Yeah for Sydney!

Okay, I’m in the Sydney tour information centre’s Internet access room. It is a rainy Thursday morning and I’m the only one here. I may actually (hold your breath) have time to catch up on the blog. The photos are uploading a lot faster here too. Please be patient with photo quality and typos, though, as I am concentrating more on speed than editing.

On Friday, I was scheduled to experience Hands on History at the Sherbrooke Village living history museum. The museum is just steps from the St. Mary’s River Lodge, as are the Main Street Café and the post office. After all that driving it was kind of nice not to even start the car Friday.

My experience at the village was incredible. Evelyn Jack is in charge of the Hands on History program, where people (usually school students) dress in 19th century clothing and see what life was like Victorian Era Nova Scotia. Because I had contacted her and explained my grant project, Evelyn had a special day in store for me. She whisked me off to the morning staff meeting and introduced me to everyone. Then she turned me over to Meg, the costume supervisor, who decked me out in petticoat, dress, wrap, snood, and bonnet.

In costume.

After that it was off to the weaving cottage, where Heather spent about an hour and a half showing me how wool was prepared, spun, and woven. The village has two Cotswold sheep, which is plenty for their demonstration needs. After shearing, Heather waits for a nice day, and washes the fleece by hand. She has to wash it, rinse it, and repeat the process several times. Then it air dries. Next, the wool has to be “picked,” or teased apart by hand repeatedly to get the leftover seeds and grass out of it. Then, it is ready to be carded. Carding is a lot harder than it looks! After carding and creating a rolwag (a roll of carded wool) it is finally ready for spinning. Heather also showed me the two looms used in the cottage, but I forgot to take pictures!

Heather carding.

After visiting Heather, we made a quick visit to the pottery, followed by lunch. I then spent a wonderful hour with Althea. Althea is a whiz at quilting and had me try it. A good quilter gets 8 – 10 stitches per inch. I was able to manage maybe five or six. I liked the rug hooking a lot better, though. Strips of wool are cut (old clothing is the best) and pulled through a burlap backing to make designs. Althea also showed me how flax was turned into linen. First the flax is run through this ripple machine, then it is soaked for a couple of weeks to break down the woody core and leave the fiber on the outside. It is pounded, and then heddled. Finally, the fiber is spun.

Althea quilting.

Rug hooking They let me work on the practice piece that kids use.

First step in flax processing.

Flax pounder (it probably has a more technical name, but I don’t remember).

Flax heddle.

After Althea, I met with Meg again to discuss costuming a living history museum and the clothing of the 19th century. She gave me some knitting patterns from Godey’s Ladies Book! Finally, I got a mini-millinery lesson.

But, we weren’t finished yet! Evelyn was determined to wear me out. We made a visit to the general store, Greenwood Cottage (home of the wealthy store-owner) and the doctor’s house. I have to say that everyone was extremely welcoming and friendly at the village, and very accommodating to my project. I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to fiber arts and history in Nova Scotia.


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