Tuesday, October 27, 2015

A History of Fine Spinning in America

Consider how modern mill spun/ mill woven wool shirting and suiting weight wool fabrics drape.

Alden Amos instructs on how to estimate the grist of the yarns used to weave a fabric.  Once one knows how a fabric woven from a particular grist of yarn drapes, then grist of the yarns used to weave the fabric can be estimated from the drape of a fabric. This is not as precise as Alden's methods, but with practice, it is reasonable.

Look at how modern mill spun/mill woven fabrics were photographed and painted by the modern portraiture artists. This can easily be done at the Getty.

In the Huntington Library, one can see portraits  by folks like G. Romney showing the rich and famous wearing fine hand spun/ hand woven fabrics - and they look as fine as the modern mill spun/mill.  This tells us that hand spun/hand woven fabrics were in fact very fine.

Back to the Getty Villa, and we look at the the copies of Classic Greek sculpture, and allowing for the iconic, symbolic, and attributive nature of the sculpted drapery (and allowing for Victorian restoration) we see that the Classic Greeks knew about fabrics that draped very similarly to the drapes in G. Romney's paintings.  Except that these sculpture were copies, and the fabric was iconic, symbolic, and attributive meaning that such fabrics had been around for a long time and EVERYONE, from the estate owners that wore such fabrics and who ordered copies the of sculpture, to the slaves that only peered into the temple from a distance knew about such fabrics.

If A=B, and B=C, then A=C.

From this we can conclude that the best fabrics of the Classical Greeks were rather fine.  Thus, we have three lines of evidence telling us that the classical Greeks had fine spinning and weaving.  We have the archaeology of the textile fragments.  We have contemporary Classical Greek accounts. And, we have the fine fabrics recorded in Greek and Roman copies of Greek sculpture.

One may poke holes in each of the lines of evidence, but together they offer more consistency than pointing to iconic and attributive images on early Classical Greek pottery.  Inspection of the image of Penelope's loom tell us none of the clothing in the image was woven on it. 

In the case of  Penelope's loom, the loom is attributive -- it tells us who the woman is, just as a lion skin would tell us that it was an image of Hercules, and much bare skin would tell us that it was Venus.  Of course it is an old loom, it is meant to tell us the woman lived in an earlier time when the gods and heroes walked waked among us, and took an active role in the lives of men and women.

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