I’ve been doing some research for my new book project and I came across the strangest reference to Spinning Bees. And I found it in a book about the history of sleep, darkness, and nighttime. Roger Ekrich’s book, At Day’s Close, explores some pretty interesting details about nightly rituals of the past. If you’re interested, it’s a terrific historical argument about segmented sleep and the post-industrial, modern move towards 8 hours of consolidated slumber. Ok, Ok, back to the spinning bees.
Ekrich notes that historically, elders were often concerned about the dark of night and the potential for elicit activities among younger members of the community. Among other festivals and events, he mentions the Spinning Bee (or Spinning Party): “Spinning bees, in much of Europe, afforded a more regular setting during long winters for conviviality and courtship. . . . As the hours advanced, knitting and spinning gave way to games like ‘blindman’s bluff,’ and talk laden with dirty double entendres . . . A favorite ritual called for a girl to drop her distaff to see which suitor picked it up” (194-195). He even offers a terrific image of Hans Schald Beham’s A Spinnstube from 1524, which you can see here.
Ah, the wonders of research. Who knew spinning had such a sordid history? Well, maybe Sarah of Fiber Trek . . . Now, if only my new book project were actually about fiber-craft! Next time, next time, for sure!