Compelling copy. Measurable results. On time. On budget.

In Praise of Three Schoharie County Seamstresses

A stitch in time saves nine, we’re told. 
And the “ties that bind” are bound to hold.
But what’s the power of repeated, thread strands
to revive past splendors of this historic land?
Three Schoharie women have the secret, well, in hand.

In Richmondville, for example, 17-year resident Pam Pratt has known the power and pleasure offered and given by a needle and thread since childhood when her mother created most of her clothes for school.  In time, Pam was designing and sewing her own outfits, adding complexity and nuance – along with embroidery — to her skillset.  In tandem with her growing enjoyment at sewing, she nurtured a love of history.  Those two interests came to a nexus when she and her husband bought a house in Richmondville.  “We wanted our house to reflect this deeply historic area,” she said. “To achieve that, I needed quilts.  On our budget, that meant learning how to make them.”  She did.

Pam’s now highly regarded expertise at quilting was amply demonstrated in the offering she created for the Richmondville Days raffle this year, The Four Seasons of Richmondville.   It enabled her to use a favorite technique, appliqué:  “It’s like painting,” she says, “but with fabrics – and it offers great leeway in adding elements to tell a story.”

Pam’s skill will again be in evidence at the Old Stone Fort History Fair on Columbus Day Weekend.  She and Schoharie’s Naomi Wikane will co-chair the planned exhibit of rare quilts.  The exhibit will feature a special raffle on Sunday, October 10, focused on a hand-tied, heirloom quilt (from the Town of Wright), donated by Naomi Wikane from the Zimmer family collection and Pam’s hand-crafted wall hanging, featuring an appliquéd red and green “Rose Wreath” design inspired by a quilt currently in the Old Stone Fort collection.  Raffle tickets are limited and $20 each (295-7192). Don’t delay. Don’t regret!

Master craftspeople and skilled artisans will gather by the score at the event.  Karen Tenney will leave her family and farm in Seward to demonstrate just how an accomplished weaver gains repute.  Karen’s reputation, of course, extends far beyond the perimeters of the county.  Aside from a highly visible presence at major events such as Crafts at Rhinebeck last weekend, she’s been featured twice in the past 24 months in Handwoven magazine: in Fall 2003 for the creation of organic bath towels from scratch, and in the Spring issue this year in a feature on scarf-making and embellishments.

Karen’s presence at the Old Stone Fort History Fair will be in concert with many of her fellow members of The Golden Fleece Spinners and Weavers Guild.  They bring together those interested in spinning, weaving and other fiber arts to share knowledge, experiences, and the excitement of working with textiles.

Guild members, some in period costume, will demonstrate the preparation and spinning of wool, dyeing the handspun wool with natural dyes, and weaving on several types of looms.

Lichens, cutch, black walnuts, onion skins, marigolds, indigo, cochineal, madder and logwood are among the natural plants used to dye wool in large simmering pots over an open fire.  At the Old Stone Fort Fair, dye pots will be cochineal (red) on Saturday and indigo (blue) on Sunday. These real-time demos by Karen and Guild members are sure to be fascinating and informative.

Those interested in joining the Guild can get information at the Fair, or call former Guild president Flora Kenyon of Schoharie (295-7055).  The Guild meets on the first Sunday of each month from 1 – 4 p.m. at the Schoharie Colonial Heritage Association (SCHA) Theater, Depot Lane, in Schoharie.

From rural Middleburgh, Laura Spickerman also plans to be at the Fair – in her official capacity of Office Manager at the Old Stone Fort.  She will be wearing, no doubt, colonial clothing rendered by her own hands.  Laura, in fact, is widely regarded and sought-after for her detailed and accurate reproductions of historical clothing.

From the humble beginnings of her first apron sewn as a member of a 4H program years ago, Laura looked for a challenge beyond the frills of party dresses and wedding gowns.  She found it when she met a re-enactor at a nearby historical site.  He related the difficulty in finding Period-accurate clothing that could withstand the day-to-day wear required by those who re-enact events at historical sites across the country. Goodwife Spickerman was born.
Through extensive research and careful study of existing patterns and historical documents, Laura embarked on a peripheral career to establish a reputation as a reliable source for authentic, period clothing.  Today, she is hailed among the major creators of such clothing in the area.  The biggest challenge — aside from finding the appropriate patterns and the right materials for a specific period — she says, is adapting historical clothing to today’s healthier bodies — while respecting the original silhouette.  And to differentiate her “clothing” from “costumes” made for intermittent use, she assures  that her re-enactors have the structural support and durability needed to focus on re-telling history, without worry that their attire might not hold up to the battle at hand!

Goodwife Spickerman, Pam Pratt, and Karen Tenney join dozens of craftsmen and artisans who await the pleasure of your company at the Old Stone Fort History Fair and Quilt Exhibit.  For details, see the History Fair ad in today’s Times-Journal, of course!


Connect with Thom

linkedin-3d-icon SM_icon-twitterfacebook-3d-icon