Excerpt from a book entitled The Faeryland Companion by Beatrice Phillpotts 1999 Barnes & Nobel Books
Spinners and Shoemakers
The Faeries had a great reputation for various skills. Faery women were famous as spinners and dyers, while the Leprechaun was a celebrated shoemaker.
Magical dyes were concocted from lichen, roots, bark, leaves and fruit. A faery pool near Loch Lomond in Scotland, where the water was of a peculiar shade of green, was believed to be the site of a faery dying factory. It was abandoned however, when their mortal neighbours came to investigate. The faeries did not have time to remove their equipment and were forced to leave it at the bottom of the pool – hence its strange colour.
The Scots had a faery patron of spinning called Habetrot. In “The Three Spinners” by William Henderson in Folk-Lore of the Northern Counties, he describes how Habetrot helped a beautiful but lazy peasant girl to win the local laird for a husband by spinning for her.
The girl was ordered by her mother to spin, but could produce only “a few feet of lumpy, uneven thread”. She came across an old woman, who was the skilled spinner Habetrot. She offered to spin the lint for the girl and promptly vanished. But the girl spied her in an underground faery hall: “…she saw a great cavern, with a number of queer old wives sitting spinning in it, each on a white marble stone.”
The local laird rode past the girl’s cottage the following morning and was so impressed by the “smoothness and evenness of the skeins that the faeries had spun, that he proposed marriage to her on the spot. She accepted but knew there would be trouble, because he “kept talking of all the fine yarn she would be spinning for him after the wedding.” She asked Habetrot for help, and she invited them both into her faery cavern. The laird asked why the spinners all had long lips and spoke with a stutter. When Habetrot told him that his new wife would be just like them soon, because she loved spinning so much, he lost all his enthusiasm for fine yarns and forbade her to do any more spinning.
Some faeries preferred using man-made wheels to their own and would steal into cottages at night to do their spinning. Residents of the Isle of Man tried to prevent them from doing this, but usually failed, as in the following story from Sophia Morrison’s Manx Fairy Tales:
“Some time in the night my brother wakened me with a: “Shish! Listen boy, and look at the big light in the kitchen!”
“Listen!” I said, “it must be the Little Ones that’s agate of the wheel!”
And both of us got very frightened. In the morning we told what we had seen.
“Aw, like enough, like enough,” my Father said, looking at the wheel. “It seems your mother forgot to take the band off last night, a thing people should be careful about, for it’s givin’ Themselves power over the wheel.””