Author Archives: FiberWild!
Author Archives: FiberWild!
Most nursery rhymes are so old that their origins are lost to history, but that is not the case with "Mary Had a Little Lamb." Not only do we know when it was written and by whom, we also know that there really was a Mary, a lamb, and a schoolroom full of children who laughed!
A page from "Denslow's Mother Goose"
by W.W. Denslow, 1902.
Mary Sawyer was born in 1806, and the story of her lamb started when she was ten years old.
For the most part, lambs aren't very interested in people. They stick close to their mother, bleating and crying when separated from her and while a bold lamb may investigate a person in the barn she will run back to her mother at the slightest movement or noise.
But bottle lambs are an exception to that rule. When a ewe dies or for any other reason abandons her lamb, a farmer will feed the lamb with a bottle. These bottle lambs grow extremely attached to their human handlers, and will follow "their" human around like a friendly dog, bleating and crying when the human is out of sight, just like any other lamb will baa for its mother. This was the case with Mary's lamb.
Young Mary went out to the barn with her father on a cold March morning in 1816. There they found a ewe that had twins and was taking good care of one but had abandoned the other. Mary asked if she could take the abandoned lamb into the house and her father told her no. But as every kid knows, if Dad says no then ask Mom! Mary snuck it into the house and asked her mother if she could keep it.
Not only did her mother say yes, she also made the lamb some catnip tea. Mary fed the tea to the lamb and while she initially couldn't swallow she eventually was able to take some. Mary spent the day in the kitchen, sitting on the floor next to the stove with the lamb wrapped in a blanket and feeding her sips of tea. By the end of the day the lamb had improved some. But Mary was afraid that it would die if left alone during the night, so she spent the night on the kitchen floor with the lamb.
When a lamb starts to improve they tend to improve quickly and that was the case with Mary's lamb. Soon she was able to drink milk and Mary continued to care for her. The lamb was put in the barn with the other sheep, but she always preferred to be with Mary. Mary treated the lamb like a doll, dressing her up in a shawl and pantalets, washing her and combing her fleece and putting bright ribbons on her head. In her later years Mary said that she didn't have many dolls and there were few girls her own age near her farm. She said she and the lamb were "companions and fast friends."
One day as Mary and her brother were walking to school she heard the lamb bleating. She called out to the lamb and the lamb ran to Mary's side. Her brother suggested that they bring the lamb to school. What could possibly go wrong? So they did.
Mary's Little Lamb Schoolhouse,
where Mary was a student.
The school was used from
1798 to 1856 and is now a historic site.
Mary and her brother arrived before the teacher ... she had the lamb lay down under her seat and covered the lamb with a blanket. The day progressed without any incident and Mary noted that she even took her turn at the blackboard a few times without the lamb making a peep! But then the lamb let out a bleat and stood up (probably because she was bored and tired of laying still!). Mary was mortified to have been caught with her contraband! But the teacher just laughed and told her to put the lamb outside the schoolhouse ... at lunch time Mary walked the lamb home.
That would have been the end of it, except that the school had a visitor that morning: John Roulstone, a teenage boy who was preparing for college by studying with his uncle, a local minister. He was impressed with the little lamb's devotion to Mary and the next day he came back to the school and gave Mary a poem he had written:
Mary had a little lamb;
Its fleece was white as snow;
And everywhere that Mary went,
The lamb was sure to go.
It followed her to school one day,
Which was against the rule;
It made the children laugh and play
To see a lamb at school.
And so the teacher turned it out;
But still it lingered near,
And waited patiently about
Till Mary did appear.
Factoid: Sheep produce an oil called lanolin. Lambs are born white, but life in a barn and out in the pasture is dirty, dirt sticks to the lanolin on their fleece, and they quickly start to look like they are a dull gray color. It's just dirt and washes out easily - but nobody washes a sheep, you are supposed to wait and wash the wool after it has been shorn. Mary's frequent washing of her lamb would be why Roulstone said the lamb had "fleece as white a snow," which would have been very unusual for a sheep!
In 1830 Sarah Hale published "Poems for Our Children," which included the poem with twelve extra lines added:
And then he ran to her, and laid
His head upon her arm,
As if he said "I'm not afraid
You'll keep me from all harm."
"What makes the lamb love Mary so?"
The eager children cry
"O, Mary loves the lamb, you know,"
The Teacher did reply.
"And you each gentle animal
In confidence may bind,
And make them follow at your call,
If you are always kind."
Page from "Denslow's Mother Goose" by W.W. Denslow, 1902.
While Roulstone's lines are just a silly poem about a girl and a lamb, Sarah Hale's additional lines give the story a moral lesson - which was very common for children's poems of the 19th century.
So what ever happened to Mary's lamb? The lamb lived as a pampered pet for four years. Mary reports that the lamb gave birth twice, once to a single and once to twins and that the lamb-turned-ewe was very devoted to her sheep family. Her life ended when she was gored by a bull on the farm and the lamb died in Mary's arms.
And the lamb's name? No one seems to know. Mr. and Mrs. Henry Ford (yup, the guy with the cars) moved Mary's school house from its original location in Sterling, MA to Sudbury, MA. His plans were to build a museum of Americana in the area (he didn't, but he later realized his dream with the awesome Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, MI). In 1928 they published an incredible and well researched 60-page booklet "The Story of Mary and Her Little Lamb." The booklet republished a 1902 interview with Mary plus information from Mary's friends and relatives about the story of the lamb. But no where is there any mention of the lamb's name. The lamb was a pet for four years, surely she called it something! But the lamb's name is forever lost to history.
Factoid: Thomas Edison's first recording of a human voice was in 1877. What did he record? Himself reciting the first four lines of "Mary Had a Little Lamb."
Are you or someone you love expecting her own "little lamb"? Join in on Michelle Hunter's newest Knit-Along - the "Adorable Ewe Baby Sweater." Appropriate for a boy or a girl, the little sweater is sized to fit a six month old baby. It is a mystery KAL, so we don't know what it will look like, but we are told it has a sheep theme and will be too cute to miss!
Happy Knitting! ... Scout
People were writing long before paper was invented. In China they wrote on sheet made with strips of bamboo that were sewn together and then rolled into tablets. The bamboo tablets worked well, but they were thick and heavy - there had to be a better way!
There was! Cai Lun was an official in the Han Dynasty in China, born in the year 48 A.D. According to legend, he was inspired to invent paper by watching paper wasps make their nests. He used tree bark, hemp, cloth rags and fishing nets to make paper in the year 105 A.D.
Wait ... check that ... the oldest paper found predates Cai Lun by at least 100 years and maybe even more. So while Cai Lun certainly improved the process, and very likely established a better recipe and equipment for making paper, he didn't actually invent paper. No one knows who was the very first person to make paper.
Paper is nothing more than a thin layer of fiber and the paper making process is quite simple. First, the plant fibers are soaked in water to soften them. Wood pulp, cotton or linen work as a plant fiber base. After the fibers are softened they are smashed to make a pulp.
Ancient papermakers would have used some version of a mortar and pestle to pound the fiber. Later paper mills used water power to mechanically pound the pulp with hammers. The earliest known water powered paper mill was in Spain in 1282.
Next, add water to the pulp to thin the solution ... then a screen is put into the tray of pulpy water and then pulled out with a thin layer of the pulpy mix stuck to it. Paper mills use a giant screen, but at-home paper makers can use a piece of window screen stapled to a picture frame.
The pulp on the screen is dried and then pealed off - and you have paper! The paper can be left coarse and rugged-looking, or ironed to make it smooth and shinny. (Want pictures? Wikihow has a good tutorial on making paper at home.)
A river or steam turns the water wheel
which power the hammers as they
stamp thefiber into pulp, 1751-1765
With all this paper being made, how long do you think it took for someone to think of using it for toilet paper? Not very long! The first written reference to toilet paper is in 589 A.D. when a Chinese scholar wrote "Paper on which there are quotations or commentaries from the Five Classics or the names of sages, I dare not use for toilet purposes."
In the 18th and 19th centuries, the best source of fiber for papermaking was old clothes and rags (but only clothes and rags with plant fibers, such as linen and cotton - not wool). Rag-pickers collected rags off the street or went door-to-door asking for old clothes.
"In the Rag Trade"
by Arthur Boyd Houghton, 1870
Newspaper printers needed a lot of paper and the quality of the paper was not important. Quicklime was added to the rag pulp to bleach the paper to a nice printable white, but it also deteriorated the quality of the paper, which made it crumble over time. Because of the poor quality of the rag paper used in newspapers, it was common to insult a newspaper by calling it a "rag".
Want some paper? We have plenty! All of our paper products are on sale at 25% off. That's books, magazines, paper patterns, pamphlets - anything printed on paper.
Happy Knitting! ... Scout
Knit the colorful, modern "Lineation Shawl"
Featuring Rowan's Summerlite 4ply yarn ... perfect for Spring!
The asymmetrical Lineation Shawl is knit in three colors of Rowan's soft 100% cotton Summerlite 4ply yarn ... perfect for a wool-free, spring-summer accessory. The colorful stripes will add a modern flair to a dress or your favorite pair of jeans ... this is a quick and easy knit, and it's machine washable!
by Amy Loberg
Pattern FREE with purchase of Summerlite 4ply
Easy garter stitch, clean color changes and simple increases are all you need to make this striking triangular shawl. Slipped stitches at beginning of each row create smooth, neat edges. Start with a small number of stitches and build up layer upon layer of squishy garter stitch lines. The color changes will keep you wanting to move onto the next row ... before you know it you'll have a new shawl to wrap around your shoulders anytime you need a little extra warmth!
|Finished Size||15" x 68"|
4 balls of
Rowan Summerlite 4 ply
Shown in Washed Linen, Still Grey and High Tide
|Yardage||382 yards color A (2 balls), 191 yards color B (1 ball), and 191 yards color C (1 ball)|
32" Size US 4 [3.50mm] circular needles or size needed to obtain gauge
|Gauge||24 sts = 4″ in Garter stitch|
Rowan's “Summerlite 4ply” is a wonderfully soft 100% cotton yarn. It comes in splendid colors and works well for summertime tops and cardigans. And since it is machine washable, this yarn is also great option for cozy children's garments or toys!
We love the mix of colors that Amy chose ... but if grey and blue aren't your thing, we've put together four other terrific color suggestions (below). Or, feel free to choose your own colorway from over 15 colors in stock ... give us a call if we can help with your color selections!
|Fiber Content||100% Cotton|
|Yardage / Weight||191 yards in 50g|
|Gauge||28 sts over 4″ on US 2-3 [2.75mm - 3.25mm]|
|Care Instructions||Machine Wash, Warm, Dry Flat|