Ahem. I owe an apology; Tricia sent me this information to post way back in February and I don’t think I ever did post it. I was looking for something else in my emails and found it. As a poor defense, the cover note mentioned that her sons had just come down with what my son was just getting over – a virus with high fever – and I must have still been boggled. I included a photo of Tammy working on the forehead cloth; it clearly shows the slate frame. Tammy was here about the same time Tricia sent this note; it was one of the snow-shortened sessions. Seems a long time ago now. I haven’t heard anyone say with certainty that they know the reason they’re called slate frames, by the way. Anyway, Tricia wrote:
Several people have asked where to get slate frames. As we talked early in the blog, we had a great deal of trouble finding slate frames in the USA for this project. There are one or two small makers in England but they wouldn’t export to the USA and we didn’t have the budget to fly there to get them! The frames that are pictured were a really nice product line that was manufactured in Europe for Access Commodities. A combination of factors resulted in these frames coming off the market a few years ago – the rising Euro, some manufacturing problems, and a brief intro of a lower quality copy by a vendor ended up resulting in the product line being taken off the market.
Access was great to take all the leftover on their shelves, seconds, and a list of what stores had formerly bought from them to allow me to find enough for the project. (What Tricia then did was call all the stores to see if they had anything left of their last orders. She usually leaves out the part about her tedious legwork.) We combined this with some long slats made by Plimoth staff and my entire vast personal collection (note again that STASH comes to the rescue!) and a wonderful stitcher’s stash (this generous stitcher has long-term loaned us a few essential frame parts) we found through the list from Access to complete the sizes we needed.
Recently Access has made a test run in-country to see if this product line can be brought back as a favor to me and because of interest in this project. I am testing out the new frames next week with a class I am teaching. (Since this post is so old, that test-run happened in February. It sounded like it went well. Norma B brought her nightcap project from that class to a show & tell at one of the sessions, all drawn out and laced into the frame.) If things go well, the frames might come back to market. I am sorry I can’t give a simple answer to the question of ‘how do I get a frame’. The good news is if everyone out there who wants a frame, requests it of their local shop , maybe you can help the push to get these back again as momentum is now in our favor.
This is again an example of how fragile the needlework market is. Fundamental products come and go off the market very easily. I made a friend years ago who was the retired R&D head of a major needle company in Germany and founder of a museum of needle technology. Germany and England had been the centers of the needle trade since the time our jacket was made. Today there is one English vendor and a French vendor. Between them they make 80% of all needles and brand them with different names. My friend
showed me hundreds of different types of needles that were made prior to WWI by dozens of companies. Needles that I knew must have existed to do embroidery I couldn’t do today because I couldn’t find the right needle. He showed me how the governments of England and Germany had restricted the product lines during the war to divert steel to munitions. When the war was over, women’s lives had changed so much that the demand wasn’t large enough to reintroduce the large variety again. Hence those forms of embroidery are now gone from our lexicon,effectively extinct. Today most needlework manufacturers are very small entities, entire product lines can disappear just because someone retires or there is a medical emergency in the family and the business owner needs to find a ‘real job’. I wish every stitcher knew the background on the products they use and understood the economics of the situation. It would stop all chart copying, sharing, and buying cut rate floss from big craft stores in a second. Unfortunately it is the big secret that no-one wants to talk about. While not everyone can afford to fill their closets – there are small everyday decisions when shopping for our craft passion that make or break the industry.