harvested flax somewhat differently, but in nearly all, the seeds are rippled free immediately; the tops of the plants are pulled through a comb with the seeds falling onto a sheet below. After that there is a drying period; the flax is stooked in the field to dry for a few days in the sun. In parts of Flanders, the flax is then stored in a shed for a full year, but in most places, it is retted immediately.

Retting is the way that the boon, the pith and the outer coating, is partially rotted to free the fibers. Down-time, retting is often done in a pool dug near a stream. The length of time depends on the weather; it takes at least ten days, and can take up to three weeks. The water left after retting cannot be discarded into the stream, as it will have a detrimental effect on the fish, but can be spread over the fields as a fertilizer (Moore 50). Up-time, retting is done in huge, temperature-controlled, indoor tanks; with the temperature at a constant 80°F, retting takes about a week (EB14f 430).

When retting has progressed as far as it should, the flax is dried again, and the boon is broken, by means of a hand-operated breaking box. Scutching, done with a board and a paddle, removes the boon completely. Then the flax must be hackled, combed, to separate the line flax, 20 to 30 inches long, from the shorter tow. (Line flax becomes strong linen thread; tow is used unspun for stuffing, or can be spun into a softer, weaker thread.)

Up-time, all of these procedures, rippling through hackling, even drying, are performed by machine, instead of by hand with simple tools. In both systems, the plants and the resulting fibers are kept as parallel as possible.

After breaking, scutching, and hackling, the flax goes to the women of the area for spinning. Most of the hemp will go to the men of the rope walk; a nineteenth-century man-of-war used 80 long tons of hemp, the yearly product of 320 acres (Hartley 157). The longer fibers of hemp are not easily handled by distaff and spinning wheel (Davenport, Spinning 98); only the shorter hemp fibers go for clothing.

Cotton. Harvesting cotton continues through much of the growing season, as each plant has flowers, developing bolls, and ripe cotton all at once. The first harvester was developed in the 1850s; it stripped the plants, leaving only the stalks. This was extremely wasteful, and required more hand labor to separate the mature cotton from everything else. Immature ("dead") cotton cannot be spun and woven. It was not until the 1940s that the modern spinner harvester was fully developed; it pulls the mature cotton, which is expanding out of the bolls, free (EB14c 90H). The spinner designed for Upland cotton, which bursts upward, cannot be used for Indian cotton, which spills downward.

Up-time, cotton is shipped with the seeds still present. Down-time, seeds are removed by hand right after the cotton is picked. When the gin was first invented, it was used on the farm, because of the costs of transportation—cotton seed is two-thirds or more of the weight (Peake 19)—and because there was little use for cotton seed. Without modern oil-pressing machinery, cottonseed oil is somewhat toxic (EB14a 615).

Three different cotton gins have been invented. The wire teeth gin invented by Eli Whitney, and the saw gin improvement of it by Hodgen Holmes, damage the lint, especially lint of longer fibers, more than roller gins do (EB11a 259–260). Some seeds are broken in ginning, and the bits often stay in the cotton, needing to be removed later—which is, with the full machine processing and handling of up-time, after it is woven. Up-time, the Whitney-Holmes gin is still used for Indian cotton, which produces very short lint.

Cotton linters, the very short fibers that coat the seeds of Indian and Upland cotton but not those of Sea Island or Egyptian, will not be available. These were ignored until the second decade of the twentieth century (Peake 18), when they were found to be useful in several industries (paper, rayon, and "Boom!").

Silk. Up-time, cocoons that have set (about a week after being spun) are subjected to high heat, or poisonous fumes, to kill the chrysalids before they can break out of the cocoons; they are stored until the factory rep collects them. Down-time, reeling is done on the farm from "live" cocoons—they are put into very hot, but not boiling, water to soften the sericin enough to allow unwinding. Live cocoons produce silk that is more lustrous; dead ones yield a more even yarn, better for power weaving (Hooper 33).

One silk fiber (a bave of two brins of fibroin embedded in sericin) is only 1/3000 inch thick (Hooper 4). Several cocoons are reeled off together (three to eight—Patterson II 197, or six to twelve—Hooper 34). Of the 4,000 yards a silkworm spins to make one cocoon, only about half a mile (give or take a couple hundred yards) can be reeled for use (Hartsuch 286–287). Down-time, the rest is discarded; not until 1671 was silk waste carded and spun (Hooper 112).

As each cocoon is exhausted of reelable silk, another cocoon is added to the pot, until the required length to make a hank has been reeled. The ends are tied together and secured so that they can be found later. Twine is tied around the silk threads at several points in the circle to keep them from tangling, and the hank is removed from the reel.

Some of the methods used in reeling are fairly late developments. Up-time, cocoons are unwound from two pots next to each other, each group onto its own reel, but between the pots and the reels, the two threads are twisted around each other about six times. This croisseur (croissure, croisure), this "essential part" (Hooper 36) that presses the filaments together so that they consolidate, dates from 1828 (Barker 301). The use of glass rods and rings to guide the fibers between pot and reel is probably established in down-time Italy already; smooth glass does not snag and impede the silk fibers the way bronze or iron can.

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- The Grantville Gazette Staff