How your yarn is related to a car engine

Jonathan Bosworth designed this spinning wheel based on a 2000-year-old stone carving.

I know, you saw that subject line and said, "huh?" I think she's finally gone round the bend. But it's true!

So many times I've reached into the past, turning over stones to find little tidbits of historical interest about our fiber-driven craft. In her editorial for the Fall 2011 issue of Spin-Off, editor Amy Clark Moore quoted an article:

"We have focused on spinning wheels in this issue of Spin-Off, and in the process, my mind has been whirring. It really started when I read this sentence in Julia Farwell-Clay's about the Han Dynasty wheel that Jonathan Bosworth reproduced: 'Then came the question of the drive mechanism. It is ingenious in displaying complexity and simplicity at once and for being the likely introduction of the world to the drive belt, allowing for innumerable mechanical applications ever since, from car engines to cassette tapes.'"

The Han Dynasty! That's approximately 2000 years ago, in China. My curiosity was piqued, and I'll bet yours is too. Here's an excerpt from Julia's article.

Recently, Jonathan Bosworth was drawn down a path that led him to one of the twenty-seven volumes of Joseph Needham's monumental work Science and Civilisation in China (Cambridge, 1988): the volume that covers China's spinning traditions is authored by Deiter Kuhn, a professor at the University of Würzburg. Photos of several stone carvings dating from the Han Dynasty about 2,000 years ago caught Jonathan's eye for their depictions of something that was clearly a spinning wheel, a machine that most Western scholars believe wouldn't exist for another 1,200 years.

Part of a stone carving from the Han Dynasty Detail of the spinning wheel shown in the carving at left

Jonathan thinks the Han-era wheel was probably developed specifically for quilling, or the winding of silk thread onto bobbins for weaving, but other applications in textile manufacturing for a machine that spins would have been quickly understood and embraced to feed the increasing demand for silk textiles. Evidence supports the theory of its widespread acceptance as there is a precipitous decline in the number of drop spindle whorls found in the archaeological record around this time.
—from the Fall 2011 issue of Spin-Off

Amy was really taken with the spinning wheel's tie to combustion engines because her husband races cars. She takes her wheel with her to races, (see photo at right) making her the ultimate spin-in-public role model!

Amy Clark Moore spinning at a racetrack!

Try a subscription to Spin-Off so you don't miss any fascinating articles like "Spinning Wheel Time Machine" by Julia Farwell-Clay. I love looking back into history and finding out that my beloved craft of knitting has an even richer tradition that I thought it did!


Post a Comment