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Cecilia Julagay
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Wool spinning and blankets

When my grandmother, grandfather and father came to the USA in the early 30's my grandmother brought with her two hand-spun/hand-woven blankets that were made by her mother in Istria. They were meant to keep the family warm in the "new" country. For years my grandmother had them and would occassionally bring them out for me to see. I was always fascinated by them as a child.

Donna che fila con conocchia roca / preslica e fuso fufo / vrteno. Susnjevica (Valdarsa). Foto U. Pellis, 1935 Istrian woman spinning hemp.

Over time they went to my parents, and then they were passed on to me.  The reason I was chosen, is that I have picked up spinning and weaving as a hobby. I have some questions for all of you who have had the first hand experience that I am lacking. When my father and grandmother would describe the animals that gave the milk and wool, they used the term goat. In the past I have also kept milk goats in the USA - and do not know of a breed that can give any decent fiber. My father would tell about trying to ride these animals by getting on their backs and grabbing their horns. Do the sheep under discussion have horns? The reason that my father remembered this so vividly was that whenever he did this there would be no to little milk left that evening when his grandmother went to milk. Both my father and grandmother are now deceased, so I cannot ask them these questions.

Blankets / coperta / coverta / punjava. NM Albona. Provenienza: Traghetto/Target (Albona); Brovigne/Brovinje (Albona).

A spinning/weaving friend and I have gone over the blankets and are truly amazed at the workmanship. The fiber now is a pale golden color, but was most likely white when it was made. There is no evidence of different colors of fiber. Any information at all would be appreciated.

Above: Filatoio a mano
EMI Pisino. Provenienza: Duimovici /
Brinjani (Antignana)
Left: Filatoio a pedale
ZMP Parenzo. Proveniena: Ferenzi
When I began spinning as a young mother with toddlers, and got my first spinning wheel, a treadle wheel, my father could sit and watch me for hours saying that it brought back memories of his grandmother spinning. He felt that my wheel was a lot smaller than his grandmother's wheel. If that is so, then she most likely spun on a great wheel (also known as a walking wheel).

However, my father was only seven when he migrated to the States, so his memory is that of a young, and small boy who may have remembered the wheel being larger than it was. Any information that anyone has concerning the types of wheels used would also interest me.

Cecilia Julagay
California, USA
February 6, 1999

Photograph sources: 

  • B&W - Roberto Starec, Mondo popolare in Istria, Cultura materiale e vita quotidiana dal Cinquecento al Novecento, Centro di Ricerche Storiche di Rovigno (Rovigno, 1996)
  • Color - Andre Mohorović & Daniel Načinović, Istria - Terra Magica, Laurana (Zagreb, 1994)

Related topics:

  • Traditional dress-making tools and techniques (under construction)

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This page compliments of Cecilia Julagay and Marisa Ciceran

Created: Thursday, August 5, 1999; Last Updated: Saturday, June 30, 2007
Copyright © 1998, USA