While the progress of constructing our own Spinning Jenny comes excitingly close to completion, I've been hunting down anything I can find about the Jenny in any of its versions, and the people that operated them, in the hope of gleaning something useful about their craft as I attempt to become one of them!
There remains now only tantalizing glimpses into the lives and daily work of the Jenny spinners.
One of the best resources I have found so far is a book entitled 'James Hargreaves and the Spinning Jenny' by C. Aspin & D. Chapman - and whilst it is scant on the technical working detail of the machinery or the subtleties of the techniques employed (which seem to be truly lost to the ages), it does feature some wonderful anecdotal stories from inside the "Jenny Shops" as workshops of spinners operating jennies were called around the early 19th Century.
One passage in particular reads:
"A jenny shop, says Greenhalgh, was almost as good a place to gather news as a barber's shop, particularly as the machines were not noisy. He recalls a discussion aroused by the news that Stephenson had built a locomotive, and the incredulity it aroused among the spinners.
They came to the conclusion that it was an impossibility to run carriages without horses and one spinner in the heat of the debate cried out, "What, cast-metal horses gooin' to be made to run i' th' streets! Ha'd a soon believe that cast-metal men would be made to spin cops!*" And he gave one of his best draws and put up his carriage again with a flourish as if to say "Let one of your cast iron men do that".
A discussion such as that would have been impossible in most of the big cotton mills in which talking out of turn was often punished with a fine. "
(' James Hargreaves and the Spinning Jenny' by C. Aspin & D. Chapman, Helmshore Local History Society, 1964 )
* A cop being a compact, wound package of spun yarn.