Tagged ‘gold’

Of Golden Coils

December 11th, 2008 by Tricia

During the latest session we had made enough progress on the plaited braid that
we could do some calculations.  Because the gold thread was made specially for
the project,  we needed to know if there was enough to finish the project or if
another round of thread would need to be made.

So we went around on Friday and counted gold coils that needed to be finished
and those that were done.  The count was 62 done and 155 needing work.  We
counted the jacket pieces along with the coif and forehead cloth.  Then on to the
spools of gold thread.  We have been careful to use a spool fully before opening
another spool and keeping the empties all together, just for this purpose.  So we
had 16 spools that were empty and another 48 left that were full.

Putting on the math hat, we were 28% done with the plaited braid coils.  Wow.  That
made us feel good!  The gold coils are obviously the part of the project that we
have stressed about the most.  I am happy to report that all that hand ringing was
for nothing.  I have been surprised by how fast the stitchers have become very
competent at the plaited braid and how the hand is not easy to identify.  One added
bonus that we will be able to see soon is what types of variations we see in the
hands and therefore go back and review existing embroideries to see if we can see
the subtle differences and therefore the number of professionals.

But back to the numbers, we have 28% of the coils done with 25% of the spools.
Phew.  We still have extras to do, the tendrils and centers of flowers.  But I have a
small stash of nine spools from the manufacturing run in reserve and so we think
we are ok.  Now I hear all you out there who want this thread.  I will do
my darnest to try to get some more made – but at least we don’t fear running out of
thread on the project.

The progress per spool was validation of our thread estimation methodology.  If you
look back in the blog, you will see how we counted coils, measured a few and then
came up with the number of meters of a coils to work.  Then worked an inch of
plaited braid and measured how much thread we used.  The estimate is holding
pretty well.

Now how did they do it in the 17th century?


October 17th, 2008 by Tricia

The panel at the Embroiderers’ Guild has often been referred to in some texts as a coif. The confusion may have occurred because the dimensions (width and height) are similar to many coifs. But it is a panel. We took a look at the edges and it was obvious that the piece was in its entirety and not cut from something larger. The small amount of linen around it had either nail marks or holes from being stretched on a frame. There was an embroidered stem stitch outline around the four sides and the embroidery appropriately started or ended at the boundaries if the motif was cut by the boundary.

Other details that are different from the jacket: there are less flowers, only nine types instead of the 11 borage being repeated twice) of the jacket. (I had to read this twice, my brain doesn’t move as fast as Tricia’s. The jacket master repeat is 3 x 4, therefore 12 motifs, but there are two borage so only 11 different motifs.) The borage and strawberries are missing. The blue and red flowers (carnation, gillyflower, or cornflower?) on the pieces are different between the two pieces, but not much different in terms of tracing. Just embroidered differently.

The calyx of the foxglove is stitched in silk and not gold. There is a different technique used for the detached pea pod parts, detached buttonhole in silver strip wrapped silk on the jacket and silk buttonhole over a gold thread (return) for the panel. The roses have an extra set of detached petals. Some of the thistles have an extra layer of detached buttonhole. The coiling stem is also a different stitch. On the jacket it is plaited braid whereas on the panel the stitch is ladder with wheat sheath. This stitch is much slower to work than plaited braid and done in two passes. Overall, the panel has a higher level of detail work which is absent from the jacket.


Who is Doing the Spinning?

October 16th, 2008 by Tricia

There was a mistake on the panel that was very interesting to me. One of the questions I have been working on for the MET exhibit has been the method of manufacturing gold threads. This also begets the question, who was making them. From the research so far, we see gold and silver wyre drawers making the wire and possibly flattening it. Then it seems to be turned over to ‘Gold Spinners’ who put the wire or strip around the silk core thread. We have not found any description of this process yet and the current processes used are a product of the industrial revolution and therefore don’t provide us clues as to the past.

The mistake was a small leaf under the bird’s tail. The buttonhole had been started with a strand of silk with a silver strip wrap. Then it changed to just silk at about the natural point that a 12-14″ strand of thread would have run out and have to be changed. What was interesting is that both the jacket and panel have only silk leaves. No metal wraps. But here we have a mistake…oops…started with the wrong thread. But they never seemed to take anything out if they could help it. Hardly noticeable in the final effect unless you are overly familiar with the pieces.

The ah-ha moment came when I saw that the thread wrapped with the metal strip was the same two color silk (green and yellow) as the rest of the leaf. We have talked in depth before how they achieved this heathered effect with a two color twisted thread. Our hypothesis has been that, at the frame, they twisted the two colors they needed to blend. But now we see that the blended thread is also wrapped. Chris, Lynn and I had a long discussion on this – repeated the next day with Susan with additional thoughts being added.

The wrapped blended thread implies that possibly someone in the workshop was skilled at spinning the silver strip or wyre onto the silk thread. Susan repeated what we all would have originally thought – that you bought the colors and threads that you needed from a third party as we do today. The vertical integration of gold thread or composite thread making with the embroidery studio has been a working hypothesis of mine for years. I especially see a great deal of evidence on professional pieces where there are multiple composite threads such as flat silk, wyre wrapped silk, and wyre wrapped silk purl that are all the same dye lot. Based on inventory records, the threads were a valuable commodity and thus having the flexibility to make what you need as you need it would be economical. But we do see that gold threads were certainly bought pre-made by the crown and then supplied to the embroiderer. Many new questions came from this discussion. Susan posed an interesting question: if the gold thread was pre-purchased by the person who commissioned the piece and given to the embroiderer, how would they know how much to buy and could they insure that the workshop wouldn’t skim off the top?

We talked at length about how we have gone about estimating thread for this project, a very important issue to make sure that we have silk of the same dye lot and that the threads we are having manufactured will be enough. Susan was very interested in the process. We have a lot to think about and these questions will color how we look at inventory and account book records in the future.

And if we were to think that this was usual, while I was at the EG collection, they thought I might be interested in seeing other pieces and brought out two coifs. On one of the coifs, this heathered thread with metal wrap was all over the piece. Nice.

I’ve added pictures of the two-color thread we used to prove how the heathered effect was done for you to reference.


Status Report – Collar

September 14th, 2008 by Jill Hall

As of September 12, 2008, here is the collar piece. You’ll notice it has both gold work and sequins, necessitating the use of shades just to look at it.

I’m pretty sure Tricia is going to blog about this piece, and I don’t want to scoop her so I won’t say any more – but this picture really is worth a thousand words.

Playing with the Sparkle

September 5th, 2008 by Jill Hall

I have been able to spend a good deal of time recently working on the gold thread embroidery and it is really beginning to make the piece come to life. While the polychrome embroidery is always impressive,
once the gold goes on a project, you realize that the piece was previously ‘flat’. There is nothing like that sparkle. I almost finished the gold work on the collar recently and couldn’t help playing with the lace lengths that our friends had finished for the wings. Here you can see it curved around the edge where the lace will finally be applied in the finished waistcoat. Just breathtaking. This object won’t need any light to be shone on it. It will be a beacon of its own. And we haven’t added the small ‘oes’ on the embroidery yet! Another level of sparkle to go!


Bring in the Cavalry!

August 10th, 2008 by Tricia

August 8 group.After spending all week here working on instructions and doingRewinding bobbins. experimental archeology, as Jill puts it, it was nice to have a crew come in to make a nice push on the pieces. We have seven people here today working on embroidery and lace. Speaking of the lace, Carolyn has come today to set more lace pieces up and rewind gold onto a bobbin that has run out. Here you see her preparing the bobbin before she will do some lace magic (to me at least) and add the end into the existing lace under work.

More than 40″ of lace!I had fun looking at the long piece on the pad that was alreadyProgress. finished – is it me or does the lace seem to go faster than the embroidery? She let me unroll it, almost 40″ done on this one piece already. Here you can see how lovely it is. I admit that I wrapped it around myself to see how pretty it was. It was. But that is as close as I am getting to wearing the jacket, it’s not my size.


Stitch Your Peas!

August 7th, 2008 by Tricia

Tricia wrote this post for us:

Today we excitedly added peas to one of the pods that are on the jacket to make the instruction sheets. The bottom of the pod is stitched in silk detached buttonhole and then two gold spider web peas are added on top. Here you can see me practicing the spider web pea in a corner to try to get the right size. With the spider web stitch using a thick thread, you need to make the legs really long to end up with a smaller circle. I had to try it a couple of times to get the right size. The peas looked really, really bright on the silk. We had alot of squealing in the room as passersby saw the peas. Very cute. Tricia practicing stitching peas.

We had a question from a curator the other day as to why we were stitching the gold last and not first. Apparently there is an unfinished piece in their collection that has only gold on it. Having not seen the piece, I can’t comment on that piece. I can comment on this jacket and why we are working in that order, along with many other pieces I have viewed. There are several clues that lead us to the ‘gold last’ argument. First, the leaves and peas all have gold worked directly on top of the silk. Second, almost every vine end or calyx (as in the foxglove or peas) overlaps the Adding the peas to the pea pods.silk work, showing that it had been done last. Another point from experience – filament silk catches on raised gold stitches so much that it becomes impossible to work. And we have already shown that much of the silk worked on the original was hand twisted filament in a medium – loose twist, which would have caught on the gold plaited braid as each buttonhole was worked. Just wanted to document our thinking process for those who may have wondered.


blog as documentation helps us, too, when we later try to reconstruct the decision-making process jmh

The Spangle Quest continued

March 15th, 2008 by Jill Hall

Wendy sent me this information from her spangle research. She sent it quite a while ago, but I put off posting it in favor of other subjects. I wanted to save some for when we got nearer to the end of the Spangle Quest. I’m posting it now; think about that.

While researching word origins regarding spangles and oes I came across a book entitled: English Dictionaries 800-1700, The Topical Tradition by Werner Hullen 1999 and published by Oxford University Press. In it is found James Howells Dictionary for the Genteel (1660) and the definition at that time for a “wire drawer” is more of a list of tools associated with the art of wire drawing:

A Wyredrawer; Tiratore de metallic; Trayer de metaux; Tirador de metales’- a hammer,nippers, a rowl pin, an oyl stone, bobbins, purling wyres, a spangle tool, a tool to cut oaes,rocket or small rowles, a serpentine, an anvil, files, the racer, a burnisher

From the above I would suspect that a “serpentine” may have been the twisting wheel. Interestingly there is no mention that I can discern of a lead pan, pitch pan or mat upon which to punch or cut out the spangles. It would not have been done on the anvil, as it would have dulled the cutter quickly.

Additionally it should be noted that while researching it became apparent that the more creative I was with the search terms and spelling the better the results. Examples include:

O’s – oes, oaes, paillettes, paillon, drop, drops, hangers, hangrs, hyngers

Spangles – spangs, paillettes, tags, aguil, drop, props, hyngers, bezants

Wire – wyre, wyer, wir

I was hoping this would yield some additional information if not corroboration to our theories so we could begin the process of testing various methods to create the “spangles”.

Mark had already made one small tool and tested it on some of the “Plate” Tricia had brought in from her stash. His results were right on target and had us all really excited. The next step was for Mark to make a tool in the correct size and shape that we could try to find the right material to use in making the spangles.

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