One of the best things I have done in the past year is become a trustee for the Rowe Historical Society. I’m now one of the few that remember its founders and the excitement of putting the museum together and having tours conducted by them when I was a child.
Last summer the trustees had to move an entire room of things in order to do some repairs and refinish said room. While doing so we cataloged the things that were in there. It was a real hodge-podge of articles from large farm equipment to cameras to kitchen utensils. As we were cataloging we moved many things to other parts of the museum that were more directly related to what they were. I was cataloging a box of smalls when I found a 3″x 4″ printing block with the name Franklin Manufacturing Company on it.
What caught my eye was the line “superior fabric, colour and finish”. That’s when I knew it had to have come from the Satinet Factory that was in town during the 1800’s. I brought the block to a friend, then a friend of a friend who teaches printing made a few copies of what I imagine was a tag of sorts for the fabric woven since No. Yds. is at the bottom of the print.
The print is beautiful.
I am currently working on the yearly bulletin for the Historical Society. It usually has a little story about some interesting thing in town history and maybe a genealogy or story about the occupants of a particular house. I originally chose the really broad subject of manufacturing but with the continued study of this print and what it meant I realized that what I knew about the Satinet Factory was limited and had seriously peaked my interest.
The last month or so has seen an immersion into the manufacture of satinet and textile mills in Western MA during the early 19th century. Textile history is American history, it played huge roles in the American Revolution and the Civil War.
Now being a hand weaver and reading more and more about this particular cloth I decided it was something I needed to weave to get a perspective on what it is since I have yet to find any of it to look at (the search continues at the museum though). Satinet is a fabric woven with a cotton warp and wool weft. It was produced at an inexpensive cloth used in coats, uniforms and trousers. There are a few weavers that out there that have been more than helpful in this little quest and hopefully in the next few days I will put a warp on my loom to do a little sampling (something I never do but curiosity has gotten the better of me).
I’ve found a few photographs of the factory building after it had been abandoned (1876) and have looked at the location (under feet of snow). I also read about “Factory Village” as the center of town was known at the time. The Satinet factory was the single largest economic enterprise that has ever existed in this town yet it seems to be a footnote in the town history and I think that’s because no one really knew what satinet was and how it fit into the scheme of the local and state economies.
I could go on and on about this but there isn’t room (and I dare say interest). What began as a small article could very well turn into something much larger with a little more digging. There is an amazing textile history right here and I’m just beginning to piece the artifacts together with the research. Thank goodness for the internet but at the same time I feel like it’s the technology that keeps people from becoming interested in the things that are right under their noses. Maybe I can do a little to change that.
A few weeks ago I met a long time friend on the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls. As a gardener I am always amazed at this wonderful place.
I posted this photograph after shooting my way along the bridge and a fellow weaver used it as color inspiration. I thought I would as well. (Of course hers was finished within days of the picture going up).
I also decided to move out of the realm of safety and work with new materials, sort of. I’m using 20/2 mercerized cotton and a draft from Twill Thrills to make a scarf.
I did the math. Ordered the cotton. Did the math again. Then started winding the warp.
Truth be told this is my least favorite part of weaving and it took me three days to do it because there were a few moments when I just had to walk away.
I finally got it to the loom and threaded it. It’s an advancing twill pattern at 40 E.P.I. Yes, forty ends per inch. At this point I’m saying to myself “You must be out of your mind” but it got better . . .
I had 32 threads leftover at the end. Not usually a problem unless you decide to do graded colors, ugh. Not happy at this point. It was sort of a random twill so I decided to just to a repeat of part of the pattern and see how it turned out. At this point I was not going to rethread it.
Yesterday I began sleying the reed 4 threads per dent. I got halfway through and decided to break until this morning when the light was better. Finished an hour or so ago. I’ll tie it on, spend some time on the floor doing tie-ups and finally start weaving later today with any luck. Then I’ll be able to see what kind of mess I truly made and if I can live with it or start over.
The interesting part to me is the weavers I have that surround me, that inspire me. I weave with a woman who weaves nothing but twills. She threads her loom without a draft starting in the center and working her way to either edge designing it as she goes along. Her work is amazing. I felt like I was channeling her as I threaded all of those extra ends. I don’ begin to think I’m capable of doing what she does but it’s having weavers around me giving that inspiration. They’re all mentors without knowing it.
I think that’s what makes it so important to show and share your work – no matter what kind of work it is or what your skill level. You never know who you’re going to inspire.
A couple of days ago I finished a 10 yard run of towels and took them off of the loom, hemmed, washed and folded them all in one afternoon. This never happens, I have things I have yet to finish from last year.
When I near the end of one project I’m always moving on to the next and my excitement may get in the way of the finishing part. That’s my theory anyway. I’m in wedding present mode and asked one of my nieces if there was anything in particular I could make her that would be useful. She asked for a specific type of towel. I asked what colors and she said something to the effect of light shining through ferns. She is an amazing artist and thinking about projects for her pushes me creatively.
I found a modification of an old draft that I modified further and worked up half a warp yesterday hoping this came close to ferns. As I was winding it I decided to call it “A Walk in the Woods” because it had the colors I envisioned when I walk onto the fern lined path headed into the wood lot in the back forty.
Today I’ll finish winding the warp and possibly get it onto the loom.
Right now I’m in that creative manic mode that seems to really set in after a loss. When my mother died I made quilts and rag dolls – lots of them. I gave most of them away to my friends. Again, it’s the process, not the product. Weaving seems to be what’s on the agenda right now although I do have a knitting project going as well as needle felting, rug hooking and, oh yeah, the gardens.
This time around though there’s a different sort of feel – like time is getting short and there’s still so much I want to do. Maybe it’s that generational shift that comes when you lose your last parent. Maybe it’s the realization that if you’re lucky you have a quarter of your life left to go and who knows how productive all of it will be.
Most of the time I don’t really think about it but on those days when all I can think about is the project I’m planning and working on to the point of no sleep it does make me wonder. I think some of it is a distraction, maybe a defense to fight off the depression that could take over or the overwhelming sadness at moments. What’s the saying? “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop”. I just have to keep going, keep creating.