‘Participate’ Category


November 29th, 2008 by Jill Hall

Colleen asked how we like the daylight lamps with the attached magnifying arms; her mother-in-law is interested in getting one. I’d like to hear from the embroiderers – I can’t remember where we got the lamps, but I can look. I’m pretty sure we bought what Tricia recommended. Personally, I like the daylight part, but can’t get used to the magnifying lenses. They’re on a separate arm from the light and I haven’t been able to coordinate working with it. What does everyone else think? Any recommendations? I’ve seen a whole variety of lamps and magnifiers brought to the sessions. Some clip to the frame, some are travel daylight lamps (I think I’d like one of those, so it could move from one chair to the other in the living room plus easily go to classes.) one sat right on the taught linen and was a light in a 3-sided box so the light shone very directly where needed.

Thanks to Debbie for this picture. I’m asking Wendy if my first plaited braid is up to snuff – fortunately the answer was yes. Working that stitch is actually fun – you do get a rhythm after a while, the needle finds the path, and you come to the end of the length of thread much too quickly. From how reluctantly the goldworkers put their needles down in the evening, it seems you come to the end of the day too quickly too. Which is probably why the gold is getting accomplished so speedily.


November 20th, 2008 by Jill Hall

Thanks to Justin for answering the Murphy’s oil soap question; he washed the warping board before he started using it, to get rid of the “50 years of barn dust.” And more apologies for the poor photo of him; I was stealth snapping trying not to get any visitors in the background. I surprised him more than once, as you can see. Sorry.

Last Sunday I went to Plimoth Plantation’s annual volunteer recognition event. Plimoth, like so many other museums and historical societies and historic houses simply could not function without our many dedicated volunteers. Denise Nichols organized a lovely tea and social for this year’s event, with music and a talk and reading by Peter Arenstam from his book about Nicholas the mouse.

Denise also organized a raffle of items donated by many of the different Plimoth departments. Penny donated on Colonial Wardrobe’s behalf – a lovely hand spun, naturally dyed, hand knit cap, which was won by Karin Goldstein’s intern Sarah. The first photo is Plimoth’s Chief Executive Officer John McDonagh announcing a winner.

The second picture is three of our child volunteers. They and the other children did a magnificent job delighting thousands of Plimoth’s visitors this year, and they had a great old fun time doing it. The program, revamped and reintroduced after a few years’ hiatus, was a smashing success by all measures; the adult interpreters enjoyed the energy and enthusiasm of the children as well as the increase in historical accuracy they brought to the site. Not to mention how cute they are. The visitors also appreciated the family atmosphere, and our child visitors really enjoyed having other children to talk and play with. I’m sure we’ll see them again next summer. (Before you and your kids start making plans, though, please note that all the child volunteers are children of Plimoth employees.)

The Giant Warping Board

November 19th, 2008 by Jill Hall

Here Justin is making his new warp – I believe he said it is 20 yards. For most people this would be pretty ambitious, considering he is working in the Crafts Center only two days a week (at the most) and that there are only a few weeks left to Plimoth’s open season, and that those weeks will be filled with many, many visitors, all of whom want to see him work but also want him to explain what he’s doing, which means stopping working for a moment or longer.

Ambitious for most people, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he finishes it.

I got some good news late yesterday – Dennis came in with the computer’s brains under one arm. “You’re fine,” he said. “CD drive burned out and fried the power source.” Which I roughly translate as “the stars were misaligned for computer work.” or something. Anyway, I lost nothing and it’s all better now.

And, Carolyn, I don’t know what the Murphy’s oil soap is used for in the Crafts Center, but I’ll find out. We have some in the wardrobe office that we use to clean the sewing baskets. We fill the utility sink with warm water and a good squirt of Murphy’s, then immerse an empty basket. We use fingernail brushes to loosen a season’s worth of grime. They dry in a big heap on some rags spread out on the floor. “We” is usually two or three volunteers who work with us on Plimoth’s annual Spring Clean Day. This happens in March, the Saturday two weeks before the museum is set to open to the public. Most of the work is outdoors, where all the sites are ship-shaped by a couple of hundred volunteers and staff working together. Whole families come together and rake the paths, or pick up winter debris (sticks, leaves) or turn garden beds. Some who are unable to work outdoors or need a break from that kind of work spend some time with us, washing the baskets, saddle-soaping the belts and leather pouches, sorting and labeling the contents of the wool closet, or doing regular mending. It is a busy, tiring and fun day, and it is wonderful to see how much can get accomplished and how beautiful the sites look at the end of the day. If you’re in the area or will be in March, you and your family can come play in the dirt, too. Check the website for the date and/or email Denise Nichols, Plimoth’s volunteer and intern coordinator. She keeps a head count (so we have enough lunch) and coordinates teams and team leaders and work orders. She won’t get going with this till next February, though, so don’t worry, there’s plenty of time.


November 12th, 2008 by Jill Hall

Thanks to Debbie A who reminded me to post a note about how to make a donation to support Plimoth Plantation in general or the jacket project in particular. And thanks to Lois, who saw in a recent post that we were accepting donations and wrote to ask me how to go about it. Here’s the scoop:

Please make out your check to “Plimoth Plantation” and direct it to:

Kim Corben, Development Department

Plimoth Plantation

PO Box 1620

Plymouth, MA 02362

If you’d like to support a particular project or function, please be sure to write on your check (memo line) “embroidered jacket” (for this project – it will buy the last supplies we need and support the exhibit that will go with the jacket), “colonial wardrobe” (this would support all our work of dressing the first-person interpreters, like buying cloth and buttons and shoes), or “textile conservation fund” which is dedicated to preserving Plimoth’s three samplers (two 17th-century and one 19th-century) and any other historic textiles the museum may acquire.

Any undesignated contributions will go into the general operating fund, which is also good; that pays the electric bill, among other things.

Here’s a picture for today. Embroidery volunteer Carli brought this to show & tell last session, which started on Halloween. It is her own design. She was strongly encouraged to write up the directions, both because everyone wanted to make one and because it uses GST – click on the image to enlarge, and look for the sparkle!

Birds Next

November 9th, 2008 by Jill Hall

Mary asked a couple of days ago if she saw the beginning of a bird in the middle of the back piece.

Tricia started that bird ages ago, but before she got any further she realized we needed better pictures before she could really decipher what was happening there. We moved on to other things, and then when she had better pictures she was already planning her UK trip and thought to wait until she could see the motifs herself, in person.

Well, that has happened too, and last I heard she was almost ready to start work on the instructions for the birds. The original stitching in black may have to come out, I don’t know. As soon as we have something to show I’ll take pictures and share them.

One of the other items on Tricia’s plate right now is preparing to teach on December 12th in NYC. This class is one of the programs associated with the Metropolitan Museum’s exhibit of embroidery at the Bard Graduate Center for the Arts. The full description isn’t posted on the Bard College website yet, but you know it’ll be fabulous. Tricia’s going to do a gallery tour and then a hands-on class. You can get more information from wilson@bgc.bard.edu This exhibit is only scheduled to be up from December 11, 2008 to April 12, 2009, so plan your trip to New York now.

And while you’re planning, I’ve got three intrepid embroiderers signed up for another gold-blitz weekend 11/21 – 24; if you can get to Plymouth for even part of that weekend send me a note: jhall@plimoth.org

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).


July 9th, 2008 by Jill Hall

Wendy stitched this borage as the model. She sent me a photo, labeling it “borage – done”. Which of course it is not. I’m trying to be careful about that now. Borage needs some black and white in the middle, and then the little spiky leaves done too.

But this is the big part, and for the next session (officially 8-11 August, but any time the week of the 4th can work as Tricia will be here working on GOLD) we’ll have borage directions. This is good, because in the master pattern borage is the only motif that repeats.

Borage by Wendy.It’s a three-across, four-down repeat, and borage appears in the middle of the top row and at the left end of the bottom row (as Tricia drew it – it’s a repeat so theoretically you could start anywhere and repeat outward). So twice as many borages, sort of. Lots of opportunity to use the spectacular dark blue gilt sylke twist. See you soon?

To address the questions in the comments about comparing the lace gold thread to the embroidery gold thread, and how the embroidery gold thread is made, and the needles, and that, we’ll have to wait till Tricia comes back from vacation and can let us know. I’d say maybe towards the end of next week? I know she’ll get us the information as soon as she can.

I think there will be plenty of goldwork to do aside from the coiling vines, too. I was thinking, the tops of the foxgloves and pea pods are gold. The vine has many curliques (which it may be should be worked as you come to them, but maybe they’re separate, I don’t know) which will be gold. Most of the leaves have gold veins. The rose, strawberry flower, pansy and honeysuckle all have gold centers. The straight lines that stick out of the columbine and honeysuckle blossoms might be gold. (No, I don’t mentally catalog the work left to do, over and over. Why do you ask?) So we may well have goldwork available to those who either don’t want to or can’t match the established stitch density of the plaited braid. All of which to say, don’t worry, there’s plenty work to go around.

The other day I heard from some embroiderers who hadn’t sent in a sample or signed up to stitch because they were nervous about having their work “judged”. We’re really not using the samples to judge, or to keep anyone away. No one’s been refused. The samples let us take advantage of everyone’s strongest skill, and give Wendy and Tricia a starting point for helping to improve everyone’s stitching. Even those very experienced with this kind of embroidery have reported that after a few pointers and two days of practice, their work has improved and they go faster. Several have called the embroidery weekends a kind of ‘master class’, with individual attention (Wendy & Tricia usually have 20-25 students in a class and here we never have more than 8) and lots of time to practice.

So don’t let that keep you away. Come stitch. This chance won’t be here much longer. I swear.


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.

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