More finds from my great-great-grandmother

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.

Whoa.

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.

Ellen Blanket

All folded up, ready for the big reveal…

This next photo may not look like much (wow, a dingy white rectangle) but it’s pretty special, on closer inspection.

Ellen Blanket

Close-up of the weaving, in a diagonal twill fabric

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!

Ellen Blanket

Here’s the centre seam of the blanket. Like the carpet, the cloth was made in 3-foot panels, constrained by the size of the loom. The weaver would then seam up the panels to create a wider piece of fabric for sheets, blankets, carpets, etc. To seam them, the stitch they’d use would be like the lacing on a shoe, which snugs the two pieces up together without overlapping them and forming a lump in the finished fabric.

Ellen Blanket

Some of the moth damage, up close. All of the moth damage is either at the edge of the fabric, or along fold lines — where the fabric was exposed. Actually, the damaged bits offer the best look at the structure of the fabric, and the lovely fine single-ply yarn used in the weaving. You can also see the slightly-wobbly (but far better than I can make) selvage edges of the fabric.

Ellen Blanket

The worst (or at least largest) spot of staining. Possibly blood, but maybe just tea or something. Who knows?

Ellen Blanket

Here’s the blanket binding, put on by my great-aunt Hellen. Apparently, blankets like these were originally used underneath the bottom sheet, so they covered the mattress and people slept on top of them. There was no need to put fancy bindings on a blanket that would be covered with a sheet! Later, Hellen probably used this blanket on top of her bed, and found the edges scratchy when she pulled them up around her chin, so she added silky bindings to soften them.

Ellen Blanket

With apologies for my slightly-grimy fingernails, this shot shows a peek through the worn binding to see the rolled seamed edge at the top and bottom of the blanket.

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.

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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.

Cap knitting

Granny, knitting, at Jean’s house

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).

HMMM.

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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…

Scott weavings

Yup. That’s TWO (2) more blankets, woven by Ellen.

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!

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16 Comments

Filed under Family, Scott Carpet

16 responses to “More finds from my great-great-grandmother

  1. Cari

    Extraordinary, and what a great read! Thanks for sharing this lovely bit of history.

    • Annie Bee

      Thanks, Cari, for coming along for the ride! This is turning into a far more exciting adventure than I ever expected.

  2. I’m really enjoying reading about your Great Grandmother’s weaving and seeing it; makes me want to learn to use the table top loom I have.

    • Annie Bee

      You lucky thing, to have a loom! It’s a LOT of fun to play around with a loom and some pretty yarn. I say, have a go!

      • I’ve got to find the time first, I’m in the middle of some knitting projects and a quilt that both have deadlines. I might have a go in the holidays I think.

  3. Peggy White

    It looks to me that the white coverlet is woven in a similar (if not identical) pattern to the blue-and-white one, but white-on-white instead. Can you see a faint pattern in it, despite my poor photography?

    • Annie Bee

      We can! (“We” being Mom and I — we’re on the phone trying to squint at our respective screens to work out what the notes say.) I don’t know if it’s full-on jacquard, or just woven with a texture on a regular loom, but anything’s possible.

      We also think that the seam on the blue-and-white blanket is visible, just above the note, running towards the top right corner, through a series of ovals. Hard to tell, but it’s parallel to the selvage edges, perpendicular from the fringed edge, and it’s about the right distance away from the selvage sides…?

  4. OH. OH. The Jacquard! THE JACQUARD. I have no words.

    • Annie Bee

      I know, right? Would that be wool? I think of those blankets as being cotton, because the jacquard-woven throws you see these days are, but I assume that’s indigo-dyed wool and undyed wool?

  5. La Tomate

    I am loving following the journey and story of your Grandma’s fabulous work and skills.

    And I did have a chuckle at a comment in today’s post:

    ” Apparently, blankets like these were originally used underneath the bottom sheet,”

    “apparently” 🙂 *LOL*
    I grew up in rural Scotland in a single glazed, unheated house… Mum would put a plain woollen blanket under the bedsheet that we’d lie on, and then the pair of sheets (top and bottom) and then another woollen blanket, then our quilt (which was a quilt, and not a duvet 😉 ) and then at least one other blanket on top. And then she’d tuck you in for the night. TUCKED IN. PROPER. LIKE A BOSS.
    You DARE not move – well, you couldn’t from the weight of all the blankets, and the force of the “Mum-tuck-in”… but if you did move, you risked an appendage falling out of the comfy warm cocoon into the cold night air. **BRRRRRR**

    … and then in winter – we’d use the hot water bottle and/or electric blanket…

    But yes!!! The top blankets would have been fancier. I do remember some silkysatiny edges.
    But it’s a tradition I kept up – I thought it was normal – until we moved and I realised that we didn’t bring our blankets to Canada – and we toiled to find “good” blankets – so we bought our first “Mattress protector”.

    😉

    Aye, you kids. Don’t even realise you’re born.

    😉

    Look forward to the next episode and discovery.

  6. How wonderful that you shared this! I enjoyed reading it and know how you must feel with these pieces of treasured family history and art!

  7. Marie-Louise

    Wow! I was surfing around the internet looking up my mother’s side of the family when I came across your posts. She’s actually my grandmother through her son James ( and his son Stewart AKA James) I’ll have to these posts to my family next time they’re over 😀

    • Annie Bee

      Oh my goodness! That makes us… *scribbling family tree diagrams* umm… third cousins once removed, I think. That is SO cool! I have lots of other info to share, on ancestry.ca and elsewhere, if you’re interested. I’d love to know more about your branch of the family, too!

      • Marie-Louise

        I’m just starting out on Ancestry but I’ve been on Geni.com for awhile, I’ll have to send you a link 🙂 I was wondering if I could use some the photos of our family you have on here? Also I read one of your earlier posts about the reunion in the ’90 and I totally would have been there! So we’ve probably met briefly a long time ago 😀