It is said one piece of fabric can tell of the hardships, blessings, and realities of a woman's life, as well as her community's life. In nineteenth-century Texas women's hands created most of the clothes their families wore, the blankets used to cover their tired bodies, and the textiles that furnished their homes. Spinning, weaving, dyeing, and knitting of clothing and linens gave them the [palette] to display their abilities and their dreams of a better future. These day-to-day activities of Texas women spinners and weavers come to life in the award-winning author Paula Mitchell Marks' Hands to the Spindle. The hum of the spinning wheel and the clatter of the loom provided regular accompaniment to the lives of many Texas women and their families. Producing much-needed garments and cloth also provided an escape from the worries and isolation of frontier life. One charming early chronicler, Mary Crownover Rabb, kept her spinning wheel whistling all day and most of the night because the spinning kept her "from hearing the Indians walking around hunting mischief." Through the stories of real women and an overview of their textile crafts, Paula Mitchell Marks introduces readers to a functional art rarely practiced in our more hurried times. Photographs of some of their actual handiwork and evocative pen sketches of women at work and the tools and dye plants they used, skillfully drawn by artist Walle Conoly, bring the words to life. Written in an interesting and informative style, this study, the will be valuable for western history buffs, specialists in the field of spinning and weaving, and readers interested in adding another dimension to their knowledge of women's studies.
Paula Mitchell Marks is a professor of history at Saint Edward's University in Austin. She has written highly acclaimed books on western history, including Turn Your Eyes Toward Texas: Pioneers Sam and Mary Maverick, also published by Texas A&M University Press.