August, 2007

Making Progress

August 30th, 2007 by Jill Hall
Tricia writes:
This shows the back of the jacket after Session 2. The back is the largest piece which has the most embroidery on it already. It is being used as the ‘testing ground’ to develop the instructions for each motif, therefore it progresses faster. It’s exciting to start to see the color fill in, but there is soooo much left to do.

Based on the progress from the last session, we will be tweaking the format just slightly again. Maybe after the fourth session we will have it right! We will be doing some sessions in the fall and in January where two groups overlap. We found that the first day is the hardest to make progress as participants are warming up on their doodle cloths and taking in tips to perfect their embroidery. Then the last day, many have to leave early to catch flights. So we will be overlapping the last and first day of some sessions – a full house! It will help us streamline the effort by the staff at Plimoth and those teachers who are donating their time to support the project answering participants’ questions.

Working with so many on the stitches, I want to point out one little tip that so many of our participants found helpful. When working the reverse chain, if you spin your needle between your right index finger and thumb a little (pull the needle with your thumb towards your hand along the index finger) you will maintain the twist in the silk. The silk has a tendency to untwist while stitching with it. When the reverse chain is then worked, the side often looks a little messy or loose. By constantly adding a little twist to the needle, everyone’s stitch became ‘perfect’. And a perfect reverse chain makes your detached buttonhole look much, much better. A little tip for everyone.


August 29th, 2007 by Jill Hall

Tricia writes:

During Session 2, Lauren Sauer (seen here relaxing with the back of the jacket), brought her notebook to share with us. Lauren has been diligently printing out the blog and keeping a notebook. In this book she has added any pictures of embroidered jackets or portraits she has dug up.  I was so excited to see her book. As a blog writer, you start
to lose track of what you have covered, so I found it helpful. But even better were a few gems she had found that I could add to the database. I am sharing them with you as links to web pages. Check the pictures out. She uncovered one embroidered jacket we were unaware of. Please send us links or locations of jackets or portraits you know about too. You might have found something we haven’t yet!

Jill adds: Lauren had another link, to a jacket that was purchased by the Art Fund in the UK and is now held by the Gallery of Costume. I’ve written for permission to link to that image and will post the link when I hear that I may.

The Crafts Center – Embroidering for the Public

August 27th, 2007 by Jill Hall
Tricia continues:

Along the theme of education that I started the other day, an early goal of the project was to somehow share this with the general public. If you have visited Plimoth Plantation before (and you should), you will know that there is a Craft Center where modern artisans who are experts in 17th-century techniques demonstrate historic crafts in front of the visitors. I have to admit that this is my absolute favorite part of the museum. I really enjoy watching Peter Follansbee carve the same motifs that we stitch every day. (Here’s a picture of Peter, Plimoth Plantation’s joiner, in the Crafts Center. This is from the talk about 17th-century furniture Peter gave to the June session participants. Everyone enjoyed his presentation.)

I am happy to share that during the August session, we trained a member of the staff who is a talented embroiderer in her own right to work on the jacket. Kate spends one or two days per week in the Craft Center demonstrating and explaining to the public textile techniques such as bobbin lace, double running stitch, and knitting with silk. Kate will now add working on the jacket to her repertoire and be demonstrating on jacket pieces on the days she is in the craft center. We are putting together some materials to help support her so she can have visuals to show the public what we are working on. This was a very important element of the project to me – the fashionable element of the embroidered jacket obviously is striking a chord with those that are new to embroidery and is beginning to inspire people to stitch. I am thrilled that the making of the jacket will be shown to the public. We now hope to find funding to allow us to expand this part of the mission. If you know of any opportunities that we should take advantage of, please let us know (send Jill a note directly at ). If you are interested in supporting these efforts, please send contributions to Plimoth Plantation in care of Kim Corben, PO Box 1620, Plymouth, MA 02362. Please write “Restricted to Jacket Project” on the check.

Our Girl Friday – Laura learns to Stitch

August 24th, 2007 by Jill Hall
Tricia writes:
I am excited to report on our education mission of this project today and tomorrow. When we started the project we felt that it could be used as a focal point to bring new people to the embroidery community. I am happy to be able to introduce you to one such new convert – “Laura the Intern.” (To see Laura’s first completed project this summer, CLICK HERE.) For those who have worked on the project over the summer, you have all met Laura, a summer intern at Plimoth Plantation. Laura has been so incredibly helpful. Anything, and I mean anything that we needed to have done, Laura would do it and with a smile so wide you can’t believe it. She came into the project not a stitcher. And here is her first finished project on Trinkets™ sewing cards. The motifs are drawn from the EC band sampler in the collection at Plimoth. She loved it and plans to do more. We are excited to have transferred our love and excitement over embroidery to her!

Everyone who has come in contact with the project on-site has started to ask for small scraps of silk and fabric and I am constantly finding staff members trying out stitches and becoming proficient. And being the summer, we have some staff members’ children around…they are now stitchers too. Just look at 11yr old Lilia’s embroidery below – she was working on a hand-drawn carrot when I snapped this picture. Just what we wanted to inspire! Shaina, a new tailor in the department, is now a full fledged stitcher and is working on the jacket too. I am thrilled to have so many new people working on the piece.
Karin, the curator of the collection and holder of the antique samplers on-site is working diligently to learn the stitches that she sees everyday. Others who have come to work on the project have also reported that their embroidery has improved dramatically while they have been on-site. Well, four days of private class will do it for you! Hope you can join us too.

Historic Threads Part Two and some Lace Talk

August 23rd, 2007 by Jill Hall
Here’s the end of last night’s post which was written by Tricia. Rather than fight with the blog program to put in more pictures, I decided to save two for tonight.
The last thread to show you is the silk wrapped purls. This is when a copper wire is wrapped with a silk thread so no wire is shown. Then the wrapped wire is spun around a needle to make a spring, otherwise known as a ‘purl’. In Joanna’s piece, there were silk wrapped purls all over it. But in this picture, a special version is shown. In this version a silver gilt strip is wrapped over the silk before the ‘spring’ is made. Amazing. Everyone enjoyed seeing the piece so much. We thank Joanna for being so generous with her private collection and love of this period of embroidery!
Jill’s back:
Work on figuring out the bobbin lace portion of our project is underway – we’re still doing the research and development piece, the stuff that we did for the embroidery way back in December and January. I’ll soon have a couple of posts dedicated to what we’re thinking about, and please be assured I’ll share everything. I’m pretty good with the documenting. In the mean while, if you have a copy of Le Pompe 1559 (the 1983 Levey & Payne edition) to hand, check out Pattern 19F, Book 1 on page 106-7; pricking on page 127. That’s the one I’m seriously considering right now.

Historic Threads, part one

August 22nd, 2007 by Jill Hall
Tricia writes tonight:
One of the things that infrequently shows up in books on embroidery are close-ups of the work and the complex materials that embroiderers of the past had at their disposal to work with. I have taken a few close-up pictures of Joanna’s piece to share with you the complexity of things we no longer have for ourselves.

The first one is hard to describe and is shown in the close up of the woman’s bodice. I have seen this metal ‘thread’ on other embroideries of the period but it hasn’t been well described in any literature I have seen. This ‘thread’ looks like a purl thread that has been pulled to expand the loops and then half the loop has been smooshed (a technical term) to flatten the loop. The main part of the wire remains round. I would love to have this thread again – wouldn’t you! It makes such a lovely border.

If you look carefully at several of the pictures, there is a silk thread that is wrapped with a metal strip. But the metal strip is not tightly wound so that silk shows in between the wraps. This type of thread construction was widely used in the 17th century and often doesn’t show up well in photographs of pieces in books. The metal strip (either silver or silver gilt) has usually corroded and gives the silk embroidery a ‘grayed’ cast. On the historic jacket we are adapting, this type of thread construction is used for the main portions of the flowers in each motif. More on that later…I know you are hearing rumors and I will ‘unveil the surprise’ in September. If you can imagine what this might have looked like when the metal was still gleaming, it would have seemed as if the embroidery had been sprinkled with glitter. And if you haven’t realized this yet – if they used this type of thread on the jacket – that meant that they did detached buttonhole with it. And you
would be right.

Jill here. I’m bisecting this post because Bloggie thinks there are too many pictures for this number of words. At this time of night, I don’t ask questions, I merely obey. Rather than struggle with bad pictures I’m going to shift some to tomorrow. Which is, after all, another day. See you then.

Visitors to Session Two

August 20th, 2007 by Jill Hall
Tricia writes:
One of the nice things about recreating the jacket is how so many people are interested in the project and sometime we have special visitors with things to share. This sharing is really enriching everyone and also bringing on more and more collaborations between communities.

During this session, Joanna Hill (a well-known textile conservator in the Boston area), brought her own historic embroidered stumpwork picture to show the embroiderers. The picture, shown here, is 3rd quarter 17th century and has not yet been conserved. The piece is not framed and so we were able to examine it very closely. Everyone enjoyed speaking with Joanne about the techniques that were used on the piece. Many of our embroiderers hadn’t seen the complex threads that were on the piece. We saw silk covered purls used for the buildings and flora, wonderful small pearls applied, silk covered wire, and mica for windows.

A lively topic of discussion was the wonderful or’nue that was used on the skirt of the woman, which also lifted up to show more embroidery underneath. More on this embroidery and its fun threads tomorrow with lots of really close of pictures of the threads.

The Age of Homespun

August 19th, 2007 by Jill Hall
Ulrich, Laurel Thatcher. The Age of Homespun: Objects and Stories in the Creation of an American Myth. New York, Alfred A. Knopf: 2001. ISBN 0-679-44594-3
Laurel Thatcher Ulrich has a gift for making history accessible, personal, even intimate. In this volume she tackles one of the most prevalent myths of American history, that all colonial housewives were completely self-sufficient in the textile department. Ulrich not only explains how that myth got started, she also tells the real story about colonial textile production.
This quote from the dust jacket sums it up better than I can tonight: Ulrich demonstrates how ordinary objects reveal larger economic and social structures, and, in particular, how early Americans and their descendents made, used, sold, and saved textiles in order to assert identities, shape relationships, and create history.
This book came up in conversation during Session Two’s behind-the-scenes tour of the Colonial Wardrobe & Textiles Department. It’s fascinating and reads like a novel. If you’re at all interested in history or textiles or textile history (and you probably wouldn’t be here if you weren’t) do yourself a favor and take a look.
Trivia time. Do you know who said “Well-behaved women seldom make history.”?
Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, of course. That quote has become pretty common and is often not attributed. Now if you see it you’ll know who to credit.
Here are links to TRELLIS STITCH and SPIRAL TRELLIS STITCH instructions.

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