Front Matter At Boonesborough Beginning of the Story Boone on the Yadkin Boone Moves his Family Ready for the Journey What we Wore Driving Cattle and Sheep Camping at Nightfall The Long Halt Jimmy Boone Goes to Clinch Murder of Jimmy Boone A Time of Mourning The Faint-hearted Return A New Home Making Moccasins Tanning Leather Governor Dunmore Our Home on the Clinch Household Duties Attacked by a Wildcat Fighting the Wildcat Boone and Father Return The Wilderness Road Building the Forts Boonesborough Gathering Salt Boonesborough Precautions Our Home in the Fort Ready for Cooking Furnishing the House The Hominy Block The Supply of Water Sports Inside the Fort Wrestling and Running Religion of the Indians Indian Babies Colonel Callaway Arives News from Eastern Colonies Venturing Outside the Fort Dividing the Land Who Owned Kentucky? Ready to Build a Home Billy's Hard Lot Preparing Flax Spinning and Soap Making Broom Making More Indian Murders Indian "Signs" Woodcraft and Hunting Pelts Used as Money Petition of the Settlers Making Sugar Building Fences Capture of the Girls My Willful Thoughts Finding the Trail The Pursuit The Story Told by Jemima Elizabeth's Heroism Rescuing the Girls Alarm Among the Settlers Indians on the Warpath The First Wedding The Wedding Festivities The Brides Home The Housewarming Attacks by the Indians Besieged by the Savages In the Midst of the Fight The Assault by the Indians Failure of the Assault Watchfulness of the Indians The Sortie My Father Wounded Our Wounded

Hannah of Kentucky - James Otis

Preparing Nettle-Bark Flax

Although we had as yet no loom on which to weave cloth, father had made for mother a spinning wheel, promising that during the next year a loom should be set up, and she and I spent many an hour rippling, cleanŽing, and even braking and swingling, what we called flax.

Of course we had no real flax then in Kentucky. Save for here and there a small patch which had been planted by the men before we women folks came, none of the land was under cultivation.

Did you ever see the wild nettle growing, and notice the silky fiber that runs through the leaves? If so, you will know where mother got material for weaving into cloth. Whether it was her own notion, or some friendly person had told her that this could be done, I know not; but it is certain that during five or six days all of us, including father, gathered wild nettles, preparing the rind or bark exactly as you would flax, save that we did little rippling, by which I mean combing out the fibers over nails that are set in a board to make a comb. Instead, we set the leaves in the creek, after having driven stakes around to hold them in place and having piled up layer after layer of the green nettles, the whole being weighted with saplings and heavy rocks so that it would not float away. When the mass had rotted, we could take it out and easily get rid of the decayed portion.

[Illustration] from Hannah of Kentucky by James Otis

After this the fibers were tied in bundles. Then came the braking, when it was put between two tree trunks which had been hewed into little edges to fit one between the other like the cogs of a wheel; the upper trunk was brought down heavily upon the lower in such a manner that the weedy part of the fiber would be broken and bruised so that it could be swingled with a block and knife, until everything save the silky veins was scraped or shaved off.

Then we made the clean fibers up into bundles, which would have been called "strikes" in the case of real flax, and these were swingled again until every tiny thread was thoroughly cleaned, after which came the hackling, when the fiber was dampened and drawn through sharp pegs that had been set close together in a board until a square of perhaps four or five inches had been formed of these .small points. The hackling determines the fineness of the thread, since it separates each large fiber into very many small ones.