Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Biltmore Industries: Preservation of Handspinning and Weaving in Appalachia

I was lucky to visit Asheville during Labor Day weekend this year, and managed to find myself near the Grove Park Inn, now overtaken by big business (that would be Omni Hotels).

While there, I visited the museum dedicated to Biltmore Industries, a concern that produced handwoven fabrics circa 1905 until as late as 1981.  Why produce handwovens at that time, well past the textile industrial revolution?

Perhaps the founders were worried about the loss of skills for hand produced materials at the turn of the last century. However we do know that hand production of yarn and fabrics continued well into the 20th century, as a necessity for many people.   John C. Campell, an educator, surveyed the extreme poverty in the southern Appalachians prior to his death in 1919, from a cart that served as a "mobile home." His wife Olive Dame later founded John C. Campbell Folkschool, mentioned below.

The founders may have been influenced by the Arts and Crafts Movement, flourishing in England and the US between 1880 and 1920. (The influence of which is seen in the signage and furniture at Biltmore Estate).

Western North Carolina  and Appalachia hold hand crafting and artisan efforts in high regard, as seen in the Craft Schools founded at the beginning of the last century and still flourishing in the area (John C Campbell, Arrowmont, and Penland).

In 1905 Edith VanderBilt founded Biltmore Industries to "bring back" hand production of wool fabrics.

It was a joy to view this small museum.   If you have difficulty reading through my silhouette, this first sign reads

"America’s heritage of handwork, more than two centuries old, still thrives today within the Southern Appalachian Mountains. In recent years, however, thisz heritage has been influenced considerably by forces of modernism such as industrialization, increased travel, and a growing influx of new residents from all parts of the United States.

Change has come to the mountains to stay, but the Southern Appalachian region still remains the nation’s principal stronghold of traditional handcrafts. The purpose of the North Carolina Homespun Museum is:

1.     To depict the history of Biltmore Industries, founded on the Biltmore Estate by r.s George W. Vanderbilt in 1901 and moved to it’s present site by Fred Seeley, Sr., in 1917.
2.     To exhibit outstanding examples of handwork, primarily by North Carolina natives."

This bit was lovely: in 2003 a woman returned a suit for benefit of the museum:

According to this nice blog post, people would go and purchase their wool handspun at the shop, then take it to Pack Square in downtown Asheville to a tailor to be made into bespoke clothing.

Friday, August 4, 2017

More Knits for Syria

I am doing well in the "knitting for Syria" part of my life. Finished three items which will go out this week, plus one from my friend Celia.  I shouldn't be so proud of myself!

 This from Celia:

Here is a link to the Friends of the Salaam Cultural Center Facebook page. The work involved is staggering. Items are shipped to refugee camps in Jordan and Greece. I am so pleased to be able to help in some very very small way.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Danish in Alberta

I was lucky to visit my friend Barb in Edmonton in June. We did a driving trip south which included a visit to Dickson, Alberta, halfway between Edmonton and Calgary. We visited the Danish Canadian Museum, of which Barb is now a board member!

The Danish emigrated to Alberta in several waves.  Many emigrated from the western US, not just Denmark. Here is the main building 

There were beautiful mementos of fiber arts, including bobbin lace

and several impressive needlepoint chairs that were brought from Denmark (who had time to needlepoint once on this continent and needing to start a farm??)

this is a needlepointed and beaded midwife's bag

this handsome suit brings Hans Christian Anderson to mind...

When Grandma and Grandpa (Mormor og Bedstefar) were no longer, their Bibles were donated to the museum, which hasn a impressive library collection

We also visited the Dickson Store Museum. The Christiansen family who started the store were emigrants who arrived via Nebraska.  There was some delicious ice cream to be had here!

The Christiansens lived above the store

Of course I could not resist photos of the old Singer, which was made in 1899, according to this useful website. (After 1900 Singers had a letter prefix). I cannot locate where it was made, however. The letter prefixes after 1900 indicate location.

Greetings from Denmark!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Another Singer!

Yes, I am ready for the Zombie apocalypse...I am the proud owner of a handcrank Singer.  I did not get the manual but I believe that she is a Singer 99k, a 3/4 size model.  The friend who I bought her from bought her from a Canadian woman.  

She has a beautiful bentwood case

My new hobby is looking up numbers on the Singer sewing machines that I meet to learn where they were built. (Everything has a footprint. I am a romantic...I believe in the elusive footprint....).  Here is the number on my new Singer

According to this serial number, my machine was built or completed on July 12, 1932.   Apparently, she was built in Clydebank, Scotland. So perhaps...the original owner or her daughter was Scottish and moved to Canada? 

In the meantime, I have enthusiastically sewn this skirt has a lovely selection of Singer sewing machine themed fabrics.

I have been cutting up tee shirts. I'm a wee big larger than I once was.  But my extremely small Frida Kahlo tee shirts need preserving.  A cutup with the rotary cutter and some slow stitching onto a slightly larger black tee shirt seemed to be the answer.  Of course, using Grandma Helen's thimble.

If you meet me on the street, I will be wearing a glittery Singer skirt with a Frida tee shirt

Sunday, May 28, 2017

FO: Ridge and Furrow Shawl

I am interested in supporting sheep breeds that are on the brink of nonexistence...the American Livestock  Breeds Conservancy keeps track of which animal breeds are threatened. While I was at SAFF several years ago, I found some lovely yarn from Ross Farms. The breed is Leicester Longwool. Both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson had Leicester Longwool sheep.

I was almost shocked at how soft the resulting shawl is. 

The pattern is Ridge and Furrow; I was so happy to find this pattern…I wanted something kind of earthy for this wool and this pattern delivered. However, I found it difficult to follow with a mix of knits and purls in the same row. I finally gave up on the purls, even after regraphing the pattern on my knitting software.
So once done, I set off to do the border. I just could not do the knit-onto-live-stitches border well. I tried and tried. After it sat on the shelf for nine months, I had a talk with myself. Convinced myself to do a simple edge treatment (k2tog yo) till the yarn was almost gone and then use a simple Evelyn A Clark edging. I love brown and turquoise, and added some flat-ish turquoise beads on the points. Took two weeks to finish is after it languished for nine months!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Happy Spring 2017! Bunny, Baby Chicks, and Knitted Easter Eggs

Busy week here. Yesterday I was picking up baby chicks for my sister...I would have chickens myself but my neighborhood is wrong for that...on the way home I stopped at an antique store in Hardeeville SC and look what I found:

 It is a 1952 Singer Featherweight Model 221. I have been desiring one for a while so I treated myself for my birthday.  She runs like a top.

The original owner, the guy from "Damn Yankees" Antiques (a Yankee himself I belief) thought it came from either Beaufort or Hilton Head.   It was serviced in Princeton NJ in 1978:

And here is the first output from her:  working on a Kaffe Fassett Squares quilt

I purchased the machine quickly as there were chicks in the car, 6 in all here are photos of a couple. I am just chicksitting overnight

Here is this year's egg tree. it looks unfocused but it isn't

Two new eggs this year,  the Koigu egg was loosely based on this pattern: I love my koigu and will do more. I bought wooden eggs to insert inside

And this lace egg, here is a link to the pattern After making Russian Pysanki at a class some years ago, I realized that eggs will just dry. So, inside is one of my sister's chicken's eggs...a beautiful orange speckly thing...

I found wisteria in the yard last week, I had been trying to grow it from seed but this just popped up in another location, looks like it's been there for a while, always good to leave some wild space in the yard. This is a lovely spring find

And of course here are some Easter bunny photos of Blanca and Rosa