Rendezvous-goers learn from pioneers

Published 9:43 am Monday, October 3, 2011

Kathy Knutson explains how to create inked patterns on calico fabric at the Faire-Vous Millinery booth at the Big Island Rendezvous on Saturday. -- Amy Wasson/for the Albert Lea Tribune

The young boy held the large, wooden platter flat against his chest as if he’d never let go.

Jake and Jakota Maakestad watch blacksmith Wally Hunter at the Big Island Rendezvous on Saturday. -- Amy Wasson/for the Albert Lea Tribune

Jake Maakestad was not sure what he’s going to do with his purchase, which is about the same size and shape as a skateboard, but he loved its roughhewn design and the pieces of rawhide that are threaded through holes and tied tightly together at one end.

This bowl, along with his new hat, was purchased at the Big Island Rendezvous & Festival on Saturday. Wendy and Jim Maakestad, of Hubbard, Iowa, have been bringing their triplets, Jake, Jakota and James, to the Rendezvous for a number of years and they are already looking forward to next year’s festival.

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“I like it all!” Jake said when asked what he likes best. “I like seeing how they lived.”

His sister, Jakota, reviewed with their mother the Indian language words she’s learned at one of the many booths at the annual event. Their brother James acquired a few pieces of flint and bought a hard piece of steel from blacksmith Wally Hunter, a hearty fellow who is fashioning period tools out of long spikes of steel with hot coals and a hammer.

James can’t wait to practice starting fires with the sparks he will create by striking flint on steel. The family favorite of the Rendezvous this year is the Indian ink printing booth.

Rendezvous attendee Patricia Grosland pounds a block of wood dipped in Indian ink onto a piece of calico cloth at the Faire-Vous Millinery booth on Saturday. -- Amy Wasson/for the Albert Lea Tribune

Numerous adults and children crowded around a couple cloth covered tables for a chance to print their own calico cloth. The Faire-Vous Millinery was new this year, and the booth owner was having such fun that she hoped to participate in next year’s Big Island Rendezvous.

She pounded heavy, black ink into a small square of white cloth. As she worked, the calico printing process was explained to other Rendezvous attendees by women at the booth.

A floral pattern was carved into a small block of wood, the block was then dipped into a shallow dish containing Indian ink and forcibly stamped onto a piece of calico (a plain-woven piece of fabric.)

To force the ink into the fibers of the fabric so that it doesn’t easily wash off, the inked blocks are pounded by hand with thick wooden dowels. The same block must be re-inked and carefully lined-up to continue the floral pattern.

Once the ink is set, the cloth can be dyed in one of the kettles bubbling over a nearby fire. The young woman in charge of the dyes hoped to have the color purple available at the next Rendezvous. She’s not sure she’ll be allowed to make it, however, since the two main ingredients are black nightshade, a highly toxic plant, and sheep dung, undesirable for obvious reasons.