July 19, 2012

Historic Clothing Project at Weald & Dowland Open Air Museum

I suppose many museums make clothing to try to replicate historical pieces and see how they wear.  I happened to run across some online material about the Weald & Dowland Open Air Museum's Historic Clothing Project, in West Sussex, U.K.

I'm not so much into interpreting old things as I am keen to learn how to apply good techniques to textiles now.  I like to find out useful facts such as this: "[S]almon-coloured linen fabric for Tudor breeches was dyed with madder, for example, which produces a strong red colour in hard water areas but pink or orange when used with soft water."
Rosie Clark, "A stitch in time at the Weald and Downland Museum in Chichester," Culture24, July 16, 2009, http://www.culture24.org.uk/history+%26+heritage/work+%26+daily+life/art70426

I'd much rather have a strong red colour than orange, so this is good to know.

The more I poked around the museum website, the more I found about handspinning there.  The site says the musuem often has spinning demonstrations in its different buildings using methods appropriate to the periods.  Half a dozen buildings house spinning demonstrations.  The museum's buildings span from 1300-1910, but the ones with spinning seem to go from the fourteenth to seventeenth centuries.  There's a nice though distant view of a great wheel in one of the houses, Bayleaf, here.

Until the end of next week, the museum is hosting The Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers National Exhibition, which includes live demonstrations.  Then on the 27th the museum has a rare breeds show; its handspun/fleece entry form gives many sheep breed categories.  Torwen is a cool name for a sheep, eh?

And completely off-topic, I was delighted to note that the museum runs a course on wattle and daub house construction.  The building on the left in the video is a post and beam frame with wattle and daub walls.  There is a fair amount of imitation Tudor architecture on Vancouver Island, so when I see the real stuff I associate it pleasantly with home.  Glad to know people are learning how to create more.  The construction is kind of brilliant: no power tools, and humble clay and twigs that make a wall which can last for centuries.

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