On Saturday, August 18, Carl and I attended a Clay and Fiber Festival held in the sleepy little community of Bishop Hill, Illinois. Bishop Hill was founded in 1846 as a Swedish colony when the Janssonists, led by spiritual leader Erik Jansson, fled their native country and sought religious freedom here. Although the colony was later disbanded, the community still thrives and has been designated as a national historic landmark. Bishop Hill is located in northwestern Illinois, approximately 165 miles west of Chicago
We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day to make our trip. The sun was shining brightly and the temperature was perfect to spend a late summer day wandering in and out of shops, tents and historic buildings. Although the fiber portion of the festival was very small and consisted only of a few spinning demonstrations and an idle weaving loom, it really didn’t matter because there were so many other things to see such as demonstrations of broom making, pottery making and firing, a working blacksmith and displays of beautiful artwork in many forms.
After we wandered through all of the exhibits, we decided to explore the town itself. Among our favorite stops were the country store, the bakery (where we bought way too many yummy things that we really shouldn’t eat), a gift shop featuring locally made crafts and a museum featuring early furniture made right there in the colony. But, I was particularly inspired by the spinning wheels, weaving looms and yarn swifts, shown below.
The spinning wheel at left a period piece and is much larger than it appears. At the top of the wheel, it stands nearly 5 feet tall. (I’m not sure what the paddles are on the wall behind it.) Since the colony was a collaborative effort, it’s not hard to imagine a room full of women spinning fiber to make clothing for themselves, their families and for the rest of the community.
The spinning wheel at right is a reproduction of a wheel that was also popular in the community in that time period. It is much smaller in size, and closer to what we generally find on the market today.
This yarn swift is also a reproduction, although it appears to have been well used. I would love to have this one!
And, last but not least, at right is a period weaving loom. I’ve always wanted a floor loom like this. Who knows…maybe someday! I’m not sure what all it was used for besides making rugs.
One of my favorite places to visit in Bishop Hill is Peasantworks, an old converted barn set behind the buildings on the main street. To get there, you have to negotiate a long, winding, downhill path, flanked on both sides by sunflowers and various other flowers. The sunflowers bowed toward the middle of the path giving somewhat of an arbor effect.
We both enjoyed our day out. It was a great excuse to get out of the house for awhile and enjoy the nice summer weather.