Thursday, March 01, 2018

Homespun philosophy ....

As noted before, Kay Brown has been working very hard this winter to organize the Lucas County Historical Society's very large collection of vintage fabric --- ranging from underwear through coverlets to dresses and far beyond. For the most part the collection --- other than quilts and woven coverlets --- is stored (when not displayed) in closets, nooks, crannies and drawers of the Stephens House.

I almost wrote "reorganize," but the truth of the matter is that the collection really never has been organized in the first place during the society's 50-plus years. So this is a tremendous undertaking. Everything is being moved, too, into archival containers --- but that's a process that will go on for several months.

Some of these items are very fragile --- a 150-year-old dress, for example. Much of it is very sturdy indeed, although some of the whites have fallen victim to yellowing and a few have disconcerting stains.

But in many cases, when dealing with sturdy stuff, Kay has taken a deep breath and --- very gently --- laundered it. The results have been amazing.

What I've pulled out this morning are four examples of hand-woven fabric created using homespun yarn --- linen I think although some of it may be fine wool (I neglected to check with Kay before deciding to write this). If you can tell the difference --- let me know.

The two plaid pieces --- the blue and orange, coverlet size; and the gold and brown, smaller --- came into the society collection during 1969 from Inda (VanArsdale) Post who estimated that they had been created between 1820 and 1830. I'm taking her word for that. 

Mrs. Post credited the 1830 linen tablecloth immediately above specifically to a great-grandmother of hers, Christian VanderVeer; I'm guessing that Mrs. VanderVeer also created the plaid pieces, but cannot guarantee that. According to Mrs Post's notes, Christian processed the flax and spun its fibers into the yarn used to create the tablecloth.

This white coverlet --- in outstanding condition --- was donated to the society in 1967 by Miss Mary White, who dated it to "before 1814" and credited an ancestor of hers, Mary Morris Pritchard, with its creation.

I'm guessing that both the tablecloth and coverlet, because of their exceptional conditions, were created by prospective brides for their trousseaus, then kept for very special occasions.

What in the world did our ancestors do to occupy themselves before the internet? Well, here are four examples that provide part of the answer and point to highly talented and creative, hard-working and sometimes just plain hard lives.

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