Thursday, November 27, 2008

Have Ye A Thankful Hearte....

To all of my Dear Family & Friends...those I have met, those I have yet to encounter, I wish you all the Happiest of Days. You need not be in Country to celebrate, to make your own day of
Thanks and reflection on what you hold Dear & Goode. It has been a tough year for me this year, but I wouldn't trade any of it, for that is what makes us who we are, and how we get
from one stage of our lives to another.

I am SO very Thankful for my own Ma & Pa, my Brother, for my husband of nearly 17
years....for each of my 4 children. I thank God for our Health, and for our good prosperity. Every breath of each and every second of the day is a gift, and I try not to waste what He so
graciously has given me. I am Thankful for my friends and patrons of the Museum, for all of you who buy and enjoy my folk art and dollys- I appreciate it more than can be expressed in words.

The turkey (NO!!!! Not Mr Giving ;)), is roasting away in the kitchen filling the house with wonderful smells....I have the celery stuffed...the olives garnished....sweet potatoes
ready to beans with bacon, and the fruit salad for later today. It is a wonderful cold & snowy day, the children are zooming around and making MUCH ruckus, I love every second.

from the Kinnison Family~
Jayson, Rachael, Tressa, Josh, Emma & Pippy.....from the dogs Yetti, Dixie, and new pup 'Lumpy'.....from the kitties GG, Mr. Pappa Georgio, Mary, Milo & Otis.....from the Turkey, Mr. Giving.....the Ducks Toot, Puddle, Bubble & Squeak, the Guinnea Hens Poke &
Joe, and all the hens & Roosters...............


Monday, November 17, 2008


When most folks think of homespun, they think of something plaid first, then maybe if they are historically sensitive, they think next that the fabric was woven at home. Homespun is so
much more than that. True homespun started out on the farm as a seed, and thru many labor intensive steps, became cloth, and was carefully used to make articles for the home and clothing. So what IS homespun? It can be made from wool linen or cotton~ I will be talking of linen.

But do you know what linen is? Linen is made from fibers from the flax plant.

In Colonial times, much time was devoted to the growing and processing of flax fibers....usually the men did the growing and harvesting, and the braking, and then the women & children did
the 'easier' parts, such as scutching, spinning , weaving and sewing..... In 1656, Massachusetts required that children be taught to spin, and that each spinner was REQUIRED to produce at
least 3 pounds of spun yarn~ linen, wool or cotton, each WEEK, for at least 30 weeks of the year! but I'm getting ahead of myself.....

Flax, or Linum sativum, is a plant with a woody stem...the stem is wrapped in the strong silky fibers that are used to make linen thread....a lot of work goes into retrieving these fibers and making them usable. Once the leaves turn yellow, the plant is ready to be hand...roots and all. Just picture pulling weeds in your garden, over and over again, for acres and acres......My back hurts just thinking about it.

Pulling flax, as shown in this 1792 engraving

After the flax was pulled and made in to little bundles, the seeds were removed by drawing it thru a Rippling comb. (Seeds from the flax plant are used to make Linseed Oil) This was a comb very similar to the hetchel, except it was more often shorter, with a short handle, and the nails were wider apart, as for now, just the seeds needed to be removed. Think of a medieval looking hairbrush, but made from 3-4" long nails instead.
After the seeds were removed, the flax was 'retted'. It was put in either a stream, or retting pond, to wait for the fibers to rot and break down.....very stinky. Retting in a stream would obviously be preferred, , because the running water carried the stinky nasties away......but it also ruined the water for drinking, so most used a pond for this.
Once sufficiently 'rotted'....the flax was whacked with a brake to break the woody stalk away from the flax fibers. A Brake was a huge wooden contraption that looks a lot like a paper cutter....only instead of cutting, it smooshes, and brakes the fibers~ hence its name. One could also use 'beatles', little wooden mallets that were used in the same way~ this took a lot more time.
After the braking, comes the 'scutching'...or some call it swingling. The fibers were held up against a board, and then was scraped with a long wooden knife. This was done until the fibers were rid of the gummy sap residue from the stalk. It also separated the longer fibers from the shorter ones...the shorter ones being called tow.

I like to ask everyone who visits the museum what this tool is, and as of yet, not one person has come up with the right answer of a wood 'scutching knife'. Its quite long as you can see, but not as heavy as it looks. Its handle & blade well worn from many years of use

Next came Hackling. (you can see a young fair maiden scutching her heart out to the left)

The fibers were drawn thru hetchels of varying coarseness to comb the fibers straight and get them ready for spinning- lots of folks call them flax combs. I have this one here at the Museum,
its 18th century, with a medium coarseness. Finishing ones would have twice this many teeth. Its a simple, beautiful tool to hold, and the hand forged iron nails its made from sound beautiful
when you carefully draw your hand across it....

The faced holes are to insert the hetchel onto a pegged board to hold it in place

Wouldn't want to fall on this.....many bases had wooden covers to protect both the hetchel, and passers by, when not in use

Oak has been wrapped in tin, to give the wood more strength. Hand forged nails were nailed all the way thru. As the flax became finer and finer, it was drawn thru hetchels that had more nails, closer and closer together

All that was left now, was spinning in to yarn, weaving into cloth, maybe bleaching, and then stitching into some beautiful thing.....
bleaching was such a long drawn out process, much homespun was left au natural

You can see my post on bleaching Here :

I feel that Knowing the work that goes into making a product, only enhances the respect and interest of that product, which is why I am so very excited and fortunate to have a wonderful
example of the linen making process here....
This gathering of Early Americana comes from the Blakeman Farm in Connecticut. The flax was grown and processed there
here is an original 18th century skein of flax fibers ready for spinning.

Next is a skein of finely twisted spun linen thread, ready for weaving.

The thread was expertly woven into this unbleached homespun linen.

Last, there is a small bunch of 'tow', the short fibers that come off during scutching, and also hackling....nothing was ever wasted.

Linen making like this was short lived~ by the 19th century, with all the textile mills, handspun, homespun was a bit of a novelty. Many pieces were saved, like my set, and cherished and exhibited in honor of the 'olde days'. Folks were on to busier lifestyles~ no one had the 'time' for making linen was a time consuming endeavour, as referenced by John Campbell's diary, Windham, New Hampshire:

" March hath 31 Dayes 1796

24 thrash 12 sook oats and Clean 10 Bushells

25 swingle 19 1/4 of flax John Cochran Breaked 19 Bundles

26 swingle 20 1/2 pound flax John Cochran Broke 20 Bundles Spend /3

27 goe to Town Meeting Spend 1/4d agumment of agumment

28 Thrash 14 1/2 sooks of oats Jam Henry hear Braked flax

29 swingle 15 1/4 pounds of flax John Cochran Breade 15 Bundles

31 go to McGaws after stears spend 1/3d

April Hath 30 Dayes 1796

1st Breake flax for Jamison Henry Goe to George Davidsons to frolic

2 Brake flax to Ditto finish Medow hay Begin on Inglish hay

3 Sunday Stay at home spring like weather Loss goos Last night

4 Brake flax for Jam Henry foornoon and myself in afternoon

Break 18 Bundles Jamison swingle 14 for mee Spend 14d 1/2 On moor Dye"

If I have peaked your interest in homespun and early cloth
making, I highly recommend the book "Linen Making in New
England, 1640- 1860" by Martha Coons

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Looking foreword to the Holidays...

I have been trying to tidy things up a bit....I put the tree up in
the gallery last week or so, but still have Halloweenies that want
to stay out and play!! We normally put up a couple of trees for
Christmas in the house, and then decorate at least one outside for
the animals. I love the Christmas tree, it just may be my favorite
thing about Christmas...besides watching the children on
Christmas morning. When I was little, Ma & Pa let my brother
and I have our own tree in our Bedroom....always decorated with
the neat things we made at school....I particularly liked, and can
remember, the HUGE ornaments we made one year, from a
Christmas card glued onto a foam meat tray(that the meat would
come on from the grocery store)...then we put all sorts of glitter
and such around the outside. Golly I was prolly in the 2nd grade
or so. I have always been a 'gatherer', and I still have several of
the ornaments I made when I was little.....I even still have the
little red felt stocking my kindergarten teacher made for me,
that has my name spelt hideously wrong....but I LOVE it! I can
remember going to school, and looking all over the tree for 'mine',
and seeing the little red candy cane she put in it.....ohhh it was so
hard to wait to finally e*a*t* it! I wonder if I would still
remember that, if I didn't still have the little stocking to keep it
fresh in my memory? I think that is why I love the Christmas
tree so much- I keep all my most precious memories there.

Wixie loves the tree too and couldn't stop hopping up and down
until I took her picture in front of it. I told her the memory
attached to each one as we hung them on. Do you see the
nutcracker to the right of her? My Mom made that when I was
in my teens- a cross stitched band, then she stitched it into a tube
and stuffed it. I can remember her making it. I also keep special
ornaments on that my friends have made and given to me, like
the red stripe star with little painted face from Lorraine of
Piecake Primitives.

Here she is studying one of Joshies pictures he had taken with
the dept store Santa one year....I like to make little paper frames
for them and hang them on the tree. You can make a very special
ornament by letting your child draw a picture- like of a star or
snowman....make sure its big enough to cut a piece out for the
picture to slip behind....then cut it out and hang it on the tree.
They can color it and add their own glitter and such-
I LOVE the little ones the children make me at school each year.
You can see one of Emma she made all by herself last year, it was
my Christmas gift and I adore it, big red pipe cleaners and all!
The little soldier to the left of the Wish star I made, is made
from porcelain made from Mt. St. Helen's ash, the volcano that
erupted May 18th, 1980 in Wa state.....I can still remember
playing in the front yard wondering why it was 'snowing' in the

Wixie wants to be a part of my tree too, so I told her she could,
as long as she could be still.....which I suppose wont be for long!
Can you imagine getting a dollye for Christmas, and finding her
hiding in the tree on Christmas morn? How FUN that would be!
Actually, I think I like the look of her peeking out at me, maybe I
will have to do a dollye tree next year? hmmmmmmm

Grete (pronounced Greet), is telling me I need to get back to
work! Doesn't she look wonderful up on the sweet meat tier with
my white Christmas tree ornaments? I know I'm not the only
early bird when it comes to decorating for Christmas, so I hope
you all take time to enjoy your decorating, don't forget to set
aside a little extra for remembering

Friday, November 14, 2008

TDPIT Mercantile Update~

The mercantile has been updated~ hope you all will go and check out all the wonderful pretties! I had a bit of a problem with photobucket this month, so all of my alternate views are at

Thursday, November 06, 2008

November is a 'White Christmas' on the TDIPT Mercantile.....

This November the TDIPT Mercantile is having a White Christmas ~ and also a Holiday Open House celebration, so I hope you will stop by on the 15th to see all the beautious Christmas pretties. Every purchase made, from any artist this month, wins the buyer an entry into the door prize drawing~ you could win a beautiful handmade, or even a 50.00 TDIPT Mercantile gift certificate! The rules are no showing previews of our White Christmas pieces, so I'm not!!!

'Joy' & 'Holly' are quietly warming up their little voices for an evening of Caroling

They cant wait to glide thru the freshly fallen snow to regail their neighbors with Traditional Olde English Carols
Both are special dollys~ Holly is dressed c1830, while Joy's dress I made from an absolutely gorgeous antique 19th peshkir, totally hand embroidered in gold tinsel and foil

I hope you will save a little time to come visit us on the Mercantile on the 15th! (always updated a smidgy early on the night of the 14th for those who just cant wait!)

Monday, November 03, 2008

Mid 19th Century Boy's Tunics

This mid 1840 daguerreotype shows the Dennis Brothers and their sister quietly figuring a cypher on their slate. This is an English Dag, but plaids and stripes were just as en vogue here in America. At the in between time between being young enough for an all out dress & leggings, and old enough for a miniature version of their father's suit, boys wore what is called a tunic over breeches. This was a close fitting top with either long or short sleeves, with an attached band of skirting that hung about half way down between the waist and knees. Both types can be seen above~ both straight flat front, and with a front that is gathered up into a yoke just under the collar bone, like alot of the dresses we see from this period.

This boys tunic is made for winter wear, as it is fully wadded in both the chest and skirting, as well as full length of the arms. This would fit a boy, depending on build, of about 5-7 years old. The outer silk is tissue thin and woven in differing black & grey vertical stripes. There are 3 bands of black velvet at the cuffs, a narrow passementerie trim around the skirting only, and a false ecru velvet collar.
The skirting is gathered to the bodice, which makes me date this piece to late 1840's, as earlier examples would have been pleated. It is obvious from the wadding that this was worn in cold weather, but other than that, I could suppose it would be hard to imagine how it actually looked when worn, so I have dug around and found a daguerreotype with a little chap wearing a nearly identical one, in cut~ the pattern of his fabric is a bold plaid

This is an American boy~ wish I would have been standing there beside him! He wears his tunic with long breeches that have stirrups attached to the bottoms to keep them from riding up

Our Mother's of past didn't waste a drop of anything. This closeup is the top shoulder seam~ see how the silk has been pieces together to fit~ I think it is rather comical that this small triangular piece was stitched together backwards....I mean~ look closely and you will see the seam allowance is on the OUTSIDE...on the right side of the fabric showing. I bet who ever made this was NOT happy when they realized what they had done.... I love little imperfections like this On this view you can see on the right hand side, where the silk has been pieced~ careful to match the large black solid stripe, not so much the thin ones~ it took much extra fabric to match the pattern in stripes and large prints, and it is this reason why they were commonly used for upper class clothing, and likely not to be unpicked and remade into something else later on down the line

This is a closer view of the false collar. The velvet is actually carefully pieced from 8 different little scraps. It has been layed over the silk, and carefully stitched on, then the whole neck has been bound over in matching stripe silk. It must have been THE latest fashion, an important trim to add, why not just leave it plain? Velvet like this, showed a person the wearer had status

In this view of the coarse lining you can see little white tick marks at regular intervals~ these are actually the teeny stitched used to tack the wadding to the lining to keep it from bunching. This being silk, it has never been washed~ never would have been washed either. Silks were just only spot cleaned...can you imagine the look on Great Great Great Great Grandmothers face to see a washing machine of today?