If you live in Texas and haven’t been to San Felipe in a few years, you are late visiting it again … or for the first time. But then I will also tell you that in a couple years, it will be beyond exciting to go visit the site of Stephen F. Austin’s town and the center of the Austin Colony.
Last Saturday in commemoration of Austin’s birthday, I had the privilege of volunteering in the area that soon will be a recreation of one block of the original town. It was one of those events where you’re a little nervous to go but at the same time know that it should all go well. I really thought I took more pictures than I did but here are a few of the day and the results.
So a quick look at other setups before my own.
I love this style of lathe. It dates back almost forever and does the job so simply without electricity and loud noisy machinery. It was fun to talk to the gentleman, and he offered me a chance to try it out. Who could give up a chance like that? I even managed to do it proper like. The lathe is built out of reclaimed lumber and hence its rustic thrown together look.
I don’t know if you admire men that can do brute strength work like I do, but this is a guy that one has to admire. You take a round log and stabilize it (iron pointed rod that is run into the log and the log underneath) and then stand on it and with your own power chop it till you have a smooth side and then move on to the next side. There is a system and it was amazing to watch.
Now I don’t know and understand all this magic, but I love magical things. Old photography is magical. There was a young man who had taught himself how to take photos on glass plates with silver and process them. Yep, that didn’t sound so knowledgeable and no I don’t know what is going on here. But to watch him take a plain glass plate (so it seemed) and then after snapping a picture and working magic in his dark set up and then drop these in the liquid to set them. Boy, it is magic and fun to watch. Many of the volunteers got their picture done. That is a couple at the right end. The one on the left end are people around the stagecoach.
But that all wasn’t why I was there. I was giving a try at an indigo vat and seeing if I was smart enough to help dye some things for the park later. So as it was a bit cool of a morning, I did not set up the vat till just after noon. Lots of prayer and fingers crossed. Maybe even toes. I waited in anticipation – “would it work?” Then came the time to drop in the first piece of cloth. The vat was very green, and I was in high hopes.
The vat was to be yellow or green, I think I achieved that quite well. Next came waiting as it sat in there under the water. I covered it and waited till I could wait no more and peaked in.
It was great to see a bit of change and then to pull the cloth out. Now I mentioned above that I love magical things. Indigo is pure magic. I can get as giddy as a five year old when I pull out a piece of cloth or yarn and it looks all yellow green, but wait – as the oxygen in the air reacts with it … drum roll … the fibers all start turning blue right before your eyes. OK, I know that there is a lot of chemistry and science behind it, but tell me that isn’t magic.
I was a new puppy in excitement as I put yarn or cloth in the vat and pulled them out and waited to hang them on the line till after they had turned. At first it took them a bit of time. Not sure exactly why, but we assumed that maybe it could be that the temperature outside wasn’t quite optimum.
But I must admit there was a price to pay for my fun. I didn’t have an apron that covered up my front from waist to ground. As the ladies started pointing out what was happening to my skirt … What should my response be? Thankfully as it was a sad affair, I think that the success of the day overtook the despair that could have come with the bottom of my skirt.
A couple of ladies had asked about the history of my outfit. They knew it was special. So we discussed my predicament. Right below the red, I had created what looks like a false hem but in reality isn’t. Now these were where you would sew on a few inches of cloth to the bottom of a skirt so that when that area got beyond messed up, you could easily pick it off and put a new one on. So if I had more of this cloth in my room, I could just cut it off at that line and sew it on and end up with a real false hem. Alas, after going through all my handwoven, I can’t find any of this. I knew I cut it close making it. So second thought is that I could just dye the area below if someone helped to hold it carefully in the dye bath. Not sure if it could be done perfectly so will mull that over some. It would be different than the rest of the outfit but then back in the day that wasn’t uncommon, especially on the frontier. And the third option is that we can just leave it as a sign of life and success.
So I had a grand day at the park. I brought some of the dye home with more and gave some to Katrina to use. She had been doing some natural dyeing near me. She had great success with goldenrod that was picked that morning.
If you haven’t been to San Felipe lately, you should go out and see the museum and park and learn what is envisioned over the next couple years. Its exciting.