There’s one more story to tell in this series of posts about the incredible carpet that was spun, dyed, and woven by my great-great-grandmother. This particular story is, for me, the absolute definition of irony.
This whole little obsession started because I was at my grandmother’s while in Ottawa for a conference, back in January, and she has a scrap of carpet hanging on her wall. She told me — reinforcing what I remembered — that the piece of carpet she has is an offcut or remnant from the weaving of the enormous 17′ x 18′ carpet that’s in the Perth Museum.
How about now?
One of these things is not like the other.
There are definite similarities:
- Many of the colours used are the same, including the orange, turquoise (though Granny’s piece is significantly less faded), the red, the black, and the beiges/browns.
- They’ve been combined with the same sort of colour sense, too.
- The same technique of using differences in dye-lots to create almost ombre-effect stripes has been used.
- There are similar multi-coloured bands on both pieces.
- They’re both warp-faced fabric, with linen weft.
- The wool in both is a very similar 3-ply construction, spun with about the same angle of twist. Very little linen is visible in the wall-hanging because it’s in such good condition, but it appears to be likewise very similar in ply and angle of twist.
- Most noticeably, Granny’s carpet has PINK in it (that shade of bubble-gum really demands capitalization, doesn’t it?) and the carpet at the museum has a vivid purple. There is also much less black used in the wall-hanging than in the large carpet.
- The colour sequence is different — turquoise and orange appear together, but not in the same pattern/ratio, for instance.
- Granny’s piece is just shy of the width of one of the 3′ panels in the large carpet, which means that hers likely runs through almost the full colour sequence of warp threads in that design.
- It’s hard to tell for sure, without the two carpets side by side, but it seems on closer observation that the yarn in the wall-hanging might be just a tiny bit finer than the yarn in the large carpet — like the difference between a light worsted and a DK weight, in knitting-yarn terms. This may just be a result of the large carpet’s many years of trampling, but it does feel as though the wall-hanging is a slightly lighter and more flexible fabric.
Here’s a closer look at the wall-hanging:
Granny’s remnant came to her via Granddad’s sister Helen Gibson, who in turn seems to have acquired it from their cousin Jack Scott — the same Jack Scott who (along with his sister Jean MacDonald) donated the large carpet to the Perth Museum.
[Excited aside: my aunt tells me that Helen ALSO received a white woollen blanket that Ellen spun and wove. It’s now in my aunt’s house, and I can’t wait to see it!]
Granny cut her remnant into four pieces; my aunt, my uncle, and my mother each have a piece, in addition to the one on Granny’s wall. (Mom is a little vague about the present whereabouts of her piece, but I do remember her using it as a runner on the sideboard/buffet cabinet when I was little. We’re sure it’s somewhere very safe…)
I should note that Granny cut and sewed her remnant into the pennant shape at the bottom of the wall-hanging. She doesn’t remember unravelling the yarn to make the tassel, and thinks it came to her in unwoven form.
My aunt tells me that she thinks the piece that Helen Gibson got from Jack Scott was, itself, part of a larger piece of carpet. Granny thinks the piece was unused (and her piece is certainly pristine) but my aunt says that Jack’s piece was in quite varied condition. She recalls parts of it being quite worn, and parts of it being like new. Helen, and then Granny, clearly got some of the latter!
The long and short of it is that we think there were actually TWO CARPETS. The carpet remnant that so sparked my interest in the giant Scott Carpet is likely not from the same carpet at all!
We do think that both carpets were made by Ellen Beatty Scott, my great-grandmother. At least, the spun yarns and the dyes and the weaving pattern seem to similar to be coincidental. Dad has suggested that perhaps Ellen prepared the yarns and left some of the unused yarns from the large carpet with her father (who was a weaver, remember) for him to weave the second carpet — that seems quite possible. It really boggles my mind to think that Ellen not only prepared all the yarn for the enormous carpet now at the Perth Museum, she ALSO likely prepared all the yarn (wool and linen) for a whole other carpet as well — though surely the second carpet wasn’t anywhere near the size of the first.
I wonder if the second carpet, the one Granny’s piece came from, wasn’t used in a bedroom or smaller parlour or something. The areas under furniture (especially a bed, which would be relatively stationary) would remain untrampled and unfaded, while the areas in higher-traffic areas like doorways would get quite badly abused. I’d love to learn more about the floor plan of Maple Hall Farm to see what other rooms in the house might have been logical places for such a carpet.
… So. That concludes my story of the Scott Carpet Saga, at least for now. If I learn more, have no doubt that I’ll share. Thanks for reading!