|Textile Arts at Lang Pioneer Village Museum by By Joe Corrigan & Laurie Siblock||| Print ||
Textile Arts at Lang Pioneer Village Museum By Joe Corrigan, Museum Manager & Laurie Siblock, Assistant Manager,Lang Pioneer Village Museum
As traditional textile skills were essential to the survival of the early settlers, the demonstration of these skills is an important part of the story of early settlement in Peterborough County. As Catherine Parr Traill explains in the Canadian Settler’s Guide, “every young woman is prized in this country according to her usefulness; and a thriving young settler will rather marry a clever, industrious girl, who has the reputation for being a good spinner and knitter, than one who has nothing but a pretty face to recommend her”. The same can be said for staff and volunteers at Lang Pioneer Village Museum for we are thrilled when someone with textiles skills comes to us expressing a desire to put those skills to use as a costumed interpreter (still, along with traditional textile skills in the Village, there are plenty of pretty faces).
Volunteers Amelia Pinn and Hailey Doughty embroiders in the Milburn House parlour. Photo: Shaun Higgens
Some of the textile crafts and skills that are demonstrated in the Village include carding, spinning, weaving, knitting, crochet, felting, embroidery, rug hooking, quilting, lace-making, natural dyeing, leather work, broom tying, rope making, and more. We have found that, despite a resurgence of interest in textile crafts brought on by the popular DIY movement, it has become harder and harder to find people with traditional craft skills. There is, however lots of enthusiasm and interest and so we offer young people training in craft skills through our Youth Interpreter Program and we stage textile workshops for volunteers from time to time. We are also grateful to the local textile guilds – the Peterborough Handweavers and Spinners, the Warkworth Spinners and Weavers Guild, the Northumberland and Campbellford-Seymour Rug Hooking Guilds - that come to demonstrate in the Village at special events.
Volunteers Mary Johnson & Pauline Gillespie with visitor, Betty Wilkinson, natural dying demonstration. Photo: Dawn Knudsen
Mary Johnson, Volunteer Spinner, demonstrating to a young visitor Photo: Larry Keeley
Fibre Festival August 2009: Quilt demonstration by Ruth Millard and Dorothy Hunter, quilting volunteers (they must have been on their lunch break). Both volunteers do restoration work on quilts in the Lang collection as well as create reproductions of original antique quilts. Dorothy Hunter just received the Lieutenant Governor's Lifetime Achievement Award for 40 years of dedicated volunteering at Lang Pioneer Village Museum. photo by Joe Lewis
S. W. Lowry Weaver Shop and Jacquard Loom Interpretive Centre
Fibre Festival August 2009: this cement pad marks the beginning of what will become the S. W. Lowry Weaver Shop and Jacquard Loom Interpretive Centre. Which in my opinion is an exciting opportunity for North American weavers and Jacquard enthusiast to gain access to the technical aspects of jacquard design and function that contemporary computer assisted production does not allow (ed comment)
Recently, one of the most exciting textile developments at Lang Pioneer Village has been the completion of the S. W. Lowry Weaver Shop and Jacquard Loom Interpretive Centre, a reproduction 1880 vintage weaver shop that houses two rare 19th-century Jacquard looms. The ultimate goal of the project is for the Museum to be able to demonstrate, in a “living history” environment, a rare and culturally significant artifact, one that revolutionized the textile industry. Already eight years in the making, this project is entering an exciting final phase, the harnessing and activation of the two Jacquard looms in an interactive setting that will give the visiting public unprecedented access to and understanding of a technological marvel of its age which is widely held to be the direct ancestor of the modern computer.
Prior to the invention of the Jacquard loom attachment in 1805, the weaving of intricate pictorial patterns was an extremely complicated business, which needed both a weaver and a drawboy (who operated the cords which lifted the pattern warp threads) to produce the textiles. Joseph Marie Jacquard’s device used holes punched in a string of pasteboard cards to control the production of each particular pattern, thus eliminating the need for the drawboy. The ensuing opposition by other weavers to this labour-saving loom at first caused riots, but its rapid adoption by manufacturers ensured its inventor a respected place in industrial history. In fact, the importance of Jacquard’s invention was acknowledged by Napoleon Bonaparte who awarded Jacquard the Legion of Honour for his contribution to French society.
Audrey Caryi, Museum Specialist, with replica Jacquard loom Photo: Laurie Siblock
Since the official opening of the S. W. Lowry Weaver Shop and Jacquard Loom Interpretive Centre at the Museum’s Festival of Textiles on August 13, 2011, the Museum’s project team has focused on getting the historic looms up and running. We currently have a two-harness and a four-harness loom on exhibit in the Weaver Shop portion of the building, along with the original Lowry Jacquard loom.
Didier Schvartz’s replica is set up in the Interpretive Centre portion of the building. The two-harness loom was warped in time for the opening, and interpreters have been performing demonstrations on it ever since. The four-harness loom and the two Jacquard looms are more complex to set up, and arrangements are under way to harness them into working order.
Museum staff have spent considerable effort over the winter on a worldwide search to track down suppliers of the materials necessary to harness the two Jacquard looms. Great progress has been made — our team has secured 5,000 tiny eyelets required for harnessing the looms and we have identified a source for the manufacture of the 210 cardboard punch cards each machine will need to reproduce the coverlet pattern identified on the cards that were left on the loom by Samuel Lowry. Lowry was a local weaver who produced carpets and blankets for customers in Warsaw and then Peterborough from the 1880’s to around 1905 when he could no longer compete with the large woolen mills.
Lang Pioneer Village Museum would like to eventually acquire a card-punching machine of its own to assist in the repair of our existing sets of cards and to aid in the development of a more diverse set of patterns. This may be possible somewhere down the road, but obtaining a working set of punch cards for each of the two machines is the current priority. Once the punched cards are obtained, Didier Schvartz will be invited back to Lang Pioneer Village to harness the looms and our volunteer weavers will have the opportunity to learn about the operation of the Jacquard loom.
Educational programs have been designed for public school primary and senior grade-level curriculum and will be implemented once the looms are ready and sufficient weavers have been recruited to provide demonstrations. These programs will be unlike anything currently offered in the Province of Ontario and will be expanded to include a wider range of grade levels over time.
When the building housing the looms was designed, it was determined that to fully appreciate the workings of the Jacquard loom, visitors should have the opportunity to view the mechanical heads from above. As the fully assembled loom is 10 to 12 feet high, the ceilings were constructed at a height of 18 feet to allow for a viewing platform to be built around the Museum’s working replica Jacquard loom. This platform, to be installed once the looms have been harnessed, will be constructed in a way that will also accommodate the weaver’s need to access the loom’s working parts for ongoing maintenance.
Much progress has been made, but there is still work to be done. Our S. W Lowry Weaver Shop and Jacquard Loom Interpretive Centre is now a reality. All that remains is to complete the final touches for our Jacquard loom experience to be unique in North America. The Museum hopes to celebrate the realization of that dream at our next Festival of Textiles event, scheduled for Sunday, August 18, 2013. We hope to see you there!
Clarke Stanley, Interpreter, weaving a rag rug on a 2-harness loom. Photo: Larry Keeley
Photographs were provided by Lang Pioneer Village
Lang Pioneer Village is open from Mid May to Mid September year with spring , summer and fall operating hours. GPS Address: 104 Lang Road, Keene, Ontario
for more on Lang Pioneer Village visit the website http://www.langpioneervillage.ca/
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