What is a Hetchel?

Hatchel

Hatchel

Many years ago I got a copy of the will of my ancestor Nicholas Groat that was dated 1818. It was great document in that he names not only his children but a lot of grandchildren. One name that wasn’t included was his wife. It appears that she had already died.  Especially since he was also giving away household items

Nicholas left his granddaughter, Sarah Race, a few items including a “spider.” I knew what a spider was because my grandmother had used that term. It is an iron frying pan, usually with 3 legs in order to stand in a wood cooking fire.

Nicholas left his daughter, Magdelena (my 4th gr. grandmother)  many household items including a “hetchel.” As this before the internet, I tried to to find hetchel in an unabridged dictionary. It said it was an old spelling of “hatchel.” Then I looked up hatchel and it said it was a a device for separating flax fibers. Flax has fibers in it’s stem. You would draw the stem through the hatchel to separate out the fibers. Those fibers would be spun on a spinning wheel. The linen spinning wheel is smaller than the woolen spinning wheel. The linen thread created is stronger than cotton thread. What we call linen today usually is made out of fine cotton fiber.

Extremely helpful to me was just a few months after I found out what a hatchel was that I made a visit to Genesee Country Village. They had both kinds of spinning wheels on display and a hatchel. There was a very kind lady that explained the whole process of making linen.

It would be easier to find out what a hetchel is today. A search on the internet gave the definition on many websites. Plus there are a few pictures including the one I have here which recently sold in an online auction.