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May '14

Good Fiber … Mostly

From my perspective, all fiber is good fiber and anything associated with fiber production is an interesting thing to blog about … mostly.  Consequently, when visiting the Edwards County Historical Society on a recent trip home to visit Mom, I took along my camera.

Although I grew up 3 houses away from this little historic home/museum and even made my speeding money by mowing the yard 1964-67, I had only gone through the “display” areas one time – about 1963 on a school field trip.  Even so, I had a pretty vivid memory of the things on display, so went looking for certian items.


Since we work with wool fabric and yarn, I went straight to the old spinning wheels.  These were owned by early settlers (1818) of my town and donated long before my birth by their families who no longer used them.


One of the big (litterally) things I remembered, was this old barn loom. Although, after seeing it as a 10 year old I remembered it as being much bigger than it acutally is  (I have a modern one in the room of requirement that is even bigger than this) it is still a big loom by any standard.  Called a barn loom because the construction is similar to that of old barns, families sometimes did keep them in the barn because they were so big.  Terry Harper, the person taking me through said:  We have no idea if it still works or how to use it. I, of course, quickly made some diagnostic tests and pronounced the loom operational but that I was not sure how the string heddles or warping (circa 1948) would hold up.  I suspect, if those where swapped out with new ones, it would function very well indeed.

For me, the really interesting thing about this loom is that it was made by James Sims, the husband of the Mary Ann “Prima” Gill, who was the first baby born in my newly established town in 1818.  There is no documentation as to when he made it for her – if early or late in their marriage – but, easily it could have been made anywhere from  1838-58.  As my family was an original founding family of the settlement, they would have certainly celebrated the birth of this little girl and known her all her life.  I also remembered, when looking at both the loom and spinning wheels, that several of the  various “family wills” in my files mentioned looms and spinning wheels as important possesions.


I could not help but note that the loom, complete with axe and draw knife marks, was made with pegs and tension pegs similar to those used by David Mikoryak when making the wonderful proddy legs that I sell.  When inserted, the pegs hold everything tight.  When removed, everything can easily come a part – a good feature for a loom this big!  In fact, it would not be all that difficult, should the historical society want, to make it an opperational loom that could be moved from place to place for demonstrations.

I am confident that seeing this impressive loom as a 10 year old had a big impact on my interest in weaving – I never forgot it, was always fascinated by looms thereafter, was not satisfied until I got my own and was thrilled to see it again!


Of course, a local museum like this has a few old quilts.  I even found some family names on this one that I recognized.

I was rather surprised, since I had not been in these rooms since 1963, that I remembered several other things and even looked for them.  Once again, that just illustrates why it is so important to expose kids to as many rich experiences as possible.  One never knows the long lasting effect such an experience can have.

After the tour was over, however, I said to Terry:  “I missed seeing certain things.”  When he told me that the society had never gotten rid of anything , I said “What about the wreath?”


As it turns out, this crocheted wreath had been moved to a different location not on regular display.  Once I told him which wreath I was thinking of, he quickly took me to the right room and I took this photo.

Can you tell the fiber that was used?

Human hair from one family!

Clearly, this family did not have enough to do.  While I think all fiber is special and useful … I sort of draw the line on this one and do not really suggest you start incorporating it into your hooked pieces.


Although this plate is broken, it is in the musuem because it was brought by original settlers when they immigrated for the founding of my home town.  I thought the design and coloration of this piece was stunning.  While my photo does not do justice to the vivid cobalt blue of the leaves and berries, trust me when I say it was a great piece.  That blue against the vivid yellow and orange detail of the leaves was inspirational.  Again, things like this might be the spring board to a full blown rug design some day down the road.  (If anyone knows this pattern, please let me know.)

Finally, here is a report complete with a link to a rug show that you can enjoy.   I really appreciate Laurie (MizT) sending it in and hope you take a look.  It makes me even more excited since I (and you too) will be visiting the Maine Tin Peddlars in September.

Gene: I believe you knew that our Maine Tin Pedlars recently had an exhibit of rugs at Bowden College. I thought you might enjoy a video that was put together by our member Debbir Acaro. Get a cuppa something and enjoy some rugs!  MizT


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