Compass Inn Museum is excited to announce its newest exhibit, “The Fabric of Our Lives: 1000 Years of Textile Innovation.” The exhibit has been curated by Dr. Emily Barth, Head Museum Interpreter at Ligonier Valley Historical Society.
The exhibit showcases three rooms on the second floor of the Museum, educating visitors about the evolving technology of textiles. The exhibit includes a wall timeline indicating the innovative textile technologies that unfolded through the millennium. The timeline spans from the invention of the spinning wheel in 1000 AD to modern-day textile automation, which started with the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century when Compass Hotel was a functioning stagecoach inn and tavern.
The rag rug carpet on display from the Ligonier Valley Historical Society archives is what inspired Emily to curate the textile exhibit. A rag rug carpet would have been made of old sheets, clothes, and fabric scraps. The different pieces of fabric were used as filler and completely covered by tightly woven threads of brightly-colored wool and cost-saving cotton.
“Rachel Armor, co-owner of Compass Hotel with her husband, Robert, would have been wealthy enough to purchase pre-made fabrics rather than having to weave her own. Nevertheless, spinning and weaving wool and linen were common domestic activities while the inn was in business,” states Emily. “As industrialization took over toward the end of the 19th century, the Armor family collected spinning wheels and textile tools in a family museum to preserve these dying arts.”
On display in the exhibit are antique weaving looms, spinning wheels, and tools such as bobbin winders, niddy-noddies, and combs and carders for processing various types of fiber. The final room is dedicated to displaying a variety of antique textiles from hand-sewn dresses in wool and silk to blankets and coverlets used at the inn. The latter includes a “crazy quilt” that belonged to Charlie Armor, the grandson of Robert and Rachel Armor. Quilting overtook woven coverlets in popularity in the mid-19th century, when pre-made fabrics became more readily available due to the new evolution of railroad transportation.