‘2009 Symposium’ Category

All that Glitters

November 5th, 2008 by Jill Hall

really IS gold, in this case.

The gold thread for the coiling vines is real gold, and, like the gilt sylke twist, was purpose-made for this project by Bill Barnes of Golden Threads in the UK. It is a gold wire wrapped around two ends of yellow silk thread. I know the next question is whether any is available for sale, and the answer is, maybe. Right now we’re tracking how much thread it takes to embroider the coils and counting spools of thread. If there’s any left over, it will certainly be made available. If there isn’t, and there is huge demand, well, look what happened with the GST. Every time I check, new colors have been added to the line, and two sessions ago there was great excitement when Tricia brought out spools for sale. Not one person around the table said “I want this color”, or “I’d like to have this one”; it was all “I need this one. And this one. And … this one.”


This past weekend’s experiment was exceedingly successful. Judy, who worked mostly at Tricia’s last week, arrived on Friday not babbling incoherently from too much gold work. She was still smiling and stitching and enjoying. Lyn J from Canada, Debbie A and Carli D from the NYC area all stepped up to the guinea pig table and took instruction from Tricia before practicing, comparing, and practicing some more.

Debbie reported that the gold is Not a pain to work with, in fact it is quite durable. She used one length for practice and was able to pick out mistakes several times and reuse the same length without trouble. The end you have to thread through the needle frays a bit, but Wendy reports that if you chew on it a little you can shape it up to re-thread.

Even after four days of coiling vine after coiling vine, Lyn, Carli and Debbie were still enjoying the work. I asked them if it seemed to take forever, because just watching them, to me, it seemed to go much more quickly than I’d thought (feared). They said that in the working it seemed to go slowly, but whenever they sat back to look, more was done than they expected, and less time expired. Lyn claimed to be Princess Slow-poke, but she accomplished several coils and none of the rest of us thought she was going slowly. I think she’s just accustomed to working more quickly than most and so this felt slow.

Here are pictures of Debbie and Carli’s pieces. Lyn was working well past the final bell on Monday, and Wendy didn’t remember to photograph her piece before we put it away. We will take a photo to post on Thursday, when we’re taking some studio photos of individual motifs. I think Carli was working on the right front and Debbie on the back.

Do you want to work some of the coiling vines? Our test group did so well we’re going to do it again. If you’re free the weekend of 11/21-24 (this is the weekend BEFORE Thanksgiving – I offered to run a session over Thanksgiving, pointing out that Pen and I will be here anyway, but got no takers), either have practiced the plaited braid according to Leon Conrad’s instructions as amplified and illustrated by Linda Connors, and are willing to work on matching gauge and stitch density, send me a note jhall@plimoth.org We can take 3-4 people to work vines, and a couple more to work silk or GST on the coif & forehead cloth.

We are “pushing” the jacket to completion this winter, in time for display at the beginning of May. I am worried about the winter weather too, look at last year! but look for more sessions in January and February. If you want to suggest dates, send me a note.

In addition to the gold workers, we had three lace makers this weekend. Sue, Linda and Colleen nearly finished the last short piece – the second cuff, as well as the long piece. Colleen also managed to do some embroidery on the coif. There are two new plans afoot – to develop some patterns for white lace to adorn the smocks, coifs, cuffs, and collars of certain characters on our living history sites, and to develop a smaller spangled lace suitable for trimming the coif and forehead cloth. If you’re a lacer and weren’t interested in working metal but might want to do some white lace, let me know and I’ll keep you apprised of progress.

I don’t have much news on the symposium, mostly because I’ve been focusing on getting the interpreters what they need to finish the season. I have a couple of firm commitments from speakers, one probable yes, and I have to get back to the couple I haven’t heard from; the biggest news is that the registration will open first to those who have worked on the piece. They’ll get a 5-week headstart to register and then we will open the registration to everyone. We plan to start this in December, and of course news will appear here and in an email blast to the stitchers/lacers. SO please update your contact information. I know there are some who have changed email/moved etc since coming. If you know someone in that situation, please ask him/her to contact us in order to stay informed. You can update by sending me or Kathy an email or calling 508-746-1622 X 8248 (Penny), X 8119 (me), or X 8114 (Kathy).

The Right Thing to Do

August 5th, 2008 by Jill Hall

After hearing your concerns and consulting some colleagues whose opinion I value, I have decided to change the date of The Embroiderers’ Story Symposium. Please mark your calendars for 24 – 27 September, 2009. This is the weekend after we originally chose. I sincerely apologize for the perceived slight, I certainly meant no offense. Of course it’s true that no date will be convenient for everyone so I apologize in advance to those for whom this weekend is worse. But, at an institution where we place a high value on inclusion and cultural sensitivity, it only made sense that we make every effort to fix the mistake. Embarrassing, but the right thing to do.

There has been so much spontaneous good will and genuine community generated by this project that it would have been terrible to mar its culmination by any ill feeling. Fortunately the teachers and speakers who had already committed were amenable to the date change (and very gracious about the whole thing), and we were able to secure the necessary rooms and theater at Plimoth Plantation. Due to the visitation patterns, we may be a little more crowded this weekend, but we should be able to manage.

Now, though, I need your help with spreading the word about the correct date everywhere, to minimize the inevitable confusion. If you sent notes to your guild, or your needlework-loving friends, or to a yahoo group, please send the new date along.

I’m working hard on firming up the arrangements, and I anticipate that by the end of September I should be able to give you a ballpark on the registration fee and start accepting “save my spot” deposits.

MD wrote to me suggesting that we devise a way for participants to network carpooling and room sharing, and it seems to me that the forum for this blog is the right place for that. After we start accepting deposits, I’ll ask Robbin to start us a thread for each topic and people can find each other there.

Not So Much Seeing

July 17th, 2008 by Jill Hall

Another thing I’ve found, now that I’m working on the embroidery with something approaching regularity, is that once I get going, feeling the work is just as important as seeing it.

I was wondering if working in the Crafts Center would slow me down a little or a lot; most of the point of being there is to engage the museum’s visitors in conversation, after all. I thought looking up and down would cause me to lose my place and focus and impede progress. What I’ve found, though, is that people are quite happy to watch the work and don’t always need eye contact to keep the conversation going, for one thing. For another, feeling with the needle where the next stitch goes is really effective – both the detached buttonhole and trellis require you to loop the next row of stitches through the previous row. If you’re encountering resistance you likely haven’t got the right spot. I don’t mean to say I’m stitching without looking, only that looking up frequently doesn’t slow the work and is probably better for my eyes anyway.

Tonight, Tricia’s directions for the detached buttonhole needlelace. This is what she named the stitch for the completely detachable pieces, the pea pod covers and the butterfly over-wings. These three stitches (this one, trellis and detached buttonhole, links to which I posted earlier this week) are the most important right now. If you’re practicing, work on these.

See Robbin’s note in the comments about working trellis stitch up vs down; Tricia will send us a note too I’m sure and I’ll post that when we get it.

About the symposium conflicting with Rosh Hashanah, could someone let me know which parts of the weekend specifically conflict with observing the holiday? Linda left a comment about whether a person could attend the parts that don’t conflict, and in order to answer that or arrange things that way I’d need more information. Thanks. ETA: the symposium dates have been changed so as not to conflict with Rosh Hashanah. The New Dates are 24-27 September. jmh

Lace sample received from Linda K and embroidery sample from Nicole R. Thanks to both.

And Superhuman Eyesight

July 14th, 2008 by Jill Hall

Tonight, Tricia’s Trellis Stitch Directions

The other thing visitors to the Crafts Center often say to me is, “you must have really good eyes.” Umm, no, actually. My eyesight is so poor that whenever I order new glasses the technician delicately suggests I go for the ultralight lenses “so they won’t look so thick.” I think my glasses correct my vision to almost – but not quite – 20/20.

Many people use magnifying lenses to work on the jacket. Good light plus my almost-coke-bottle glasses work fine for me. One thing I wonder, though, and seems to me true, can you train your eyes like your other muscles? When I first tried this work I had more of a hard time than I’m having now, after several months of practice. Can your eyes get used to seeing fine work like your arms can get used to picking up heavy bundles?

Colleen asked in the comments why I scheduled the Symposium to conflict with Rosh Hashanah. Not on purpose, but not completely unaware either. We had to schedule around other events at Plimoth, staying aware of (and avoiding) high visitation periods, and try to take advantage of hotel availability. We also tried hard to avoid known needlework events at other museums. Plus early autumn is a very pleasant time of year to visit Plymouth. I know we’re going to lose potential attendees because of the holiday and because we’re scheduled opposite a conference on furnishing fabrics at (I think) Colonial Williamsburg that same weekend. Sorry. ETA: The dates have been changed. The Symposium no longer conflicts with Rosh Hashanah. Please note the NEW dates are 24-27 September. jmh


July 8th, 2008 by Jill Hall
  • We entered the dog days not long ago, and I can really feel it. The heat isn’t oppressive, but it is humid, the air quality is sub-par, and I’m suffering from embroidery craving. All I want to do is work on that right front piece, the one that’s less done than all the other pieces because it languished for months in an impossibly wide frame. It’s been re-framed and is marginally easier to work, and I want to stitch a columbine. And a pansy. And a few butterflies. Maybe some honeysuckle buds or a pink split by a gusset. But not the worms. I bear them a grudge for not being what I thought they were. Bah.
  • Gilt Sylke Twist is noisy. It’s thinner than the soie perlee, but because of the gold wire wrapping it’s almost ribbed. The first time I pulled it through the linen I gasped at the noise. The more experienced stitchers in the room chuckled, oh, yes, it IS noisy. After you work with it a while you forget, mesmerized by its beauty.
  • Thanks for the note about the symposium, Cate. We’ll be holding all the events at Plimoth, and the capacity is about 200. Which seems like not a lot unless you’re actually planning it and still aren’t sure if anyone will come. Then it seems like quite a lot indeed. Those dates are 24-27 September, 2009.
  • Lacey’s experience with the hot dog buns rang a bell for lots of transplanted New Englanders who miss the familiar buns of their youth. Isn’t it funny what you miss? Years and years ago I spent a year in England and missed Oreos. Like crazy. When I can have them any time I almost never do. And yes, I’m sure while there I saw The Jacket at the V&A, but alas I had no idea how important it would become in my life and so wasted the chance to really SEE it.
  • Who doesn’t want to come to Plymouth in August? Carolyn W has a free weekend and will be coming to make lace 22 – 24 August (Fri – Sun) so we decided to make a party of it and invite everyone. Have a few days? Want to come to the sea? Actually, by that time it usually isn’t so hot and humid anymore. And, at least we won’t have to worry about having to cancel for snow, like last winter. email me jhall@plimoth.org
  • The credit for the plaited braid stitch illustrations in Plimoth’s embroidered coif kit belongs to Oliver Kline and Joanna Kline Cadorette. I heard from Joanna that she drew the initial sketches and her father cleaned them up on the computer and made them all nice and easy to understand. Thank you, Mr. Kline.

The Embroiderers’ Story Symposium

June 27th, 2008 by Jill Hall

What are you doing Thursday September 24 – Sunday September 27, 2009?

I hope you answer, “Coming to Plymouth for The Embroiderers’ Story: Recreating a Stuart Jacket at Plimoth Plantation“! Yep, we’ve committed to throwing a major party to celebrate the creation of this remarkable garment.

I’ll give you the details I have now so you can mark your calendars and save the dates, but I don’t have the whole thing carved in stone yet. Susan North has promised to come, Susan North of the V&A, the benevolent godmother of the project, who has done so much to support this work. At first she thought she couldn’t manage it as there is a 17th-century dress conference in Switzerland the same weekend. This is one of those weird instances of problem-dissolving I’ve referred to before. After a few weeks of wondering if we could really have a jacket conference without her, I heard about that 17th-century conference in another context and realized – that one is 2008 and ours is 2009 and there’s no conflict at all. Whew.

We’ll have a pre-conference full-day class with Tricia Wilson Nguyen (who else? and I hope she wrote it down because she agreed in front of witnesses and if she didn’t write it down, well, I bet she will when she reads this) on Thursday. Friday and Saturday will be lectures/presentations in the morning and tours/classes in the afternoons. Some of the presenters will place these jackets in historical context, who wore them, how they were made, that kind of thing. Some will address how we made this particular jacket. We’re planning a tour to the RI School of Design Museum in Providence, RI. They have a portrait of a woman wearing an embroidered jacket. We’ll also see some of their fantastic textiles collection in a behind-the-scenes tour. We’ll have a farewell brunch on Sunday with a speaker, but it won’t be a full day. One evening we’ll have a benefit reception, another we’ll have a 17th-century dinner. I will of course let you know more details as they are finalized.

Please spread the word about this event. It will definitely be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We are not prepared to take pre-registrations quite this early, but you know I’ll let you know the minute we can. Just don’t promise to be somewhere else that weekend.

(‘K. I’m just about ready to hit ‘publish’ and am feeling an attack of nerves. You’d think I’d be immune by now, having jumped feet first into so much deep water where this jacket is concerned, but no. Still nervous.)

ETA: This post now reflects the NEW date.

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