In keeping with the spirit of the people who founded Tremonton, the Bear River Valley Museum participated in this year’s City Days celebration with a pioneer workshop featuring candle making, yarn spinning and other activities recognizing the city’s pioneer heritage.
Women donned full-length dresses, bonnets and other pioneer garb to capture the feel of days gone by. One table featured handmade wooden toys, and another nearby served as a quilt tying station.
Visitors to the museum last Friday afternoon, July 26, were greeted just inside the entrance by Judean Parkinson, who is originally from the Bear River Valley and brought her own spinning wheel from her home in Cedar City.
Parkinson made casual conversation with visitors as she expertly worked the treadle, the name for the pedal that spins the wheel, with her foot while her hands worked the spindle. Spools of already spun yard sat waiting on a “lazy Kate” to be combined into thicker strands.
“That’s where the term ‘spin a yarn’ comes from,” Parkinson said. “Ladies used to get together and spin and share all the local gossip. ‘Spin a yarn’ became code for sharing juicy gossip.”
She started spinning when she still lived in the Bear River Valley, and found an elderly woman in Beaver Dam who had mastered the craft to teach her, but the woman passed away after Parkinson’s first lesson about 10 years ago.
After moving to Cedar City, she found a group through the local museum that was into spinning yard and continued her learning. She also picked up some knowledge while serving an LDS mission in Nauvoo, Illinois.
She says spinning is gradually becoming a lost art, as there aren’t as many young people learning the old ways, but it has been making a comeback of sorts in recent years.
“You can hand-spun yarn now in craft stores,” she said. “It costs more, but people really like it because it isn’t perfect, it’s not so uniform. It has more personality, and people love that.”
Some of the people she knows in the Cedar City area take things a step farther, making yarn from wool they get from their own sheep that they raise, and making dyes from local wildflowers.
The museum also took the opportunity to showcase a vintage spinning wheel it recently acquired. The refurbished, working spinning wheel was purchased online for $75, and new parts were an additional $138. Southern Utah Wood Turners did repairs and restoration, free of charge.
The repairman, from Cedar city, was so overwhelmed with the old wheel, he commented, “This is a well-used spinning wheel. It has been my privilege to work on it.”
Museum board members welcomed the donation of labor and appreciated the cost savings. Even the acquisition of a spinning wheel in the twenty-first century was a lesson in pioneer thriftiness and the generosity of a stranger.
Parkinson showed the extensive wear at the spot where the wheel is attached to the frame.
“You can see it has been used a lot,” she said. “The guy who worked on said he thinks it could be from the 1600s.”
Parkinson said yarn spinning is a hobby that helps relieve stress while putting her in touch with her pioneer roots, all while creating a useful craft product that can be made into rugs, blankets, clothing or any number of handy items.
“It’s something that helps keep history alive,” she said.