Sunday, August 8, 2010

Tatting and the Spring Pole Lathe - at the Barnum House – Grafton, Ontario

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Today’s Blog Post
Tatting and the Spring Pole Lathe - at the Barnum House – Grafton, Ontario

Hey ‘Kathryn Wiltshire’ (Facebook Friend of mine) – good question! Your note asked the question after my posting yesterday, “Tatting what is tatting?”

Tatting is a very old and very fine method of Lace Making. It is made with a Tatting shuttle which is a small apparatus wound with fine cotton. I hold the thread in my left hand and move the shuttle in such a way, as I hold it in my right hand, that it ties a very small knot between my fingers on my left hand.

Now I know that is about as clear as MUD! Poor description for your bright mind…the flowers on the greeting card are Tatted.

Let me try another way.

In the early 1800s there was no TV, no Internet, no complication of the massive attack on the minds of folks that lived along the King’s Highway just east of Cobourg and a little way out of Grafton, Ontario.

The Barnum Family lived in a stately old house they had built for their family. Wikipedia states the following of Barnum House… quote…. “Eliakim Barnum was in his early twenties when he emigrated from the United States in 1807. He chose to settle in Haldimand Township near the village of Grafton (then called Haldimand) on the north shore of Lake Ontario, a few miles east of present-day Cobourg. By 1819, Barnum owned over 900 acres (364 hectares) of land, a thriving milling business, a tavern and a distillery. His business success made him an influential citizen in early Haldimand Township. A loyal Tory, Barnum was a Justice of the Peace, a founder of St. George's Anglican Church in Grafton and Lieutenant-Colonel of the local militia. He also helped start the first school in the township in 1820 – perhaps because he and his wife Hannah had five children. His oldest son, Smith Barnum, would become the first Warden of the United Counties of Northumberland and Durham in 1849.

In 1819, Barnum built a stylish house that stands today as one of Ontario's finest examples of Neo-Classical architecture. The building's composition is formal, with two symmetrical wings flanking a central temple structure. The façade of Barnum House is articulated with pilasters linked by elliptical arches. Its architectural detail is extensive and delicately scaled. Neo-Classical houses were popular in New England in the early 19th century. American experiments with the style were, in turn, inspired by British examples, particularly the work of the leading proponents of Neo-Classical architects Robert and James Adam.”
End quote
When I read more I found that the original house built near this spot was burned down accidentally by British Soldiers that had been billeting there.

Eliakim Barnum and his family lived in a different time. Work and the family business were of the utmost importance. Quiet time for both men and women was a treasure as they say around the parlour table and room. Simple games might have been played but more often than not, the simple activity of hand work mused most.

Tatting was one kind of hand work that people entertained themselves with. In many places the men, as well as the women, did tatting. It was not “un-man-like” to pick up a fine hand craft and take part with your children.

My Great Grandfather, Benjamin Franklin Philips who lived in the later 1800s, was that kind of man. He was a Tatter and taught his three daughters how to Tat as well. He was also wood carver and carved them each a Tatting Shuttle.

At one time, a long time ago, things were slower and more peaceful. For me… the Barnum House represents that kind of stately peace.

Yesterday, as I mentioned in the August 7th posting, I was demonstrating my Tatting along with some of the wood work that I do. In particular I was showing the Spring Pole Lathe that works so smoothly.

In the photos below you will see the Young Adults with me, actually very sharp University Students, totally immersed in the operation of the Spring Pole Lathe. The best part is that we have kept Demo from being a boring talk about the Spring Pole Lathe – instead it is a hands on experience where the participants actually use this wonderful tool.

Not only did the young folk try as you can see in the photos… the older folk were there as well. The man pictured below is “Gordon”, a retired United Church Minister that stayed the entire afternoon with us. Gordon is 91 years old and still is spry enough to spend the day under the giant Maple Tree shade in Barnum House front yard.
Gordon tried the Lathe too.

Demonstrating these old ideas brings people together. Yesterday the Barnum House came to life again… just the way that it must have been in 1820 – shortly after it was opened.

As I stood watching Gordon interact with the about-to-graduate University Students I smiled. Here was a man that holds a few degrees behind his name, one of them being a Masters Degree, speaking to the next generation so kindly and with great interest. There should have been a 72 year spread of difference between them – but with the Lathe – all that generational, societal difference of opinions and all that the 2010, Facebooked, Twitterized, complicated, fast pace life should offer to keep them apart… simply vanished.

In my imagination that is what happened in 1820. There was a lot less separation of generations… and more coming together under a giant shade tree… to share a Saturday or Sunday afternoon.

Kathryn… my words will never explain the total experience of yesterday.

Ooops… got carried away.

My wife, Alida, offered information on the Tatting Table. Her wonderful way with people gives my Demos the charm that is lacking with my saw dust covered personage.
For the presentation I had invited many people personally to attend. These many people ranged from Cobourg through to Brighton. Only one showed up… for which I am so thankful! No problem. I know everyone is busy… very busy… so busy that stopping for awhile is just too complicated for their lives… even for one hour.

Their absence was declarative of their world.

As the Spring Pole Lathe whirred away and the simple little vase appeared at the end of the old chisel, the vehicles roared by… trucks and cars rushing somewhere… ATVs flying down the road… and motorcycles zipping by… all too busy to stop at the old house… too busy to go back.

Later as we pulled out of the Barnum House heading west to Cobourg, an Ambulance rushed up behind us with the latest victim of the Panic and Rushing World. Someone likely had a heart attach as they rushed through their complicated life. Sad.

Finally, one of the visitors of yesterday showed up late. He was a grandpa, like me. Retired for a lot of years now. He statement was comical but poignant and very fitting for the day.

He said, “My wife came home from this show a little whole ago and got after me… she dragged me off the couch and told me to get over here and take a look at what was going on…!”

Both Alida and I spent a delightful time speaking with this gentleman. Another brand new friend… that may come to see us in Peterborough. I am glad his wife got him off the couch!

~ Murray Lincoln ~ 


Barnum House
Barnum House on Wkipedia
Ontario Heritage Trust

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