Thursday, June 22, 2023

Process, Method, and Timeline

Sophie measures and sketches a hemp break at the Woodman Museum, Dover, NH

Sowing, growing, harvesting, and processing

Traditionally, from sowing to harvest to processing was a year-long cycle as revealed in historical accounts.  Our project timeline is roughly May 2023-June 2024, which will encompass planting to harvest, process to production. We will work with Professor Sideman from the Sustainable Agriculture department on growing our crop while also undertaking the necessary historical research.

We sowed two varieties of flax seed — Avian and Nathalie -- on May 17th, 2023, and now, in mid-June, our plants our looking healthy and are approaching a foot in height. We plan to harvest the crop in late August or early September, at the beginning of the fall semester. [For updates on the growth of the flax, please see additional blog posts and attached videos.]

Historic Context 

Account book kept by currently unknown Dover resident, c. 1779-1780
Woodman Museum, Ellen P. Rounds Collection, #3749

The cultivation, production and sale and trade of flax is an integral part of my scholarly research into New Hampshire’s pre-industrial, rural-based textile economy. I have worked extensively with the 18th century writings of shoemaker and Deacon Samuel Lane of Stratham, NH, General John Montgomery of Haverhill, NH and numerous other day and account books throughout New England, looking at the home production and sale of textiles at places like Portsmouth Market Day or via trade and barter with neighbors. The opportunity to deep dive into this single important fiber, while actually growing it at UNH offers a tremendous opportunity for university- and community-wide engagement and allows the extension of historic research surrounding the flax project to include late 17th through early 19th century flax growing and linen production in the Seacoast.  For example, last summer, with the assistance of the Stratham Historical Society (one of our community partners) I located two c1825-35 child's dresses from the Lane family which are of homespun linen and handsewn. Through lengthy research, I was able to determine that the dresses were worn by Olivia Emeline Lane (14 November 1825- 4 September 1905) and made by her mother, Hannah French Lane (1802-1841). Look for a future post on these charming garments.

We are continuing to work with the Stratham Historical Society, the Newmarket Historical Society, the New Hampshire Historical Society, the Portsmouth Athenaeum, the Moffatt-Ladd House, and the Woodman Museum, in addition to many others. 

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