20 June, 2012

Stratford Hall in Westmoreland County


I visited Stratford Hall in Virginia, museum and birthplace of Robert E. Lee.  A room in the basement had quite a lot of equipment and supplies for interpreting textile production.  They don't allow photography inside without authorization so I'll give you a list of what I remember seeing.  You can see a picture of the room if you go the website, navigate to the ground floor plan, and click on the spinning and weaving room.  There was both modern and old equipment, and from the description of their programs it sounds like the staff uses the items to let children and grandparents learn to spin wool.  

There was a small modern loom sort of like a Baby Wolf though I don't know what exact make and model it was.  There was a large horizontal loom with two heddles that looked quite a bit older and not as massive as similar looms in museums usually are.  The website describes that loom as nineteenth century.  

There was a great wheel with extra-long maidens that held something like a tiny accelerator head, of a shape that wasn't quite what I expected an accelerator head to look like.  The drive band did not go around it.  Judging by the size of the wheel and the design along with the likelihood of an antique great wheel being in use in Virginia during the American civil war then preserved and donated, I would guess that the great wheel is also nineteenth century.  But that's a guess.  

What else?  Bottles of powdered dye stuffs, including fustic, and a basket of skeins dyed with natural dyes that the docent went through for us.  Flax hackles and a flax break that I didn't recognize at first because it lacked legs.  Weaving shuttles, a crude spindle, baskets of wool and cotton and flax, a Saxony spinning wheel, things everywhere you looked.

Outside in the kitchen garden there were specimens of dye plants.  Bedstraw is to the left.



In the garden next to the reconstructed slave quarters, there was a patch of flax as tall as my waist.



While waiting for the house tour to start, I spun a little wool on my drop spindle.  I overheard someone a little ways apart say to whoever she was with, "drop spindle."  Somebody recognized the tool and what I was doing, which surprised and pleased me.  I got to talk briefly with her during the tour.  She said she got poisonous green when dyeing with indigo and over-dyeing with osage orange.

Daniel Defoe's Moll Flanders has the main character leave England and wind up in the same county in which this museum is located, Westmoreland county.  It's an Augustan novel and so reflects one of the time periods that this museum interprets, a time before the use of fossil fuels for production of goods.  Mostly what I remember from reading that novel (besides Moll's dysfunctional personal relationships) is the inventory of her layette, the importance placed on every article of clothing and bit of cloth when preparing for childbirth.

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