What Is It? September 2018

   Marjorie McLaren of Anchorage, Alaska gave the best explanation of our September’s What Is It. She tells us, “September’s What Is It is an antique whalebone and whale ivory swift, sometimes called a yarn winder. It is probably from the 19th century during the height of the whaling era. The whalebone arms expand out from an ivory cage at the top, much like an umbrella. The skein of yarn is laid around the arms, which are then expanded out (by pushng a bottom collar up the shaft) to hold the yarn tightly in a circle. There is usually a screw of some sort to hold the bottom collar at the appropriate height to keep the expansion set. The user then pulls on the outside free end of the skein and starts winding the yarn in a ball (or uses a mechanical ballwinder). The pulling causes the swift to turn and keep rotating as needed for winding the ball. If the process needs to be interrupted, the ball can sit in the ivory cup at the top until the processs is restarted. The ivory cup can also hold a pincushion when not in use. This swift seems to be made to sit on a tabletop. Usually the swift has an ivory bottom clamp that fits on the edge of a table and is tightened in place with a carved ivory screw. There is more stability when the swift is screwed to the table top, particularly when the swift is rotating. Some ivory swifts are decorated with scrimshaw.”
   Wow! Thank you, Marjorie. You have added so much to our information. Other winners of September’s What Is It contest include: Vicky Kellen of Castle Pines, Colorado; Terry Cook of Fort Morgan, Colorado; Jeannie Reynolds of Nederland, Colorado and Jean Helzer of Arvada, Colorado. Thank you all for your kind words and good guesses! You have all won a year’s subscription to the Mountain States Collector.

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