Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Crafty Outing: Fibers and Textiles at The Daniel Boone Home

My sister loves to be on the go.  Constantly.  I can always count on her to find any festival, fair, sale, show, or event worth going to within 100 miles.  So when she saw an advertisement for the 1840's Fibers and Textiles event at the Historic Daniel Boone Home in Defiance, Missouri, she knew I would be dragging her out to the country to look at fabric and fibers.  The Daniel Boone Home and Boonesfield Village comprise a National Historic Site that is now owned by Lindenwood University.  Boone, one of the most famous frontiersmen in American history, moved his family from Kentucky to Missouri in 1799.  The Boone home is four stories tall with limestone walls that are more than two feet thick (the settlers feared nearby American Indian tribes).  Boone House was actually owned by Daniel's youngest son, but Daniel spent most of his time there and eventually died in the home.  Gradually, private owners moved the dozen period buildings that comprise Boonesfield Village to the estate to enable visitors to get a more accurate picture of life in the 1800s.  (See

Unfortunately, the event fell on an unseasonably chilly and dreary day, so the turnout was relatively small.  To get out of the cold and kill some time before the spinning demonstration, we wandered into the summer kitchen.  Re-enactors were preparing a meal for the volunteers using 19th century American cooking techniques.  Pies baked in stacked cast iron dutch ovens covered with glowing coals.  A pudding wrapped in linen was boiling in a kettle of water over the fire, a technique that yields a beautiful little pumpkin-shaped cake.  After the cooking demonstration, we stopped by the chapel, the potter's kiln, and the grist mill.  We roamed around the largely empty historic Sappington House and peeked in the windows of the Boone home. 
In Daniel Boone's brother's cabin, a group of musicians was playing songs from the 1800s.  One man was playing the bones, curved pieces of wood so named because they resemble rib bones.  He even let us try to play them, but we decided it was an acquired talent best left to the expert.

In the afternoon, my sister and I watched a demonstration on spinning and dying wool.  The speaker gave background information on wool, most of which I had just recently learned from The Knitter's Book of Woolby Clara Parkes.  The demonstration was really interesting; I had never seen anyone spin before and, frankly, it made me thankful for yarn shops stocked with pre-spun, ready-to-knit wool.  I don't think I would have quite enough patience to spin enough yarn for an actual project.  The speaker also spoke briefly about dying wool with natural dyes.  Her striped shawl contained a bold, red yarn that she hand-dyed using cochineal bugs.  The insects live in cacti and are used to produce a beautiful, vibrant dye but they are quite expensive (about $60/pound according to our speaker!).  Learning about the intensive process of transforming wool to colored yarn definitely explains the cost of quality yarn and gives me an immense appreciation of the women who did much of this work by hand before the industrial revolution.

My sister and I had so much fun on our little educational outing.  I hope you will consider visiting historic sites to learn about the past and appreciate the present.  You may even be inspired to pick up a new hobby.  Be creative and enjoy!

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