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At the Marshfield School of Weaving we teach methods of textile making that are part of a millennia-old handweaving tradition. Traditions, however, are always evolving, and some of the techniques we practice are relatively new, modified within the past 150 years. While our regular instruction provides a general framework for understanding the methods of the past, there are many points at which our equipment and approach would be unfamiliar to handweavers at work before 1850. Beyond Marshfield, handweaving demonstrations at American historic sites often unknowingly replicate post-1850 procedures and tools, really carrying out modern handweaving in “old-fashioned” disguise. Secondary sources based on historical research are seldom informed by practical application, leaving most of us in the dark when faced with the question, “But how did they do it?”


In this class we will take a deep, deep dive into the particulars of handweaving practice in pre-1850 Britain and Early America. Working from visual depictions, weaver’s notebooks, and printed instructional texts, we will work in pairs to weave a piece of cloth following the methods outlined by the sources for a better understanding of how cloth making was conceived of and carried out in the past. Topics to be covered include:


  • Calculations—no epi, no ppi, no calculators!

  • Yarn count systems and their relationship to weaving calculations—learn your knots from your hesps from your spyndles!

  • Yarn preparation before weaving—scouring and sizing

  • Working with singles warps

  • Multiple-end warping and the lease formation as described by J. and R. Bronson—runners, gangs, half-gangs, bouts!

  • Beaming with a raddle without packing—no paper, sticks, or buts about it!

  • Caaming tables, and drawing into knitted heddles

  • Reed measuring systems and their relationship to warp making and yarn counts–everything is connected! 

  • Construction of loom mountings

  • Working with quills and temples

  • Dressing warps while weaving

  • Lease rods and their varied uses

  • Construction of knitted heddles

  • As many esoteric rabbit holes as your heart desires!


Justin brings nearly a decade of museum interpretation experience to his curiosity for answering, “Ok, but how?” and this class promises to be invaluable for those working at historic sites or interested in textile history. Anastatia Spicer is currently a Lois F. McNeil Fellow at the Winterthur Museum. Her experience as a weaver informs her research— most recently she has been working with a set of account books from a weaver working in Pennsylvania spanning from 1816 - 1867. She is looking forward to sharing her primary source research with the class. By taking a hard look at the evidence the will reveal the many ways in which methodologies were shared between disparate cultures around the globe where similar ideas and tools remain in use today. Students are encouraged to bring laptops or flash drives for downloading digital versions of the texts used in this class.


Materials will be billed separately by weight.


Prerequisite: Prior weaving experience.

Weaving, Interrupted: Practice Before 1850 | Justin Squizzero & Anastatia Spicer

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