February, 2009


February 25th, 2009 by Plimoth

We are gearing up for more stitching right now and birds are top on the agenda.  We have a few individuals who are visiting the area in the next five weeks who will be staying over a week each to work on the jacket.  (Thank you!).  Also, we will be scheduling a session for either the last weekend of March or first of April.  Stay tuned – I should know the dates in a few days. We have been waiting until the wardrobing of the interpreters is done for opening on March 21st so we don’t get in the way in the workroom.  Plus we HOPE old man winter will be almost done here in New England.  We have had a tremendous series of weekend winter storms.

We have quite a few of the birds to work on and they are the last of the silk work on the jacket.  We waited until we got better photographs from my visit to the jackets in October.  Thank goodness we did.  A few tweaks needed to be made from my original stitching of a bird (see the logo above).  What is interesting to me about the birds in general is how the six different birds on three jackets and one panel are all done in spiral trellis and trellis.  The pieces don’t look like they came from the same workshop but there seemed to be a ‘code’ about birds.  The cross hatching of the trellis stitch does give nice texture and maybe you could say it looks like feathers.



February 23rd, 2009 by Plimoth

We had a posting to the comments a few weeks ago that I thought many of you might like to see and not miss:

‘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.

Take a look – very cool!  Thank you to the poster for sharing her photos with us all.


Weavers Leave Fingerprints Too!

February 18th, 2009 by Tricia

When Justin left me the silk lining, I was musing about how much fun I had visiting when the silk was on the loom and trying it out.  Justin then announced that you could certainly see where I had worked. Oh NO I screamed!  Yup – I was beating the shed so hard trying to keep from leaving a really loose weave that my section was extra tight.  He unrolled the silk and there it was – a 1/8″ stripe across the fabric.  I am sure Jill will be able to cut around it in the end when she lays down the pattern pieces.

Who knew weavers have ‘hands’ too!


Silk Delivery Man!

February 15th, 2009 by Tricia

Justin made a special delivery this week – the completed silk lining!  What a happy day to see it in its glory, all 6 yards of hand woven silk.  It was like giving up a baby – he gingerly handed it over. Justin promises me that he will write up his experience dying the piece and he has a few pictures of the scouring to show.  Apparently he had such a difficult time letting go of the fabric into the dye pot that he forgot to take a picture!

I loved how the sheen of the fabric was so soft and pretty when we unrolled a bit of it.  The piece is about 17th in width.  It seems to have been a common width for hand weaving in the 1700′s too – I spent a day looking at pieces at the Connecticut Historical Society yesterday and 20″ was the selvage to selvage for many of the silk ground fabrics.

Thank you Justin!!



February 11th, 2009 by Tricia

While in NYC for the symposium held in conjunction with the exhibit, “Twixt Art and Nature” I had the privilege to accompany Tricia on a visit to the Textile Conservation Department of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We met with Conservator, Cristina Carr and were wowed with the opportunity to view several bags, pairs of gloves and an unmounted set of sleeves. Cristina uses a large microscope with tremendous magnification, the picture or image shown on a large computer screen, that enables you to see the individual fibers, that make up the strands of a fiber and anything else that the lens is focused in on. In short- mind blowing.

So when she unveiled the set of unmounted sleeves it was an opportunity to look at the reverse side (wrong side) of the stitching to see how the ending of threads was handled and to see if our “production” method of working the Borage was reflected there.  The Borage repeats twice in our pattern so there are a lot of them on the jacket and each Borage has 5 pointy petals, a horseshoe shaped inner ring and a two-color trellis fill. In order to get the point nice and crisp, the reverse chain begins at the top of each petal and is stitched towards the main body of the flower, to complete the other side of the petal; the stitcher must go back to the top of the petal and stitch down the other side. All of this makes for a LOT of stopping and starting.

In the workroom progress was slowing down as the stops and starts took their toll. Examining the stitching paths and overall coverage of the petals led to the decision to discontinue the stopping and starting and to instead take running stitches from the petal base back up thru the petal itself to the tip to continue stitching. This decision resulted in increased speed and reduce the amount of GST that was being used as a result of all the stopping and starting, additionally the bulk in the stitch edges was reduced and made the actual stitching of the buttonhole much easier because the reverse side of the chain stitch was no longer heavily encrusted with the tails having been wrapped thru it.

When Cristina turned over the first sleeve for examination my heart jumped, there on the sleeve in the Borage was evidence of the same approach and issue!


(Note from Tricia:  The borage on these sleeves had the same funny horseshoe shaped detached buttonhole that ours does.  We saw the same excessive amount of dragged thread on the back on the sleeves as ours.  This is in contrast to the thread-less backs of the rest of the motifs on the sleeves – same as ours too.  Seems that the problems we ran into were the same 400 years ago.  See our examples here).

Professional Workshops

February 8th, 2009 by Tricia

I was hit in the head by a virtual skein of yarn the other day after a post.  (See comments on Stitching Gauge, January 29th)  I welcome discourse as it allows us to debate points.  The commentator was pointing out the close personal relationship that could have developed between two professionals working together at a frame due to conversations (more commonly known to us in the trade as “stitch n’ bitch) and that this had resulted in distress when the relationship ended.  I had chalked up the distress at loosing a partner to more technical issues of getting the work done ala work style.

I thought it would be interesting to all to talk about ‘talk’ at the frame in the workshop as I had just had a very interesting conversation about this very subject just a week ago with a colleague.  There are a few professional workshops that I am aware of their rules and practices.  One is the Japanese workshop (Kurenai-Kai) and the spin-out teaching workrooms in the USA.  In the workroom, quiet behavior is of the essence.  In fact, if the master needs to show you something, he does not tell you but instead sits down at your station and starts embroidering. You are supposed to watch intently and deduce what he wants to show you.  For those of us western embroiderers, this is the most difficult part of learning this embroidery.  As I progressed through the levels, I began to really enjoy going to Japanese embroidery as it was one of the most calm and contemplative parts of my hectic life.  Total quiet except for the specific break times.  I also got allot done in class.

At the Bard Symposium, I met a colleague from the Royal School of Embroidery.  We were talking about our workrooms for the jacket and for their private commissions.  I was shocked to learn that the workroom procedure (in place for over 100 years and only modified in the last decade) was for total silence among the embroiderers.  Indeed, if a break was taken by an embroiderer, her absence is noted and that stitching time must be made up.  My colleague was noting other strict guidelines and how some of them had been relaxed a bit in the last ten years.

I laugh because our workroom is staffed by volunteers (including myself and Wendy) who have given up time and money to be there.  For those of us volunteers who are there every session – out goal is quality and reducing the number of sessions which take us away from our families by making progress.  Of course, we understand that for the other volunteers, this is also a social gathering where there is lively discourse on the history of embroidery, technique, interesting collaborations and of course more than a few funny stories.  But we have found a SIGNIFICANT correlation to progress versus talk.  In fact, those who talk allot make the least progress and those who are silently listening sometimes make as much as 3-4 times the progress.  I therefore totally understand how the paid workshop has a ban on socializing in the workroom.

I will admit that sometimes if it gets bad and my husband screams again about having to take care of the kids while I am monitoring the workshop, I have a CD turned on in the room the next day to discourage conversation and to pick up pace!  Now you know our secret.


Oes and Spangs

February 6th, 2009 by Tricia

I have been reading ‘Dressing the Elite’ by Susan Vincent and wanted to share a quote she included in the text with you.  She writes of Francis Bacon’s advice (1561-1626) in his Essays on the costuming of masques with regard to embroidery.

“The Colours, that shew best by Candlelight are: White, Carnation, and a Kinde of Sea-Water-Greene: and Oes, or Spangs, as they are of no great Cost, so they are of most Glory…As for Rich Embroidery, it is lost, and not Discerned.”

I love thinking about that quote when looking at certain areas of our jacket in low light.  I so want a time machine!

We met Susan last week at the Bard Symposium.  A delight she is.  After hearing her speak, I very much wish her book was on tape as her cadence, prose, and pauses make the material dance off the page.  She let us in on her next project, a book on period costume from a very unique perspective of anatomy.  At first I was confused as to how this structure would lend itself to the discourse but after her sneak-peak talk at the symposium on dress accessories – starting with an in depth review of the cod-piece – I can’t wait for the volume!  She brought the mindset of the Tudors alive and at the same time our human frivolity with fashion and function was ever so apparent.


Call for Photos

February 3rd, 2009 by Plimoth

We are doing a bunch of needed tasks as we are experiencing our lull in embroidery effort.  All of them are much needed and too long in coming.  I hope to get to re-lacing the slate frames soon.  Many of them have had their lacing threads break over time and they all need a good strong thread again.  One of the things I have been working on is getting together a comprehensive list of the data and ‘collateral’ we have generated and putting it all in one spot.  Karen, the Head of Collections at Plimoth is helping me with this task and will assign numbers to them so we can track them for the future.  When you are working feverishly from session to session you don’t realize how spread all the ‘stuff’ gets.  I laugh because soon those two pencils I shaved down with my husband’s wood plane and taped together to allow us to draw the coiling vines with have some important museum number attached to it.

Also, interacting with the rest of the museum community has made me realize how important it is to get our documentation done and in order so we don’t loose anything that scholars will want in the future.  We have cutting patterns, muslins, sample books, time sheets, photographs (galore!), video, spangle waste, articles, tools, etc that all might be useful for the future.

We have started to enter the raw stitcher data into our databases and have been trying to make sure we have the correct lists of people who stitched, laced, contributed, and made samples.  I will be posting some of these lists periodically to have you all help me make sure there are no omissions – when we are working fast – things do slip through the fingers.

On that note, we realize that many of the stitchers or visitors have taken photos of the progress and general workroom shots.  In the interest of having one major collection of photos to use in the future exhibit and for scholars to review, we would greatly appreciate it if those who would wish to share their photos would burn us a CD of them.  To make it easier for us to use them in the future, could you place the photos in a folder with the date taken and place your name and address on the CD itself for photographer credit.  In the future, we might need to contact you for permission to use the photos in publication on the rare chance.   If you have a CD to send, email me at tricia@alum.mit.edu to get the address to send it to and so we know to monitor the mail!


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