Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary

Shiftin' Bobbins

Scottish Country Dance Instruction

SHIFTIN' BOBBINS (R8x32) 3C (4C set) Roy Clowes Ormskirk 6

1- 8 1s cross RH to double triangle position with 2s+3s and set, 1s cast up to top and dance down until they are between 2s and 3s
9-16 1L dances RH across with 2M+3M while 1M dances LH across with 2L+3L, 1s followed by 2s+3s dance down centre
17-24 3s followed by 2s+1s dance up and 3s+2s cast down to places, 1L dances LH across with 2M+3M while 1M dances RH across with 2L+3L
25-32 1s dance up to top and cast down to 2nd place opposite side, 1s dance ½ Fig of 8 around 2s to end in 2nd place on own sides. 213

(MINICRIB, Dance Crib compiled by Charles Upton, Deeside Caledonian Society, and his successors)


Shiftin' Bobbins
Roy Clowes   Ormskirk Scottish Dances
Reel   8 x 32 bars   3 Couple Repeat   4 Couple Set   Lengthwise Set

  1-2   1s cross down to face out between corners;

  3-4   2s1s3s set on the sides;

  5-8   1s cast up, meet, lead down;

  9-12 1L2M3M right hands across WHILE 1M2L3L left hands across;

13-16 1s, followed by 2s 3s, lead down;

17-20 3s, followed by 2s 1s, lead up and cast, 3s finishing in 3rd place;

21-24 2M1L3M left hands across WHILE 2L1M3L right hands across;

25-28 1s lead to the top and cast;

29-32 1s half figures of 8 round 2s, finishing 2s1s3s.

(MAXICRIB, Scottish country dancing instructions compiled by Reuben Freemantle)


Dance Notes

  1-2   2s must be awake to move up.

13-20 Take nearer hands to lead down and up.

    -20 3s must have completed the casting to 3rd place before starting the hands across, otherwise there will not be room enough for 1s to pass through second place on bar 28 and finish there on bar 32.


Keith Rose's Crib Diagrams


Dance Instruction Videos

Shiftin' Bobbins - YouTube Scottish Country Dancing Instruction Video

Dance Information

A bobbin is a spindle or cylinder, with or without flanges, on which yarn or thread is wound.

Bobbins are typically found in sewing machines and used in spinning, weaving, knitting, sewing, or lacemaking. The bobbin provides temporary or permanent storage for the yarn or thread.

It is most probable that the bobbins referred to in this Scottish country dance are those used in the jute mills which took up the spun jute, not the small and often pretty ones used in lace-making and embroidery. The "shifters", often children by today's standards, exposed to the noise of the spinning frames and the danger of open drive belts, removed the full bobbins and replaced them with empty bobbins.

Oh dear me, the mill's goin' fast.
The poor wee shifters canna get their rest.
Shiftin' bobbins coarse and fine,
They fairly make ye work for your ten and nine.

"The Jute Mill Song", written by Mary Brooksbank of Dundee, who worked in the mills and died in 1980 at the age of 82.

Ring Spinning Machine Image
Ring Spinning Machine In The 1920s

Bobbin lacemaking is a handcraft which requires the winding of yarn onto a temporary storage spindle made of plastic, metal, bone or wood, often turned on a lathe. Many lace designs use dozens of bobbins at any one time.
Shiftin Bobbins lace making Image
Bobbin Lace In Progress At The Musée Des Ursulines De Québec


Dance Information licensed under this Creative Commons Licence.
Text from this original Textile Manufacturing article on Wikipedia.
Many thanks to John Gorrie for text and research.
Text from this original Bobbin article on Wikipedia.
Upper Image Copyright Wilhelm Carlgren.
Lower Image Copyright Norbert Kaiser.
Additional search terms: Shifting, bobins.

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