Experimental Archaeology

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Mike Suri

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One of the things that I do for demonstrations at events is to show historic spinning and fiber arts. Quite often the conversations with the public turn to clothing. Questions I often get are what was availiable to purchase, how was the clothing constructed, what fabrics were commonly used, and did people make their own clothing at home and if so, how long did a piece of clothing take to make. That last one I have not been able to answer to my own satisfaction. So, for the fun of it, and because I have nothing better to do with my time, I decided to recreate an 18th C wool petticoat from sheep to finished garment and document the process. As of now, i'm a little better than half way thru the process.

Fun facts of the project to date:

1 Moorit sheep fleece from a lovely ewe named MoMo
It took me 1 hr 10 mins to skirt the fleece
It took me 6 hours to pick the fleece and wash it
It took me 36 1/2 hours to comb the fiber into a spinnable form
I have spent 107 hours spinning so far and may need to spin some more
I filled 9 bobbins on my wheel with a single strand of yarn
I spun 6500 yards of 2 ply yarn
It took 7 hours to warp a 4 shaft loom with a 3-over straight draft pattern
The warp is 6 yards long
Ive spent 18 1/2 hours weaving so far.
I am not the fastest weaver on the planet. Ive been working on this project for about 2 years now, and we did move an entire farm in the middle of it.

Once the weaving is done, I will full the cloth. Then it will be cut into 4 panels and those will be stitched together to make the skirt part. I will also need to spin and weave the top binding/ties. The hem will be stitched up. All that will be done by hand.

Some pics of the project.

View attachment 66681View attachment 66682View attachment 66683View attachment 66684View attachment 66685View attachment 66687
Really nicely done!
 

Spence10

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Tallswife, you might be interested in this little blurb. A young Englishman named Wm. Blane spent 2 years traveling and studying the area along the Ohio River in 1822-23, mostly in the states of Ohio, Indian, Illinois and Kentucky, and wrote about it in "An Excursion through the United States and Canada, during the Years 1822-3 by an English Gentleman".

Crossing the Ohio from Illinois into western Kentucky, he wrote"

"Leaving Greenville I took the road to Morgantown, but had not proceeded more than fourteen miles before my horse cut his foot, and as I was afraid he would be lamed if I continued my journey, I stopped at a large farmhouse belonging to a Mr. Rhoades. My host had a fine family of children, several of them grown up. Mrs. Rhoades was a perfect model of a farmer’s wife. Indeed American women, throughout all the backwoods, are the most industrious females I have ever seen in any country. I had often remarked this; but never till I came to Mr. Rhoades’s had I so good an opportunity of learning the minutia of their employments.

"Besides the labour of cooking, cleaning the house, &c. the American farmer’s wife makes every article of clothing for her whole family. The men wear a sort of coarse cloth made of cotton and wool. The cotton is grown upon the farm, is picked, spun, weaved, dyed with the indigo that also grows on the farm, cut up and made into clothes by the female part of the family. The wool of their own sheep furnishes materials for the mixed cloth, stockings, &c. All the linen for shirts, sheets, and towels, is also made at home from their own flax.

"I was quite surprised to see the activity and industry of my hostess. Directly after breakfast, which was on the table every morning at sunrise, she and her two daughters commenced their daily occupations of spinning, &c. One of the girls was engaged in making an entirely new suit of clothes for her father and eldest brother, from some of the cloth that had just been finished. The other, with her mother, was busily employed in spinning, as a black servant girl was in weaving. At the close of the day, after supper, the whole party sat round the fire employed in picking the seeds from the raw cotton."

Spence
 

Grenadier1758

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Thank you very much for your efforts to bring the experience of making cloth to us and to others. Weaving was very much a cottage industry. So many jobs were lost when the looms became mechanized. One of the many reasons the Scots were forced off the land and were willing to be indentured and come to the colonies for hope of a better life.
 

Artificer

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Tallswife et all,

This thread and especially the waulking wool info and video, got me to thinking something else that came from the Outlander Series and I've never really considered before.

Oh, before anyone raises the point, I'm not suggesting the Outlander series is documentation. OK, having said that, here goes. The red haired lad, "Young" Ian, mentioned when Claire said she didn't knit or weave, that all boys and girls in Scotland learned to knit stockings from a very young age.

This thread has caused me to wonder if something like that was true on the American frontier as well?

Gus
 

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Tallswife et all,

This thread and especially the waulking wool info and video, got me to thinking something else that came from the Outlander Series and I've never really considered before.

Oh, before anyone raises the point, I'm not suggesting the Outlander series is documentation. OK, having said that, here goes. The red haired lad, "Young" Ian, mentioned when Claire said she didn't knit or weave, that all boys and girls in Scotland learned to knit stockings from a very young age.

This thread has caused me to wonder if something like that was true on the American frontier as well?

Gus
I don’t have documentation re the American frontier and knitting. I can tell you that my grandmother and great aunts were taught knitting in grade school in Scotland.
It stands to reason that children were taught those skills as their parents/grandparents would have brought those values with them when they move to the Colonies.
At the time of the 18th C the guilds in England were very hush hush about their practices. There were the combing guild, weaving guild, dying guild etc. Home producers would have those skills outside of the guild system. I would think that parents with those skills would have passed them to their children. The kids could card wool while mom spins and dad weaves. Makes the process faster. Keep in mind also that knitting was not the big deal it is now. Mitts, stockings, and hats were pretty much the extent of its usage. Weaving was far more popular.
Keep in mind I have no documentation of those suppositions.
 

Artificer

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I don’t have documentation re the American frontier and knitting. I can tell you that my grandmother and great aunts were taught knitting in grade school in Scotland.
It stands to reason that children were taught those skills as their parents/grandparents would have brought those values with them when they move to the Colonies.
At the time of the 18th C the guilds in England were very hush hush about their practices. There were the combing guild, weaving guild, dying guild etc. Home producers would have those skills outside of the guild system. I would think that parents with those skills would have passed them to their children. The kids could card wool while mom spins and dad weaves. Makes the process faster. Keep in mind also that knitting was not the big deal it is now. Mitts, stockings, and hats were pretty much the extent of its usage. Weaving was far more popular.
Keep in mind I have no documentation of those suppositions.
Thank you Dear Lady,

I'm also reminded how some of the earliest Kentucky Settlers spun Buffalo wool the first year and used the stalks of nettles to make clothing as it was too late to plant a flax crop. It seemed the Buffalo wool stockings and gloves were a big hit.

Gus
 

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Thank you Dear Lady,

I'm also reminded how some of the earliest Kentucky Settlers spun Buffalo wool the first year and used the stalks of nettles to make clothing as it was too late to plant a flax crop. It seemed the Buffalo wool stockings and gloves were a big hit.

Gus
Buffalo is incredibly warm as a fiber. I could see how it would a popular fiber to use. Nettles are processed in a similar fashion to flax.
Nettle fiber information
 

Flinty Scot

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At an area historic demonstration early 1800's time period, the weaver explained that, from retting the flax stalks through sewing a men's shirt typically took at least 9 mo labor. I could well understand how someone was well off if he had 2, and why any usable clothing were part of one's inheritance.
Tallswife, I, too, am in awe of your abilities and your dedication.
 
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Tallswife

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At an area historic demonstration early 1800's time period, the weaver explained that, from retting the flax stalks through sewing a men's shirt typically took at least 9 mo labor. I could well understand how someone was well off if he had 2, and why any usable clothing were part of one's inheritance.
Tallswife, I, too, am in awe of your abilities and your dedication.
I could see the 9 month time frame being quite accurate!
Thank you!
 

GREENSWLDE

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Great product. Was the wool from any particular breed of sheep ?? In the early 1600's my family were known to to have been involved in beating cut Linseed to get the fibers for Flax to weave Linen then moved into metal working. OLD DOG..
 

Tallswife

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Great product. Was the wool from any particular breed of sheep ?? In the early 1600's my family were known to to have been involved in beating cut Linseed to get the fibers for Flax to weave Linen then moved into metal working. OLD DOG..
Thank you. This wool came from one of my sheep, and I raise Merino's. Very soft fiber.
Very cool history about your family!
 

smo

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Thank you for creating this post! I applaud your work ethic and I too am looking forward too following your progress..

I thought you might find the following interesting....

Pictured here is the sweater that Granny Toothman knitted from the spring shedding of her Samoyed dog. The dog is named after the Samoyedic people of Siberia. The Samoyed is still used to guard reindeer and is also used as a sled dog. Granny said that four of these dogs were brought to England, and then the stock were taken to West Virginia where they were used to herd sheep.

While it is known that this breed of dog is extremely intelligent, Granny would go as far to say that the Samoyed was smarter than some people that she knew. Granny also claimed that the coat of the Samoyed is 100% waterproof. Granny stated that it took a long time to spin the thread the knit the sweater. When we asked her how long, she said: “Well, all I can tell you is that the dog wore the coat one year, and I wore it to the next.” The dog belonged to Granny and weighed about 60 pounds. The buttons are Cowry shells which Granny had found on the seashore.

Creating clothing out of dog fur was Granny’s specialty; however, dog fur was quite difficult to obtain. Granny would often offer to spin or weave an item of clothing for anyone who would give her enough dog fur to make two items—one for them, and one for herself. But Granny rarely held on to the items that she made for herself, as she would often give away her hand-woven garments to friends and relatives.

EA88364F-ECF6-4CCD-B970-59E4D1482E2E.jpeg
 
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old ugly

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very cool.
this is a little off of topic but not to far.
i watched a documentary on vikings a few years back where they talked about the labour hours to make the cloth material for everything they used from sails to clothing. millions and millions of labour hours.
thanks you for sharing with us.
ou
tom
 

Tallswife

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Thank you for creating this post! I applaud your work ethic and I too am looking forward too following your progress..

I thought you might find the following interesting....

Pictured here is the sweater that Granny Toothman knitted from the spring shedding of her Samoyed dog. The dog is named after the Samoyedic people of Siberia. The Samoyed is still used to guard reindeer and is also used as a sled dog. Granny said that four of these dogs were brought to England, and then the stock were taken to West Virginia where they were used to herd sheep.

While it is known that this breed of dog is extremely intelligent, Granny would go as far to say that the Samoyed was smarter than some people that she knew. Granny also claimed that the coat of the Samoyed is 100% waterproof. Granny stated that it took a long time to spin the thread the knit the sweater. When we asked her how long, she said: “Well, all I can tell you is that the dog wore the coat one year, and I wore it to the next.” The dog belonged to Granny and weighed about 60 pounds. The buttons are Cowry shells which Granny had found on the seashore.

Creating clothing out of dog fur was Granny’s specialty; however, dog fur was quite difficult to obtain. Granny would often offer to spin or weave an item of clothing for anyone who would give her enough dog fur to make two items—one for them, and one for herself. But Granny rarely held on to the items that she made for herself, as she would often give away her hand-woven garments to friends and relatives.

View attachment 66974
What a fabulous history from your grandmother. That kind of fiber is called chiengora. I’ve spun dog hair from hubby’s pup and I have 2 Great Pyrenees that offer tons of fiber each spring!! It’s so hot to wear chiengora that I blend it in half with wool.
 

Tallswife

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very cool.
this is a little off of topic but not to far.
i watched a documentary on vikings a few years back where they talked about the labour hours to make the cloth material for everything they used from sails to clothing. millions and millions of labour hours.
thanks you for sharing with us.
ou
tom
Thank you

The Vikings were incredibly industrious when it came to their cloth!!
 

GREENSWLDE

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Tallswife Aren't Family history's Amazing. The facts that everything had to be made "in house". The comments about Guilds were very true even in England. They were the reason my family left Leicestershire for Birmingham in 1752, where there were No guilds as Brum was a Lordship up until the mid 1800's. Thomas, 6 generations back drew Silver plated wire fine enough to sew with, by hand .. OLD DOG..
 
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