The Embroiderer's Story

No Weaving for You

July 18th, 2008 by Jill Hall

Marilyn, a frequent contributor to the comments and embroiderer on the jacket as well as a student of Japanese embroidery, recently asked me if any weaving was going on in Plymouth Colony as early as the 1620s.

The answer is no, we have no evidence that any was and lots of evidence that there was no fiber processing or textile production happening in Plymouth Colony until the late 1630s. There are several reasons why not, mostly that the point of having a colony was for it to provide raw materials and a market for finished goods to the mother country. The Plymouth colonists were under agreement to work for the betterment of the merchants who put up the seed money for the colony, not to become self-sufficient.

Many people expect that these colonial foremothers were self-sufficient, though, especially in a textile sort of way. That whole myth (which annoyingly has a grain of truth in that some colonial housewives in some places at some times were doing it all) is explored and explained in Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s The Age of Homespun. I “reviewed” and recommended it last summer, August 19 to be exact (thanks, Lyn). Maybe it isn’t beach reading but it is well worth a look.

Tags: , , , ,

One Response to “No Weaving for You”

  1. Sandy says:

    There’s another reason to add to the list: The colonists’ houses weren’t very big (big houses take a lot of timber & time to build) and looms take up a certain amount of room (and timber to build). My mother is a weaver, and her modern 8-harness floor loom takes about 4×5 feet of floor space. 16th-century looms, from what I’ve seen in woodcuts, were much larger – among other things, some had overhead framework, and if you can trust the scale of the drawings, they were made of larger beams than Mom’s loom.

Leave a Reply

© 2003-2011 Plimoth Plantation. All rights reserved.

Plimoth Plantation is a not-for-profit 501 (c)3 organization, supported by admissions, grants, members, volunteers, and generous contributors.