Friday, August 8, 2014

A look at crafters past

Earlier in the summer I visited the Waba Cottage Museum, a hugely enjoyable place for lots of reasons, not least its setting.  Pictorial proof:

The cottage

The lake beyond the cottage

But let's be serious, we're makers here at Hugs, and if anything is hugely enjoyable, there is going to be some textiles in there somewhere.  In this case, the textiles are the natural result of many of the artifacts at the museum having been donated by local families, real people whose ancesters lived in the area for a very, very long time.  All the most home-related items are gathered on the second floor, so you can immerse yourself big time.

I admired these handknit baby sweater and pants and mitts, thinking of how cold and snowy it gets in this part of Ontario in winter...

And I was impressed by the variety of quilt stitching...

But I was wowed by the sight of sewing machines and spinning wheels galore.  It reminded me, not for the first time, of Les' response to my having bought a spinning wheel: that when he was a kid on his parents' farm you could see a spinning wheel on the curb at every garbage collection.

(Pretty sure that wasn't a "you're crazy" in disguise, though on reflection it sounds like it... still.  It was affectionate and engaged and that's good enough for me.)

Sorry I couldn't adequately compensate for the bright sunshine from the window, ahem.

I've seen a few very old wheels this summer and I still can't quite imagine myself making one work, I'm so used to my own.

What I could imagine using was this little item I'd never seen in person before:

Yep, that's cinder block - the original cottage was demolished and this one is a mostly faithful replica

It's a teasle.  I don't know whether you've read the Little Grey Rabbit stories but I love them for the resourcefulness and make-do attitude of LGR, who even learns to make lace with bobbins just to decorate a special bonnet for a friend.  Anyway - Squirrel, one of her housemates, uses a teasle to brush out the tail of which she is so proud, so I knew they were sort of brushlike.  But when you touch the real thing?  WOW.  Those points are strong.  And also: sharp.

There was one thing at the museum that still amazes me though, and it was a pair of hand knit mittens hanging over the side of a little basket.  The tops were the widest and roundest I have ever seen on a mitten and I picked up one of them for a closer look at how the decreases were done.  This is what I found:

I don't think I have ever come across so much darning - from this angle, it's barely even recognizable as a mitten.  And its partner is the same.

There are many explanations for why one might choose to stitch up the entire palm and inner thumb of two mittens rather than knitting a new pair - poverty, love of the original mittens or their long-gone maker, the appeal of a cushion on the working part of the hand, simple economy, expediency - and with the exception of 'poverty' they all spell beauty to me.

It is truly wonderful how yarn can become something important enough to labour over like this, and then remain important enough for subsequent generations to value enough to donate to a museum to offer mute testament to those past residents' lives.

Have you been to any good museums yet this summer?

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