Tagged ‘Spangles’

Holy Spangles, Bat Girl!

October 28th, 2008 by Tricia

The title of this post was Wendy’s reaction to my email that the Laton Jacket was sitting in front of me ready for inspection.  I loved it.

Back to the jacket, Wendy had a number of questions for me pertaining to the embroidery on 1359-1900.  They all centered around one issue – “did we figure it out right????”  The great thing was that I didn’t find many elements that we had been mistaken about.  Phew.  But there was one which really surprised me.  The carnation (or pink) calyx was actually stitched in trellis stitch on most of the jacket and not detached buttonhole like we did.  It took awhile to figure out how we
were wrong about that one.  But then I noticed that the two carnations/pink calyx (so what is the plural of calyx?) on the back of the jacket were stitched with detached buttonhole and this was the only photography we had at the time.

My goal when I entered the storage room for both the V&A and EG was to photograph a close up of every motif on the piece so I could go back later and look at this type of detailing which I wouldn’t have time to systematically do at the piece.  I achieved that goal with over 1000 pictures total. Thank heavens for digital!  I think it will take months to review the data as questions come up.  But I am trying to record what I learned immediately in the blog while it is sharp in my mind.

Here is our calyx.  Even though we are wrong on some…we aren’t taking them out now!



October 27th, 2008 by Tricia
Ok –  I can’t seem to let this plaited braid on the seams go.  Fear I think.  When I expressed dread and how were we going to keep the jacket from getting so wrinkled this brought up the jackets with pre-installed gussets.  Yes, there are examples out there that have the gussets installed in the back and fronts first and then the embroidery pattern is worked over the seams.  As luck would have it, there was one of these types of jackets laying on a nearby table.  (I can’t tell you the personal strength it took not to run around the room and open every cabinet and look in!)
The jacket in question is accession number T.70-2004 and it is available on the V&A collection database.(Remember to use the search the collections function, not the search box on the V&A main page.) It is a simple but effective treatment with the background being a meandering line stitched with silver thread in reverse chain stitch, a speckling of spangles and the bobbin lace edging.  There are very large gussets in this piece to give quite a flare off the waist.  The embroidery pattern and embroidery travels right over the seams without stopping.  The jacket is interesting also because the fabric is fustian, a mix of cotton and linen.

So the big question is – was all the embroidery done in the hand on the linen with the gussets installed or was most done on a frame and then it was taken off and the gussets installed and the local embroidery then finished in the hand.  I couldn’t figure out a way to determine this.  Darn it.


All Lace All the Time

October 1st, 2008 by Jill Hall

The September 26-29 session had the largest attendance since our first session in June, 2007. This session also had a really impressive show & tell on Saturday afternoon.

Today I’ll share Carolyn H’s treasures. First, though, some photos of Carolyn’s protegees. She’s evangelizing bobbin lace, and encouraging newbies to try. My daughter Lilia is only too happy to learn, and this is actually the second time Carolyn has helped her to make lace. I think bobbin lace tools and materials will be coming to our house soon.

Norma also did some, but we didn’t get a photo. And here’s Carli making some lace too. Wendy was jokingly teasing Carli about getting back to real work, and Carolyn was threatening to convert all the embroiderers. That’s Cheryl in the background, stitching detached butterfly wings on the cozy couch.

Carolyn brought some beautiful and poignant treasures to share. Here she is with a lace fan that she made and that her late daughter carried at her wedding. Behind her you can see one of the pieces of the jacket that was retired from service this weekend; nothing remains to do on it except the gold work and the bird.

Here’s a lovely piece of lace with a ladybug motif.

Carolyn introduced us to the joy of collecting bobbins. Apparently there are many different kinds of bobbin lace and each kind or style has a different kind of bobbins. We all know that the toys I mean tools are at least half the fun of a needlework technique.

Some have beads (called spangles, just to make things confusing with the teardrop shaped metal tags), some are made of hollow glass, some are beautiful exotic wood, you get the idea. Here are few in my hand, the left hand one is possibly what bobbins looked like in the early 17th century. As Carolyn said, there’s really very little evidence to go on.

This is possibly the most precious needlework ever. Carolyn’s daughter, who passed away about four years ago, started this piece. Carolyn was nervous about working on it because, as she said, it was very different from anything I’d ever done before. But I managed, OK, I think. She’s too modest. I couldn’t tell where Caroline left off and Carolyn picked it up. What a beautiful gift to her daughter’s memory, to finish this piece despite being nervous about the techniques. I was so glad she brought it to share.

Carolyn brought a present for the Wardrobe Department today. She gave us a copy of Le Pompe, 1559: Patterns for Venetian bobbin lace by Santina Levey and Patricia Payne. When we’re done with the jacket lace, which is getting closer and closer; already 80 inches of the “long piece,” both wings, and almost all of one cuff are completed, she’s planning to turn her attention to some simple white lace for the period clothing of our interpreters. This book will help.

Embroidery Enlightenment

September 28th, 2008 by Jill Hall

Part of the point of doing a project like this is to spread knowledge and appreciation of embroidery and lace making and other needlework. I’ve mentioned before how Laura, our 2007 summer intern, did her first needlework project because of her association with the jacket project, and how others have been inspired to pick up old projects, start new ones, or learn new styles and techniques.

Han, the videographer who was here over the weekend, has been inspired too. He said a few times how much he enjoyed this assignment, and how much he learned. He said that he has seen and admired embroidery before, and thought he appreciated it. But after about eight hours of filming our volunteers, examining their work, hearing about the stitches and the research behind them, filming Carolyn making the lace, and in the photo here Mark making the spangles for the lace.

I wish I could remember exactly how he phrased it, but you could see how much of an impression this whole project made. He said that he not only appreciated embroidery now, he understood it much better and would look at other examples of embroidery with whole new eyes.

I think that’s just as important, maybe even more so, than communicating with folks who already embroider.

PS. Here Mark has set up his spangle-making kit (he carried the tall stump on his shoulder) in our “snack room”, also known as the Colonial Interpretation Department conference room. They kindly hand it over to us for our weekend embroidery sessions. Mark set up here because the wardrobe office was full of 9 embroiderers, Wendy, Tricia, Carolyn making lace, and me trying hard to stay out of the way.

Spangle Threading

September 4th, 2008 by Tricia

Having a ton of people working towards a common goal is really fun. Not something you often get in needlework which is usually a solitary activity. When we have work sessions, there is always something going on that you haven’t seen before and we are all whipping out camera to document the techniques we have developed or discovered. Here is one that we can share.

During the last session, Carolyn came up to prepare more bobbins with metal thread and spangles. We had a nice visit from Mark with more spangles, delivered in his classic rusty can again! We may have to make him some sort of silk fabric covered box to carry these amazing precious ‘gems’ so they come to us in a more proper manner. I am not sure that those who use the nails he makes show the same reverence for his work as us ‘spangle ladies’.

Instead of keeping the spangles loose in a jar, we keep them on safety pins. We put 25 on each pin so we can keep count of how many we have and have used without having to touch them. Even thought the ribbon was plaited with gold, it has been rolled and cut at the edges exposing the silver. When we want to put them on the metal thread, we put the end of the thread through a needle and can easily put the needle thorough 25 at once by holding the safety pin up. Once the pin is removed, they are on the gold thread and it can be wrapped around the bobbin. We use mini-hair clips to keep the bobbins from unwinding and creating a tangled mess.

Two Wing Pieces

August 27th, 2008 by Jill Hall

On Friday, Carolyn took the second wing piece of lace off the pillow. The “wings” are little flaps that are stitched on over the shoulder. On our jacket, as on the Laton jacket, they are trimmed with lace.

Wendy arranged the lace over Carolyn’s shoulders so we could see the effect.

I was out in the other room talking about volunteer needs for the Colonial Wardrobe Department with Plimoth’s new intern & volunteer coordinator (no, the irony hasn’t escaped me) when Carolyn came walking in with the lace over her shoulders.

It was amazing how the teardrop spangles trembled with her movement. We were all impressed again at how the finished jacket must have looked when the wearer moved, when the already flickering light twinkled over all the Bling. Wow.


May 1st, 2008 by Jill Hall

Anne’s leaf.of yesterday’s stitchers and their work.

First, here’s Anne and her leaf, embroidered on the coif. Thanks to Robbin for this great picture.

Here are a couple of pictures of Tricia, Sarah and Susan. I love how Tricia curls up in a chair to work on these big frames. No matter how huge they are, she looks cozy and comfortable, not like she’s wrestling with a bulletin board (which is how I feel, and probably look.)Stitching on April 30th.

UK stitchersWe had another Sarah in stitching yesterday. Sarah R is 11 years old and was in the office trying on period clothing – she’s going to portray a young colonist in the Village occasionally this summer. She was fascinated with the embroidery and Tricia explained just what was going on and why. Then Tricia got her a doodle cloth and some floss, and this is what she did! The bear faceSarah R’s first embroidery and the “S” are Sarah’s, and they were her first embroidery. The Project once again inspires a newbie to pick up a needle.

We’ve got a birthday and an anniversary coming up. May 15 is the blog’s birthday – one year since we started this online community. We’ve got an embroidery and lacing session May 16-19; I think we’ll be having some birthday celebrations!

The June 20 – 23 session is our anniversary – that weekend last year was the first time we gathered to work on the jacket. It seems so long ago, especially judging by the pieces. Back then, those first embroiderers really had to take their courage in hand to make the first stitches on the huge blank linen pieces. And then, after a whole day’s work, or a whole FOUR days’ work, there would be . . . two buds and a trefoil. Or a bud and two leaves. What a leap of faith on all our parts, believing that others would come after and keep filling in, that the Gilt Sylke Twist thread would get made, that the lacers would join us, that the spangles’ mysteries would be revealed. . . . I think there will be some festivities that weekend as well.

There’s still room in both sessions. Email me. jhall@plimoth.org

Lace work

April 29th, 2008 by Jill Hall

Carolyn and Margaret make some calculations.Yesterday, Carolyn and her friend Margaret came to Plymouth to work on winding bobbins. I have lots of pictures.

Quite a lot of time was spent calculating how much thread should go onMore conferring and confirming before cutting. each pair of bobbins. I think lacers come from the same school as carpenters, the “measure twice cut once” school, or in this case, figure twice and double-check the calculations. So this part took a long time and was crucially important though maybe it didn’t make the most exciting photos.

Finding the middle and the end, and winding on.Then the interesting stuff started. Carolyn and Margaret measured quite long lengths of thread, found the center, and then wound each end onto a separate bobbin. This process involved long pieces of nearly invisible thread stretched across the room.

At one point I totally did not see the silver thread and nearly created aMargaret holds a bobbin. disaster by walking “through” it. No harm done, fortunately. Here are pictures of winding, and one of Margaret holding a wound bobbin with the tiny hair clip holding the metal thread securely.

Stringing the spangles.For one set of bobbins they had to string spangles on the thread. Mark left us a tin of about 160 spangles and they used them all, plus 40 of the 50 we had left over from last time.200 spangles.

Here is a picture of Carolyn stringing the spangles, shaking them down the thread to where they need to be (she very patiently did this three times till I could get a decent picture) and one of the loaded bobbins. That’s 100 spangles per bobbin.

Thanks to Carolyn and Margaret for their hard work. They’ll be back to set up the second lace pillow later this week.

Last week we received a beautiful pair of yellow knitted gloves from Megan D and an equally lovely pair of brown ones from Jessica S. Thank you both.

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