Lac des Illinois chapter of Colonial Dames of Seventeenth Century met recently. Our speaker was Maggie Kraus. She is a local artist who works in several media, including painting and fabric. She has been spinning her own yarn for knitting for over 30 years.
She brought her spinning wheel and showed us how she spins - talking as she spun. She discussed the journey taken by wool after it is shorn from the sheep. She demonstrated carding the wool and mentioned that it is a great workout for the upper arms! She then spins the yarn and gathers it into skeins. She has dyed her own yarn as well - in a large vat over an open fire! It is not necessary to dye the yarn, though, as there are many naturally occurring colors and shades.
Maggie had brought several yarn samples with her, demonstrating the difference in yarn based on breed of sheep. Finally, she showed several examples of sweaters and other items that she had knit. Her homespun yarn and handmade sweaters were beautiful and quite durable.
It was easy to imagine our colonial ancestors spending hours going through this process, just to make a single item of clothing!