‘Progress’ Category

Trying it Myself

January 15th, 2009 by Tricia

It is my goal on this project to try as many of the techniques as possible so I can describe it on the blog, in lectures or in an eventual book.  So I gathered up my hutzpah to ask Justin and Kate if I could ‘drive’ the loom.  They were very gracious and helped me in the steps.  Open the shed, grab the shuttle, throw it through (and CATCH), beat it and start again.

As you can see in the pictures – I found this to be much harder than I thought!  It is like chewing gum and rubbing your head while hopping on one foot.  Opening the shed by pushing on the foot petals took strength as I am shorter than Justin.  But the hardest part was throwing the shuttle.  I thought it would fly out the other end and I would have trouble catching it.  NOT a worry!  The shuttle kept getting stuck between the two layers and I would have to stick my fingers in between the warp to scoot it along. Justin made it look so easy and fast.  You can see me looking close after beating down the weft to see if the weave was tight enough there.  I don’t want that ‘defect in the weave’ to be because of me!

You can see the wonderful length of woven silk at the bottom take up – he estimated it to be between 1.5-2 yards at that point.  I can only take credit for maybe three or four passes – not even an 1/8″ of it!  Working on the sequence, it was really physically demanding and I can’t imagine doing a piece of fabric that is wider.  You need some wingspan for that!


Notes from the Front

November 26th, 2008 by Jill Hall

Over the past few weeks several new blogs have linked to us – welcome! And thanks for helping to spread the word about this project.

Over this weekend I got the chance to work on the gold embroidery – wheee! I was the beneficiary of a personal tutorial from Wendy, which was awesome, because I’d really been struggling to understand the stitch diagrams. It is sooo confusing in the pictures, especially the starting maneuvers. Basically she sat next to me and my doodle cloth saying, come up here; down there; up here; down there. Yes, there. Really.

Across the table Debbie and Carli were smiling, because the beginning really doesn’t look like anything, and because it took even them several coils before they could start without checking the directions. Which made me feel better.

This is the little bit I managed to get accomplished, after what felt like a long time. Everyone else is going much more quickly.

The gold is interesting to work with, in a way it is much sturdier than the GST. It is also quieter; the GST is almost corrugated and it makes a thrrrrp noise as you pull it through the linen, because of the difference between the silk and the place where the gold wraps it. The gold passing thread is evenly covered so it passes smoothly and quietly. We’re using the hand made Japanese needles with it, which helps make a large enough hole in the linen for the gold to pass through, and also is gentler on the gold at the eye. Eventually the gold breaks there, though, and you have to cut and re-thread, but we’re finding it happens less than with the GST. And if you bite the very edge of the end you’re threading, just to crimp the gold, it will thread more easily and help it last longer before raveling.

Also, the gold passing (GP) is sturdy enough to pick out and reuse, more than once even, if necessary (ask me how I know). And, because it is stiff, you can feel right away if you’ve got a bump or a kink on the back. With the GST it happens often enough that you don’t find that snarl on the back till you turn the piece over to fasten the end. Grrr.

The suggested thread with which to practice the plaited braid is Kreinik #8; Debbie reports that using the high luster version is easier because it is stiffer. She feels that the blue is the most workable, but the universal opinion is that anything other than the gold passing is a poor substitute. This stitch demands to be worked with the real stuff, and this gold demands to stitch the plaited braid. It is harder to stitch even the reverse chain coils with the gold passing, because it is almost too stiff to make those small bends.

I know, you would work with the GP if you could get your hands on some, and it isn’t really fair of me to mention how nicely it makes a plaited braid. Several people have asked about buying a gold work kit, or just a spool of the GP. We’re holding off for right now, until we’re absolutely sure we have enough to accomplish the jacket, before we release any. I know we could sell this and buy more, but if there’s any kind of hold-up in the manufacturing or shipping (and I can imagine several scenarios with scarcely any effort) it would delay the jacket’s completion, and we can’t have that. As soon as we can let some go, we absolutely will.


November 25th, 2008 by Jill Hall

Wendy sent this post and the photos:

Over the weekend  there was much discussion about the recent request  to see the “Backs”.   We were a group of mixed reactions because  there are many stitchers whose reverse side of their work is as beautiful as the front and then there are those of us who will show you our reverse sides only under duress. In the end after lots of laughter and jokes about “backsides”  we agreed that  you should see them, so here are two of the pieces for your viewing pleasure.

Among the things we’ve learned  about reverse sides are that it is really important to make sure the silk work ends( the parts done with the silk perle)  are very securely  wrapped and tucked in on the reverse side otherwise the GST and  even the GP ( gold passing) because they have ribs will catch even a hair of the silk and pull it through to the front- requiring some fiddling to  get the ends back to the back or trimmed. Sometimes because of the friction in a neighboring area  the slippery silk perle seems to have a mind of its own and  sort of unwraps out of its spot  and then the only way to fix it is to make a noose to  try and capture the errant end ( about a half inch)  and snug it back into place.

Left Upper Sleeve

November 22nd, 2008 by Jill Hall

Here are the long promised photos of the left upper sleeve. Lyn from Canada was working on this last time; Wendy has it this time.

Debbie’s been in touch with Lyn. Apparently there are 5″ of new snow where she is, preventing her from coming to this session. We miss you Lyn!

Kris Comes to Stitch

November 7th, 2008 by Tricia

This post was written on Wednesday.

I can’t tell you how thrilled I am with the boost in the arm that Judy, our weekend group, and now Kris Andrews is giving to this project. We have made tremendous progress on the goldwork and I think we might even get this project done some day!

Kris Andrews is stitching on the piece that Judy worked on for a week. She is also stitching here most of the week as she is staying with her mother who is local to me. Tomorrow she runs down to Plimoth for an important photo session with the piece she is working on. More about the results of that important photo session later.

Kris has been smokin’ hot in progress. Of course it is easy to look good when someone else warms up the piece for you! Another thing that has made me breathe a HUGE sigh of relief is how hard of a time I am
having to tell which of them did which coils. PHEW. But really, Kris is very fast and good.

Just look at how fantastic this piece is looking. Kris is diverting today and part of tomorrow from finishing the plaited braid and is doing the fiddly bits so some of the motifs can be ready for photos. I hope she gets the piece back for Friday and can complete the plaited braid parts. That would be amazing.


Thank You Judy!

November 6th, 2008 by Tricia

We have to thank Judy Laning for her week of Indentured Servitude to the Jacket (or Waistcoat). We have given her a ‘certificate’ as the human who has worked the most plaited braid to my knowledge. Well, that title will last until at least Friday when the next Indentured Servant might upstage her. We will let you know on that.

Judy did beautiful work. She is looking a bit tired in this photo as it was about 11pm and we had handed out a bunch of candy and the house was buzzing with little kids with costumes on. Judy worked through the whole Halloween thing and had driven back from Plimoth where we had gotten a group working for the long weekend on plaited braid, handing down our experience from the week. We learned a lot from plowing through a bunch of plaited braid. Some of which I will have to do some detailed blogs on next week. We noted an important maneuver that allowed us to pick up incredible speed in working the stitch and gave me new insights on these gold stitches. Let me take a series of photos to try to illustrate this for you. When you work only a few inches for a sampler here and there – you never get proficient enough to make statements and conclusions.

I also learned an important thing. The indentured servant will go crazy after three straight days of working on plaited braid from 8am – 11pm. We took a mental health break on Thursday at lunch to see a bunch of samplers at Skinner that were being auctioned off. That was enough and then back to work!


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).

Indentured Servants

November 2nd, 2008 by Tricia

As we have moved into the gold work phase of this project we must sometimes evaluate our methods of getting work done.  We had been working with an apprentice system which has served us well.  But now with the vast amounts of plaited braid in front of us, we need to consider learning more from the past.

I propose a new means – Indentured Servitude to the almighty PLAITED BRAID.  Yes, I am joking.  I think that after two full days of working this monster stitch from 8 am to 11 pm, Judy was getting a little punchy last night.  She quipped to her husband on the phone that she was now an indentured servant to the jacket.  We giggled at what an ad would look like for this.

Judy has been embroidering at my house instead of the work room. Sometimes I bring a frame home to work on the instructions and since I had offered her a room for the week if she would stitch solid, it made more sense to have her work here while I worked beside her.  It saves about 3 hours of driving to Plimoth a day and I can make her work even later!  Thus an Indentured Servant!

Of course, working in my house has its perks.  Such as food, water, a couch and DVDs.  But it has some major detractions.  They are called the “Heathens” and these little children like to get up at 5:30 am and have more energy than comes from an atomic bomb.  Hard to sleep through the little tornados.

Hopefully Judy will get a nice night of sleep once she returns home. But for now she is making amazing progress on the plaited braid.  I’m thrilled.


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