Hannah of Kentucky - James Otis
And then the spinning! How homelike it sounded when, after a long time of the hardest kind of work, we had ready the nettle fiber for the wheel, and mother sat in front of the fireplace drawing out the long threads as she crooned the songs I had heard her sing on the Yadkin, but which never had come to her lips from the time we left the old home until this day on which the wheel was first set to whirling.
I cannot say how many skeins of thread mother spun in one day, but there were many. None of it was light in color, yet she did not expect to bleach it, because it made very little difference to us at Boonesborough whether our garments were white or brown.
After the spinning came the soap making, which was done outside the cabin. Father made for us an ash hopper out of splints which he had taken from a blue-ash tree. The bottom, which was smaller than the top, was packed with dried buffalo, grass to the depth of three or four inches as a strainer. Underneath it was a trough directly below the hole in the bottom of the hopper.
Then we filled it with ashes, and from time to time poured warm water over them, which, settling down and down, came out finally into the trough as lye, weak at first, but stronger and stronger as it was poured back time and time again to run through the ashes until it became as brown as the mixture in a tanning vat. To this we added bear's fat, and the whole was boiled until it became soap, soft and ill-smelling ; but yet we had no other, except for special days, when, by adding a bit of salt and boiling it still more, the whole became hardened like a piece of journey cake.
This soap was most convenient to use when washing one's hands and face ; but mother said we could not afford the luxury, with salt at twenty dollars a bushel, except on some unusual occasion like a birthday.