While in NYC for the symposium held in conjunction with the exhibit, “Twixt Art and Nature” I had the privilege to accompany Tricia on a visit to the Textile Conservation Department of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We met with Conservator, Cristina Carr and were wowed with the opportunity to view several bags, pairs of gloves and an unmounted set of sleeves. Cristina uses a large microscope with tremendous magnification, the picture or image shown on a large computer screen, that enables you to see the individual fibers, that make up the strands of a fiber and anything else that the lens is focused in on. In short- mind blowing.
So when she unveiled the set of unmounted sleeves it was an opportunity to look at the reverse side (wrong side) of the stitching to see how the ending of threads was handled and to see if our “production” method of working the Borage was reflected there. The Borage repeats twice in our pattern so there are a lot of them on the jacket and each Borage has 5 pointy petals, a horseshoe shaped inner ring and a two-color trellis fill. In order to get the point nice and crisp, the reverse chain begins at the top of each petal and is stitched towards the main body of the flower, to complete the other side of the petal; the stitcher must go back to the top of the petal and stitch down the other side. All of this makes for a LOT of stopping and starting.
In the workroom progress was slowing down as the stops and starts took their toll. Examining the stitching paths and overall coverage of the petals led to the decision to discontinue the stopping and starting and to instead take running stitches from the petal base back up thru the petal itself to the tip to continue stitching. This decision resulted in increased speed and reduce the amount of GST that was being used as a result of all the stopping and starting, additionally the bulk in the stitch edges was reduced and made the actual stitching of the buttonhole much easier because the reverse side of the chain stitch was no longer heavily encrusted with the tails having been wrapped thru it.
When Cristina turned over the first sleeve for examination my heart jumped, there on the sleeve in the Borage was evidence of the same approach and issue!
(Note from Tricia: The borage on these sleeves had the same funny horseshoe shaped detached buttonhole that ours does. We saw the same excessive amount of dragged thread on the back on the sleeves as ours. This is in contrast to the thread-less backs of the rest of the motifs on the sleeves – same as ours too. Seems that the problems we ran into were the same 400 years ago. See our examples here).