Sisters’ Dairy & Weave shop exterior
Sisters’ Dairy & Weave Shop interior
Bench Loom, 1834
Henry DeWitt, Mount Lebanon, NY
This loom is on view and still used for demonstrations in the west room upstairs in the weave loft. The loom is inscribed in two different places with the maker’s name and date. It is a four harness loom with four foot treadles and cloth and warp beams. It was originally used for weaving cloth but in the 20th century it was used for weaving poplar cloth for fancy baskets.
This building may date to as early as the 1790s. It was originally a one-story structure and appears on an 1820 map of the village labeled as “Dairy.” The sisters processed milk into cheese and butter, and the dairy business was one of the main economic enterprises of the Hancock Shakers well into the twentieth century.
The second story of this building was added sometime after 1820 and functioned as a weave loft. The sisters used large “walking” wheels to spin wool into yarn, and would weave cloth for clothing, rugs and bonnets. Hand weaving was practiced on a large scale until the late 1840s when the mill at the North Family was constructed. By the mid-1860s the Shakers were purchasing most of their cloth from local mills that wove it to their specifications.