Volume II, No. 4, Summer 1975
Like many other regional groups, the early people of the Ozarks often had to rely on their ingenuity and adaptablility to live in reasonable comfort with what they or nature could produce and devise. Without the abundant consumer products taken for granted today, these people still provided their families with the same basic essentials that we spend most of our income on--food, housing and clothing. In past issues of BITTERSWEET we have written a little about the traditional home through the article "Country Kitchens," and are giving examples of the Ozarkers' favorite foods in the recipe features. In this issue we feature the process of making wool clothing, including the steps from the actual shearing of the sheep, the carding and spinning of the raw wool to its beautification by using natural dyes. The following stories fit together to give a look at the home production of wool yarn.
One of the greater responsibilities of the Ozark housewife was to provide warm clothing and bedding for her family. This was no easy task and it consumed a great deal of her time. Beginning in early spring, when the danger of the sheep becoming sick due to exposure was no longer present, the farmer would shear his sheep to begin this long process. The housewife would work diligently throughout the year when she had time from her other duties, patiently preparing the fleece and carding the wool. On sunny summer afternoons in front of her home or during the long winter evenings by the fire she would spin the woolen rolags into yarn in softer colors that would add variety and not soil so quickly. Even without the use of commercial dyes, the housewife still came out with an array of beautiful yellows and browns extracted from nature. This involved a lot of patience, ingenuity and know-how to achieve the proper hue that would hold its color through many scrubbings with lye soap.
Looking back at the clothing of those times, it is obvious that the lady of the Ozark home was very talented and mixed a great deal of creativity into her long hours of work in caring for the basic needs of her family.
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