July, 2007

Mingled Color

July 31st, 2007 by Jill Hall

All of the scheduled sessions are full or nearly so. I have sent an email with the schedule to all the embroiderers I’m expecting in August. If you didn’t receive a personal email with the August schedule, it means I don’t know you want to come. Please get in touch right away. jhall@plimoth.org By the end of the week I’ll be sending out confirmations for the September & October sessions. If you’re signed up for any session and you can’t make it after all, please let me know as soon as possible; perhaps another embroiderer can take your place. And yes, we’ll shortly be scheduling sessions for 2008 (2008!).

Carol left this question in the comments:

So do you have any idea what they meant by mingled?
Was it one color in the warp and another in the weft?
Woven from threads that were space dyed?

I have one idea what may have been meant by mingled, but there certainly could be other explanations. Gervase Markham’s 1615 book The English Housewife outlined all the skills a woman needed to run a large manor house, including “cookery, banqueting-stuff, distillation, perfumes, wool, hemp, flax, dairies, brewing, baking, and all other things belonging to a household.” This volume is a wealth of information for modern historians.

In the textiles chapter, Markham explains how, after the wool is dyed but before it is spun, the housewife should mix her colors together. He says that “the best medley” is composed of two parts dark color wool and one part light color wool. He explains that all the wool should be thoroughly carded “till you see it perfectly and undistinctly mixed together, and that indeed it is become one entire colour of divers without spots.”

The blended wool is then spun and woven into cloth. Perhaps the resulting fabric was called mingled color, like in the inventory. Markham doesn’t say.

In the 17th century a kind of silk cloth with one color warp and a different color weft was called “changeable taffeta”; it is still made in the 21st century. It seems to change color as the cloth moves. It’s possible that mingled color meant this kind of cloth, though, or something entirely different.

Thanks for asking Carol, and please if you have any wonderings, leave questions in the comments or email me at jhall@plimoth.org. Sometimes I don’t know what would be interesting to write about and I welcome your suggestions.

August schedule

July 29th, 2007 by Jill Hall

Wow. The days are really flying by right now. I didn’t realize I missed four days posting. Thank you to the two readers who commented on the red petticoat post; red certainly was an extremely desirable and expensive color to dye, and it is very likely those facts contributed to the higher value assigned to the red petticoat. I have read A Perfect Red by Amy Butler Greenfield, and can second the recommendation; it’s a fascinating read.

The second embroidery session begins in just over a week. Here is our schedule, developed based on the experiences of the first session and with the feedback of those embroiderers (also known as ‘guinea pigs’).

Wednesday, August 8

9:00 meet at Plimoth Plantation in the Accomack meeting room

short point to perfection stitching instruction, then stitching until 1:00

1:00 – 2:00 lunch, with a presentation by Kathleen Curtin, author of Giving Thanks, a history and cookbook of Thanksgiving foods

2:00 – 6:00 stitching

6:00 supper, followed by a class with a special embroidery project from Tokens & Trifles

Thursday, August 9

9:00 – 1:00 stitching

1:00 – 2:00 lunch

2:00 – 5:00 stitching

5:00 – 6:00 show & tell – please bring some special projects or antique embroideries you’d like to share. Last session seeing each other’s treasures was a special treat I hadn’t foreseen

after dinner behind-the-scenes tour of the Colonial Wardrobe & Textiles department

Friday, August 10

9:00 – 1:00 stitching

1:00 – 2:00 lunch

2:00 – 5:00 stitching OR see the museum and shopping OR early departure to aid travel plans

Based on what we learned last time, this time we’re not going to have set breaks but instead we’ll have coffee & snacks available both morning and afternoon and individual stitchers will please take a break when it suits their rhythm and work. I’ve lengthened the stitching sessions based on feedback from the first bee, but I’m aware that everyone has their own threshold for stitching. If you hit the wall at 3:30, don’t keep going. Please take that opportunity to shop or see the museum exhibits, or other attractions in Plymouth. We’re going to try to keep the workroom for working during the stitching hours, though, so we’ll move the socializing out onto the deck during those times. Also based on feedback from last time we’ll be having music playing during the working sessions.

The next session is September 13-16. We still have a couple of spots left, so if you’re available, please let me know at jhall@plimoth.org.

Sessions scheduled for November & December

July 24th, 2007 by Jill Hall

Sample arrived today from Marilyn S.

I’d like to hold two small embroidery sessions, one in November, and one in December. By small I mean 5-6 stitchers, the number we can accommodate in the Wardrobe Department rather than in one of the function/meeting rooms. In November all the meeting rooms will be booked. Things get a little busy around Plymouth in November, for some reason … and December I’m thinking not many people will be available to come, what with the holidays.

So the new dates are:

Wednesday, November 14 to Saturday, November 17 and

Tuesday, December 11 to Friday, December 14

I used the feedback from the participants in the first embroidery bee when choosing these dates. Most felt that weekdays were better than weekends, and most felt that four days would be better than three, particularly because it takes a little while to hit stride with these stitches and if we stop too soon we don’t get the full benefit. My feeling is, Yikes! 2007 is almost over! This exhibit is opening in about 15 minutes! And then I get a grip and remember it’s only July….

If you’d like to come in November and/or December, please send me a note. The September and October sessions are nearly full, so if you’re thinking you’d like to come let me know soon. You can reach me at jhall@plimoth.org.

1 Red petticote

July 22nd, 2007 by Jill Hall

Writing up the information about 17th-century linen cloth got me thinking about Mary Ring’s probate inventory. Probate inventories of a deceased’s goods were taken for tax and inheritance purposes. In the early 17th century it was rare for a woman’s goods to be inventoried. It was rarer still for clothes to be itemized, man’s or woman’s; usually they were lumped together under ‘wearing apparel’, sometimes along with whatever cash was on hand. What we have here, in the inventory dated 1633, is a precious gem – a list of a woman’s possessions, including individual entries for items of clothes.

Here are a few notes from the inventory, which runs several pages. Particularly tonight I’m interested in the garments for which a color is listed. A few days ago I wrote about why we’re calling The Jacket a jacket but the interpreters describe the same item as a waistcoat. This inventory is one of the primary source documents I mentioned that leads us to say “waistcoat” in the 1627 English Village.

1 black Say kertle 12s

1 Red petticote 16s

1 violet coloured petticoate 5s

1 Wastcoat mingled coloured 3s

1 violet coloured wastcoate 1s 6p

1 pr blew stockins (no value listed)

1 mingled coloured petticoate 5s

Historical documents often raise more questions than they answer. This one makes me wonder if the violet colored petticoat and waistcoat were worn together as a suit. How about the mingled colored ones? Were they a suit? And why was the red petticoat assigned a higher value than the other petticoats?

One thing is certain, Mary Ring wasn’t wearing just black, white and grey like the stereotypical pilgrims of our school days.

Sample Kits

July 20th, 2007 by Jill Hall

Samples arrived from Abigail W, Margi O, Lucinda T, and Heather R.

I went looking through the blog for the entry where I explained all about the sample kits, and I didn’t find one. I’ve written about the kits several times but never here. This bit is old news for some, but better to hear it twice than miss it completely so…

From the beginning of this project we have been planning ways to involve the whole community of needleworkers. This blog is one; we’re also placing articles in as many magazines and journals as possible and making presentations to groups. Also, and most importantly, we’re inviting embroiderers to travel to Plymouth, MA to work on it, not on samples but on the real jacket itself. We’ve already had one embroidery session and the second is coming right up August 8-10. It’s not too late to jump in, however.

We have a simple system to coordinate those who would like to participate in this once in a lifetime opportunity and to ensure that the finished piece most closely resembles an original 17th century jacket. Each prospective stitcher must complete a sample piece (available as a kit from Plimoth Plantation, see below) and send it to Plimoth Plantation. These samples will be used to assemble teams of stitchers whose individual thread tension and stitch length match each other. This way we will be able to create a jacket that represents a team of professional workers (as the originals were produced), and we will be able to accommodate as many embroiderers as possible.

To order a sample stitching kit, please contact Kathy Roncarati at (508) 746-1622 ext. 8114, or kroncarati@plimoth.org.

Each kit includes the same materials which will be used for the jacket, 50 ct cream Kingston linen and Au Ver a Soie Perlee silk, in sufficient quantities to work both the sample (to be returned to Plimoth Plantation) and one complete motif (to be kept by the embroiderer).

The sample does not require a great deal of time to complete. A small area of detached buttonhole stitch and its outline, trellis stitch and its outline, detached buttonhole with free edge and its outline, spiral trellis and its outline, knot stitch, and ladder stitch in silk will enable us to create teams. The kit includes comprehensive directions for each stitch, a color copy of a worked piece for reference, and a label to identify your sample.

In addition, the kit includes instructions and materials for a souvenir butterfly adapted from the inspiration pieces for you to keep. The butterfly is stitched in red, pink, gold and black Au Ver a Soie Perlee silk on 50 ct. cream Kingston linen. It is surrounded by gold spangles and is appropriate for finishing into a scissors fob or ornament (finishing materials not included). A CD Rom of the embroidery in process will be included as well as complete directions.

Samples, and the enclosed questionnaire, should be returned to Plimoth Plantation as soon as possible. Samples will be retained by Plimoth for use in matching individuals for stitching and also as examples to show the public what the embroidery is like close up. The completed jacket will be mounted and displayed in a Plexiglas case. It, along with a Native Wampanoag turkey feather mantle, will form the centerpiece of a new exhibit on the history of personal adornment, planned to open in the summer of 2008.

The sample stitching kit is available for $40 plus $5 shipping and handling (international shipping costs may vary), and includes a $20 tax-deductible donation to the project which will be used to offset the materials costs.


July 18th, 2007 by Jill Hall

I was asked for some information on kinds of cloth available in the early 17th century. This information is going to the interpreters who portray the Plymouth colonists in the 1627 English Village and on Mayflower II. As I was putting it together, I thought it might be interesting to you, too.

Kinds of linen cloth available in the early 17th century.

Unless noted, the following information comes from The Great ReClothing of Rural England: Petty Chapmen and their Wares in the Seventeenth Century, Margaret Spufford. PLDL = Plain Dealing Linnen-Draper, published in 1696 and quoted in Spufford’s book. The Plain Dealing Linnen-Draper listed different types of linen and cotton cloth and described the common uses for each. *Please note that the PDLD, while a wealth of information, was not published until 70 years after the date represented in the 1627 English Village. [12 p (pence) = 1 s (shilling); 20s = 1Ł]

This is not an exhaustive list.

Holland: sheets for better people; shirts/shifts. This was fine, bleached linen. I believe the white linen the Colonial Wardrobe Department uses for shirts and smocks is similar to Holland.

1628 – the probate inventory of John Uttinge, chapman, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, lists Holland at 18p, 20p, 21p and 22p. PDLD recommends Holland yard-wide for shirts & shifts for most; ell*-wide for the same for large women; ½ ell-wide for children.

Cambric/lawn. This is fine bleached linen, usually used for collars and cuffs.

1605 In one of the dialogues in The French Garden cambric is offered for sale at 20s/ell and is bargained down to 16s/ell.

Canvas – thick and heavy. Could be made of linen (product of flax plant) or hemp (whose Latin name, cannabis, is the origin for the name of this cloth). In 1636 a kind of yellow canvas made in England was used by the overseers of the poor to make sheets for a deserving man. In 1696 the PDLD said canvas would last 11-12 years in constant wear.

Linsey-woolsey – sometimes called a “union cloth” because it is a union of 2 different fibers. The warp is linen, the weft, wool.

Osenbridge/osnabrucks – from Germany, PDLD recommends it for shirts and sheets for the humble, and says that 3 breadths make a sheet which would last more than 6 years. Coarse grey osenbridge sold for 6-8p/yard.

Fustian – linen warp with cotton weft, another union cloth. This fabric was brushed or rowed to raise the nap, and then either singed to burn off the fuzz, leaving a smooth cloth, or shorn (cut) to trim the nap. Uttinge’s 1628 inventory listed fustian at 14p/yard; white cut fustian at 13 or 14p/yard; black & white cut at 12p/yard.

Callico – cotton, most likely plain, originally imported from Calcutta (hence the name). Uttinge’s inventory lists it at 11p or 15p/yard.

Diaper – linen woven in an all-over diamond pattern; can be fine or coarse, used for table linens (tablecloths, napkins, towels). There is precious little information about 17th-century hygiene, including what was used for diapering babies. It seems that in the early 17th century, old, worn-out linen was used for baby diapers (nappies) as described in the following rare quote:

“Dear father, . . . that you will speak to my lady to send me some clouts (cloths) and I shall think myself much bound to her for she promised me some when I was with child of my first but I was so well provided that I thought to reserve them till I had need of them, which is now, for I have had so many children that they have worn through all my things and therefore I must try my friends again for I trust that you have some old shirts in a corner for me or some old things . . .”

Lettice Gawdy to her father, Sir Robert Knowles, in Weston.

Quoted in Women’s Worlds in Seventeenth-Century England: A Sourcebook edited by Patricia Crawford & Laura Gowing, London: Routledge, 1999, pp101-2.

The above letter is undated, but the writer was dead by 1630. She sounds overwhelmed.

According to the PDLD a cloth called Hamburg sleasy diaper which was selling for 7p/yard was highly regarded for softness and therefore used for baby diapers. Spufford has a footnote to this information: “Dr. Margeret Pelling, of the Wellcome Unit of the History of Medicine, tells me that very little indeed is known about this subject, and that there also seems to be a gap in the 17th-century secondary literature.”

Mary Ring’s 1633 inventory lists a diaper tablecloth at 5s. (Mary Ring arrived in Plymouth County in 1629.)

*In the early 17th century in England an ell = 45”. A Flemish ell was only ¾ of an English yard (therefore 27”). This was confusing to contemporaries, too.

“An undated note written by an anxious clerk in the office of the Great Wardrobe during the early years of Elizabeth I’s reign makes this very plain:

‘Memorandum that every Flemish ell is iij quarters of a yarde sterling, so that iiij elles Flemyshe is iij yards sterling, then viij [elles] makith vj yards …’” and it goes on and on, the poor confused thing. This is quoted at length in Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion: The cut and construction of clothes for men and women c.1560-1620, p.124.

An Anonymous Woman

July 16th, 2007 by Jill Hall

Tonight I have another reading suggestion.

Epstein, Kathleen. An Anonymous Woman Her Work Wrought in the 17th Century. Curious Works Press, Austin: 1992.

This is one of my very favorite embroidery books. It’s a gem, packed with historical background and excellent how-to instructions. Sadly, it is also out of print.

The whole little book (52 pages) is an analysis of a 17th-century band sampler in the author’s collection. The patterns are stitched in Spanish stitch (also known as double-running or Holbein stitch) and variations on cross stitch, with some detached buttonhole fillings. There are a few color plates, but mostly the illustrations are line drawings and black-and-white photos. The notes on materials, both the originals and modern substitutions, are valuable.

The stitch diagrams and instructions are probably the best part; if you’re interested in Spanish stitch patterns, you’ll want to dig up a copy. Even if you’re not, it is well worth seeking out. Maybe if there’s enough demand it will even be brought back into print.

By the way, Kathleen Epstein is the same person as Kathleen Staples, frequent contributor to several embroidery journals, and one of my favorite writers on the subject of historical embroidery; I reviewed another volume of hers here.

Dates Added

July 13th, 2007 by Jill Hall

It’s been pretty hot and humid here in southeastern Massachusetts, and it feels like everything has sloooowed down accordingly. As a consequence, there isn’t a great deal to report.

The frames are slumbering quietly behind the office door, each one neatly encased in its canvas bag.

On the way from England is some special “sparkle” thread. This sort of silk was used extensively on the jackets and other embroidered items in the early 1600s, but has been unavailable for decades, if not centuries. Tricia, armed with her formidable powers of persuasion and the fact that, if developed, we’d be instantly buying enough to make it worthwhile to produce, convinced one of the Artisan Manufacturers she mentioned yesterday to bring it back into production. I hope I’ve piqued your curiosity. That’s all I’ll say here, except that if the customs agents are benevolent the thread will be debuting during the August stitching session. I know Tricia is planning a blog entry describing the research, development and testing process, along with some photos.

I mentioned the log sheets that Tricia created to enable us track the exact amount of time spent and thread used for each motif. The other day Tricia whipped them out and did a quick bit of math to figure out how many stitching hours our June session yielded, and what sort of pace that worked out to.

We’ve decided to add two small sessions, one in November and another in early December, intimate gatherings, 6 stitchers maximum. Are you interested? We can set the dates to be most convenient to those who are able to come. Email me with your availability.

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