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Needlework New Brunswick

Fibre Arts Facts

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Some fun facts to ponder as you work...

Did you know...

The New Brunswick tartan, adopted in 1959, was designed and woven by The Loomcrofters of Gagetown? It is one of several tartan designs created by this legendary New Brunswick textile business. 

New Brunswick is home to Canada's oldest woolen mills? Briggs and Little Woolen Mills in York Mills has been in operation since 1857.

The Loomcrofters Studio at 23 Loomcroft Lane, Gagetown, is the oldest building still in use on the banks of the St. John River? The oldest date found in it is 1761 when it was thought to have been built by the British to serve as a "Truck House" for trade with the Indians. The marks of the original shelves are clearly visible, as are names and dates written on the walls through the years since 1761. Though not a "block house" in construction, it has always been so called by the old citizens because rifles and ammunition were stored there and used, as the bullet marks show.

It was a dropped spool of thread that lead to the invention of New Brunswick's cable ferries? Legend has it, their inventor, William Pitt of Reeds Point on the Kingston Peninsula, was inspired to build the first popular water crossing platform when he saw his wife rewinding the line of thread. The first cable ferry went into service between Reeds Point and Gondola Point in 1904.

The oldest known hooked rug in Canada was made in 1860 by Abigail Smith of New Maryland, near Fredericton, New Brunswick. The design features a casual arrangement of a dove, eagle, vase of flowers, a house and a cow beside a tree. The inscription reads: "Worked by Abigail Smith at New Maryland, 1860." The rug was worked entirely in wool except for a small portion of coarsely knitted wool fabric in small parts of the background. It is now part of the NB Museum collection.

Roch Carrier, author of the beloved Canadian tale, The Hockey Sweater, studied in Edmundston, N.B., after being kicked out of his Quebec boarding school as a boy. He studied at Edmundston's College St-Louis during his four years in northern New Brunswick. The Hockey Sweater was first published in 1979. An excerpt from it can be found on the back of Canada's $5 bill.

 

 

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Nick Stokes, the dark handsome character on the wildly popular television series CSI and played by George Eads, is a fibre, hair and textile expert!

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Knitters can tell you how good it feels to work in this favourite craft. Now it seems it's good for you. It turns out that the repetitive actions needed for knitting and crochet can bring the mind and body to a state called a "relaxation response" that is quite similar to what people experience with techniques such as repetitive prayer, yoga, meditation, Tai Chi, and other relaxation disciplines. Research at the Harvard Medical School Mind/Body Institute has found that when an individual is knitting her heart rate can drop 11 beats a minute and her blood pressure drops as well. And knitting needles are a lot more fun than medical needles, so keep stitching!

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Fibre arts have been responsible for spurring the invention of other great things we use daily. For instance, it was the punch cards weavers used to set the patterns on their looms that got Charles Babbage and his partner, Ada Lovelace, (daughter of Lord Byron), working on a "calculating machine" in 1833, and later "the analytical engine", a predecessor of the personal computer. A few years earlier, English textile engineer Edwin Budding adapted the tool used to cut the nap off cloth to produce swaths of evenly trimmed grass that were becoming all the rage. In 1830, he patented the first lawn mower. There's no word on the opinion of the lawn grazing sheep it replaced.

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The Oxford English Dictionary notes how a kind of baize, called 'bura' in Italian, was used to cover the surface of early writing desks. A room filled with these desks was called a 'bureau.' A 'bureaucrat' was initially an official who tried to gain administrative control in his 'bureau.'

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Fibre arts through history...

Fibre arts were held in high esteem during ancient times. The Greek goddess Athena was the original woman who could do it all! This favourite child of all-powerful Zeus oversaw everything from wisdom and war to the arts, industry, justice and skill. She was also known for her wonderful skills with fibre arts. You will often find her represented in classic times by the owl.

A famous legend has a maiden named Arachne challenging the goddess Athena to a weaving contest. It's unclear who won, but Athena transformed the girl into a spider so that the girl who dared challenge the mighty goddess would forever spend her days spinning and weaving.

Zeus had three other powerful daughters besides Athena who also used fibre arts to direct the lives of humans and other gods. The Greeks believed life was spun by Clotho, measured by Lachesis and the thread of life is cut by Atropos. These three sisters were known as The Fates or Moirai. The idea life was spun around a person upon birth was a popular one in Greek mythology, literature and poetry.

The term "Peeping Tom" became associated with the tale of the kind-hearted Lady Godiva years after she made her famous ride through Coventry in the mid-11th century. A late 18th-century addition to the story has it that a tailor named Tom peeked out when she rode by, and was immediately struck blind by her beauty. The legend of "Peeping Tom" was born.

Christopher Columbus came from a textile family, with his father a weaver in Genoa.

The father of Lady Jane Franklin made his fortune in gold and textiles. This permitted Lady Franklin to pursue her interest in science and exploration. She was the wife of Sir John Franklin, who is best known for his search for the Northwest Passage in 1845. It was at her urging that Capt. Franklin was put in charge of the important mission. With a sense of adventure often greater than even her husband's, she pressed government and private interests to send out many search parties for her missing mate.

One of New Brunswick's most colourful early residents made a living as a tailor-pedlar before his fame spread. Henry More Smith was one of the many names used by the man who became known as the Lunar Rogue. Originally from Brighton, England, the man arrived in Nova Scotia before he started on his career of theft. Early on, he worked as a tailor, but instead of sewing up the garments, he would make night time visits to neighbouring Halifax where he filled orders by stealing clothing from gentlemen's houses! He continued his light-fingered ways when he moved to New Brunswick, becoming one of the most sought-after fugitives during 1814. He was charged with horse stealing, and lead authorities on a merry chase. Even when captured and then held in Kingston, he regularly slipped out of the heavy chains used to hold him, while he used his charm to win over the support of the community.

Mahatma Ghandi was a regular handspinner during his peaceful persistance to bring effective change to the world.

Civil rights activist Rosa Parks, who died Oct. 24, 2005, at 92 years old of natural causes, was a 42-year-old seamstress on Dec. 1, 1955. That was the day the negro woman refused to yield her seat on a bus to a white man, and move to the back of the vehicle as decreed by Montgomery, Alabama, city ordinance.

Warren Buffett, one of the world's best known billionaires, began his career in textiles.

Geoffrey Chaucer, the classic author of The Canterbury Tales, worked as a custom's officer at one time, with one of the largest export products being wool.

George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both grew hemp. Ben  
Franklin owned a mill that made hemp paper. The US Declara-  
tion of Independence was written on hemp paper.

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Acadian tradition only allowed a girl to marry when she could weave a piece of cloth. (Source: A Heritage of Canadian Handicrafts, by H. Gordon Green)

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What's in a name?

New Brunswick's love of fibre arts comes through in many ways. Just look at the province's many communities that sound like just the place to indulge in our favourite hobby!

Argyle (Carleton County), Barber Dam (Charlotte County), Briggs Corner (3 of them!) (Carleton County, Carleton/York County, Queens County), Dickie Mountain (near Hampton), Fairisle (Northumberland County, near Tracadie Military Training Area), Gagetown (Queens County), Lutes Mountain (near Moncton), Lutesville (near Moncton), Petit Cap (Shediac area), Squaw Cap (NB/Quebec border), Tweedside (McAdam area on Oromocto Lake), Weaver (near Plaster Rock), Weaver Siding (near Blackville, Westmorland County) and Wirral (Sunbury/Queens/Charlotte Counties).

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Some great songs with a fibre arts theme...(sing along now!)

Something in Red by Lori Morgan

Coat of Many Colours by Dolly Parton

Lady in Red by Chris de Burgh

Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini by Brian Hyland

who can forget the classic Baa Baa Black Sheep or that heroine of the classroom, Mary and her lamb?

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Needle Street in Sussex Corner is so named because of the seven tailors who worked there in the mid 1800s? They were kept busy keeping local horseman and businessman Hugh McMonagle and his friends clothed in the latest fashions! The street, part of Route 111, is now one of the most popular roads into Sussex.

As a further note, a large elm used to stand where Needle Street joins Post Road, and was a popular landmark with travellers as it symbolized the halfway point between Saint John and Moncton.

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Needle Street, Sussex Corner, today

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