Monday, December 26, 2011

Madness Monday - Or Why Do We Do It?

Every year it seems we procrastinate and are working right up to the last minute getting gifts ready for Christmas! This year was no exception. Due to some health problems, I simply wasn't up to getting things prepared as early as I like to. But I have made myself a firm promise that this is the last year for this!

Yep... I've already started on the crafts that will get me through the year's birthday and anniversary gift gifting, as well as into the Christmas of 2012!

And in so preparing, I began to wonder just difficult it was for our ancestors to do the very same crafts [knitting and crocheting] which I do today. After all, in the mountains of West Virginia, it wasn't until well into the 20th Century that electricity made it's way into homes. And even when I was a child, the wiring was of such that homes had to use only low wattage light bulbs, or risk fire hazard!

So... let's just break a little bit of this down, and begin to understand just how my ancestors must have provided, even the most basic of clothing for their families.

Purchasing ready made garments in the Appalachian Mountain communities during the 18th century and even until after the Civil War was just about unheard of. Families were generally lower income farmers, and had to provide for themselves.

Young girls were taught at an early age the intricacies of sewing. This was usually in learning basic and advanced embroidery, taught at Mother's knee, with a sampler. Not a thing like the sampler's today, the young girl was given a piece of cloth, and she used this to hold her delicate sampler, which flowed from her imagination, and not from a pattern, nor from an iron-on-transfer!

If the young girl owned a doll, she would be allowed to take scraps of fabric and learn the details of designing and sewing her own clothing in making clothing for her dolly. If she wasn't lucky enough for a dolly, she might be taught with helping Mother make clothing for a baby sister or brother. Eventually she would graduate to household items [quilts, toweling, etc.] and into her own clothing.

If the family had a little extra money, fabric might be purchased locally at the mercantile or general store. If they had no money, it was likely they raised a few goats or sheep for wool, which they sheared
...this shearing was done by hand with thick, stiff shearer's scissors as seen above.

Then it was carded and combed...

... this removed any tangles, knots or impurities in the wool. It also allowed the wool to release some of its natural oils, and made it more pliable for...

...spinning into yarn or thread. An experienced spinner could make fine sewing thread, or thick bulky yarn!

For fabric, the threads had to be placed on a loom and woven into cloth.

If the family had a little money, they might own a large handsome loom like this one. Wide widths of fabric could be woven on a loom like this, and in whatever length the weaver wanted to make it!

The less economically fortunate might own a loom similar to the one below, which is most commonly called a Navajo loom.

While this loom is now named after the Native American Indian tribe who utilized the loom for their fabrics, it is in fact, an ancient design going back thousands of years and used throughout the world by varying nationalities, but is most prevalent among the poor or less advanced peoples prior to the 19th century.

Once the individual made either yarn, thread, or fabric, they could then commence to fashion clothing for themselves and their family! And we consider ourselves crafty simply by going to the market, picking up some ready-made yarn and kitting a pair of gloves as a gift for someone!

On top of that, we have our well lit home to work in. And the chores practically do themselves when compared to our ancestors!

Did any of your ancestors make their own threads or yarns? Make their own "crafts"?
If so, do you have any items made by your ancestor?

1 comment:

GrannyPam said...

Well, my descendent (daughter) has a floor loom, and makes many wonderful things for us.