By Judy Maddox
The discovery of 30,000 year old woven clothing in a European cave is evidence that the oldest crafts in the world – spinning and weaving – began prior to 30,000 years ago. Over the centuries, techniques and materials used for spinning and weaving have stayed pretty much the same as they were thousands of years ago. Spinning, of course, had to be discovered first when someone found that twisting plant or animal fiber created thread and ropes.
The modern spinning wheel evolved during the middle ages and looked very much like the current spinning wheels. In fact, in travel shows one can see spinning wheels and looms that resemble the ones in AGSEM’s own Weavers Barn. Having Susie Henzie's collection of more than 60 looms and over 40 spinning wheels from around the world and antiquity on display in AGSEM’s new Fiber Arts Annex will be exciting. It will provide wonderful educational opportunities for our museum and the community at large as well as being a valuable and important addition to San Diego County’s cultural resources. Most of Susie’s collection is in working order and could be used by the spinners at AGSEM to demonstrate this ancient craft. Additionally, since spinning wheels are featured in fairy tales such as Sleeping Beauty and Rumpelstiltskin, this is a great starting point for engaging children in learning about how textiles are made.
After fiber is spun and made into thread and yarn, it needs to be dyed to be useable in the various items to be woven. Therefore it is a true necessity to have a dyeing veranda in the proposed Fiber Arts Annex to fully demonstrate the process of textile making from beginning to the end. Furthermore, having classrooms dedicated to the fiber arts in the Annex will provide our museum expanded opportunities to share and teach about these truly Americana and ancient crafts.
Susie's collection of looms dates back as far as the Civil War and the Depression Era. The Depression Era looms are significant. They played a huge part in putting women to work during that period because they were used to teach young women to work through the WPA, CCC, and NRA programs.
Susie Henzie’s desire to collect spinning wheels and looms began when as a child she discovered her grandmother's spinning wheel in the family’s ice house. It came to fruition when as an adult she travelled back to her native South and began collecting and using the artifacts she found.
Various TV programs and movies have used Susie's wheels and looms. Directors such as Steven Spielberg have called on her for advice and used her equipment in productions. She served as an authority on set. Practical Magic, Roots, and Marcus Welby, MD are examples of productions where pieces from her collection were used. Having Susie Henzie’s collection on permanent display in the Fiber Arts Annex will also provide AGSEM with the opportunity to lend to production companies not only tractors, heavy construction equipment, operators and consultants but weaving and spinning equipment and consultants from AGSEM’s Fiber Arts Program as well.
Please help make this wonderful Fiber Arts Annex a reality. Having this building serving as one more example of what earlier rural life was like not only in California but also in America will be a valuable asset to AGSEM and San Diego County’s residents and visitors.
The Antique Gas & Steam Engine Museum, Inc. (AGSEM) is exempt from income tax under Section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code and California Revenue & Taxation Code Section 23701(d). Contributions are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law. Our tax identification number is 33-0205333.