The dress choses the wearer

When my now older teenagers were wee things, we used to take them to the Farmer’s Museum up in Cooperstown for the Harvest Fest, Sugaring Off,1 the Candlelight Night, and whenever we wanted to air them out a little bit. It’s about 25-30 minutes from here, which is just far enough away that you have to think about it but close enough to pack-up-and-go after you have the thought.2

The Farmer’s Museum has livestock and a carousel and lawns for running free. But the best part (for me) were the interpreters.3 Visitors could watch, say, a blacksmith make nail hooks in the way they would have been made in 1840-50. Not only that, you can ask all sorts of questions about the hows and whys. Given my love for fiber arts, I’d spend most of my time (when the kids were amenable) with the weavers and spinners. It was at the museum that I first saw a human spin flax into linen, which looks like magic, even when you know how they are making something useful out of what looks like weedy cobwebs.

“This would be a great retirement job,” I muttered after every visit. Playing with fiber and talking to people while wearing Historic Garb? It’s teaching and knitting and theatre all at once. The only thing that would make it better would be snacks.

Fast forward to now:

No, I’m not retired — but I am in a weird time in my life when a) my agent is shopping a book proposal around and b) I don’t have a full-time job so c) I could stand some reliable $$$ coming in but d) my schedule is super weird because of county government stuff and e) I don’t have the mental capacity to ferret out more freelance work because f) my brain is still trying to process 2020, much less fully grasp 2021. So I’ve gone back in time.4

From now until November,5 I’ll be interpreting all things fiber and, on occasion, letterpress printing. I also know enough about most of the other crafts to fill in when the actual interpreters take breaks.6 The only one I can’t seem to explain to my own satisfaction is blacksmithing so I just kind of wave my hands and say “this makes metal very hot and this is where you go smash-smashy.”

I’ll also be leading educational tours at the nearby Fenimore Museum every now and again but won’t wear the fancy dress or hang out with oxen over there.

So with getting up to speed with the new gig, time to sit in front of the computer and/or watch stuff has been in short supply.7 But I do have some links for you. I know. I’m a giver.


The husband and I always do our best Beavis and Butthead when we say this.


I thought I might have a photo or two of the kids at the FM but the bulk of our trips pre-dated digital pixs, which should give you a sense of how much time has passed. And, also? How have we lived here that long?


Museums, apparently, use this word differently than I would. It’s not a person who interprets one language into another language but a person who demonstrates (or interprets, I guess) some craft for modern audiences. I find this confusing, too.


When I was issued my garb, I initially tied my bonnet in the back. “It ties in the front,” I was told, “unless you are a hussy.”


The Farmer’s Museum closes during the worst of the winter because, seriously, no one wants to hang out in unheated historic buildings in February. Or if they do, they should not be allowed to because they are clearly not well.


I also fill in at the carousel during lunches because running that gorgeous thing is a two-person operation. My sole job is to stand next to the big red button that makes everything stop and push it if something not good happens. This is also a job I was born for.
(And, related: last week, there was a family taking their (maybe) three year old daughter for a ride --she wanted to try every animal, mind, but settled for one — and I nearly burst into tears because of all of the memories of taking my own small babies on the same carousel and, boy, that would have been fun to explain. But ALL THE FEELS.)


One of the best things about the new gig is that I really can’t check twitter or email or the news every nine seconds. I did not expect this to make as much of a difference in my mental health as it has.