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Heritage Museum plans early fabric display

August 21, 2008

BOONSBORO - A special exhibit telling the story of early fabric production in this region, is on display at the Washington County Rural Heritage Museum.

One section of the exhibit honors early Boonsboro weavers, from the first - Henry Dick Sr. (circa 1800) - to one of the most famous, John B. Welty.

Welty's coverlets are considered works of art. One of Welty's coverlets is in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago. In the 19th century, coverlet weaving was one of Boonsboro's most lucrative trades.

The most common raw materials used in this area were wool and flax. The weaving was often done at home but some shops were set up to weave the fibers prepared at home. This continued until the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century, when the spinning and weaving process became more mechanized.

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See for yourself why most early settlers did not have many clothes. Wool took 12 months to grow and three months of intermittent labor to shear, wash, separate, spin, wash, and knit or weave and sew.

Linen took at least 16 months from seed to shirt: three months to plow, harrow, sow, grow and pull the flax then more than a year to thresh, hackle, spin, bleach, dye, weave and sew. A display of previously harvested flax shows the stages it goes through to become thread for weaving.

The museum's flax crop has been harvested and is drying so the seeds can be removed and then it will be laid out on the ground to ret (rot) the tough outside fibers.

The Heritage Museum is at the Wasshington County Agricultural Education Center at 7313 Sharpsburg Pike, Boonsboro. it is open Saturdays and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. For information about the museum, go to www.ruralheritagemuseum.org on the Web.

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