Tagged ‘forehead cloth’

Slate Frames

July 13th, 2008 by Tricia

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.

Tammy working on the forehead clothAccess 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.


Tracing the Coif & Forehead Cloth

July 8th, 2007 by Jill Hall

Tricia continues the story of how the embroidery pattern was transferred to the pattern pieces and the decisions that needed to be made along the way.

As we talked about previously in the blog, we decided to add a matching coif and forehead cloth to this mad project. Since we didn’t have a piece to use as a model, we used the pattern for one that Plimoth has made many times. (Jill here. We chose one of our several coif patterns, different sizes and slightly different shapes, all copied from original 17th-century coifs.) Then the question was how to orient the pattern. After examining many pictures of historical coifs, I noted that the majority of them do not have any symmetrical patterns. They all seem to cut a pattern out of the master without regard for left or right. From our ‘dead bird’ episode, you will know that I was too wrapped up in symmetry to note which side was up or down on the coif and got going the wrong way and seemed to kill a few birdies in the process. After we discovered my mistake (which was immortalized in a nasty photo of me on-line), we wondered if any care was made to line up the pattern on the seam line that goes atop the head. Our conclusion from viewing photos was that there wasn’t a great deal of fussiness going on in the 17th century, so we barreled ahead with live birds a second time.

For the forehead cloth, a similar viewing of historical photos revealed a similar disregard for symmetry. But the 90 degree point of the cloth was the ‘up’ on the pattern.


Why Not?

June 13th, 2007 by Jill Hall

“So, want to make a coif and forehead cloth to go with the jacket?” Tricia asked me that a few weeks ago, during the time that she was wrestling with how to get all the jacket pieces out of one piece of linen and still be able to fit the pieces into the frames we had (or thought we could get). My first thought was that the stress of the impossible puzzle had finally sent her around the bend. In my mind the jacket alone was still looming as a gargantuan goal and a logistical nightmare. This coif & forehead cloth wasn’t exactly a new idea, though. Months before, when we were laying out this project in broad strokes, one of the goals I outlined was to increase the embroidery skills and knowledge base of the Colonial Wardrobe Dept staff. Expanding skills is a worthy object on its own, but ultimately I was intending to create a coif and forehead cloth to match the jacket, like the suite of entirely metal thread embroidered jacket, coif, and forehead cloth in the collection of Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. So my second thought was “why not?” Why not indeed. So we’ll be working on a coif and forehead cloth too, over these next months. Why not.

Thanks to Libbet, who left a comment confirming my suspicion that an embroidered coif & forehead cloth in the Burrell Collection is displayed upside down and backwards. I was hesitant to say so definitely, only having seen it in a photograph, but it is put together upside down and the forehead cloth is sewn on with the point going the wrong way. This is an easy mistake to make, especially if one has never tried to wear a coif; yet another example of how doing can teach you things even long and careful looking won’t reveal.

A forehead cloth, or in some period records, a cross cloth, is a triangle with tape or ties on two points. It is like the kerchiefs that were popular a few years ago and in the 1970s. It was worn in the 17th century over a coif, with the point facing forward, towards the forehead. They seem to have been part of informal wear, sometimes worn to bed.

Thanks also to the several ambitious embroiderers, some working solo, some in teams, who have left comments or sent notes to say that they are also working on embroidered jackets. If you send me some pictures (less than 3MB each) I’ll post some, so we can see what you’re doing and cheer you on.

Most of the daily work on this project right now is focused on getting ready for the first bee, which will start in less than a week (really? Next week already?). Much of what we’re doing, while necessary, is unglamorous and doesn’t seem particularly blog-worthy. For instance, today Kathy, Laura and I decided how many of each kind of table (small round and long rectangular) we’ll need, and in what arrangement. Not very exciting, but needed to be done. We’ve made lists of supplies we need – power strips, extension cords, nametags, coffee mugs. We’ve ordered a bunch of stuff and are crossing our fingers that it will all arrive in time, including daylight lamps, boxes to store supplies on the stitching tables, scissors for those boxes, and frame parts. I know Tricia is working on the master instruction book, which will have all the motifs and what colors & stitches they should be worked in.

I haven’t received any samples since Friday; I’ll keep noting here when I do so you’ll know yours arrived safely.

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