Tagged ‘UK’

Birds Next

November 9th, 2008 by Jill Hall

Mary asked a couple of days ago if she saw the beginning of a bird in the middle of the back piece.

Tricia started that bird ages ago, but before she got any further she realized we needed better pictures before she could really decipher what was happening there. We moved on to other things, and then when she had better pictures she was already planning her UK trip and thought to wait until she could see the motifs herself, in person.

Well, that has happened too, and last I heard she was almost ready to start work on the instructions for the birds. The original stitching in black may have to come out, I don’t know. As soon as we have something to show I’ll take pictures and share them.

One of the other items on Tricia’s plate right now is preparing to teach on December 12th in NYC. This class is one of the programs associated with the Metropolitan Museum’s exhibit of embroidery at the Bard Graduate Center for the Arts. The full description isn’t posted on the Bard College website yet, but you know it’ll be fabulous. Tricia’s going to do a gallery tour and then a hands-on class. You can get more information from wilson@bgc.bard.edu This exhibit is only scheduled to be up from December 11, 2008 to April 12, 2009, so plan your trip to New York now.

And while you’re planning, I’ve got three intrepid embroiderers signed up for another gold-blitz weekend 11/21 – 24; if you can get to Plymouth for even part of that weekend send me a note: jhall@plimoth.org


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.


The Panel – Raised Work

October 14th, 2008 by Jill Hall

As you saw in the picture from yesterday, the panel in the EG collection is quite small. It appeared to me to be the same scale as the jacket, but some further measurements will be made from photographs I took with a ruler at the edge of the mounting. If you remember, our hypothesis is that the same master vine pattern was used for both.

The first thing that struck me was that the petals of the flowers were stuffed, giving them a trapunto-like effect. This isn’t visible in the published photos of the piece. Of course panic set over me – was the jacket also stuffed? My gut said no, as the extra work would have greatly increased the time to finish the piece and we had already seen that some details on the panel had been dropped for the jacket by comparing photographs. When I saw the jacket the next day, it wasn’t stuffed. Phew. I don’t know the material it was stuffed with, but it appeared ecru to white when I saw it peeking out under one damaged petal. Possibly wool? I did really like the effect. I may have to try it.

The stuffing, I think, would have been put under the growing petal as work was being completed. I say this because the fiber wasn’t sticking through the top (as it might if it had been laid down first). Also the reverse chain outline was there and so the petals were embroidered in place. What we don’t know is if a traditional trapunto technique was used – slitting or making a pushed hole in the back and then fiber stuffed in and the hole sewn shut. The panel is mounted, making the back unavailable to view. Considering how difficult it might be to stuff from the back without damaging the buttonhole, I think I will try stuffing as the petal is worked.


Thanks are in order

October 13th, 2008 by Tricia

Before I get into details, I must thank the people who helped me immensely by taking time to host me for the appointments. First, Lynn Szygenda, Senior Curator at the Embroiderers’ Guild and Chris Berry, Past President of the EG.  Chris happened to be down in London on business this week and took time out to join me in the examination of the panel.  Chris is an expert on Tudor embroidery stitches and I was very pleased to finally meet her.  Having more experts at the table examining a piece is fantastic because you can both look at the same detail and debate them.  Sometimes your first conclusion will be wrong or there might be other data that one of you is aware of that can help make a new hypothesis.  Chris volunteers in the collection at the Burrell Collection and has a wealth of knowledge to share.

We had a lot of fun; I had my laptop full of my research photos next to the piece.  Lynn and Chris spent hours poring through the photos, including ones that we had from the V&A of the 1359-1900 jacket which Susan North had provided us with.  We could compare and contrast the
two pieces some.

My second thank you goes to Susan North, Curator of Costume at the V&A.  Susan took a great deal of time to help me move the jackets for photography.  As we discussed and debated what we saw, she would bring out other items to prove her point or to help answer the questions we had jointly proposed.  Susan is working with colleagues to produce a pattern book based on clothing of this period.  While it won’t be completed in time for this project, she and another colleague have been examining the Laton jackets and others (yes they were also on the table) for evidence of construction techniques.  This is the reason Laton was out of the case.  They were very generous to share their thoughts and to show me the evidence on each of the jackets to support it.  Because multiple professionals (embroiderers vs. tailors and/or other professional craftsmen, as well as multiple embroiderers – jmh) were involved in the process of making a jacket, we had a lively debate on which parts were performed by each and how the money/work may have transitioned.  I will comment more on this in a future blog.

I am sorry that I have very little eye candy that I can share with you on the internet from this trip, but here you can see Lynn (back), Chris (foreground) and me with the panel.


I’ve only ever seen photos of the panel with no context – I was surprised how small it is. jmh

Crossing the Ocean and a Huge Surprise

October 12th, 2008 by Tricia

I got this from Tricia this morning:

I am writing this blog on the plane on my way back to the states from London. What can I say but “WOW”. I’ve been to London before and seen many embroideries in wonderful museums. This time was different, I was able to view the pieces up close that we have been working from since November 2006. It is a significantly different experience to examine period embroidery from a research view, as I normally do, and then from the new perspective of having tried to accurately reproduce the pieces. You come to them with the challenges you faced in organizing the work and having gotten inside the head of the embroiderers who worked on the original. You don’t see the forest anymore, but the leaves on all the trees and immediately the variations between them. You have an enhanced knowledge of it so you aren’t numbed by its sheer beauty, but can take a real critical eye and SEE things.

Before the readers of the blog wonder why we haven’t seen them before, because it certainly should have been the first step in mounting the project, I will explain. Through a series of circumstances, the project has been unfunded and therefore there was never any money to travel. This was my own personal odyssey and tacked onto a trip that I had planned for other reasons.

I spent Wednesday at the Embroiderers’ Guild viewing the panel which we believe was worked by the same workshop as the jacket. Then Thursday at the V&A viewing our jacket, 1359-1900. But I had the biggest surprise of my life, the Margaret Laton jacket had been taken off display and had been unmounted for research for an upcoming book. We placed the two jackets side by side and I took 750 photos. Maybe Jill* will blog about her surprise when I emailed from the storage room frantically hoping that they would get it before I was done. I emailed Wendy too – and she called Jill direct to let her know. A once in a lifetime opportunity to get pictures of the construction and lace before it is remounted. “What do you want to know??” I asked. A flurry of email came back with tons of fantastic questions. Thank god for the mobile devices of today!!

I think I will have easily a week of blogs for you. I so wish I could share the pictures, but I will describe what I learned and saw.


*Jill here. My son and I have been playing a sort of (unintentional) roulette game, seeing how late we can get out of bed and still get him on the bus. Earlier this week the phone rang in the middle of the quick-quick-get-your-backpack-and-run routine. It was Wendy. She sounded sleepy. I know I sounded sleepy. She said she’d just opened a message from Tricia “the Laton is unmounted on the table in front of me! What do we want to know? Make sure Jill sees this!” Wendy had found the note about an hour and a half after Tricia sent it, so she wasn’t sure if Tricia was still in the room with the jacket. She sent off a note with what she could think of, then called me, which was very smart, since I never get around to opening emails until about 9:30 or 10, which would’ve been another hour at least. I mentioned as many things as I could think of, fretted that we must be forgetting something, and needlessly, I’m sure, said, tell her to take pictures of everything! “I hope she has extra memory cards,” Wendy replied, then hung up to send off another email. Luckily they both reached Tricia while she was still in with the jacket. 15 minutes later the Boy was on the bus and I was on my way to work, thinking the whole way about what she might be discovering. I can’t wait to see and hear all about it.

Our Foreign Correspondent

October 8th, 2008 by Jill Hall

I got a note from Tricia today. She’s in the UK, on a special birthday trip with a couple of friends. In addition to sightseeing and spa visits, she spent some quality time with the EG panel.

The Embroiderers’ Guild in the UK owns a flat panel of embroidery which has sometimes been called a coif and sometimes a cushion. Either way, it is the same embroidery pattern as our jacket and as the V&A jacket #1359-1900. Because this panel is flat, studying photos of it back in the winter of 2007 helped Tricia to see the master pattern repeat of the jacket, which then made it easier to transfer the pattern to the jacket pieces. The panel helped, but the process still involved several hours at least of staring and thinking and comparing and considering before the master repeat revealed itself.

She said that she’s got some great photos of the bird beaks and feet, and she’s ready to start work on the birds when she gets back. She also said that the flowers on the flat panel are stuffed, and she’s curious to see if they are on the jacket also, which she’ll be visiting tomorrow (today by the time you read this, I expect).

She’s already taken over 350 photos and will have lots to share with us when she gets back to an internet connection (this note came from her iPhone). I can’t wait to hear what she has to say about the jacket.

Here’s a photo of one of Sharon’s needlework treasures, that she shared at show & tell this last session.

We Get Mail

May 3rd, 2008 by Jill Hall

Or comments, really.

Thanks, Jane, for your note. Jane’s from the UK and was curious about our UK stitcher, all of whom were in the US for the Celebrations of Needlework in Nashua, NH, which I believe wraps up tomorrow. I don’t know offhand where Sarah and Susan are from, but I’ll look it up when I get back to the office. Susan has an online needlework shop, Hanging by a Thread, (the shop’s address is London, so there’s a clue) and has been so generous about spreading news of the project. Sarah is Susan’s sister, and they look enough alike that I was having trouble keeping their names straight, though in my defense they were at first introduced to me by the other’s name, so after that I had no chance at all. Anne is Robbin’s mother-in-law (Robbin of the laptop grant, the lacemaking, the thistle calyxes, the gorgeous antique lace wedding veil, and the great photos). I’m pretty sure the information on where the blog hits come from exists, but I would have to go looking for it. (Yah. Who am I kidding? By “looking for” I mean “ask Rich”.) I know coral-seas is in the UK. She returned our first overseas sample, and writes a delicious needlework blog here. Our other international stitcher is Lyn. She comes from Ontario, Canada, and has come down to Plymouth several times now. She’s doing the repro of the Bosworth sampler.

And, in the comments a few days ago (I eventually get there) coral-seas asked if the jacket embroidery pattern has a repeat. The answer is yes, the master repeat is four motifs high and four across. Tricia told the story of discovering the repeat early in the blog – June 2 and June 3, to be exact, (and I can be exact both quickly and easily thanks to Lyn’s awesome index – Thanks, Lyn!).

It’s a great story, like a historical detective yarn. Or floss. Just kidding. Anyway, there’s a panel in the collection of the Embroiderers’ Guild in the UK which is so extremely similar to the 1359-1900 jacket in the V&A (the embroidery design source for our jacket) that they must have come from the same workshop. Examining the photos of the jacket and the panel and fiddling with the motifs for our design, Tricia had a “eureka!” moment and saw the repeat.

The four-by-four repeat is most visible on the back. Tricia worked the original motifs on the back, the ones she stitched in order to illustrate the directions for the instruction manuals. So at that first session the back was the only one with embroidery on it.

I have another great story in my pocket, so to speak, actually, in the laptop. I accidentally left some pictures at the office over the weekend; I will get at them Monday and start the next “bite” then. Tomorrow hopefully I’ll have some different visual treat.

Thank you

April 30th, 2008 by Jill Hall

to the Loudoun Sampler Guild! They sent a $250 donation to the Textile Conservation Fund!

This is even more wonderful when you know this story – the original estimate to conserve “EC” was about $3800. The Mayflower Sampler Guild donated $1000 specifically to conserve “EC” which kicked off the Textiles Conservation Fund shortly after the new year. Then, not too long after, the Swan Sampler Guild made their largest single donation yet – $2500 to conserve “EC”.

Karin was thinking that, even though the initial estimate was a little higher than we had in hand, we should just go ahead and “scrape up the leftover somewhere.” I seconded her thought and she made an appointment with a conservator.

And then this showed up, completely and totally out of the blue! And such a fortuitous amount, too. Thank you, thank you, Loudoun Sampler Guild!

Today we had our first UK stitcher on the jacket, and our second, and our third! Sarah, Susan and Anne are all here for Celebrations of Needlework in Nashua, NH this weekend. They came by, with stalwart stitcher and lacer Robbin for the day to stitch on the jacket and visit the shop. It was a pleasure to meet them all. I hope they have an excellent time this weekend and enjoy the stitching.

Tricia was here, too, and she brought new sets of directions for the instruction manuals – we now have directions for the strawberry flower and the rose, to go with the ones for the pansy we got last time. She’s working on the prototype for the columbine, which I’ve been fascinated with from the beginning – it may finally force me to try working with the GST just so I can work one!

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