Mudcat Café message #3855332 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #2173   Message #3855332
Posted By: Bev and Jerry
15-May-17 - 08:45 PM
Thread Name: Origins: Poverty Knock
Subject: RE: Origins: Poverty Knock
We are presenting a workshop at the San Francisco Free Folk Festival on June 10. We have done this workshop many times but it has been a while so we were refreshing what's left of our brains on the subject of the textile industry in England where all this started.

We came across a passage in a pamphlet entitled, "Looms and Weaving" by Anna Benson and Neil Warburton, published in 1986 which says, "The most unpopular aspect of woollen handloom weaving was wetting weft cops to facilitate close packing of the weft threads. Cops of yarn were immersed in cold water and the weaver sucked water through them with a wooden tube. "

This may explain the mysterious verse in "Poverty Knock" that says:

We've got to wet our own yarn,
By dippin' it into the tarn
It's wet an' soggy and makes us feel groggy,
and there's mice in that dirty old barn.

A cop, or pirn, was a long, narrow bobbin which held the weft thread. It fit inside the shuttle which carried it across the warp threads, the action being called a "pick". After each pick, the last weft thread was packed, or "beaten up", against the previous weft threads by a comb-like device. Apparently, when wool (or at least certain kinds of wool) was being used, proper packing could only be achieved when the yarn or thread was wet. Since the yarn was already wound onto the cop, the whole thing had to be dipped into the "tarn" which we infer was some kind of vessel that held the water. Then, in order to wet the yarn all the way through, a wooden tube was attached to the center hole of the cop while blocking up the other end somehow. Then, when one sucked on the tube, a partial vacuum was created inside the cop which drew in the water all the way to the center of the winding. Continuous sucking on the tube could easily have made one dizzy or, as the song says, groggy.

Bev and Jerry