Colonists’ weaving decorative, colorful


Many were the hearth side crafts of our early colonists. Most were for life style needs, a vocation – not an avocation (a product of leisure created for the love of crafting not for occupation or life needs).

The loom was an important tool for early colonists. The crafts reveal a meaningful application of folk art and show an inherent admiration that resulted in a pleasant blending between art and generic household.

Homespun linens were employed quite often in many homes of that early era. Large amounts of the linen thread spun on the wheels that were often heard in the home close to the fireside hearth.

Every well maintained household wove their own sheets, table cloths and bolts that were later cut into needed lengths.

Quality. The quality of the linen varied from household to household according to the abilities and whims of the housewife. However, even the most rudimentary was an admirable fabric.

The weaving was mainly accomplished by a member of the household or by an itinerant weaver that traveled around the countryside from farm to farm at regular intervals. This latter weaver usually carried his loom where ever he ventured.

Designs. Most linen during that era was quite plain, but decorative designs in the weave and color were often utilized.

Several times a checkered pattern of blue and white was woven, dyeing of the thread was done prior to weaving.

Rugs and carpets were not wholly woven products, but were accomplished in the home and of course quite decorative.

After all the labors of setting in were over with, there was more time to look about the home and consider the appearance.

The essentials of house arrangements all finished an interest in floor maintenance was often contemplated, both utilitarian and decorative aspects were of interest.

Bare floors were covered with straw, sand or some other natural material for cleaning ease, or just left as is, was quite common in many households.

Floor decorations. Many housewives, to add a bit of decor to their floors, drew designs; however, these efforts were most often short lived.

This undoubtedly was quite frustrating to a wife as it was always in need of renewing. The desire for some type of permanent covering was a natural desire.

Rugs and carpets entered the colonists households at an early date. These were, of course, homemade, woven and large enough to cover needed space, but not the entire floor as in today’s homes.

They were mainly where traffic was most evident or at furniture placement.

As seen in homes even today where hardwood floors are a part of household pride, bare floors remained visible. The colors most commonly employed were various hues of reds, blues, yellows, greens, brown and solid black.

All natural. Natural ingredients were utilized. Reds came from madder, Brazil wood and pokeberry. Blues came from indigo, larkspur flowers, purslane, myrtle, knot weed and spiderwort flowers.

Yellow came from quite a number of sources – a few sedge grass, peach leaves, smart weed leaves, alder bark, birch bark, walnut and hickory bark, osage orange and sumac stalks.

Greens came from black oak bar and combining blue and yellow sources. Black came from logwood and nut galls. Browns came from butternut, hemlock and maple.

Easy to make. The three primary colors and black were easily manufactured. It was quite easy for a person to experiment, if needed, to develop various hues.

Many weavers knew how to produce excellent diverse colors and tints. A fixative was necessary to set the colors, and alum was the most commonly used.

Cream of tartar and sal-ammoniac were seldom used, but were effective.

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