I’ve always had a fascination for utopian and intentional communities, although I know I am too independent of spirit to find happiness within one. The Shakers built one such a community at Hancock, MA and called it the City of Peace.
Part of the challenge of interpreting this craft for visitors is placing it in context.
Spinning and weaving were commonplace skills in the 1780’s in New England, when the community was settled.
The Shakers weren’t unique in producing their own yarn and cloth. What is unique is the scale of production that was necessary to supply a communal family of 100 people.
Weaving as a craft demonstration is so different from weaving in my own studio. It’s more important to tell a good story than create a perfect warp. I made a mistake winding a couple of threads, but decided to keep going and mend them when I got home. People weren’t there to see me puddle the warp back onto the floor. They wanted to see what winding a warp looked like. I’ll probably drop the mended threads when I am threading the heddles.
Sometimes you can get away with correcting mistakes as part of the demonstration. If you manage the loose thread carefully, weaving and un-weaving look remarkably similar to a visitor.
It makes me pause and wonder when I see that many people have no idea how their clothing comes to be. I don’t expect everyone would want to weave, but it seems very strange that people are incurious about their basic needs.