Phrase origins are always a fun to think about, I think. I heard someone say that they were on “tenter hooks” the other day, and I wondered what that actually meant. Well, wasn’t I surprised when I learned that it has to do with a specific stage of the woolen cloth weaving? After the cloth was washed, it was stretched out on frames and left to dry. It was held in place by tenter hooks so it wouldn’t shrink, wrinkle, or lose its shape.
I was able to quickly look up other phrases and sayings (thank you, Google!) that were related to mill work, cloth, weaving, fabric, and I thought I’d share a few here. If you think of any, send them in! I’ve decided to start collecting them!
- Run of the Mill – factory- or machine-made clothes were seen as less special, more ordinary than handmade clothes. These clothes were the ‘run of the mill.’
- Dyed in the wool – if the wool was dyed before it was made into yarn, the color was firmly fixed.
- It’ll all come out in the wash – all the dirt in the cloth will come out during washing
- Getting down to brass tacks– fabric was measured between two brass tacks set into the cutting counter. This was considered more exact that measuring a yard of material using the lenth of your arm as a guide.
- Pop goes the weasel – when spinning wool on to a reel (a weasel), the ‘pop’ was the sound made when a certain length of yarn was reached.