Study & Research
Guild members have visited Plimoth Plantation to study earlier weaving completed by the Guild, books about period textiles, the Plimoth Historical Clothing and Textile department's inventory of hand wovens, and items used in the village. These sources help identify weaves, setts, color, patterns, dimensions, and fabric uses.
In the mid-1970’s Guild member Mary Merrill visited England to research 17th century textiles. She then wove a number of pieces in Harrisville Design wool singles. Marjie Thompson has pointed out that the Pilgrims who came from Holland (having earlier fled England seeking religious freedom) may have brought German-influenced weaves such as Gebrochen or Hin und Wieders (point twills.) About half of the original settlers came from Holland and the rest from England.
Susan holding a blanket
Barbara examining a towel in the, er, light
Handwovens for Plimoth
Some of the items woven by Guild members are shown on this page. Recent examples are: Barbara Provest’s beautiful cupboard cloth, and Nancy Kronenberg’s Billington Blanket. Harrisville Designs donated the single ply wool used in the Billington blanket (twill sett 18epi) and Guild member Kate Smith at Marshfield School of Weaving dyed the wool for the stripes using vegetable-based dyes similar to those used in the 17th century. These and other projects (some described below) are documented in the Guild’s record books.
Virtually all the weaving is done in single ply wool and linen, although some sample books show some two ply fabrics. It should be noted samples are often contemporary weavers' ideas of what might have been brought from Europe during 1620 – 1627; few textiles have survived the centuries and few of the settlers had the luxury of keeping sample books. It seems that domestic items range from very ambitious to quite modest undertakings. There is a great deal of plain weave yardage in the bedding and clothing.
Billington Blanket by Nancy Kronenberg
Cupboard Cloth by Barbara Provest
Linens - Towels and Cupboard Cloths
Linen towels served to dry articles. They featured small patterns in weaves such as Diaper. Cupboard cloths are put on shelves. The picture above right shows a towel. To the right is a close-up of a sample in Huck weave, and one house displayed a 47" square linen table cloth in what looked like an 8H Spot Bronson weave.
Bronson may not have been among 17th century weaves; there is little record of it until the late colonial period. (Dorothy Burton in her book, Versatile Bronson, Weavers' Guild of Boston, ©1984, refers to a "Martha Washington" towel in spot weave, an early name for Bronson.)
Cushion covers can be leftover yardage (e.g. from bed hangings) or woven especially for the purpose. Sizes varied but a typical size is 20" square, finished. Plimoth completes the cushions by stuffing with recycled feathers.
Blankets & Bedding
Marjie Thompson states that the blankets would have been lightweight, woven firmly, epi in the 20's. Fulling would have mostly been left to time, use, and body moisture. The blanket samples we’ve reviewed were Harrisville Design singles sett at 15epi and, indeed, they were not fulled much. Guild members have worked on a number of blankets including those for the Winslow House, in green with brown or grey stripes, using Harrisville Design single ply.
For Brewster House, Mary Merrill completed a bed hanging (shown on right). Upper right is a potential sample for the coordinating blanket in Harrisville Design singles heavily fulled. It was sett at 16 epi.
All the blankets are for short full width beds. They are woven in two panels and joined down the center as shown at right. They had rolled hems. (Blanket woven by Carol McClennen)
What is a Bed Rugg?
At right is an example. This one looks like a sheepskin from a distance. It appears to be plain weave, two layers, with thick tufts of wool in the top layer. Guess: the puckering in the bottom layer is due to the wool tuft attachments in the underside of the top layer.
Plimoth Plantation uses several kinds of yardage: clothing, mattress ticking, pillow cases, and bed hangings. Clothing requires more cloth than you would imagine - 27" wide and 8 yards or 36" wide and 5-6 yards.
At right is a skirt yardage project undertaken in 2002 by Patty Meyer with assistance from Rita Ciaranello, Linda Lincoln, and Marjie Thompson. They shared Patty's loom to weave fourteen yards. “Katharine”, wife of Governor Carver, wears the finished skirt. Thanks to Patty for the photo and data:
Yarn: 20/2 Mora by Klippan/Borg, closest that Plimoth could find at the time.
Sett: 30 epi, beat hard for 28 ppi. The result was a firm fabric.
The yarn took two years for Plimoth to obtain and even then one color was not available. Sometimes dyeing is done locally as for the Billington Blanket shown at the top of the page.