Whining

I’ve been sick. Sicker than I’ve been in quite some time thanks to a visit to pick my grandson up from daycare.  I forgot what a hotbed of germs those places can be and the fact that once your own children fly the coop your immunity goes with it.

I had a good nights sleep last night, felt rested and was thankful because I knew there was snow waiting to be cleared.  The driveway was cleared at 4:45 this morning and I have appointments and work tonight.

Peggy called me this morning to tell me some loom tales and offer her sympathy.  Taking care of it all by myself couldn’t be good, I assured her I was fine.

I grabbed my keys on the way out to feed the goats and chickens.  There was a crust of ice on top of the 6 inches of snow/sleet that had fallen overnight.  Heavy shoveling.  I opened the car door, inserted and turned the key – nothing – deader than dead.  I have a little jump box so figured I’d jump it so the car could thaw out.  Had to clean the car off first, my battery is in the trunk.  Put the cables on, go turn the key, nothing.  I called Bill and he told me I should charge the battery with the charger for a couple of hours.

Ugh . . . . . . .

I shoveled through the bank in front of the garage to get the charger out.  Shoveled to the car to get the charger close enough.  Dragged the charger to the car and searched for an extension cord.

At this point I’m thinking to myself – assisted living has never looked so good.

I fed the goats, then cleared a narrow path to the barn.  The boys were causing enough of a ruckus just knowing I was outside.  The shoveling was slow, I was out of breath and thinking maybe I’ll just lie in this snow bank for a few minutes til I feel better.

Again – assisted living never looked so good.

As I was finishing up shoveling out the chicken coop I could hear the thunk, thunking of a pileated woodpecker in the trees next to the driveway, then heard it call from across the road.  I looked around at how beautiful it was with the ice on the trees and noted that the temperature was milder than usual and there was no wind.  Chickadees were in the trees waiting for the seeds I toss out on my way to the coop and I reached in to get the warm egg laid by the only hen that seems to be laying at the moment.  Those eggs are precious little gifts right now.

Okay, assisted living wouldn’t be that good.

My sister and I often talk about how long we will be able to stay in our old, drafty, cold houses by ourselves.  I’m fortunate to have help on the weekends but the weekdays can sometimes be a reality check.  Honestly I didn’t mind the physical aspect of the work this morning it was the mental exercises that had to take place in order to do what needed to be done.  These were things outside of my usual daily routine and my brain just was not in problem solving mode.  Let’s hope the car starts and the day improves from here.

 

 

Döstädning


It must be the sun becoming warmer (or shining for a change) that has had me doing some cleaning.  It could be the fact that the cobwebs have taken over the house and clearing them out always involves moving everything in a room.  Let’s call it spring  cleaning, that sounds more hopeful when it’s still mid winter.

The truth is that things have been weighing on me of late – big things, huge things.  When my father died he left a collection of some of the biggest machines any ordinary man could own.  A couple of them I always saw as hobbies but there was a point where it crossed over into obsession.  The time has come for us to dismantle it.  There is a huge building that houses 2 large stationary steam engines and all that goes with it including a steam turbine generator and a sawmill run by diesel and steam.  Equipment so large that a rigger will have to be hired to get it out and moved.

It’s fairly easy to ignore that building with everything in it.  Walking into it is a time capsule of sorts but it weighs on you.  We are not getting any younger and the idea of leaving that to my kids is not appealing.

Every year about this time we make lists of the things that need to be done, sorted in order of importance.  This list begins by realizing that your kitchen is so cold and could be fixed in an hour or two with very little effort.  You just have to wait until Spring to do it.  This is the list that extends through the year consisting of all the maintenance and repairs that every homeowner has.

There is another list and that concerns the cleaning out of the property.  It’s the death cleaning or döstädning as the Swedish call it.  This has taken some time to embrace, probably because it’s my childhood home – there are memories I’m not ready to let go of and it causes me to hang on to things that no one would understand.  In talking about it Bill very astutely said “These were your father’s dreams not ours”.  That one comment changed my perspective on a lot of things.  I’ve gotten to the point in life where my list of long term dreams is beginning to be whittled away.  The sawmill is an example.  Ten years ago we thought we would use it.  There are always people who want lumber cut and it could also be useful to us in the repair of our buildings.  Last year we realized we were probably never going to use it and said it out loud.  We found it a home with someone who will use it and take care of it and be part of his dream.

The steam equipment is another story.

The out buildings are the bigger problem but there are things in the house that present similar challenges.  There’s the piano.  A huge, rosewood Chickering square grand – built about 1870.  It needs a full restoration.  No one plays, no one ever played it (well my mother hacked out a couple of tunes and my uncle would play something wildly out of tune when he visited – all vivid childhood memories).  It is large, heavy and no one wants it.  I’ve contacted museums, previous owners, piano restorers, craigslist, social media offering to give it away if  someone will move  it.  Nothing.  That leaves taking it apart and getting it out of here.  I’ve been saying I was going to do it for two years but haven’t, probably hoping something magical will happen.  It’s got to go, now it’s come down to what pieces I will keep. (Yes, more junk in storage – baby steps).

I realize that I’m entering into old age (although I will always be 27 years old in my head) and in the paring down of dreams comes the need to get rid of  stuff so no one else has to do it.  Döstädning, death cleaning, not a sad thing at all but really done with an eye to the future.

 

Hens in Winter

The snow squalls have passed through and the very cold air is here.  Once again the hens are loaded up with water, food and treats in anticipation of weather they will suffer through gracefully.  I have 12 hens in a 12 hen coop.  For the most part it seems to be the right size but with blasts of cold like this it seems like you could add another dozen and they would all be fine.  They roost very close together when it’s cold.  Hunkered down with their feathers covering their feet very close to their neighbor.  I swear all 12 can fit on one roost that’s 4 feet long.  I always feel bad for the girls on the ends but in my mind they swap spots as the ones on the ends get cold.

There is a heater in the coop for their water (5 gallons) and their feeder holds 5 lbs of pellets.  I throw their treats in through a small opening rather than opening the coop to keep the wind and cold out.

The wait is on for spring, although I don’t mind the cold I do fret about the animals but they all do much better in it than one would expect.  I check for non-existent eggs just to make sure they don’t freeze but I don’t light their coop so we are just waiting for longer days and the natural rhythm of egg laying to begin.  The true signs of spring are the house plants growing again and the chickens laying.  It’s those longer days and everything knows.

An Eye on the Weather

This morning’s sunrise was fleeting, maybe 10 minutes, but always worth it  You know what they say about red skies at dawn.

The past 5 days have been the kind of weather I could do without.  This is the time of year when we watch the forecast obsessively yet try not to be taken in by the hype.  Those dire warnings that pop up every couple of hours – winter weather warnings, high wind advisories, wind chill frostbite warnings send people out in droves to fill their tanks with gas and get that bread and milk.

This past weekend we saw about a foot of snow and sleet but the real news was the frigid temps that followed that precipitation.  Minus 8 degrees with 20 to 30 mph hour wind gusts made for an extraordinarily uncomfortable couple of days.  We have the wood stove but the idea that we have to bring wood in, after breaking the frozen chunks apart on the pile never really occurs to us until it happens. (Yes, the wood is inside the shed that is attached to the house and the pile remains frozen together).

There is always the worry that the pipes will freeze.  We were blessed with the wind and snow drifted up against the house banking it and allowing the ell to stay warmer.  The old timers used to bank their houses with leaves or hay in the fall for just that reason.  The stone foundations are pretty drafty.

Then there are the animals – and the worry about their well-being.  The goats have very heavy coats this year, their space is fairly tight and their water is heated.  They seem unaffected (that doesn’t take into account how affected we are in taking care of them).  On the coldest, windiest morning the hens didn’t get off of their roost or make a sound when they were fed.  They were just hunkered down keeping their feet and each other warm.

Yesterday felt like a heat wave at 13 degrees with no wind.

January is the longest month of the year for me.  It’s dark, cold and very often windy.  The days may be getting longer but it won’t be noticeable until mid February, although I must confess to taking notice of the time the sunsets to convince myself that the days are indeed getting longer.

We have people who take care of us.   Our town is small enough so I know every member of the road crew personally.  Almost every morning this time of year I wake up to the sound of the plow going by the house.  It is always comforting to know that their job is to keep everyone as safe as possible in awful conditions.  There is also the guy who plows my driveway and back yard – he’s a kid really.  I grew up with his grandfather plowing the same yard (he still does on occasion).  They are always a phone call away from getting me out of my yard.  If I have to be somewhere at a particular hour I let them know ahead of time and I will be at a different spot in the queue of driveways to be plowed.  If I cannot walk to the barn because of ice they are here to sand.  There’s a lot to be said for dependability.  Of course they are also neighbors and have always felt like family.

So a flash flood warning just came up on my phone and the town payloader just dug out drainage spots in the banks.  The forecast says highs in the 40s – until Friday when it all freezes again. The signs are all there that I will be hunkered down in the house for a few days weaving.  Winter weather does have its advantages.

Answering the Questions

I follow a number of weavers on social media.   Some groups are for troubleshooting the particular looms I have, some are buying and selling equipment, most are weavers interested in the process itself.  My experience has been that weavers are a very generous lot and these groups have really shown that to be the case.

A couple of interesting questions were posted the other day that really had me thinking.  “How often do you weave?  What do you do with your weaving projects once you’ve finished?  Do you make a living weaving?”  Since I’ve begun the post holiday catch up with projects that I’ve promised people these questions really lead to the real question which is why I weave.  This is something that has morphed over the years.  As I’ve grown in my understanding of the craft the reasons for doing it have changed.  What’s different is I realized that weaving is the handcraft I have been looking for my entire life.

I am the type of person that needs to be creating constantly – my hands (and mind) have to be busy.  I am also a perfectionist – born and raised.  When I was younger this presented problems stemming more from a lack of patience than anything else.  I wanted things to be perfect immediately.  As I grew older I realized that perfection was attainable for me in most of the crafting I undertook, I just had to readjust my goals.

I was a quilter for years (and years) and also learned embroidery at a very young age.  I would go to quilt shows and enter my quilts in fairs.  I photographed quilts for the CT Quilt Search Project and delved into the history and process from other women’s perspectives.  The pinnacle for me was entering an embroidered and appliqued quilt in the Vermont Quilt Festival and winning a blue ribbon.  As far as I was concerned I was done, I wasn’t interested in taking it any further.  The same happened with making teddy bears.  I found a pattern in a magazine and made one of the lamest bears you have ever seen.  I told my family that I was going to keep sewing bears until every one I made was perfect.  I made a lot of bears. That lead to designing and teaching adult ed classes to make them.  I learned you can only make so many bears and that was the end of that.

I’ve learned to do so many other things searching for that one craft.  I weave and teach basket making.  I knit, crochet, macrame, blah, blah, blah.  I’ve dabbled in woodworking, rug hooking, pottery, leather work.  Even baking became a bit of an obsession (I make a mean pie).   Some of it I did okay with, most of it didn’t hold my interest enough to continue, a bit of it was so bad that I would tell myself and others it was a one-off, bucket list kind of thing.

Weaving has become the all consuming craft for me and it’s not about perfecting the product which everything else has been.  It’s about the process -from beginning to end.  I love the math, the counting, the feel of the fiber going through my fingers.  I love the looms.  Big looms, little looms, any kind of looms.  I love dressing a loom and having the right amount of threads and the perfect tension.  I love it when I weave the first few picks and there aren’t any threading errors.  I love the meditative quality of the weaving itself when you’ve memorized the pattern and you’re weaving without thinking about weaving.  I must confess that I’m usually thinking about the next project.

That’s where these questions hit home.  I weave almost every day.  The problem is always what to do with what you’ve woven.  I never want to be boxed in to where I have to think about what I’m weaving and it’s marketability.  In my opinion that’s the fastest way to suck the joy out of something you love, monetize it.  What I have done is custom weaving for people to augment my raw materials.  This is what lets me weave at this point.

As for making a living weaving . . . I wove overshot runners for a friend of mine to give to some of her family members for Christmas.  Ten days before the holiday I put on about an 8 yard warp figuring I would weave her three and then weave a few extra for others that have expressed an interest. These runners were beautiful, everything came together and I cut off the ones she needed for the holiday.  I then proceeded to weave off the rest of the warp and finish up the remaining runners.   I realized then I could never, ever be a production weaver, especially working on a deadline.  Some of the best lessons learned aren’t ones you’re looking for at all.

Sometimes questions need to be asked to let you see where you are going.  Most often they are asked in a most innocent way and you hear them at the perfect moment.

 

The Hub of Town Activity

This past month the Board of Health changed the policy regarding entrance into the “Refuse Gardens” (affectionately known by us as the dump).  Today was the first day that hang tags were to be used for entrance and part of my job as clerk for the BOH was to be there to check that people were using them and have them ready if they didn’t have one.

I don’t spend a lot of time there – I rarely go at all – it’s not my household job.  When I do go I am always amazed at what a hub it is for residents to relay information, learn about upcoming events or just visit with your neighbor (aren’t we all neighbors here really?).  Every dump visit takes a few minutes to get rid of trash and recyclables but then another half hour spent chatting with someone.  They talk about the weather, they talk about their kids, they bring their dogs and all receive some kind of attention.  Chester loves going to the dump.  It’s also the place you can go to do a little politics. Elections for town offices are coming up and this is the place to get the signatures you need to be placed on the ballot.  The only real alternative is to go door to door.

This is where the connections are made, the invitations to visit, the plans to go places.  When I was growing up you didn’t wait for an invite to go to someone’s house, you just stopped in.  I think this came about more when people used to go out for a Sunday drive and pop in on some unsuspecting relative for a meal.  My mother was a master at stretching her planned menu and always welcomed unexpected guests around the dinner table.  It never rattled her at all.  In today’s hurried, crazed world this is now considered pretty bad etiquette.

I think the change in attitudes has been a long time coming.  I lived in Enfield, CT for over 30 years and am sad to say I only knew a handful of people.  In Rowe many of the people (or families) I knew in childhood are still here, and there are a lot of newcomers.  The difference in living in a town like this is people cultivate their relationships.  We are far from services of any kind really.  It’s a bit of a drive to get to anything resembling a grocery store.  This is the kind of place where if you need that cup of sugar or eggs (especially eggs) you do call your neighbor.  Those of us that live in the small hill towns know the value of having good neighbors.  Things happen, you may need help.  This is the value of community and it seems to me that many people are cultivating their community at the dump.  It’s a pretty special place.

2017 in Review

Every year, upon reflection, I realize what a charmed life I lead.  I live in a beautiful place, have wonderful family and friends, a roof over my head, hot and cold running water, good food on the table and the company of a charming menagerie of animals.  Life has been busy and the blog has suffered because of it, at least in the amount of time that has been dedicated to writing.  Something I should work on.  As you all know I am a visual person.  I try to take a photograph a day and my review consists of my favorites for the year.  All for different reasons.

January

 

February

March

 

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

December

Thanks so much for being a part of all of this and a happy, blessed New Year to all!

 

 

 

 

 

Grand Opening

It’s been a whirlwind kind of week in preparing the Browning Bench Tool Factory for its Grand Opening this coming Saturday, the 15th.  The historical society was given the use of a building that was moved and restored in 1976.  It was originally a factory building used in the making of small hand tools such as hand planes.

The idea of building another building for the display of sleighs, wagons and large agricultural artifacts had been discussed during the latter part of last year but the cost of doing so was just out of reach.  The Bench Tool had been used in the past for exhibits of local crafts on Old Home Day but has basically sat idle otherwise.  It’s a barn essentially with no insulation but tight to the weather.  It has a good roof and windows.  We figured this would be the perfect annex for our agricultural display.

The sleighs, wagon, and large agricultural articles have been moved in, the smaller stuff has been making its way over.  This past week with work bees we’ve sorted things to different floors and by industry, season or animal.  There are displays about sugaring and skiing, tools for ice cutting and wood cutting.  Dairy, haying and harvesting grains are included along with bee equipment and chicken brooders.

The third floor is a temporary exhibit on textiles and the manufacture.  Shirley (the loom) is set up and being dressed this week, I will be weaving there most Saturdays through the season.  There will be displays of other spinning and weaving equipment as well as some of the hand-woven artifacts from the museum.

One of the most important things for me has been the photographs.  The Historical Society has a treasure trove of amazing photos and I have scanned a good many of them in the past 10 months or so.  I’ve printed and mounted a great number of them to display along with the artifacts to put things in context.  So while the displays come together I think the photographs  will be the icing on the cake.  To see the town as it was 130 years ago is an amazing thing – open fields, amazing views, industry.  It’s difficult sometimes to wrap your head around it.

The trustees have come together and done an amazing job.  They all really care about the history of the town and sharing it with those that are interested.  If you are in the area on any Saturday through Fall from 10 A.M. to 2 P.M. stop by and see what we have in our newly expanded museum, there’s something for everyone.  Also consider becoming a member or lending your support as we continue to uncover treasures to share with everyone.

The Cloth

I apologize to my non weaving readers for something that may not be as interesting or easily understood but I have to do this.

There are three parts as I see it to this research project on the Satinet Factory in Rowe.  One of the most important to me was the cloth itself.  Having never seen a piece of satinet from 1840 or so I decided that the only way I could get a real visual of what they were making was to weave a piece myself.

I was pointed in the direction of a book titled The Domestic Manufacturer’s Assistant and Family Directory in the Arts of Weaving and Dyeing by J. and R. Bronson which was originally published in 1817.  The book is very informative and once you get the hang of the drafts they are very easy to figure out. This is a 6 shaft satin pattern.

So I did a little math, figured out the tie ups and started winding a warp.   Satinet was woven with a cotton warp and a wool weft.  I think originally it was for economic reasons.  Power carders and spinning were in place before the looms were so the mills prepared the fiber but the satinet was being woven by people in their homes on large barn frame looms.  Subcontractors in 1822 were being paid 10 cents per yard, or about $1.93 per yard in today’s money.  Satinet was also an inexpensive cloth to manufacture and the demand for it skyrocketed in the 1830’s  when clothiers began using the power-loom.

After talking to a few weavers who have an interest in historic weaving I decided that I would use 20/2 cotton and begin with a sett of 36 e.p.i. (partly because I have a 12 reed and the math was easy to do) . . . (sorry, not sorry).

I think cotton makes one of the most beautiful warps.  I love the sheen.  The question came up before doing this little experiment if the fabric would have been yarn dyed or piece dyed.  Everyone I talked to was in a different camp on this one so I decided to do a white cotton warp with dyed wool weft.  This also would make it easier to study the structure and see how the weft was covering the warp at different setts and beats.

Woohoo, tied on and ready to go.  The piece in the loom was 6″ in width.  I used a single ply wool for the weft that seemed about the same size as the warp.  It was a left over warp from Peggy’s mill so I’m not sure of the exact size.   There were some slubs on the yarn which is what you see in the weaving.

I figured I’d start out with 36 p.p.i to make it balanced but found that I had to up my beat to attain 43 p.p.i. to cover the warp.  Also taken into consideration was the fulling that would occur in wet finishing.  I tried setting it higher – to 40 e.p.i. but that made a very stiff cloth.  I wove and wet finished 2 pieces at the two different setts with all different picks per inch, both about 12 inches in the loom.  When finished they both shrank to 5 1/2 by 11 1/4  which was much less than I expected.

The wrong side of the cloth is quite lovely, the fabric itself is soft and supple.  It was used mostly for trousers back in the day and you can understand it.  It has a nice hand but feels like it would wear extremely well.  It was also used for linings in coats and to make jackets.   Civil war uniforms were very often made of satinet as well.  My thought as I handled the samples was that I would love to weave some yardage for a jacket, it would be very comfortable.

My guess is this fabric would have been made with finer thread for a lighter weight but until I actually see a piece of it I won’t know.  The search continues here in town, we have an extensive collection of clothing.  I will also contact a few other museums to see what they have in their collections but at least now I know what I’m looking for.

 

 

 

Down a History Rabbit Hole

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.