Having been trained as a scientist, I am apt to always question a statement, think about other ways things could have been done and ask for data to back up the statements. I have to thank Susan and her patience with me all day. The lack of written records because of the Great Fire in London frustrates us because many of the answers to these questions would have been recorded or derived from the record. But we have to try to derive the answers from the limited number of
When Susan brought up that the pattern outline was drawn on the linen by the tailor and then given over to the embroiderers workshop for the embroidery pattern to be applied, I had to question. Not because I thought she was wrong, but I always need to find the evidence to defend the position.
We had the sleeves in front of us. So I started looking closely at the inking. What I saw was that the outline for the sleeve was done in strokes and contained similar errors to my tracing of the pattern outline. Slight places where the ink was off track and a redo of that area happened a few times. Also where the ink was thicker where the stroke started and then thin where the ink ran dry. I asked if they had any evidence of tracing or template using. We didn’t come to a conclusion on that.
Then the inking of the embroidery pattern. It was much better done. There were thickenings of the ink and some places I noted where the drawing had elements that overlapped. Not printed for sure. The person who drew the pattern was very expert. The same deviations from the intended line weren’t seen – possibly the difference between a tracing and freehand drawing by an expert. What I did see that was interesting was an overlapping of motifs. Let me explain. On a particular butterfly, the outline of the wings contained stripe and half circle details. On one wing the pattern of half circles did not overlap the stripes. But on the other, one half circle overlapped a stripe – as if the drafter was free handing the design and couldn’t make the elements fit. I don’t know how the embroiderer would have treated this mistake in the drafting. There were several of these
types of errors when I took a cursory look.
Overall the pattern for the sleeve was custom for the shape and size of the sleeve, not a cut of a repeating pattern like ours is. It is beautiful and very complex. I would so love to analyze the ink on the outline and the embroidery pattern to determine if it was from the same bottle or not. Won’t happen, but wouldn’t it be interesting to know!
I do agree with Susan that an expert drafter made the embroidery pattern and that the tailor did the outline. But it was worth looking closely at the piece to support the claim. Susan suggested that the master embroiderer in the workshop may have been the pattern designer/transferrer. There is evidence to support that in the practices of today’s workshops. In the Japanese tradition, the only person who can make a new design is the master. Here you see me trying to trace our pattern.