‘Historical Background’ Category

Janet Arnold Rocks!

November 15th, 2008 by Tricia

I hadn’t been at Plimoth when the new Patterns of Fashion 4 preview was viewed and so was very excited today when my package came from Plimoth with my order (benefiting the jacket project – get yours now).

WOW. I am very grateful to Jenny Tiramani and Santina Levey for finishing this book for Janet and bringing this set of her research to our eyes. I have just finished my first totally absorbing poring over the contents. The pictures are stunning.

Janet Arnold was Joanna Hill’s advisor and Joanna has been conserving the EC sampler at Plimoth which the readers of the blog have generously made happen through their contributions. Joanna has told me numerous times how much she had wished that the publishers of Janet’s many volumes would have included color and large photographs of the objects. In her opinion “Queen Elizabeth’s Wardrobe Unlocked” would have made the most stunning coffee table book and an elaborate use of color would have lived up to the tremendous research that the volume contains. I agree. And Macmillian/QSM must have heard some of those rumblings. There are far more color photos and close ups than I would ever have expected in this book almost 1/2 the volume is color photographs. Kudos to them!

The book has something for everyone and covers those mysterious details that many of us have wondered about for a long time. There are close pictures of embroidery, lace, finishing details, ruffs, armatures, clothing, portraits, etc. I now totally understand how all those funny lace collars you see in so many portraits happened. If you have any of Janet’s publications in your library, you have to add this one to the mix. Just buy it, support the Jacket project, wrap it and put it under the Christmas tree marked “From Santa”. You will be glad you did.


Wow. That was faster delivery than I could have expected, even from our crack Retail Mail Order team. Thanks to everyone who has ordered, and enjoy!

Treats AND Good Works

November 10th, 2008 by Jill Hall

Have you heard that the new Janet Arnold book, Patterns of Fashion 4: The cut and construction of linen shirts, smocks, neckwear, headwear and accessories for men and women c.1540-1660 is finally really being released?

If you haven’t heard, take a deep breath.

Janet Arnold died unexpectedly in 1998, and since then the historic clothing world has periodically buzzed with rumors that her linen book would be out “soon”.

This time it isn’t a rumor. A review copy sits on the desk before me as I write, thanks to Susanna, our book buyer, and Karin, Plimoth’s library custodian, both of whom let me have first peek. Let me assure you, it has been worth the wait. Unlike the first 3 books in the Patterns of Fashion series, this one has color pictures. Black & white ones, too, but lots of color. This is excellent because many of the shirts, smocks, coifs, drawers, etc, have embroidery on them. In many cases the photos are clear enough to see the motifs; in others Janet has illustrated parts of repeating motifs or entire isolated ones. There is a wealth of detail about seam treatments and other construction details, and of course the patterns on graphed pages with Janet’s own invaluable notes. The interesting thing to me about this volume is that since she never finished it there are places where her guesses or questions to herself have been left in by Jenny Tiramani and Santina Levey, who organized the material and at last brought the book to publication.

Amazon is taking advance orders, but I have a BETTER deal for you — a chance to buy yourself a book you know you want AND support a very good cause all at the same time.

Right now Plimoth Plantation’s mail order department is taking orders for this book for $49.95 plus $8.95 shipping. The proceeds of these sales, as all retail sales at Plimoth, will directly support Plimoth’s programs. (So every time you buy some of those yummy chocolate covered cranberries, you’re helping put shoes on an interpreter, for instance.)

You can feel good knowing A) this awesome book is on it’s way to you and B) your money is going to a cause you support. We still need a few supplies to finish up the jacket, namely thread, sequins (oes), needles, plus we’re planning, and beginning to pay for, the exhibit that will go with the finished jacket – the mannequin upon which it will be mounted, the petticoat, the explanatory panels, the case to put it in, all those things that will make it possible for the public to see and experience this marvelous piece first hand – and will let us travel her to other museums and institutions so YOU can see her first hand.

To order, you can access the mail order gift shop through the website at www.plimoth.org You can also contact the retail department directly at 1-800-262-9356 X 8204 or X 8332 Nicole Hallahan is in charge of retail mail order and you can reach her at nhallahan@plimoth.org

I’d like to ask our regular readers from the SCA to please share this information with your fellows – I think many of them will want this book and might be glad to have their money to this excellent project rather than to a faceless megacorp.

The review copy was hijacked by us arrived in the office during the last embroidery session; in the photo from left that’s Carli, Debbie, me and Lyn admiring. It took a supreme effort to prevent myself from hogging the book in an unseemly fashion.

As always, thanks.

Plan D

November 1st, 2008 by Tricia

This post was written on Tuesday, October 29.

Some have asked what our plan is for the gold work.  We have had many plans.  Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C.  Mostly every time someone asked me this important question, I would put my fingers in my ears and sing “La la la la -  I can’t hear you!”.

And thus Plan D was born.  We had originally hoped that funding would come through and allow us to hire some fast needles to work the gold. That was Plan A.  Now we are drafting a smaller group of volunteers
and training them.  We are having them work every other coil so the variation of people will be less easy to see.  By the end of next week we will know how that plan is working out as two people are going to work on this one piece for a week each.  Hopefully we don’t have to implement Plan Q.  That’s the one where Tricia does all the plaited braid.

I will also let you know by Friday if Judy is a babbling idiot from too much plaited braid.  Here is her day 2 progress.  You can see how she is skipping every other coil to let another person work in between. We also learned an important piece of data.  About 3 to 3 1/2 coils per spool of gold thread.  I will be counting spools on Friday to see if we will need to order more or if our original estimate is holding.


It Doesn’t Matter

October 31st, 2008 by Tricia

Judy Laning is here working this week on plaited braid.  We choose one of the jacket fronts to work on. She started Monday and worked one whole coil of plaited braid.  Then she started on the second one.

That is when the questions started.  Some of the coils start from another coil in a very shallow angle and some at a very deep angle. So the question was how to do that very tapered area.  And do we start there or from the base of the flower and then finish and taper at the end.  A great excuse to open up the photos and look into it.  The plaited braid forms  a “V” and so you can see where the coil was started and where it ended. We fired up the computer and started going coil to coil.  Towards the flower, away from the flower, away from the flower, towards the flower….

We had our answer. Where you start the plaited braid didn’t matter. So either at the coil base or at the flower, which ever was easier and allowed the tapered coils to be worked.  I have included pictures of both types of intersections of the coils and how Judy worked them. She is doing lovely work.


Hampton Court

October 30th, 2008 by Tricia

The Embroiderers’ Guild is housed in an apartment in Hampton Court, one of Henry VIII’s favorite palaces.  If you ever have the chance to visit, take it.  It is a lovely place.  The Royal School of Embroidery also is located there.  Call ahead, each has a little store with wonderful goodies and books to buy.

Once we were done viewing the panel, we took the rest of the day walking around the palace and viewing the inner rooms that are open to the public.  It became fun to imagine people with embroidered clothing walking through these halls.  I love when I can get closer to the context of the real situation.  Even the gardens reminded me of the embroideries we see.  There was also a few portraits in one hall, one we all recognize with one of the long versions of the jackets.



October 29th, 2008 by Tricia

A few weeks ago we finished all the detached butterfly wings (sans one).  I wish we had the knowledge then that I have now.  The wings are one color and then have a rim of a separate color at the tips. From the earlier photography we couldn’t tell if the detached buttonhole changed color or if there was an edging added after the wing was finished.  Since we didn’t know, we tried both and mixed it up.  From examining the jacket, I now know that the added edging is the answer.

We still have one more butterfly wing to work. The hardest, and it is waiting there with my name on it.  The wing in question has two colors, but instead of being an edging, the wing was split into two (see the picture here) and worked in two colors.  But the question was how to work them and join them – detached.

I didn’t come up with the exact answer from examining the jacket, but clues were there.  It seemed as if the smaller of the wing segments was attached to the linen on both sides with only the tip detached.  Then the larger of the segments also seemed to be stitched on the join edge with the tips and other side freely detached.  I think I will stitch two separate pieces and sew them on
as just described.


Holy Spangles, Bat Girl!

October 28th, 2008 by Tricia

The title of this post was Wendy’s reaction to my email that the Laton Jacket was sitting in front of me ready for inspection.  I loved it.

Back to the jacket, Wendy had a number of questions for me pertaining to the embroidery on 1359-1900.  They all centered around one issue – “did we figure it out right????”  The great thing was that I didn’t find many elements that we had been mistaken about.  Phew.  But there was one which really surprised me.  The carnation (or pink) calyx was actually stitched in trellis stitch on most of the jacket and not detached buttonhole like we did.  It took awhile to figure out how we
were wrong about that one.  But then I noticed that the two carnations/pink calyx (so what is the plural of calyx?) on the back of the jacket were stitched with detached buttonhole and this was the only photography we had at the time.

My goal when I entered the storage room for both the V&A and EG was to photograph a close up of every motif on the piece so I could go back later and look at this type of detailing which I wouldn’t have time to systematically do at the piece.  I achieved that goal with over 1000 pictures total. Thank heavens for digital!  I think it will take months to review the data as questions come up.  But I am trying to record what I learned immediately in the blog while it is sharp in my mind.

Here is our calyx.  Even though we are wrong on some…we aren’t taking them out now!



October 27th, 2008 by Tricia
Ok –  I can’t seem to let this plaited braid on the seams go.  Fear I think.  When I expressed dread and how were we going to keep the jacket from getting so wrinkled this brought up the jackets with pre-installed gussets.  Yes, there are examples out there that have the gussets installed in the back and fronts first and then the embroidery pattern is worked over the seams.  As luck would have it, there was one of these types of jackets laying on a nearby table.  (I can’t tell you the personal strength it took not to run around the room and open every cabinet and look in!)
The jacket in question is accession number T.70-2004 and it is available on the V&A collection database.(Remember to use the search the collections function, not the search box on the V&A main page.) It is a simple but effective treatment with the background being a meandering line stitched with silver thread in reverse chain stitch, a speckling of spangles and the bobbin lace edging.  There are very large gussets in this piece to give quite a flare off the waist.  The embroidery pattern and embroidery travels right over the seams without stopping.  The jacket is interesting also because the fabric is fustian, a mix of cotton and linen.

So the big question is – was all the embroidery done in the hand on the linen with the gussets installed or was most done on a frame and then it was taken off and the gussets installed and the local embroidery then finished in the hand.  I couldn’t figure out a way to determine this.  Darn it.


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