Thursday, June 6, 2013

A visit to a local historic house, and there's spinning/weaving, too!

Yesterday my guild went on a field trip in lieu of our usual meeting. We do this once or twice a year when the weather is nice and we don't want to be cooped up inside--we want to see fiber stuff instead!! We met at the Vicary Mansion which is a few miles down the Ohio River, just over the hill from Cranberry and Harmony, PA.

Although they are still working on the renovation (and what historic site isn't always working on renovation?), it was a treat to explore. They have one room dedicated to spinning and weaving and also collect and research old textiles. They are the proud owners of a rare Newcomb loom and currently have a nice rug warp on it. Here's two pix I managed to take, excuse anything that's not completely clear because the room is crowded with warped looms, working spinning wheels and fascinated guild members yesterday. The Newcomb is a semi-automatic loom, meaning that many of the operations usually performed by the weaver are handled easily by this loom. That automation increases the weaver's production rate because she/he has no need to stop and advance the warp, etc.
Back of the loom

Front of the loom--that's one heavy beater bar!

 We wandered through the house and up to the attic which was wonderfully spacious. The Mansion personnel store their costumes here, which are used when there's an event and volunteers need to borrow period clothing. Back in the corner I noticed 3 spinning wheels, and really like the little flax wheel all set up and ready to go.

 One of the functions of the site is to preserve local textile history. They had two woven coverlets out, both of which had been assessed by Rabbit Goody when she was here in October 2012 for a lecture sponsored by our guild. The first was standard red/blue coverlet of which I could only get a full photo. I don't remember if we asked the fiber content of the plain weave component (the white threads) but the red and blue are definitely wool.

The more interesting (to me) coverlet was the orange handspun hand dyed one. The plain weave (white threads) are cotton and the orange is wool. The weaving experts at the mansion are working on replicating this one, and Dorothy has all the wool spun up and dyed with madder. Her yarn is on the little bobbins in the back left-hand corner of the full photo, and they are currently weaving up samples to make sure they have the weaving draft written properly and that they've centered the design on the panels. Very few household looms in those days were wide enough to produce a one-piece coverlet so many of them were woven in wide strips (36-40 inches depending on the individual loom) and sewn together to cover the bed.

Notice the variation in color due to exposure to light?

Closeup. This is a section about 2" square.
All in all, we had a wonderful time. If you're looking for something fun to see and want a little local history too, take a ride down the Ohio River and stop at the Vicary Mansion.

No comments: