Thursday, September 24, 2009

Living History

Last Saturday was the colonial thing at the Plank House. It was a great day, but I was too busy explaining the sheep-to-clothing process to run around and get pics of everyone else (sorry, I'm a rotten Blogger). There was a girl making lace at an unbelievable rate of speed. Unbelievable because she was flipping her tiny thread bobbins through a complex memorized pattern like a cracked-out hummingbird, yet she says the final product grows by an inch an hour. Ug. There was also a candle maker, quill maker, blacksmith, lap-loom weaver, and lots of others, including those explaining the buildings and clothing. My costume-maker Delores introduced a little modern technology: She had clothes for people to change into, took their digital pics, and printed them out on the spot. The kids were (mostly) really adorable. I should have had her do mine, but suddenly we were slammed and then suddenly we were packing up for the day and I had a sunburned strip on the back of my neck.

Ok, I'll admit it - part of my camera avoidance may have hinged on the clothing. Multiple layers of stiff, heavy fabrics turned my already abundant figure into something resembling a pregnant mammoth. My waist wasn't just hidden - it was lurking in a cave in Afghanistan somewhere. I drew the line at the white apron that was supposed to go over all of that, and I noticed I wasn't the only one.

I started with a pile of raw, dirty fleece, explained the washing process to get to the pretty white fleece, then the carding. The Coopsworth locks turned out to be super rough when spun, so I used that as my table demo. I carded out a handful of locks into a fluffy mass, then handed some to each person. "This is sort of fun, but you can't really make clothing out of it. See how it comes apart? Now put a little twist in it...(Here I showed them how to twirl it into a few inches of yarn, with varying degrees of success)... and see how strong it is?" A few yanks on the ends and their eyes would light up. "That was pretty awkward doing it with your fingers, though, right? We need a more efficient way to do that." Ideally I would have had a spindle, but I can't use one so I just talked about it. And then I'd show them the wheel (my Kromski Minstrel), and my balls of yarn and knitted house socks I made for Matt. Then I'd get them to look at their own clothes and see the tiny knit stitch duplicated in their t-shirts.

If they were hankering for more I got into plying, knitting, weaving, and felting. It was mostly grownups who were interested in all of that. Men wanted to figure out the engineering of the energy transfer with the wheel, while women wondered how long it took to do everything. I used my bag as an example (2 evenings to spin, 3 days to knit), freely admitting that I had skipped the long and nasty process of scouring the wool by buying it cleaned and combed, and the day of boiling and stick-poking by chucking it in the washing machine.

Everyone seemed to really enjoy it. Not too many glazed-over eyes. I let some kids guide in a pre-drafted strip of wool while I worked the pedals, then gave them the yarn they made. I even recruited another knitter to the Wonderful World of Spinning - she's coming over tomorrow to learn. :)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You are such an awesome teacher!!