Wednesday, August 20, 2008

VTT: Spools! Glorious Spools!

Welcome to Vintage Thingies Thursday, sponsored by Lisa, the Apron Queen Each week people sign up with Lisa to be listed as VTT participants and show off all sorts of keen vintage items like books, jewelry, pottery, toys, and clothing. After you look at my nifty offerings for this week, be sure to go see what everyone else has; it really brings back great memories!
This is my small collection of antique industrial spools. Yes, most of them are from my dad's basement! We think they were in the family because someone at one point worked in the textile mill of Windsor Locks, CT, which manufactured underwear. A lot of our vintage items were found in the family's Windsor Locks home. I have 3 different styles and sizes, some with new thread that has been put on them for decoration. Currently, I have them displayed on the bottom shelf of a small table in my entry.
Since I only had this one picture to share with you, and not a lot of information about them, I did some research, which I know some of you like to read. One thing I learned was that although yarn has been wound on spools for thousands of years (Don't forget Sleeping Beauty pricking her finger!) there were no major changes in their construction until the Industrial Revolution, and it was mostly women working in the industrial mills who drove the design changes.
Many people today use these old spools in their home decor. I have seen the wider ones used as candle sticks, and smaller ones displayed in big bowls. I've even seen regular wooden thread spools with thread still on them in a large clear apothecary jar, which looked really beautiful! The texture of the wooden spools with the manufacturer's writing on them, and the varied colors of the threads made a great display. These on the right have been wired to be nightlights, and make a really cute grouping.
The spools below were once used to wind commercial yarn. The steam would come up through the center hole of each spool & then shoot out the multiple holes in each. As the yarn wound around the spool, the steam would stretch it out so that it could be wound tightly on the spool therefore producing longer yardage per spool.
I found this article from a 1940 newspaper about a man repurposing spools to make cameras!The Industrial Revolution (1790s-1860s) brought about huge changes in the labor and textile industries, as well as society. Many historians credit the birth of the Revolution in the United States to Frances Cabot Lowell, who, in 1814, built a textile mill next to the Charles River in Waltham, Massachusetts. The Waltham mill was the first integrated mill in the United States, transforming raw cotton into cotton cloth in one building. Lowell died three years later, and in 1826 his partners named their new mill town "Lowell" in his honor. In less than 20 years, a small collection of family farms was transformed into the industrial city of Lowell, Massachusetts, which is now a National Historic Site. In that time, ten textile corporations opened 32 mills in the city.Young women, usually from large New England farm families, orphans, or immigrants, were "collected" or recruited by men telling tales of high wages available to "all classes of people." In 1840, the factories employed almost 8,000 workers – mostly women between the ages of 16—35. On average these women worked a 72-hour week with few breaks. Historically, these young women have been dubbed "The Lowell Mill Girls" and much research has been conducted on their daily lives.The mills were a dangerous place to work with shuttles flying off looms, and a constant, humid, 100-degree climate. Bobbins and the machinery they ran on were some of the greatest inventions of the Victorian Era. Developed as a way to manage heaps of thread, bobbins revolutionized textile manufacturing during the Industrial Revolution. Many textile mills had their own machine shops and their own favorite shape of bobbin which accounts for their varied designs. Traditional wooden bobbins have been retired from most current day manufacturing because of the large amount of hand work involved in making them, as well as the fact that they are not suited to synthetic fibers or high-speed machinery.Do you or any of your friends have spools, either on display or hidden away in some box? Did you ever study the Industrial Revolution in school? Did you already know about the Mill Girls? Let me know in the comments!
Now go and visit some of the other VTT posters!


eileen said...

This is very interesting information about the spools. Imagine a camera in 1940. Very cool. This was a great post.

Ronda's Rants said...

I didn't know about this...How very interesting! I love that you found out all of this because of your collection...The next time I go into a shop...I will look for some spools. :)

French said...

You have the most interesting vintage things! Alas I have none! But I sure do enjoy looking at yours;) French

Jewelgirl said...

No spools at my house! I did study
the Industrial Revolution but I've
never heard of the Girls. This would
be a great history lesson for kids,
to help understand how machines changed our way of life. Glad to
see your back!

Lidian said...

Fascinating post Elizabeth - I really enjoyed this! Those spools are wonderful.

Her Shabbiness said...

Very interesting. I love learning about things I had no idea about.
Thanks for sharing.
Happy VTT!

Coloradolady said...

The spools are great, so is the information. It was very interesting to read. I love these old spools. They look really cute to use as decorations.

sista #2 said...

I dont know that I have ever seen those before!
Thanks for sharing


alicia said...

wow! those are neat!!

here from ICLW

Caution Flag said...

I loved reading your post and learning more about the mills. The mill girls have always interested me. Love the spools, but wouldn't know what to do with them at my house! Good for you for finding creative uses.

g said...

what a great piece of history you have there! I am from CT and they have such a great history in it self! the house i grew up in was an old colonial about 100yrs old... and part of an apple orchard. its pretty cool!... thanks for the history lesson! awesome!


apronstringsandothertiesthatbind said...

What a cool collection! I just saw where someone was winding paper yarn on their vintage spools...but I couldn't track down where I saw it.

Patty said...

Those spools are great! It's funny how I have seen things at antique stores and flea markets, and you have them at your house! I knew a little bit about Lowell but learned more thanks to your post!

Amy said...

wow you sure have some fabulous family heirlooms! I wonder how old they are?

Beth Ann said...

Hi Elizabeth!

WOW! You certainly did your homework! What a fascinating article! I did not know any of that, and find it so interesting!
(note to self...look for spools to collect...) Just kidding! Salts are addicting enough! :) I'll have to do a second segment on them. Thanks for stopping by!

nikkicrumpet said...

I love that you took the time to find the history on your cool spools! That was very will make it much more interesting when I drive by those old places here in MA and in CT!

In Due Time said...

I love finding vintage items in the thrift stores/garage sales.

Coming over from ICLW...

Stephanie said...

Love the spools, and your story was very interesting.

ellen b said...

I appreciate the history along with these spools. I love the fact that they are wood and the different sizes and slight difference in shape. Enjoy...

Carrie said...

I took a field trip north to Lowell with a Textiles class to visit the sites of the mills where the young ladies worked in the textile industry.

Dawn said...

thanks for the research! Are you by any chance a librarian! Cause I am and I love looking up stuff about stuff I love! Or just to know!

Grandma J said...

Elizabeth, I have two tall spools similar to those from a mill in Rhode Island. My great grandmother worked in a mill, so I keep them as a reminder. I use mine as candle holders too. Maybe I'll highlight them one of these Thursdays!
I love the variety you have!

Carolyn (sea mystery) said...

I used to have the old wood sewing thread spools, but gave them to the Institute for the Disabled here in Baltimore to make decorations they could sell at fundraisers. It was a good cause and I was happy to do it. As always ... love your research ... you keep me informed of things I would never think to look for. xxoo

Fiona said...

What an interesting post. Your dad's basement is a treasure trove! Did you ever see the BBC series of Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South? It was all about cotton milling in England, and the dangers and industrial action and so on that went on in that time, similar I imagine to what happened in the states. So many young children working there too. Tragic. It makes you grateful for the advances in work conditions in western countries, at least.

I always enjoy your vintage Thursdays!

Smilingsal said...

I have some! I have my mother's small "sewing table" that contains several spools on spindles. Now I know it's even more valuable than I'd imagined.

Elizabeth said...

Beautiful spools. I love the idea of a jar full of wooden spools of thread. I inherited some very small wooden spools of silk thread long ago...wonder where they are?
Blessings, EJT

Threeundertwo said...

This is a great post. I love old spools but I never knew much about them. I've seen people use them as candle holders. I love the ones turned into lamps.

Anne said...

I adore spools, and I love your blog! Thanks for stopping by mine!

Cassandra said...

Here from ICLW...
These spools are fantastic! One of my favorite parts of going to living history museums is seeing everyday items like these that are so different from what we use today.

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