October 24, 2009

Farmhouse Style

I was reading David Larkin's The Farmhouse Book: Tradition, Style, and Experience (New York: Universe, 2005), as a sort of vicarious pastoral experience with some information on how spinning used to be part of people's lives thrown in. For instance,
The sheets and pillowcases used in farmhouse bedchambers were always made of linen, and the blankets were homemade, woven from the wool of the sheep sheared from the farm. They were thick and heavy and represented a lot of spinning and weaving work. (p. 92)
(The quote strikes me a generalization that could use some qualification. Interpreters at Colonial Williamsburg and Humpback Rock on the Blue Ridge Parkway have told me people would buy blankets and cloth at times in history where modern people assume the people made them at home.)

Page 114 describes a stage in home linen production as part of the daily chores: "If there was linen whitening on the grass, as was usual at this season, that must be sprinkled." The linen was taken into the house after tea.

Page 116 has a reminiscence from Harriet Beecher Stowe about "refreshing our faces and hands by a brisk rub upon a coarse rolling-towel of brown homespun linen." I wonder what the rolling-towel looked like, as it couldn't be like the ones they used to have in public restrooms that automatically dispensed and wound up the cloth when you pulled.

Page 126 is very sad: "Spinning wheels for flax and wool ended up there [the attic] as the availability of cotton made them less necessary downstairs."

Page 167 shows a photograph of a kitchen with a great wheel at the back wall.

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