Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Counting rhyme, or is there more to it than that?

One, two buckle my shoe.
Three, four knock at the door.
Five, six pick up sticks.
Seven, eight lay them straight.
Nine, ten a big fat hen.
Eleven, twelve dig and delve.
Thirteen, fourteen draw the curtain.
Fifteen, sixteen the maid's in the kichen.
Seventeen, eighteen she's in waiting.
Nineteen, twenty my stomach's empty.


Most of you will probably have some distant recollection of this
old nursery song which dated back to late eighteenth century USA.
It is believed to have originated around 1780 in Wrentham,
Massachusetts and was first published in a book called Songs for
the Nursery in London in 1805.

If you thought that it's sole purpose in life was as a stealth tool to
teach children to count they you'd be wrong because there's much 
more to it than that.  The lyrics, for want of a better description,
actually tell the tale of a typical day in the life of a lace maker
back in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

One, two up they get and buckle on their shoes.
Three, four nip downstairs, tap on the door and into the
workshop (no long commutes in those days).

Five, six pick up the bobbins as it's most likely that's the type of
lace they were making, although this could be a reference to the
sticks used in conjunction with lace making machines of the period.

Seven, eight lay them straight all ready to commence work.
Nine, ten a big fat hen is the name often used for the lace makers
pillows that supported their work.

Day passes - work over!

Eleven, twelve dig and delve, nip out the back and gather some
veggies for supper.
Thirteen, fourteen draw the curtains as it's time to get cosy.
Fifteen, sixteen the maid's* in the kitchen preparing the evening meal.
Seventeen, eighteen she's "in waiting" all ready to dish up.
Nineteen, twenty the lace maker's little tummy is rumbling so someone
say grace quick so the meal can begin.
(*Maid was a term for a young girl at that time and didn't mean servant.)

A big fat hen.

And now it gets silly because I couldn't resist adding a bit of my own:

Twenty one, twenty two take the dog for a poo.
Twenty three, twenty four a quick sweep of the floor.
Twenty five, twenty six a game of cards, some parlour tricks.
Twenty seven, twenty eight off to bed, it's really late.

Night, night lace maker.


  1. I had to smile when I saw the first photo. My mom is a bobbin lace maker. She actually traveled to Brussels at one point to take advanced lessons in the technique.

    I do enjoy your interesting and occasionally (OK, frequently) irreverent posts!

    Now back to designing and stitching! I am as always, awaiting the next big project!

  2. Interesting information about lace making. Enjoyed your added numbers Sharon