Celebrating Historical Fiber Arts in Maine

As I mentioned last week, I had a little adventure/vacation as a participant in an archaeological dig in Damariscotta. There were indeed no golden idols nor Nazis, but there were many pieces of ceramics, and a fair number of diabolical biting flies. One of the coolest finds was a button with a copper shank, complete with a scrap of thread still in place. But while I was geeking out over 18th century items, archaeologists in England discovered a ball of thread from 3,000 years ago! They’ve also just posted a photo of a bobbin still wound with thread from the same site at Must Farm.

Photo credit: Must Farm Archaeology

3,000 year old thread! Photo credit: Must Farm Archaeology

Clearly, it’s a great time for historical fiber arts around the world, and Maine is a good place to be. This weekend is the Annual Open House at Bartlettyarns in Harmony. Friday and Saturday, August 5 & 6, visitors can tour the mill and check out the spinning mule, one of the last of its kind. We carry yarn and roving from Bartlettyarns, and love them for their classic strength, and beautiful colors, and the fact that they’re made right here in Maine. I will have to wait till next year to attend the open house, but you should go this year and tell me all about it! (Take photos!)

The Waldoborough Historical Society is also getting in on the fiber action this month, hosting a Rug Hooking Demonstration. Waldoboro (the modern spelling of my hometown’s name) used to be known for beautiful hooked rugs, and Kathie Hills will be doing a demo on August 28th at 1 pm. The Historical Society Museum is definitely worth a visit — it’s located right by Moody’s Diner (itself a piece of Waldoboro history), and includes the old stone animal pound where they used to corral loose farm animals until their owners could come claim them. The museum is free to the public, and the collection also contains locally made quilts and cross stitched items.

I love that fiber arts have such wonderful historic roots, going back thousands of years. It always boggles my mind when I’m doing a complicated cable or stitch pattern and I pause to realize that someone, decades or centuries ago, was knitting away and thought, “I wonder what happens if I do this?” — and behold, a gorgeous cable! As a history nerd, it warms my heart to know that thousands of pairs of hands throughout time have done exactly what mine are doing when I cast on for a cozy hat. The tradition and history behind knitting definitely factors into my enjoyment of the craft, and when Maine winters are long and cold (unlike last winter), I imagine the ghosts of Maine women of yore, knitting right alongside me by the woodstove. May society never “advance” so far as to lose our fiber arts traditions!

Written by Jennifer Woodman

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