Thursday, 28 July 2016

Getting ready to weave: Shirt warp, number's only string, right?

I began this project a few years ago while doing an artist residency at the Centre for Craft and Design in Halifax.  If you go back and read the entries there, you'll find that the shirt warp gave me no end of grief. In the end, I saved what I could of that warp to use later.

Later was this summer.  I dug out my original warp and washed the starch out of it, fully intending to put it on the loom and use it.  Then I realized that the cross had not been saved, and it really was a horrible, tangled mess. I stuck it in the corner of my room and let it contemplate it's messiness while I wound a new warp from the remaining cones of threads I had from that original project.  This time around, my plan was to not use starch, rather, if need be, I'd just spritz the threads down with water.  I was also going to be weaving in the right time of year for linen, in the warm, humid months, and in a naturally conditioned space...meaning no air conditioning.

The second warp was finally wound on the back beam of the loom, and the loom threaded about mid June of this summer.  When I began to weave, the shed just would not open.  The linen fibres were so fluffy they were sticking together tight, fast.  I'd try to open the shed and the whole warp would move as one.  I thought maybe I'd done something wrong when I set up my loom in the Fall, did I tie something up wrong? Nope.  It's the thread.

Part of the problem that I've been having with this shirt warp, part one and part two, is that in an effort to create fairly fine cloth, the threads I have been using were single ply. When I broke down in tears at not being able to open the shed, my Mum and I started searching for solutions.  Plied thread was the only viable solution.  And so, when Pierre started his vacation, he and I day tripped up the thread store in Brassard, QC, and bought new thread.

During this Spring and Summer, my mum has also been battling lung cancer. Since the end of June, my brother and his family have been here for a week, mum has had to endure a particularly bad Chemo cycle, our son and his family have been here. And finally, last weekend, Pierre and I went off to Fort Ticonderoga for our wedding anniversary, and also so that we could get some living history time in this summer. July has been busy.  Needless to say, no weaving has gotten done, as my room has to play double duty for housing extra people when we have company...our house is small.

Pierre went back to work Wednesday morning (yesterday) and I went back to work on the weaving project.  I am now using 2/16 Egyptian linen thread, with a 2/16 cotton in the blue. I am winding six repeats of 20 white, 4 blue, 20 white, 10 blue, 10 white, 10 blue, 20 white, 4 blue, 20 white, 6 blue, 6 white, 6 blue, 6 white, 6 blue. I would have liked to have used a finer thread, but I just cannot buy any in Canada at the moment, and I really want to get this done this summer. I need to get it done for my course work for school.  It will be good apron weight cloth, not fine shirt weight like I had hoped.  But I'll plod along and get it done and possibly publish an article on my research.

While I work, I like to watch documentaries on youtube.  I've 'watched' nearly every Time Team episode, lots of documentaries on the 18th and early 19th centuries in North America, I've also re-watched the miniseries John Adams, and then there is my favourite, Tales from the Green Valley.  This morning, I was looking for something new to listen to and stumbled upon an early 2000s series called Colonial House.  I think it was a BBC production, where they send 17 modern Americans and Brits to live for the summer in a recreated 17thC colony based on Jamestown and Plymouth.  I had forgotten how drama filled this series was.  These people went into the experience with modern agendas, not really wanting to see if they could do it properly.  I was left wondering if that was when Ruth Goodman and crew approached the BBC and asked to try something similar, only trying to do it right. I ended up shutting off the Colonial House about half way through episode3, the modern drama llama holding no appeal to me as I stand here winding a warp, trying to weave cloth in a historically accurate manner. Trying to figure out how my 18thC counterpart would have felt at having to produce her own cloth for the first time in her colonial life as part of a 'revolutionary' act.  So used to being able to purchase fine linen cloth, I'm feeling a bit disheartened at how thick and rough my cloth might turn out. And I'm using purchased threads...I wonder what I'd be able to accomplish using my own produced and spun threads? That will be an experiment for another summer, and I suspect, another year.

Anyway, one more repeat to wind.  Then I can sit and embroider for a couple of afternoons.  I need Pierre's help getting the warp on the loom, and I need new stocking garters, so the indulgence of embroidery is also a necessity.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Why am I here? or, the seemingly exclusivity of living history events

Why am I here?  Well, I'm a living historian, and experimental archaeologist so to speak.  I learn by doing in point the shirt warp, and yeah, sometimes the best lessons learned are those that took the hard way.

While we are in Quebec, I really want to do some living history events to see how things are done, differently?  on a larger scale? for a different audience? with different historical narratives? Fort Ticonderoga has been on my radar since I was a fresh faced 20 year old, first starting out in this profession.  It was big, like Louisbourg 94 big, in my eyes, but also in real life.  It has been a large event, with more living history people in one place than I can really imagine.  I didn't make it to the Louisbourg 94 event, I was still wearing a uniform then, looking after a bunch of cadets in Vernon BC that of my big regrets in life.
Fort Ti is putting on an event in a couple of weeks.  The fall of the Fort to Burgoyne and the British. Though Burgoyne wouldn't get very far in his intended campaign that year, it is one of those instances where I'm left wondering that if the British parliament had only supported its troops in America, that war may have gone very differently.  If only the British Generals in America actually supported one another...

But I get back to my story...

We are able to go to this event at Ticonderoga, having received permission to join in the fun just recently.  All Spring though, I have been thinking about my 'back story', the why behind why I would be at Ti.  As a Loyalist woman, where would I be coming from, how would I have gotten there, what would I have with me?  But since the early Spring, and the Boston Massacre event in March, I have also been thinking about whether I, as a woman, would actually be at Ti in this particular situation.

Ticonderoga has a wonderful information page for this event that has been shared around my facebook feed.  In it, they mention that the American women left prior to the troops leaving the fort in surrender to the British, and that the women were also captured by the British shortly thereafter.  I'm wondering how many women will be in the patriot camp that event weekend?  What will they be doing?  How many women will be in the British encampment?  Will there be any Loyalist refugees?

I could dig my heels in and say that I have just as much right to be at a living history event as any guy blowing off black powder, but do I really?  Is that the history I want to tell? As a woman, our stories have largely been overlooked.  You have to really search for clues as to where we were and what we were doing while epic historical events were happening.  But the herstory is there.  Nurses, laundresses, wives with children, and my personal pearl that I'm worrying of late, the refugee.

So if you spot Pierre and I at the event, skirting the goings on, on the battlefield, with our pack basket.  Pay us no mind.  We are only passing through. Trying not to grab attention from either side, lest we be mistaken for spies or deserters.  We are only on the long walk from New Jersey up to just south of Montreal where Pierre has family.

a little different from the story we tell while on the shore of Shelburne waiting for a plot of land to get started again.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Paper titles and stuff

Excremental Language and Tears: Sometimes the best lessons are learned the hard way, or an exercise in weaving shirt linen, part the second.

There are 1000 threads on my loom. It is no wonder it took so long to thread...especially where I had to make a few hundred heddles.  Monday we are driving up to Plessiville to buy more thread.  This time two ply, in hopes that I can maybe make something this summer other than piles of string.

The original warp, from three years ago is going to be burned in effigy tomorrow...I might ask the guy down the street for some of his pre-lit charcoal in order to make the pile of mess go up faster.  The 1000 threads that are currently on the loom will be wound off carefully and possibly used as weft threads.

as the ladies at Williamsburg said "It's only string".