Poplar Grove Plantation
|The wool here was sheared
from the sheep at Poplar Grove, usually once a year in April.The wool from a single, living sheep is called a fleece. Wool may be
washed now, if it's very dirty, or it can be washed after being spun into yarn. If spun
before it's washed you are 'working in the grease', this grease or lanolin helps stick the
fibers together. If it has to be washed before spinning try to wash it lightly and not
wash out all the grease.
To prepare the fibers for spinning it must be carded. Using the cards, the wool fibers are carded (brushed) to straighten, remove knots and mats, and clean the wool. The carded wool is spun into yarn.
The cotton here is grown on the plantation in our garden. Cotton is an annual plant that requires a long growing season and warm temperatures. Cotton was a major crop in North Carolina and production continues to increase. The cotton plant flowers in summer and as the flowers fade form a green pod called a cotton boll. Inside the boll cotton fibers grow until they burst open the boll and the fibers can be picked out of the boll.
Cotton must have the seeds removed, a job that was done by hand, often by children, until the cotton gin was invented. It was not until after the cotton gin was available (1790s) that cotton became important, before that wool and linen were mostly used. After the seeds are removed the fibers are carded into batts which can then be spun into yarn. Cotton is harder to spin by hand than wool because the fibers are shorter and dryer. The hand-spun cotton yarn was not as strong as wool or linen.
Until the 1850s there were no chemical or commercial dyes available, before that time dye colors were made from materials found in nature.
Poplar Grove has a dye garden in front of the weaver's studio. Plants in the dye garden are best viewed during the summer months and are labeled. Some of the more common natural dyes are black walnut, onion skins, golden rod, indigo, marigold, madder. Most dye plants are boiled to extract the dye color and the plant material is strained off. Yarn is put into this dye bath and simmered.