‘Lace’ 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).

More Lace Thoughts

October 21st, 2008 by Tricia

Another question we had was how the lace was applied to the jacket and what happened at corners when the lace had to change direction (think front edge corners).

Well, the lace is whipped down with a white thread in a very fast and crude fashion.  Susan and I joked that we would need to replicate the haphazard way it was done – maybe enlisting someone who couldn’t sew.
Was the lace applied by the wearer herself?  Maybe.  When the lace turned around the corner of the front of the jacket, it was eased in place.  No folds at all.  Just a small amount of bunching of the straight edge to help the lace turn the corner.   This was consistent with a nightcap in the MET collection that I had studied earlier this summer.  The lace was whipped into place on the internal edge of the cuff on this nightcap and the join was rough as I saw on the jacket.  On the jacket, the lace edge was whipped to the front of the jacket, on the linen edge.

As we talked further, I asked Susan if more was known about the Laton jacket.  Certainly the portrait and jacket survived and ended up together.  Were there any contemporary family papers, an account book perhaps that survived?  Sadly, no she said.  The pieces had surfaced in the early century with auction houses and no papers have been found.  There are so many questions we have about the commissioning of
jackets and price that one good account book could give us answers.  I also told her that if we had a price for the embroidery or jacket we could make all kinds of calculations based on our work to give order
of magnitude answers to so many questions.  Again, the day put ideas in our heads of info we needed to  be on the watch for in the future.  I put it out there for all of you reading – if you come upon any of
this – let me know!


Lace Answers

October 18th, 2008 by Tricia

When Jill emailed me questions about the Laton jacket, many of them focused on the lace details which were too hard to see from the photos taken outside the case. The lace was applied to the jacket later in
its life, but shows in the portrait and thus is contemporary. We know that it was added later because there are remnants of the silk ribbon ties sewn into the seam which was removed to add the lace.

One of the big questions was how the lace was started or ended. Was it folded back and by how much? The answer was surprising to me. There was no fold finishing or tacking of ends under the seams. The lace was cut and the pairs looked to be tied (I will let the lace experts look at the photos to confirm this) and then applied directly to the wings with that cut edge just hanging there. For the other pieces (cuffs and the one piece that runs all around the fronts, collar, and back edge), the lace comes back and meets itself and so
they tied the pairs of the opposite ends together. The join was in the ‘V’ opening in the sleeve for the cuff lace and the join was just under the right ear area of the collar for the largest piece.

The amazing thing was as crude as the joins were made, it took Susan and I awhile to locate them. Especially around the jacket edge. We had to turn the jacket around a bit to find it. Just goes to show that when there is so much going on visually, these rough spots just don’t show up!

I add a picture of our lace here to show an end. To me, this is very nicely finished compared to what I saw on the jacket – but again, I can’t wait to her Carolyn’s comments once she looks at the photos.


Small World

October 10th, 2008 by Jill Hall

I got a call today from one of the gift shop staff. There’s a lady here from Australia, and she wonders if it’s possible to see the jacket? This sort of thing is becoming more and more common, as more people find out about the jacket and of course want to see it. Work on the jacket happens almost completely behind the scenes. A few of us have done some embroidery in front of the public in the Crafts Center, but that is unusual and special. Many people who find out about the jacket here don’t realize the work isn’t ordinarily on display.

We try to accommodate these requests when they come up so I said I’d meet the Australian visitors in the Crafts Center. Because we’re behind the scenes we can’t just give museum guests directions to find us, they need an escort. And if you’re planning a visit to Plymouth particularly to see the jacket, please, please get in touch with me beforehand. There are days when no one is in the office, or times when we’re “in” but unavailable. You know where to find me.

Anyway, I met Mary and David from New South Wales and walked with them up to the office. Turns out that Mary didn’t know about the jacket before a day or two ago, when she was visiting the New Bedford Whaling Museum. Mary, a lace maker, was chatting with someone at the museum, staff or volunteer she wasn’t sure, about ivory bobbins for lace when that person, also a lace maker, told her about “what’s going on over at Plimoth.” Thank you to the anonymous lacer from New Bedford for spreading the word.

Mary told me about a lace teacher and researcher in Australia, Rosemary Shepherd, who is currently working on a book about metal laces. Definitely someone we’d like to get in touch with. It was a pleasant episode in a busy day, and another example of how this project is making connections among those who love historic dress and the techniques that created it all over the world.

Tricia did say that she got a photo of herself with the Embroiderers’ Guild panel and permission to post it, so we’ll see that at least. What a trip; I’m sure she’ll always remember this one.

Here’s a picture for today. This is the cover of Catherine’s workbox. There are all sorts of goodies inside, but this will whet your interest.

For the past few days Penny, Arianna, and Penny’s mom Betty have been preparing for a two-day dye demonstration that will happen outside the Crafts Center at Plimoth Plantation tomorrow and Sunday. They’ve been skeining, washing and mordanting, and preparing an indigo stock solution. Tomorrow will be the “hot” dyes, dyes that need to be heated to work, like madder and cochineal and fustic; Sunday will be the magic of indigo. I’ll take some pictures to share, and Penny and Arianna are planning to write about the experience. I promise no one’ll be wearing flip-flops this time.

All Lace All the Time

October 1st, 2008 by Jill Hall

The September 26-29 session had the largest attendance since our first session in June, 2007. This session also had a really impressive show & tell on Saturday afternoon.

Today I’ll share Carolyn H’s treasures. First, though, some photos of Carolyn’s protegees. She’s evangelizing bobbin lace, and encouraging newbies to try. My daughter Lilia is only too happy to learn, and this is actually the second time Carolyn has helped her to make lace. I think bobbin lace tools and materials will be coming to our house soon.

Norma also did some, but we didn’t get a photo. And here’s Carli making some lace too. Wendy was jokingly teasing Carli about getting back to real work, and Carolyn was threatening to convert all the embroiderers. That’s Cheryl in the background, stitching detached butterfly wings on the cozy couch.

Carolyn brought some beautiful and poignant treasures to share. Here she is with a lace fan that she made and that her late daughter carried at her wedding. Behind her you can see one of the pieces of the jacket that was retired from service this weekend; nothing remains to do on it except the gold work and the bird.

Here’s a lovely piece of lace with a ladybug motif.

Carolyn introduced us to the joy of collecting bobbins. Apparently there are many different kinds of bobbin lace and each kind or style has a different kind of bobbins. We all know that the toys I mean tools are at least half the fun of a needlework technique.

Some have beads (called spangles, just to make things confusing with the teardrop shaped metal tags), some are made of hollow glass, some are beautiful exotic wood, you get the idea. Here are few in my hand, the left hand one is possibly what bobbins looked like in the early 17th century. As Carolyn said, there’s really very little evidence to go on.

This is possibly the most precious needlework ever. Carolyn’s daughter, who passed away about four years ago, started this piece. Carolyn was nervous about working on it because, as she said, it was very different from anything I’d ever done before. But I managed, OK, I think. She’s too modest. I couldn’t tell where Caroline left off and Carolyn picked it up. What a beautiful gift to her daughter’s memory, to finish this piece despite being nervous about the techniques. I was so glad she brought it to share.

Carolyn brought a present for the Wardrobe Department today. She gave us a copy of Le Pompe, 1559: Patterns for Venetian bobbin lace by Santina Levey and Patricia Payne. When we’re done with the jacket lace, which is getting closer and closer; already 80 inches of the “long piece,” both wings, and almost all of one cuff are completed, she’s planning to turn her attention to some simple white lace for the period clothing of our interpreters. This book will help.

New England Lace Group

September 24th, 2008 by Jill Hall

My camera was hiding in the trunk. It came out as soon as I wasn’t looking for it anymore, and I got these pictures. The first is of Mary D, who came up from Virginia to work on the lace this weekend. She set herself a goal of 6 repeats/day, and was well ahead of that by Sunday afternoon. Her hands moved so quickly the photo is blurred.

It was a treat to me to have some quiet time to chat with Mary; bobbin lace as a technique doesn’t really call to me (fortunately, my fiber room is bursting with supplies and tools) but it was fascinating to hear about how she came to learn to make lace, and how she enjoys the puzzle and challenge of working complex patterns with many pairs of bobbins. I asked her if this lace, simple as it is and with very few bobbins, comparatively, is boring. Fortunately the answer was no, because working with the metal threads presented its own challenges.

Here are two pictures from my visit to the New England Lace Group on Saturday. I thoroughly enjoyed the day, and was pleased to find I knew more people than I thought I was going to – Bryce, Jill H and Carolyn W have all been to work on the Plimoth lace, plus there was Carolyn H who had invited me, and Mary came for the meeting, and also Elisabeth whom I’d met a few years ago at a Weavers’ Guild of Boston meeting. They all, old friends and new, gave me such a warm welcome, and were so admiring of the work. I feel funny, always in the position to accept all the praise for the project – I’m officially passing it on to all of you, who really deserve it!


September 16th, 2008 by Jill Hall

Please note! I am cancelling the October 24-27 session.

Great progress is being made this weekend on the silk embroidery. We have 10 embroiderers scheduled for September 26-29. I anticipate that after that weekend we won’t have enough silk and GST embroidery left to make a full weekend session worth while.

There is still plenty to do – we’re just on hold for the moment. Tricia is going to examine the birds during a trip to the UK next month (green, green, green with envy) so we’re holding off on those for now. The gold coils need to be done before any other gold, and the coils have to be a unified hand, however we’re going to manage that.

After the gold coils, we’ll be calling for volunteers to come again, to do lots of gold – the centers of pansies, roses, strawberry flowers and honeysuckles, the peas, the tops of pea pods and foxglove, the stamens of honeysuckle and columbine. And I’m probably forgetting something. Plus there will be the thousands of ‘oes’, and the sewing-on of the detached pieces. And I haven’t even mentioned the lace.

When I saw the finished collar, I remarked to Tricia that there were more oes than I’d imagined. She wryly agreed, noting that she had double-checked the density on the original jacket and there are indeed more oes per square inch than we were thinking. So. Don’t despair, there’s more to do and we still need lots of help. Just not in October.

This is bittersweet, for me, at least. It feels great to be approaching another milestone, but I will miss the gatherings of embroiderers. You all are great company, and talented too.

Repeat Repeat

September 12th, 2008 by Jill Hall

Carolyn left a detailed comment about working with the GST. I thought more people would find it here:

The main feature of the thread that I had to learn to deal with is similar to what the stitchers have noted: it is raspy when rubbed against other threads. This means that when tensioning, I had to be very careful to note if the GST got caught anywhere and had to fuss with it a bit more than some other threads. The positive side was that once in place, it did not move much because of the wire structure.
Another tensioning problem was that the silk stretched a bit more than the metal, so if pulling too hard the wire would break leaving an area of bare filament silk that “puffed” a bit if not twisted. These areas were not very noticable if in whole stitch cloth, but showed up more in half stitch or filling areas. Once I got used to it, though, I could avoid over-pulling and my rate of metal-popping went way down.
If the GST rubbed too much on the edge of a bobbin or hairclip (I used the same kind of small hair clip to hold the thread on the bobbin as is used for the metal threads, shown on an earlier blog entry) the wire would break, so I also learned to make sure I moved the rubbing spot often. Kind of like avoiding nerve wear in carpel tunnel syndrome!
I’ve now finished the Torchon square with the GST so can also comment on tying off with it. I used magic threads at the start, so just had to pull the GST through the loops. It was raspy, and in one case my magic thread broke because it was so much thinner and weaker. Overall, though, it was easy to manage the GST and the knots held well. I used a surgeon’s knot(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surgeon’s_knot) to make sure the silk held tight. The knot ends could be bent over to a spot on the back and stayed put because of the wire.
And the outcome? The colors are wonderful, the lace has some structure from the wire so I could see using it for flowers, leaves, etc in 3-D work, sort of a middle-ground between silk and actual metal wire. The gold is not obvious but adds another depth of sheen to the silk, and glimmers subtly in certain angles of light. I really like it and plan to use it for more lace pieces.

-Carolyn W

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