Knit one, gift too…
While doing some work on New England National Historic Landmarks, I discovered the National Historic Landmark district in Harrisville, New Hampshire.
Harrisville is a quintessential New England mill village where woolen yarn has been produced since 1794. Tucked into the hilly topography of southwestern New Hampshire, Harrisville is “the only industrial community of the early 19th century that survives in America in its original form” (architectural historian William Pierson).
Ten square miles of upstream ponds and watershed flow to a ravine where the water falls 100 feet over the course of a quarter mile. This created ideal conditions for the water-powered woolen mills and surrounding village mostly built between 1820-1870, when textile mills transformed the economy of New England.
Harrisville mills produced woolen cloth for nearly 150 years. As much as 45% of the village population worked in the mills as carders, spinners, dyers, weavers, finishers, and mechanics. Beyond that, the countryside supplied wool for spinning, wood for the boilers, and food for the population.
The Harris family established the factory village early in the 19th-century, followed by the Colony family and its Cheshire Mills about 1850.
Cheshire Mills, one of the last New England textile mills in operation, closed its doors in 1970.
But there remains in Harrisville a collective memory: the clang of the work bell in the cupola that brought workers into the mill; the skills required in spinning and weaving; the sound of the factory in full operation; and what it was like to grow up in the tiny, close-knit world of the factory village. — Historic Harrisville, Inc.
Local residents and preservationists formed Historic Harrisville, Inc. with the goal of preserving the town as a working community.
Their preservation efforts emphasized
- adaptive reuse of the buildings
- a system of legal preservation covenants
- historic district legislation
- revolving loan funds for restoration
- “Renovating the old buildings and leasing them to businesses created a new economic base for the town and made the buildings self-supporting both as workspace and affordable housing.”
Harrisville Designs was established in 1971 to preserve the town’s textile legacy and contribute to its economic vitality. The family-owned business started out making high-quality hand weaving yarns, followed by hand weaving looms and equipment. The company now offers a range of educational products, as well as curriculum on textile history that will introduce young people to the textile arts and the pleasure of creating with their hands.
Shop with purpose and know your gift (toys, yarn, etc.) helps perpetuate heritage!
Consider spending some Christmas dollars in this lovely National Historic Landmark village. I’m eager to visit in person and browse the range of products offered by local artists. Then I really want to eat at the General Store, where mother & daughter M’lue and Laura produce a mouth-watering daily menu based on local products.
If you can’t get the Time Machine to transport you there to shop through the village, then go virtual and browse the offerings online at Harrisville Designs. I want yarn in a rainbow of colors, even though I don’t know how to knit more than a scarf, it just looks so lovely!
If you have kids on your list, there’s a whole range of toys and crafts to choose from. (Homeschooling alert!)
Love that needlepoint sampler kit (see above. There’s one with sheep too).
Remember those looms for pot holders you made in elementary school? Those were lame. These are amazing.
And the E-Z Weaver (at right) would be great fun! (Oh, right. Shopping for kids, not for me…)
Rug-hooking kits. Felting kits. Knit-a-scarf kits. A veritable textile wonderland!
I received a needle-point kit when I was in elementary school and it opened a world of crafting for me. It wasn’t simply a gift for that Christmas, it has been a gift for my life.