History local history Textile Arts

Her Name is Finger Paper

Just a few textile related items from Selby inventories, from the second half of the 17thC.

In amongst this, there are some interesting items. A ‘worsett’ (worsted) wheel would possibly, at these dates, be a sort of intermediate style wheel, somewhere between a great wheel and a smaller wheel. The spinner sat down – instead of walked as at the Great Wheel –  and sometimes there was a handle to turn the wheel itself.  There may or may not have been a flyer – chances were, the spinner would still have to manually stop to wind the yarn onto the spindle, as on a Great Wheel. The Great Wheel remained pre-eminent for spinning woollen from carded wool; but it seems the new, smaller wheels were seen as better for worsted. As in flax spinning, worsted fibre supply was held on a distaff.  In the wood-cut above, the fibre on the distaff is not the characteristic fairytale book conical shape, we associate with flax, so this woman is probably spinning worsted.

A ‘spoile wheel’ was possibly a wheel for winding yarn (spoile = spool).
Selby is close to the East/West Riding border, so the dialect word for worsted, “wassit”, now appropriated by some is, slightly further South, rendered as “worsett”.

The will of Thomas Candler  (1680s)

…In the Presse House, …. 1 loome, £10 3 (shillings) -4 (pence)
In th e worke shope, 5 loomes, .1 warpin mill, 4 worsett wheeles, 4 spoile wheeles £7-1s-6d. In the Combing Roome, 3 pairs combs,1 pair carsay combs £1-4s-3d. In a Closett, some dyeing waires, £1-0s-3d… In the wool chamber, a parcel of yarn £2-10s, i parcell of comb woole  £3-8s-6d,  1 parcell of fleece woole, 3£-3s-9d, i parcell of brooken woole  £2-6s , i ps of baggin  £1-10s….

Carsay = kersey. It’s interesting that they had a different sort of comb. In “17thC Woolen Cloth Specification”, Stuart Peachey, (Stuart Press, 1991), Devonshire Kersies are defined as “…between twelve and thirteen such said Yards… and being well scoured, thicked, milled, and fully dried, shall weigh thirteen Pounds the cloth at the least….”  Yorkshire kersey was notoriously coarser than kersey from more Southerly locations. Kersey was made from combed wool and was woven fairly narrow. It was hard-wearing and comparatively cheap.

This one has several points of interest. Robert Watson’s occupation was not noted, but the inventory from his shop was fascinating. NB: stocking knitting needles by the lb.  The 2s probably refers to “per dozen”. Note also the use of the word “needles”.  The “incle” is a narrow-ware; a warp-faced braid. There are few references to inkle looms, but the fact the braid was called “incle” is suggestive of the idea that maybe there were ‘inkle’ looms by the 17thC.  The Shorter OED notes the first usage in 1532.

The “blew linnen” may be important. There is some debate as to whether all undershirts were white/undyed, as previously believed, in the 17thC. It is possible that blue shirts were also found in the 17thC. This is slightly backed up by Charles I’s blue, silk knitted shirt, from the 1640s.

The administration of Robert Watson’s estate
Sept 10, 1689

Inventory Nov 8th,  1688
Goods in the Shopp
5 doz of stockins att 7s,  £1-15-;  one doz ditto 13s;  3 doz of childrens stockins att 2s  6;  120 yards of blew linn, 8-17-8,…. 8 pr. of worstet stockings att 2s 6d., £1; 5 pr of womens stockins at 1s 8d., …. 21 lbs of worstet att 2s., £2-2; 4 1/2 of yarne at 18d per lb., 6s 9d…. 59 peices (sic) of small Incle att 8d., £1-19-4… 2 doz. of pinns, 9s…. 4lbs of knitting needles, 2 s; 3 paire of leather stockins, 1 s 6d…. 1 peice of callico,15s….a groze of Incle, 5s; 46 peices of ditto att 10d £1.0.4… A parcel if wash balls, 10s…Total of inventory  £344.2.4
All sorts other things… (three barrels of herring), oil, a huge inventory of spices, and tobacco….

Finally, this yeoman’s will which I found really poignant – showing how much their livestock meant to people. (Not textile related!)

Landscape with cows and Wildfowlers, Peter Paul Rubens [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The will of Miles Watson

Feb 20th, 1664 …I Miles Watson of Burne, yeoman give to (sister in law) one cow, couller black, & her name is Finger Paper…

Selby wills edited by Dr F COLLINS for the Yorks Arch Soc Vol XLVII1912


3 replies on “Her Name is Finger Paper”

Cheers, Jen! I will keep looking at the local inventories – not much mention of spinning equipment or wool along the river, or in the villages so this was interesting to see, that when you look at the nearby town – many mentions! I’ll keep looking and sharing what I find, as I find it.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.