Sebewa Recollector
Items of Genealogical Interest

Volume 21 Number 6
Transcribed by LaVonne I. Bennett

     LaVonne has received permission from Grayden Slowins to edit and submit Sebewa Recollector items of genealogical interest, from the beginning year of 1965 through current editions.

THE SEBEWA RECOLLECTOR Bulletin of The Sebewa Association,
May 1986, Volume 21, Number 6. Robert W. Gierman, Editor;
submitted with written permission of current Editor Grayden D. Slowins:

NOTE: Robert W. Gierman was injured in a fall in April and was unable to do this edition of THE SEBEWA RECOLLECTOR. Filling in for him is Rus Gregory.


When “Myrtie’s Memories” by Myrtie Candace (Lovell) Welch (1984) last appeared, she had just told us about the difficulty of ironing box pleats into a skirt she made for herself when she was 15. Her Memories continue under a heading WOOD HOUSE AGAIN:

Just have to return to this house long enough to tell you this: It also doubled as a bath house. Water carried out from the cistern pump in the kitchen, boiler filled, fire in stove lit to heat the water nearly to boiling. A dipper or two of boiling water would be enough to warm the wash tub of cold water already in the tub for a person to step into. Don’t remember whether the older ones took their baths out there or not, but I suppose they did, too, in the summer time.

This one time is the only one I remember. Ma always gave her two little girls (Pearl and me) their baths at the same time. Often she had us all scrubbed (I mean scrubbed), we would step out of the wash tub to be dried. This time she said “I wish you little girls would get some meat on your bones. You are so poor you look like a couple of little starving Cubans”.

It was during the Spanish-American Civil War and papers were full of pictures of the children who were starving to death. I presume this remark of hers is the reason for me remembering this.

The contents of the old Wood House were never the same after my father died. Of course, Ma used it for cooking our meals, laundry work, etc., but never again did we have it full of wood, all split and piled ready for the summer, no chunks all trimmed so they would fit in the heating stove to keep us warm in winter.

Ma would have to hire the wood cut and the persons who cut it for her didn’t bother to lap off a piece so it would go into the stove. Many times we would bring a chunk in, only to find it too big for the door. You’d twist it this way and that before giving up.

Sewing carpet rags. That was my first introduction to the use of a needle and thread. Learning how to thread the needle and then making the knot in the end of your thread. That was a real accomplishment for a little girl.

First, though, all the discarded cotton clothes had to be torn into uniform widths. My mother would take a skirt, for instance, cut off the belt, also seams, rip out the hem, then along the top take the shears, clipping ¾ inch widths down about an inch. Now, you could take it and tear the rags on down. I enjoyed the noise they made, it also helped me work off some of the energy I never seemed to run out of.

The light colored rags, old sheets, and pillow cases, Ma dyed them black, blue, red, yellow, and brown. We would mix these bright colors in with the others or sometimes sew each color by itself. Then the weaver would arrange them together to make about a six inch strip in your carpet at regular intervals. This cost more to have woven than the regular hit and miss type. Was a little more difficult, too, in sewing your strips of carpeting together.

The strips were about 30 inches wide and made the length of your room, but you had to sew them by hand. When you had the strips woven in, they had to be exactly matched. It was quite a job. Only remember one of Ma’s that way; it was for the parlor. We thought it beautiful and it really was.

Most young girls thought it was a punishment to sew carpet rags, but I loved it. Sometimes I liked to go with my mother to a rag-sewing bee held for some person who had a large family and not much time to sew up her rags for a carpet. The ladies in the neighborhood would come to this person’s house, in the morning, bringing needles, thread, thimbles, and scissors along with a potluck dinner. By night time they had enough rags sewed to make her carpet. Used to know how many pounds of rags it took for a yard of carpet, but I’ve forgotten.

I always felt so grown up when I’d sit down with my lap full of rags, threading my own needle, sewing the strips together, then rolling them up in a neat little ball, placing it in the basket just like the grown-up ladies.

It was no small deal to make a carpet. Lots of folks would have only one in their living room; others, none, leaving the floors completely bare.

In the early 1900s, a carpet called Ingrain came on the market. It was woven of wool and had designs in it. Big red roses; sometimes pretty colored leaves. Such a change from the rag carpets but so expensive very few people could afford them.

You have all seen small looms for weaving, I know, but very few of you could have an opportunity to see the large ones. A few years ago there was a lady in Portland who wove floor rugs. I had her make some for me. Presume there are some looms around today but I know of none.

I’ve try and describe one; probably I can’t make it very clear on paper, but I’ll make a stab at it. It was really quite an invention. The loom frame I’ll make a stab at it. It was really quite an invention. The loom frame itself was probably 5 feet wide and perhaps 8 feet high, maybe 3 feet deep. On the back were two round rollers, one above the other. One held the warp and the other the finished carpet. The front was like a table top. The warp came from a roll, underneath this top, then went on a slight incline towards the top and out to the carpet roll. The carpet warp was threaded into place the width of the carpet strips. I think they were 30-inch strips. By using two colors of warp, a strip would be going the long way of your carpet. My mother usually chose red and black to be alternated. Usually about 6 inches wide, first a red, then a black. If you were using just the hit and miss rags, this gave a little more color and a sort of pattern.

After your loom was all threaded up, the rags were put into a shuttle. This was a real thin piece of board about three inches wide and six inches long, having an eye hole in the front end and at the back was a notch. You threaded the shuttle just like you would a needle and then fastened it securely in the notch at the end. Can’t imagine what kind of wood was used for this shuttle. Perhaps it could have been maple. It was almost pure white and as smooth as glass.

Now let’s get this show on the road and start weaving. I think Mrs. Lovell is in a hurry for her carpets.

You pull a kitchen stool up in front of the table, sit down, and you’re ready. There are two long narrow pedals underneath the table, on which you place your feet because you are the motor for this complicated thing.

You start pushing slowly and evenly with first one foot and then the other. Oh, hold everything! I don’t have the rags laced in yet. Forgot to tell you at the upper end of the warp, long bar with eyes to lace is placed. This bar is stationary but at the bottom, right in front of the operator, is a portable one. Laced with the warp to correspond with the top. Now, using your threaded shuttle, you weave your rags across the warp, maybe under about four strings, then over four. You lace a couple of rows of rags through, then start to pedal. Next you push that portable bar up and literally pound the rows of rags together.

As you kept lacing, pushing, and pedaling, your carpet was fed onto the roll at the back. Must have been some measuring device somewhere. Just for instance: your strips would need to be twelve feet, or any room length. You stopped weaving the rags in and wove a selvedge with the warp back and forth between each string. You then ran about 6 inches of just the warp strings and started the next strip. This made a place to cut the lengths of carpet before sewing them together.

How come I remember so much about this? The lady living just two farms north of us wove carpets. It was right on my way home from school. I was fascinated with this loom. Thought it was the most wonderful invention. Sometimes Mrs. Schaffer would let me sit down and weave a few minutes, not long enough though, because she was afraid I couldn’t beat the rows together tightly enough….

Now, the carpet is ready and all Mrs. Lovell has to do is sew it together, then tack it down on the room floor. Ma never would let anyone help her with that sewing. Using carpet warp and a big needle, she would whip those edges together so one could hardly see the seams. Then, too, she was very particular to have it sew so tightly that the threads couldn’t possibly break when you stretched it on the floor. At last, Ma’s finished and ready to put the carpet down.

Older girls have the walls all wiped free from dust, woodwork washed, and windows shining. Floor mopped, they now cover it first with newspapers, then carry the new carpet in, spread it carefully on top of the papers. Now, here comes Ma, saucer full of tacks in one hand, hammer in the other, and a frown on her face, dreading her job……..

Starting in the corner, she would go a yard or two each way, then one of the girls helping to stretch it, they would go across one side and eventually finish clear around the room. The last side was always the hardest. Some times it would seem like you never would make it. Whoever was down on the floor pulling it in place so Ma could put a tack in, there fingers might sometimes give out and back would go the carpet. Then someone else would come stomping and pushing the carpet with their feet, then stand and hold it in place until the tack could be hammered in. What a job! But very rewarding; once it was completed you forgot about the work……

To be continued.


Last update November 10, 2013