Woven In Time: From Historical Swatches to Contemporary Weaving

15 September 2021
By Elizabeth Thrasher
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As museum objects go, this one is not flashy, nor particularly beautiful. It’s big. It’s a book. A very large book.

Surprisingly large. At least a foot wide and another twenty-plus inches tall, and at least eight inches thick. It’s leather-bound, with faded inscriptions along the spine. The page edges are worn and brown and brittle from age. A ledger maybe, or inventories. Some kind of day-to-day listing of nineteenth-century living.

Opening the book is tricky. The binding is old and dry, and the pages crackle as they turn.

image description: an old book, the image focussing on its spine

The book.

There are no accounts inside. There are no lists. There’s page after page of pasted-in fabric samples. Each sample, roughly one and a half by three inches, is recorded by number and arranged by style and colour. Different weaves, different finishes, and an unexpected range of reds, grays, oranges, and purples.

The discovery of this book was a complete accident.

It was lodged in the rafters of the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum and discovered during a restoration project.

All images used courtesy of Elizabeth Thrasher and the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum.

About Elizabeth Thrasher

Elizabeth Thrasher is chair of the Board of Directors of the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum. She is an artist, writer, and photographer whose skills range from puppet-building to policy-writing. She learned to sew and knit as a child, and has expanded her skills in the fibre arts to include dyeing and silk fusion. She lives in Ottawa, Ontario, and works in heritage and culture as a manager and consultant.

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