Gateway to the Classics: Ruth of Boston by James Otis
Ruth of Boston by  James Otis

Spinning, Bleaching, and Weaving Flax

After all this preparation has been done, then comes the spinning, which is, of course, the work of the women and girls. I am proud to say I could spin a skein of thread in one day, before I was thirteen years old, and you must know that this is no mean work for a girl, since it is reckoned that the best of spinners can do no more than two skeins.

Of course the skeins must be bleached, otherwise the cloth made from them would look as if woven of tow, and this portion of the work mother is always very careful to look after herself.

The skeins must stay in warm water for at least four days, and be wrung out dry every hour or two, when the water is to be changed. Then they are washed in a brook or river until there is no longer any dust or dirt remaining, after which they are bricked, which is the same as if I had said bleached, with ashes and hot water, over and over again, and afterward left to remain in clear water a full week.


Then comes more rinsing, beating, washing, drying, and winding on bobbins, so that it may be handy for the loom.

The chief men in Boston made a law that all boys and girls be taught to spin flax, and a certain sum of money was set aside to be given those who made the best linen that had been raised, spun, and woven within the town.

I am told that in some of the villages nearabout, the men who make the laws have ordered that every family shall spin so many pounds of flax each year, or pay a very large amount of money as a fine for neglecting to do so.

It is not needed I should set down how flax is spun, for there is but one way to spin that I know of, whether the material be wool, cotton, or flax.

But I would I might be able so to set it down, that whosoever reads could understand, how my mother wove this linen thread into cloth; but it would require more of words than I have patience to write.

If there be any who have the desire to know how the linen for their tables, or for their clothing, is made, I would advise that the matter be studied as one would a lesson in school, for it is most interesting, and father holds to it that every child should be able to make all of that which he wears.

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