Sunday, May 19, 2013

Sheep to shawl

A few weekends ago the Kitchener living history museum Joseph Schneider Haus put on a sheep to shawl competition, drawing the local weavers' and spinners' guild and two other in the area to make a wearable shawl starting from a fleece. The teams had four hours to card, spin and weave.

Seeing the teams in action was interesting - they were working diligently and quickly, but still chatting and having a nice afternoon. I like to think that's how it was in circa 1816, the period the museum captures, when the women gathered with their walking wheels in the wash haus to spin the fleeces freshly sheared from the farm's sheep.

Alongside the sheep to shawl competition, museum staff were demonstrating parts of the process of turning fleece into fabric - colouring with natural dyes, spinning on the great wheel and picking the dirty bits from the fleece. This guy drew the short straw and was looking after the rather smelly and greasy fleece. I think he was relieved to sit back when a helper showed up.

Inside the wash haus, two women in period clothing were tending to the open hearth cooking - a warm job on a warm day. These dedicated people do everything in heavy woollen and cotton clothing from head to toe, even the gardening. That is almost more admirable and amazing than managing the endless farmstead chores. My air conditioned existence is so blissfully far removed from that time.

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