Friday, August 9, 2013

Teaching at Harrisville Designs

It has been a good week weaving in the old mill at Harrisville Designs. I have learned a lot about the history of this town in the last few days and am fascinated by the story of the preservation after the Cheshire mill belonging to John Colony (Chick’s father) closed in 1970. Harrisville is a National Historic Landmark which is a somewhat rare designation in the United States. It is deemed the best preserved national historic industrial village. When the mill closed in 1970, Historic Harrisville, Inc. was born. Within the space of about a year they figured out how to save the town when the source of employment dried up, found funds, bought 6 old mill buildings, and Chick Colony opened Harrisville Designs as a yarn spinning mill to preserve the nature of the town as a fiber producer.

Harrisville was a small village where people could live, work, and shop. Many never left the town to go anywhere else. Due to Historic Harrisville’s preservation efforts, the town has remained a place where people can work in the mill, shop in the general store, and live in the affordable housing program. Historic Harrisville has been able to generate rental income from the historic buildings they own and those businesses along with Harrisville Designs employ the people who live here.

Current projects include restoring the use of water power in the town with an existing turbine at the end of Goose Brook. Harrisville originally started here because there is a one hundred foot drop of water from the ponds at the top of the town through a small brook to more ponds below. That drop was used to power the workshop of Jonas Clark in the late 1700s for the fulling and finishing of cloth. From there various fiber-related industry began using the power of the water to run the machines. Over the last century that also included daming and diverting the water source to maximize production and control when the water was released… during hours they could work the mill.

Harrisville is an out of the way place and I think the town likes it that way. It isn’t on a main highway and you have to come looking for it. It is a lovely place to take a fiber workshop. The old brick building is large and the ghosts of the old spinning mill keep your fingers moving in the warp.
The current Harrisville Designs store and workshop space upstairs was one of the original mills here in the 1800s:
I have enjoyed teaching at HD and hope to return here before too long. More pictures are coming soon of the spinning mill visit on Wednesday.

As I was sitting by the lake yesterday evening three baby ducklings were playing in the water near my feet. Their mama was diligently watching them. After about an hour they all swam off.


  1. Thanks for posting great info on Harrisville and its history! I grew up in New Hampshire and visited this lovely town a few years ago. It is definitely worth the drive and the navigating to find it. I'm also a weaving friend of Shelley Socolofsky and she told me to check out your blog! :)

    1. Harrisville is such a great place. Actually, I like New England in general and the experience of growing up here I imagine is somewhat different than mine growing up in NM. At any rate, a big thanks to Shelley for recommending my blog! More to come on Harrisville shortly. I loved it so much I just kept taking photos.


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