Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A cold day at High Point Museum

I love to visit the High Point Museum when they have their living history days. This last one was pretty cold, yet a lot of visitors crowded into the Hoggatt House to see spinning, weaving and other crafts.

When I visited the Folk Park in Northern Ireland, the lady told me that it took 10 spinners to keep a (professional) weaver busy. At High Point, the guide reiterated that men usually did the weaving, and it took six women spinning to supply him with thread. She said another way to look at it was that the farmer did his weaving a couple of months in winter, and used up the thread that the family had spun all year.

Between combing the wool or flax, spinning, weaving and sewing, it took a whole year to make a new garment. That's why people didn't have many changes of clothes!

I love to watch people spin; it's almost hypnotic. I think she's using a New Zealand spinning wheel in this picture, which is where most new ones are made. They had a great wheel against the wall, similar to mine, and the lady told me it would likely never be functional because it's missing a part called the "mother." Those parts were delicate and old ones are hard to find. This is a close-up of the mother on her newer wheel. According to the Joy of Handspinning website, the whole assembly is the mother and that spinning part she described is the flyer.

A museum volunteer makes candles.
My aunt was impressed with the children who, dressed in period costumes, were not only making potpourris and candles but also answering questions. One little girl explained that people only took baths a few times a year, so they carried potpourris to hold to their noses against the smell.
We drank some warm wassail and had a great time.

The museum used to say that the Hoggatt House was built in the mid-1700s —about the time Quakers settled in the Piedmont — by my ancestor, Philip Hoggatt. A couple of years ago, they took wood bore tests of the logs and the results indicated that the house is not that old. Now, they say that the house was built in 1801 by one of Philip's other children (not my ancestor).

That may be true, but as I asked one of the volunteers, "What about the provenance?" Scientific tests are great, but that doesn't mean to throw out all the past research, documentation and even oral history.

Maybe I'm in denial. I used to love walking into the Hoggatt House and feeling that connection across the generations, as if a little piece of it belonged to me. But it's still a great place to visit — especially when history comes to life.


Teresa said...

I enjoyed your blog and I'm so glad you enjoyed your visit to the High Point Museum. May I link it our facebook page?

Teresa Loflin
Community Relations Director
High Point Museum

Elizabeth said...

Yes, Teresa, I'd be happy for you to add a link.

Robyn said...

You had a living history day --- I'm so jealous! (Especially since I've been sick, and that's no fun.) Glad you enjoyed yourself.

So HP Museum has farmers weaving, eh? Totally contradicts my research. Interesting, though.

Elizabeth said...

Hope you're finally feeling better, Robyn. Do you mean as compared to professional weavers? When the farmers wove, I think it was just for their own family's clothes - that self-sustained lifestyle.