Woven into My Life

27, October 2011
Weaver Connie Curtiss Hilgert installs woven furnishings she made for her miniature weaver's cottage, on display now at the Missouri History Museum.

Working on the Woven in Time exhibit has been a new experience for me! As Curator of Domestic Life at the Missouri History Museum, I frequently handle household artifacts. For this collaboration with the Weavers’ Guild of St. Louis, which is celebrating its 85th anniversary, I’ve had the opportunity to also work with textiles and clothing.

One highlight of installing the Woven in Time exhibit was getting to meet Connie Curtiss Hilgert. Her project, 1840 Weaver's Cottage, received its focus when her husband made her a miniature loom at a scale of one inch to one foot. Connie spent the next two years researching, making, and gathering furnishings for the miniature cottage. Of course, as a weaver she was especially interested in making the miniature coverlets, towels, curtains, and tablecloth. She used sewing thread for some of her miniature linens but did not make them on the tiny loom. She entered the cottage in the Midwest Weavers’ Conference competition in 1977, and won several prizes, including the Judges' Choice award. Connie, who just celebrated her 100th birthday this month, came to the Museum to install the cottage furnishings herself, with her son's help. As a link with the Weavers' Guild's early history, Connie remembers working with the Guild's second instructor, Sara Mattsson. Visitors can see the miniature cottage on display in the Woven in Time exhibit, which includes a video of Connie discussing her work.

Close-up view of the furnishings in the cottage.

Another highlight for me was working with Guild member Jane Olson Glidden on the wording for the labels. To my surprise, I realized that I owned a dress that Jane had made for a Weavers' Guild sale in the 1980s. I wore the dress to a lecture where I knew she would be present. Not only did she recognize her handiwork, but she also remembered who had originally bought the dress, which I had later found at a resale shop. I also learned that a scarf I own was made by Penelope Strousser, another weaver whose work is shown in the exhibit. Penelope learned to weave after becoming blind in her thirties, and even patented a device to help weavers with low vision keep track of their operations. I'll be offering this scarf to the Museum’s permanent collections.

—Anne Woodhouse, Curator of Domestic Life