Local News

April 23, 2014

Do you know what this is?


OSKALOOSA — This past week's artifact from the Nelson Pioneer Farm is a Weasel.

Only one person ventured a guess at the identity of this week's artifact.

Dorothy Vos wrote via email: “This week’s picture of the artifact is a Knitty Knotty.  I used this specific knitty knotty many times when I used to spin for school tours @ the Nelson Pioneer Farm in the 70’s.  When my spool was full of spun yarn, I wound the spun yarn around the four knobs with one hand and used my other hand to wind it.  When the yarn was taken off the knitty knotty it would roll into a soft rolled skein of yarn.  It was an essential piece of equipment for the pioneers who did their own spinning of yarn.  It helped keep the spun yarn from becoming a tangled mess! Wool carders and the spinning wheel were also essential items for every pioneer woman.”

Nelson Pioneer Farm Curator Kelly Halbert did some research on the artifact. She wrote: “Weasel

Commonly called a weasel during the middle ages, this artifact is a yarn winder. These simple machines were used by wool merchants to measure out skeins of yarn. The yarn is wound off the spindle or bobbin of the spinning wheel onto the winder, the number of rounds counted and the spinster was paid for the quantity of yarn spun. Similar designs are still used today by home spinners.

So why call it a weasel? Well, a skein of yarn weighs about 4 ounces – so does a weasel. Folk tales relate that the merchant would compare the weight of the yarn in one hand to a weasel in the other, declaring it a skein. The name eventually became associated with the yarn winder. In addition, cleaver engineers created a counter that could measure out the number of repetitions that the yarn wrapped the winder and when the correct number was reached “Pop goes the weasel!”

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