Textile Tools: The Lucet

Lucet, as verb, is a method of making braided cording or lacing that dates from the Viking era. Lucet, as noun, is the name of the little 2 tined tool used to make the cord, which is strong, square, and only slightly elastic. There are many different techniques, each of which will produce a different kind of cord, but the basic process is the same.  Briefly, yarn is worked in a figure 8 pattern, lifted over the tine, then turning the lucet. As the cord grows in length, it can be wound round the handle. Sometimes referred to as a chain fork or hay fork, the lucet was replaced when affordable commercial cording became easily available during the industrial revolution.

I’m not certain whether the word is pronounced “lusette” or “lusay”, and would appreciate your comments if you know for sure.


Textile Tools: The Niddy Noddy

One of my favorite words! A niddy noddy is a winding tool used to remove the spun yarn from the spindle. Often assigned to a child in the family, this was a simple but vital task. Most old niddies measure 2 yards of yarn per pass. This old song was probably designed as an aid to counting off the yardage.


Niddy noddy, niddy, noddy

Two heads, one body,

Here’s one, t’aint one,

‘T’will be one, by and by,

Here’s two, t’ain’t two,

‘T’will be two, by and by.

Etc., until 50 passes have been made and the niddy holds a 100 yard skein.


When I’m spinning away from home, I bring and use my niddy noddy. At home, however, I always use my reel, which is an umpteen times faster way to make that skein. Whichever winder I use, I leave the skein on it for a few days to to help relax it out and straighten the yarn.

Textile Tools: Medieval Images of Spinning Wheels


Woman spinning on the great or walking wheel.
Luttrell Psalter, British Library, London 14th c. England

The great wheel produced thread more quickly than the drop spindle, but the thread was lower quality. It was underspun (not twisted enough) and uneven. The wheel was turned by pushing a stick against the spokes (above) or by turning a crank. Because the spinner had to use one hand to operate the wheel, she was left with only one hand to draft the fibers, resulting in uneven thread.

Woman spinning on a great wheel which is turned by a crank. MS 17, Musee Dobree, Nantes 16th c. France

British Library, early 14th century

The spinners above are drafting the fibers with one hand and turning the crank with the other. The next step in the evolution of the spinning wheel was to attach a foot treadle to the crank. The spinner could then use her foot to turn the wheel, freeing both hands for drafting.

Knitting Tips: Darn It All!

A couple of weeks back, Interweave.com had a very useful article about how to darn holes in socks. I have an antique darning egg (is there such a thing as a new one?), but darned if I know how to use it! It’s slipped into the sock to provide a stable work surface, but that’s as much as I know. This article provides clear, step by step instructions that clear up the mystery. Incidentally, my mom, who’s still going strong at age 82, used to be  an inveterate knitter who always refused to knit socks, because her childhood memories include getting sore heals from darned and re-darned handmade socks.

Noste-what? Nostepinde: Textile Tools

There are a variety of spelling for the tapered stick that is the historical ball-winder: nostepinne, nustepinde, nostepinde, nustepinne, nostepenne, nostepende, and a variety of umlaut-ed forms as well. The word is Norwegian for “nest stick”, and it is used to wind a ball of yarn with a center-pull. The one in the photo is mine, purchased a few years back at the New York Sheep and Wool event at Rhinebeck.

Follow this link for detailed instructions on how to use the nostepinde. There are numerous sites on the web that sell beautiful hand-turned nostis: instructions

Knitting News: Knitting Your Voice

Ran across an article this morning in the online mag Make (link ), about a new knitting machine that has been configured by two German women to record a voice and   knit its waveforms. Electronic knitting machines are now available for home use, but it would take some doing to program it to do what you say! Interesting, but I think I’ll stick to my needles for now.