New Hampshire
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Textile Traditions for the Home      

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Textile arts such as spinning, knitting, weaving, quilting, braiding and hooking rugs, crocheting, and tatting lace, have been a part of daily life in New Hampshire since Colonial times. In the days of early settlement, these skills were a necessity for keeping people warm indoors and outdoors during the long winters. They also brought color, comfort and beauty into the home.

Close up of a braided rug.

Women originally made braided rugs from worn out clothing. The preferred material is wool as it it holds up well to and helps keep the house warm in the winter.

In New England the adage of "use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without" was applied to all aspects of life. In the rural farms of the early 1800s resourceful women used scraps of cloth and worn out clothes to patch together quilts and make hooked and braided rugs. Sheep were raised on many farms so women spun the fleece to weave blankets and knit sweaters, mittens, and hats.

When the industrial revolution of mid 1800s brought manufactured fabrics, rugs, and clothing to many ordinary families, the making of traditional textiles decreased, but it did not die out completely. Today, there are many skilled artisans who preserve these important traditional art forms.

A hand knitted Norwegian sweater with black and white patterns and embroidered flowers on a red trimmed neck.

A handknitted Norwegian sweater made by Donna Larsen has intricate patterns in the body and shoulders and embroidered flowers around the neck.

A close up of two quilts.  The left one with checkered pattern and the right one with patchwork diamond shapes and open stars.

For many women, quilts have been a traditional way to express their creativity and give their families warm bed coverings at the same time.

Some needlecrafts in New Hampshire come out of particular ethnic traditions. For example, women in the French-Canadian communities in New Hampshire sew delicate christening gowns for the newest members of their families. Knitters of Norwegian ancestry make elaborately patterned sweaters. Russian, Jewish, Latvian, and Hispanic needlework traditions are also practiced in the state.

Other traditions that bring beauty and comfort to the home include decorative painting, wall-and furniture-stenciling, dried flower arranging, and wreath making. Return to the Traditional Crafts overview for more information on these traditions.

Click here for an article exploring traditional crafts in New England:

"The Aesthetics of Frugality" by Rebecca L. Lawrence.

Photo credits
All: Photographer - Lynn Martin Graton