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Somerset Historical Society exhibit highlights textile arts

| Sunday, Jan. 31, 2010

The Somerset Historical Society is presenting an exhibit titled "Treasury of Handwork: Somerset County Textile Arts," which showcases how local artisans transform commonplace items into expressions of local culture and history.

The main purpose of the exhibit, according to Carrie Blough, curator at the Somerset Historical Center, is "to explore the different types of textile arts used by people in Somerset County."

"I wanted to see what they did. It was a good opportunity to explore women's activities," she said.

Blough's primary inspiration for the exhibit was a blue crocheted and knitted child's snowsuit, made about 1930.

"It was done so beautifully and yet it was still utilitarian." she said. "I wanted a chance to display this type of work."

She said that all of the objects in the exhibit represent local history and culture.

"We collect Somerset County heritage and I put this exhibit together with these particular items because they are all so representative of the region," she said. Pieces reflect the full gamut of Somerset County history, from the 1780s to the early 20th century. Once piece is a flame stitched wallet that belonged to Alexander Ogle, an early leader in Somerset County.

These skills were born out of necessity, rather than out of an effort to appear cultured.

"These crafts were passed down from mother to daughter," Blough said.

Blough pointed out that attitudes toward textile arts have changed over the years.

"There was so much time and care taken with so many of the pieces in the exhibit, even though they were utilitarian," she said. "That isn't always the case today. I think that if this kind of work is completed, the items are treated as treasures and not used, or only used rarely. In the past, great time and care was taken with everyday things, from snowsuits to tablecloths, out of necessity and because the producers prided themselves on neat and careful work."

She welcomes people to see some of these crafts demonstrated.

"If you come to our Mountain Craft Days festival, (Sept. 10-12) you will see many of these arts firsthand. The crafters demonstrate these textile arts so that everyone can see how they are done and maybe take an interest in learning them.

"We have many people throughout the region who are interested in preserving these textile arts and they work hard to learn the old techniques and perfect them. The artists want to be able to do it the way it was done in the past."

Additional Information:

If you go

The 'Treasury of Handwork: Somerset County Textile Arts' exhibit is in the Somerset Historical Center, on Route 601, Somerset. Hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m Tuesday through Friday. Admission is $6 for adults. $5.50 for seniors. $3 for children 11 and under.

For information, call the center at 814-445-6077.

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