The Embroiderer's Story

How Many Hands?

January 21st, 2009 by Tricia

A few weeks ago I spent some time trying to figure out how many hands had worked on the jacket at the MET.  I could clearly see that there were several – but how to prove to others that there were different people.  I realized that we have the types of evidence we need on the jacket to answer this question or at least start to provide a framework for others to use.  I when I returned, I started taking pictures of all the same flowers on the Left Front of our jacket.  Here are the borages from this piece.  I am not going to tell you today how many people worked these borages.  I will let you look at the pictures and come up with your own conclusions.  But we have signatures on the master pattern for each piece.

Sometimes as we progress on the project and these ‘questions’ come up – I am sooo glad that we decided early on that more data was better than less.  The kind of analysis that all this data allows is really exciting.


12 Responses to “How Many Hands?”

  1. LindaF says:

    I see at least three different hands. This is sort of like the puzzles we did as children ,i.e. what is different between these two pictures?Do this with some of the other motifs.

  2. Colleen says:

    Either 3 or 4.

    I think the last two were done by one person. # 1 and #3 might have been the same one, I’m not sure…

  3. Linda Vinson says:

    I think the last two are the same flower. Little things like slubs in the fabric upper left and lower right, compairing the braid stitch in the lower left, small openings in the detached button hole in lower dark blue petals, bright gold spot in the upper left of the top petal, etc.

    The leaf construction looks similar in #2 and #4.

    The density of the detached button hole looks to be about the same in #1 and #2. #3 is a looser hand.

    All that said though, I have no idea how many hands overall. lol

  4. coral-seas says:

    I think that #1 and #2 are the same stitcher. #3 is by a second stitcher. I was going to say the #4 and #5 are the same (third) stitcher but I think Linda is right, these are the same picture.

    I think three different stitchers for this set of picturs.


  5. Rosemary says:

    For those of you who have not stitched on the jacket, do not assume that one stitcher stitched the whole borage (although it may be true in some cases). So with that knowledge, it is very hard to figure out how many hands worked on the 4 different borages shown. There are some noticeable differences that you can say different stitchers worked on them. Linda pointed out a number of them in her reply. But also because there are different stitches used, it is hard to know if the same stitcher did all the stitches (some stitchers only did certain stitches). So there are many possibilities. I know for a fact that my stitching varied, especially when working on a new stitch or motif. The more time I spent on it, the better I got. Also, it is harder to catch the variances in the areas using the darker threads in the photos, which is easier to see in person. So I also have no idea how many people worked on it but I would guess there were more than 4 stitchers.


  6. Cathy Hay says:

    Hello there, I was visiting the Museum of Costume in Bath (UK) last week. I went to see an Edwardian frock, but the lady at the next table, who didn’t show, had come to see a jacket much like yours.

    The curator wouldn’t get it out of the box, but she did let me take a few snaps – if you’re interested, they’re here.

  7. Robbin Douglas says:

    Linda is right, the last two pictures are the same. You can tell from the placement as well as the stitching. And Rosemary is definitely right, not everything was worked at the same time. I don’t think the person who worked the white trellis stitch in the bottom flower worked all of them; at a guess those 4 bits might have been done by 4 different people; I’d almost certainly guess 3 and 4 were by different people. As has been noted, the blue detatched buttonhole has a different tension between the two flowers as well. Knowing how long it takes to work on something, it’s even quite possible that one person didn’t work all of the pieces of one color in the piece or that the reverse chain outline may have been done by one person and the filling by another.

    I would not be at all surprised to know that 6-8 hands had been involved in creating these 4 flowers. And that doesn’t include any of the gold work surrounding this.


  8. norma says:

    Before I read the comments, I was also going to say that the last two are the same picture. I would say that it would be a minimum of 8 or 9 hands on these flowers!

  9. Robbin Douglas says:

    Hmm, I’m cheating because I’ve been there so many times, but now I’m going to say that the borage had a lot fewer hands on them than many of the flowers, simply because the instructions were some of the latest to arrive. They weren’t started until August and were finished by November — I bet they had fewer hands than a number of other pieces on the jacket!

  10. Megan/Elmsley Rose says:

    off the topic but about the pictures – may I ask the stitch used for the white of the borage? spiral trellis?

  11. Rosemary says:

    To answer Megan’s question, the stitch is trellis but not spiral trellis.

  12. Jen says:

    Since I recognize some of my work and know what I left undone, I’d say at least 5 hands on those borages.

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