Let’s get this out of the way, first: life’s been a little busy for the last month-and-a-half. Good busy, but busy. The Cecilia cardi that I was so worried about looked great at my friends’ wedding, I’ve been knitting like mad to make a sample shawl for another friend’s shop re-opening, and work’s been getting increasingly hectic. But none of that is what’s brought me back to the blog today!
(More below the cut — this is a long, image-heavy post, so load it at your own risk!)
If you’ve been following this blog through the summer, you’ve seen a series of posts about the incredible monstrous carpet hand-spun, hand-dyed, and hand-woven by my great-great-grandmother, Ellen Beatty Scott. You’ve also seen our discovery that Ellen actually made TWO carpets, not just one! But, apparently, that’s not the end of the story.
I heard from my aunt Peggy that Ellen had also made a white (undyed) wool blanket, which had come down to Peggy through her aunt Hellen (my great-aunt), who was one of Ellen’s granddaughters. She told me it was all spun and woven by Ellen, in a fine twill pattern, and that Hellen had, at some point, added a green binding along two edges. She also said that the blanket has been sadly moth-eaten and stained over the years. And then she told me that she wanted me to have it.
Peggy brought it up to my grandmother’s place on her next visit, and then my parents fetched it back from there, and stowed it in their chest freezer until I could claim it. I put it in a hot car, then back in the freezer again, to kill off any remaining moths, and then I finally got to take a good look at it.
This next photo may not look like much (wow, a dingy white rectangle) but it’s pretty special, on closer inspection.
The bulk of the fabric in this blanket (which is plenty big for a double bed) is actually in quite pristine condition, apart from maybe a little bit of yellowing. It’s so fine, and so even!
So, this blanket is currently sitting on the couch with me, waiting patiently as I research textile conservation and cleaning. (Incidentally, the Canadian government’s Canadian Conservation Institute site has some really good tips on conserving all sorts of heirlooms, fabric included.) I have big plans for it, once I get it cleaned up. And no, it’s not going on my bed.
A few weeks ago, my mother found an adorable old photo of my grandmother, shortly after she married my grandfather. She’s sitting in the sunporch at her mother-in-law’s house — that is, at Ellen’s daughter’s house. She’s knitting, which was what initially interested me about the photo. But then I looked at what she’s sitting ON.
See that bench she’s reclining on? It’s covered with something stripy. Something very, very much like the fabric of a certain pair of carpets that Ellen made. The stripes don’t match up with the carpet in the museum (which we know never made it out to Jean’s place in Saskatchewan, anyway), but they’re awfully similar to the stripe sequence in the carpet on Granny’s wall. There are the same shaded stripes (using different dyelots of individual colours) and the occasional multi-coloured stripes (like the one just to the right of her legs).
And now, just tonight, I checked my email and found another message from my aunt Peggy, with a single tantalizing photo attached to it. It’s from the family reunion in 1995, so it’s not exactly high-resolution, but…
The white one is whiter than the blanket I have beside me, and appears to have a fringe. I’m not sure if it’s cotton or linen, rather than wool, and sadly, I don’t have CSI-style resolution-enhancement capabilities to enable me to read the note that’s pinned to it.
The blue and white blanket is a gorgeous piece of jacquard weaving. It would have required a whole other loom — all of the other blankets and carpets could have been woven on a fairly standard loom, but the jacquard piece would have needed a special jacquard loom that actually read punch-cards with detailed patterns on them.
I mean, it’s clear that the giant carpet wasn’t a beginner project, but… WOW. Ellen was definitely a far more accomplished weaver than we ever thought!