‘Bibliography’ Category

No Weaving for You

July 18th, 2008 by Jill Hall

Marilyn, a frequent contributor to the comments and embroiderer on the jacket as well as a student of Japanese embroidery, recently asked me if any weaving was going on in Plymouth Colony as early as the 1620s.

The answer is no, we have no evidence that any was and lots of evidence that there was no fiber processing or textile production happening in Plymouth Colony until the late 1630s. There are several reasons why not, mostly that the point of having a colony was for it to provide raw materials and a market for finished goods to the mother country. The Plymouth colonists were under agreement to work for the betterment of the merchants who put up the seed money for the colony, not to become self-sufficient.

Many people expect that these colonial foremothers were self-sufficient, though, especially in a textile sort of way. That whole myth (which annoyingly has a grain of truth in that some colonial housewives in some places at some times were doing it all) is explored and explained in Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s The Age of Homespun. I “reviewed” and recommended it last summer, August 19 to be exact (thanks, Lyn). Maybe it isn’t beach reading but it is well worth a look.

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.


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.

Odds & Ends

May 27th, 2007 by Jill Hall

Tonight, the instructions for attaching the paillettes. There’ll only be about 2000 of them, so that shouldn’t take too long. (HA)

Another good book:

Arthur, Liz. Embroidery 1600-1700 at the Burrell Collection. London: John Murray in association with Glasgow Museums. 1995.

This book examines the Burrell collection of embroideries which is located in Glasgow, Scotland. The introduction contains information about the collector, Sir William Burrell, and a bit about how the collection was assembled. The text is an important element in the book, not just an introduction to the pictures, and contains sections on professional and amateur embroiderers and a small chapter on materials. The main attraction, though, is the many beautiful color plates and excellent detail photos. Note in particular the embroidered jacket on pp 44-45, the coives on pp 48-49, and the nightcap on p 52. On the jacket, the curling vines are outlined with straight stitches in red (arranged like little crow’s feet), a detail also seen on an almost identical jacket at the Museum of Costume in Bath, England. The first coif is very red, and includes bright red squirrels, monkeys, and one wild boar, among some fantastic beasts. The second coif has a matching forehead cloth (triangular shaped piece worn over a coif). I would very much like to see this piece in person; the way it’s put together doesn’t look quite right to me. This coif’s borage flowers’ petals have red tips. The nightcap photo is enlarged to show the detail of the work. If you look closely you can see the oval spangles attached to the metal bobbin lace. I especially like plates 50 (p 76) and 52 (p 78), which show the front and back of one canvas work picture, revealing the original brilliance of the silks.

And a little about me:

I began working at Plimoth Plantation as a role-player in the English Village a week after graduating college with a BA in history. I thought I’d work for a year before going on to graduate school. That was 19 years ago next week. I quickly discovered graduate school wasn’t for me, but I was fascinated by the work of recreating a 17th-century community. The process of recreating the material culture of this community, and especially their clothing and textiles, captured my imagination and provided focus for my long-standing interest in historic clothing and fiber arts. I began working in the Colonial Wardrobe & Textiles Department as a tailor in 1992. In 1994 my mentor and supervisor left the museum and I was hired as the Department Manager. I’ve been doing this work, studying and recreating the clothing, textiles, and accessories of the 1620s Plymouth Colonists, ever since.

I’ll be taking tomorrow off from writing. I wish for you just the day you’d like to have, and I’ll be back Tuesday.

Red, red, red.

May 26th, 2007 by Jill Hall

Tonight we have two more sets of stitch instructions: trellis stitch and spiral trellis stitch. Remember, you don’t have to be perfect at every stitch; you don’t even have to do every stitch on the sample. If you have one stitch you love and are great at, just do that one.

And another book review:

King, Donald and Santina Levey. The Victoria & AlbertMuseum’s Textile Collection: Embroidery in Britain from 1200 to 1750.New York: Canopy Books. 1993.

This volume is almost entirely color plates. The few pages of text form a brief overview of British embroidery, and because it covers 350 years it is very much an overview. The book also contains a glossary and diagrams of some common stitches. The diagrams are nice to have but are not really instructive in that these alone won’t enable one to reproduce a piece of embroidery. But that isn’t the point of this book. The point is the many color reproductions of embroideries in the V & A collections excellent for reference and inspiration.

And, if you have this on your shelf, you can turn to page 63 and see a larger-than-life image of the embroidery pattern we’ll be using on our recreated jacket. See, right in the middle there, where we took the pattern for the embroidery on the header for this blog.

I’ve gotten a couple of questions about this sample piece lately, so I thought today I’d tell you how it came to be. Once we determined that we wanted to do this jacket thing, we needed to create a plan, including a budget. In order to do that we had to know how long it would take to create this jacket. At the same time (this was late fall, 2006) Plimoth Plantation was working with a Marketing consultant to create a packet of information and images that we could use in applications for grants and other funding proposals to support the planned exhibit (of which the jacket would be a part). We needed to include images of a sample of the embroidery that would be on the jacket.

Fulfilling the two needs in an extremely efficient fashion, we traced off a bit of this pattern from V&A 1359-1900 (later we discovered it is reproduced on this page larger than the original). At this point we had not even begun to talk about what jacket, what embroidery pattern, or anything like that. It is purely a coincidence that the sample piece is from the same pattern we ended up choosing for the real jacket. Tricia made her most educated guess at the stitches used, based on close examination of this picture and having studied other 17th century embroideries in person, and worked the sample accordingly.

So after she had taken it away to work on, our consultant asked what color it was. Well, I said, there’s a blue flower and a bird, in green and yellow, I think (not having the book at the meeting). Red, he replied. Something has to be red. Red is good. Red is attractive. Okay, I said, let me see what I can do. I hustled right out of that meeting and phoned Tricia who fortunately hadn’t started stitching the flower.

Our estimate of 2000-2500 hours to accomplish the embroidery comes from Tricia’s timing of the stitching of this piece. And the photographs came out so nicely (thanks to the talent of the photographer, Ed Nute) that they’ve been used and used and used.

But that’s why what clearly ought to be a blue borage flower (fairly common on embroideries of this period, and a familiar friend to those who study them) is red, red, red. The fact that red is my favorite color had absolutely nothing to do with it, I swear.

AND, the borage flowers on the real jacket will be their proper blue, but more on that another day.

Reverse Chain & Ceylon Stitch Instructions

May 24th, 2007 by Jill Hall

Bad news first. There’s nothing new on the linen front. Despite all efforts, the linen is trapped until a government official gets to it, which might be tomorrow and might be six months from now.

We’re working on contingency plans, one of which involves choosing a completely different linen from a different manufacturer, one whose US distributor has a piece large enough for us in stock. The second, and now the favored plan, involves buying up all the remnants of the chosen linen in the US and trying to get the whole jacket from the biggest piece. I’m a little concerned about dye lots, but have an idea for compensating should we have to use two pieces from separate bolts. I’m not hugely worried; too many things have fallen into place in order to make this project work for this to derail us now.

Now the good news – treats! Tricia sent instructions for reverse chain stitch and Ceylon stitch, two stitches we’ll be using on the jacket (more stitch instructions over the next days). Rummage out some cloth, needle and thread and give it a try. (You’ll need Adobe to open these.)

Great strides were made today on the schedule for the June embroidery session. We’ll have a presentation by Kathleen Curtin, Plimoth Plantation foodways historian and author of Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving Recipes and History from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie. She’s an entertaining speaker, and knows more about the foodways of the 1620s English Colonists than just about anybody. We’ll also have a tour of Plimoth Plantation’s collection led by Karin Goldstein, Curator of Original Artifacts. Karin will show us Plimoth Plantation’s two 17th century samplers and some sewing-related items. And, Tricia has generously offered to teach a small project. I’m working on more fun activities for the non-stitching time.

So hopefully the progress I made on the schedule excuses me for never making it out of the office. The gravitational pull of the telephone and email were just too much for me. I humbly offer you a picture of fitting a jacket to one of the role-players. This was taken in the fall of 2005. This pink wool jacket is cut from a pattern taken from an embroidered linen waistcoat in the Burrell Collection in Glasgow, Scotland. The shape of the pattern pieces is very similar to that of the Laton jacket at the V & A. On page 121 of Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion: the cut and construction of clothes for men and women 1560-1620, are the patterns for both jackets, drawn on graphed paper.

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