Thursday, August 6, 2009

old timey ways

National Park rangers were seen weaving and gardening last Saturday when we stopped for a look at the Brinegar cabin on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Ranger demonstration of weaving

We learned all about how Caroline Brinegar would make linen thread from the flax grown in the garden. She would load the loom with the linen thread going one way and wool thread the other way, ending up with a fabric called linsey woolsey, a warm fabric for general purpose use, kind of scratchy but very strong.

For softer and finer fabric she would use the linen thread going both ways on the loom, ending up with pure linen for shirts and sheets (hence the name bed linens).

making linsey woolsey

When processing the flax for thread a byproduct was 'tow', which when spun became a very lumpy coarse thread, unfit for clothing but perfect for bags for apples or potatoes (hence the tow sack). It was the color of whitish/blonde (hence tow-headed or flaxen-haired).

The huge wooden loom was built in such a way (using no nails, but mortise and tenon joints in the wood) that it could be taken apart very easily and stored out in the barn in the summer when Caroline Brinegar had too much other work to do, then it would be brought into the house and reassembled in the winter.

Brinegar garden

The flax which was turned into linen thread was grown right outside in the accompanying garden, just like in the times of Caroline Brineger - the garden we saw was being tended to by another ranger (you can see the flax growing in the picture above, center - it looks like tall grass).

This stop was a very pleasant surprise, we learned a lot and were entertained by the ranger's knowledge and stories. She obviously loved her job of demonstrating weaving and telling others about the old mountain ways.

Brinegar Cabin

This cabin was built on this spot in 1880 by Martin Brinegar. His wife, Caroline was still living there when the National Park Service bought it in the 1930s, the deal was that she could stay there as long as she wanted or as long as she lived, but she decided to move away to live with her daughter because "it was getting too noisy".


Gypsy Quilter said...

Now that's neat!

Motherkitty said...