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10 things to do with wooden bobbins

Posted:
3 August 2016
Posted By:
English Heritage
Categories:
Things To Do

At Stott Park Bobbin Mill in Cumbria, we bring the Industrial Revolution to life – through the story of the humble wooden bobbin.

In tranquil woodlands, minutes from the shore of Windermere in the Lake District, Stott Park is the only working bobbin mill left in the country. Once there were over 65 bobbin mills in the Lake District, producing millions of bobbins for the cotton and textile industry in Lancashire and further afield. Here at Stott Park, some 25 men and boys worked in often arduous conditions to produce up to a quarter of a million bobbins a week.

These days we no longer need to produce millions of wooden bobbins, but there’s still plenty that you can do with them – even though plastic has really taken off for holding thread! Our visitors have inspired us to look at number of different uses for the wooden bobbin and here are our 10 favourites:

A wooden bobbin with green wool wound around it.

1. To do some spool or tube knitting(also known as ‘French’ knitting)

Many grandparents, parents and children have spent hours knitting wool around 4 nails in the end of a wooden bobbin producing a long length of knitted wool through the hole in the centre. It’s a very traditional craft, and easy to get the hang of.

Depending on the size of the bobbin you can create tubes of all different sizes and use your rope for a variety of projects, including circular rugs like this one.

2. Make a car or a tank, powered by bobbins

Some of you might remember making elastic band powered bobbin tanks and steam rollers as children – we have all different sizes of plain wooden bobbins to purchase in the shop so that you can make them again.

It’s amazing what you can do with an elastic band, a match, a pencil and a bit of soap or candle wax…

A Christmas tree made from a bobbin (the trunk) and wool (the foliage).

3. As a tree trunk

The usual question that follows on from learning to knit on a bobbin is what to do with the knitted length of wool that you produce? One of our favourite answers (apart from the rug idea above) is: how about a Christmas Tree, using another bobbin as the trunk?

We used green wool and created this little beauty and now sell these as kits in the shop. Get started now to have plenty of French knitted trees for Christmas.

4. In the kitchen as a kitchen roll holder

Our kitchen roll holders (made out of original bobbins) are one of our most popular creations and make a practical addition to any kitchen.

Timers made from wooden bobbins.

5. To time yourself

How do you like your eggs? Use a hollowed out bobbin egg timer to get that perfect soft boiled egg. These egg timers count down 3 minutes – and are also perfect to use with board games over the summer. There’s a keyring version that lasts 5 seconds too.

6. As a handy holder for string and scissors

A bobbin holder with string and a small pair of scissors is ideal for use in the garden, snipping flowers and typing up plants. You could also keep it in the kitchen for tying up herbs, or tying up parcels and presents.

A train made from wooden bobbins.

7. Make trains

The bobbin train is another popular product made out of several different sizes of bobbins. A real treat for railway enthusiasts – and especially apt, given so many of our bobbins were transported by steam trains down to the mills in Yorkshire and Lancashire!

8. As photo holders

Add a piece of wire with a clip, and a simple bobbin becomes a novel way to display pictures of your nearest and dearest (or indeed a leaflet!). Why not paint these to match your decorations?

Colourful cotton reel stored in a holder made from a wooden bobbin.

9. As a cotton reel holder

If you’re a crafter, how about using a bobbin to help keep your cottons neat and tidy? This not only feels like the bobbin coming full circle, and is useful for keeping the colours you use regularly to hand.

10. Make decorations galore

Bobbins have all sorts of decorative possibilities. We love these two Christmas ideas for using up your material scraps, ribbons and paints – a bobbin wreath and Christmas tree ornaments… but the possibilities are almost endless.

Visiting Stott Park Bobbin Mill

At Stott Park, we try to be imaginative in the way that we bring Cumbria’s industrial heritage to life. We run guided tours with original working machinery, whirring line shafting, and sawdust covered floors, following the production of an actual bobbin (which visitors can then buy in the shop!).

We have a Victorian steam engine that we run regularly and visitors can get close to and understand the workings of this iconic power source. Come and visit us to experience what life in a Victorian mill was like – from the harsh working conditions to the evolution of motive power.

Stott Park Bobbin Mill is hosting special steam weekends on the 6-7 August and 27-29 August. Check the website for full prices and opening times

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  • About the Author

    English Heritage
    English Heritage cares for over 400 historic sites around England.