Tagged ‘Wendy’


November 29th, 2008 by Jill Hall

Colleen asked how we like the daylight lamps with the attached magnifying arms; her mother-in-law is interested in getting one. I’d like to hear from the embroiderers – I can’t remember where we got the lamps, but I can look. I’m pretty sure we bought what Tricia recommended. Personally, I like the daylight part, but can’t get used to the magnifying lenses. They’re on a separate arm from the light and I haven’t been able to coordinate working with it. What does everyone else think? Any recommendations? I’ve seen a whole variety of lamps and magnifiers brought to the sessions. Some clip to the frame, some are travel daylight lamps (I think I’d like one of those, so it could move from one chair to the other in the living room plus easily go to classes.) one sat right on the taught linen and was a light in a 3-sided box so the light shone very directly where needed.

Thanks to Debbie for this picture. I’m asking Wendy if my first plaited braid is up to snuff – fortunately the answer was yes. Working that stitch is actually fun – you do get a rhythm after a while, the needle finds the path, and you come to the end of the length of thread much too quickly. From how reluctantly the goldworkers put their needles down in the evening, it seems you come to the end of the day too quickly too. Which is probably why the gold is getting accomplished so speedily.

Notes from the Front

November 26th, 2008 by Jill Hall

Over the past few weeks several new blogs have linked to us – welcome! And thanks for helping to spread the word about this project.

Over this weekend I got the chance to work on the gold embroidery – wheee! I was the beneficiary of a personal tutorial from Wendy, which was awesome, because I’d really been struggling to understand the stitch diagrams. It is sooo confusing in the pictures, especially the starting maneuvers. Basically she sat next to me and my doodle cloth saying, come up here; down there; up here; down there. Yes, there. Really.

Across the table Debbie and Carli were smiling, because the beginning really doesn’t look like anything, and because it took even them several coils before they could start without checking the directions. Which made me feel better.

This is the little bit I managed to get accomplished, after what felt like a long time. Everyone else is going much more quickly.

The gold is interesting to work with, in a way it is much sturdier than the GST. It is also quieter; the GST is almost corrugated and it makes a thrrrrp noise as you pull it through the linen, because of the difference between the silk and the place where the gold wraps it. The gold passing thread is evenly covered so it passes smoothly and quietly. We’re using the hand made Japanese needles with it, which helps make a large enough hole in the linen for the gold to pass through, and also is gentler on the gold at the eye. Eventually the gold breaks there, though, and you have to cut and re-thread, but we’re finding it happens less than with the GST. And if you bite the very edge of the end you’re threading, just to crimp the gold, it will thread more easily and help it last longer before raveling.

Also, the gold passing (GP) is sturdy enough to pick out and reuse, more than once even, if necessary (ask me how I know). And, because it is stiff, you can feel right away if you’ve got a bump or a kink on the back. With the GST it happens often enough that you don’t find that snarl on the back till you turn the piece over to fasten the end. Grrr.

The suggested thread with which to practice the plaited braid is Kreinik #8; Debbie reports that using the high luster version is easier because it is stiffer. She feels that the blue is the most workable, but the universal opinion is that anything other than the gold passing is a poor substitute. This stitch demands to be worked with the real stuff, and this gold demands to stitch the plaited braid. It is harder to stitch even the reverse chain coils with the gold passing, because it is almost too stiff to make those small bends.

I know, you would work with the GP if you could get your hands on some, and it isn’t really fair of me to mention how nicely it makes a plaited braid. Several people have asked about buying a gold work kit, or just a spool of the GP. We’re holding off for right now, until we’re absolutely sure we have enough to accomplish the jacket, before we release any. I know we could sell this and buy more, but if there’s any kind of hold-up in the manufacturing or shipping (and I can imagine several scenarios with scarcely any effort) it would delay the jacket’s completion, and we can’t have that. As soon as we can let some go, we absolutely will.


November 25th, 2008 by Jill Hall

Wendy sent this post and the photos:

Over the weekend  there was much discussion about the recent request  to see the “Backs”.   We were a group of mixed reactions because  there are many stitchers whose reverse side of their work is as beautiful as the front and then there are those of us who will show you our reverse sides only under duress. In the end after lots of laughter and jokes about “backsides”  we agreed that  you should see them, so here are two of the pieces for your viewing pleasure.

Among the things we’ve learned  about reverse sides are that it is really important to make sure the silk work ends( the parts done with the silk perle)  are very securely  wrapped and tucked in on the reverse side otherwise the GST and  even the GP ( gold passing) because they have ribs will catch even a hair of the silk and pull it through to the front- requiring some fiddling to  get the ends back to the back or trimmed. Sometimes because of the friction in a neighboring area  the slippery silk perle seems to have a mind of its own and  sort of unwraps out of its spot  and then the only way to fix it is to make a noose to  try and capture the errant end ( about a half inch)  and snug it back into place.

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!


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.


October 6th, 2008 by Jill Hall

Melinda is working on the narration for the video of our project for her exhibit. She asked, how many hours of embroidery have been done so far?

In the fine old tradition of passing the buck, I asked Arianna to go through the heap of time sheets from over a year’s worth of embroidery sessions. She patiently, and painstakingly, combed each one, totaling the minutes, figuring hours, totaling hours, checking, double checking, walking away for coffee ….

After a couple of days, she gave me a little yellow post-it with the total so far -


Very nearly 2200 hundred hours. This is, as Tricia says, “time spent moving the needle”. This isn’t shopping, or chatting, or even practicing on the doodle cloth. This includes time spent on the coif and forehead cloth, but not Tricia’s hours or some of Wendy’s, so it probably all evens out. Of course we still have the gold and sequins to go, so the final, grand total may top our original estimate, but we’ll continue to keep good records so we’ll be able to report back.

I’m amazed and humbly grateful. Thank you all so much for your dedication to this project.

Because a number like that deserves some eye candy to go with it, here’s a photo of show & tells waiting their turn. I love this; it’s such a heap of riches, of time and skill and precious needleworked beauty and usefulness. Included here are items by Sandye, Jennifer, Sharon and Catherine.

Carli’s Needlebook

September 17th, 2008 by Jill Hall

Since the very first embroidery session, Tokens & Trifles has been donating a small commemorative needlework project designed by Wendy White to each new embroiderer. The back of the needlebook, which is stitched on Thistle Threads’ perforated card with cotton floss, has the date of the session the embroiderer attended. Many participants have completed their needlebooks; our 2007 summer intern, Laura, stitched hers as her very first needlework project.

Carli was here for the first time two weeks ago, and this time she brought her completed needlebook for show & tell. Carli didn’t just stitch as written, though, she made improvements. First off she chose different, more vibrant colors. You all know how different the same design in a different colorway can be.

She was afraid she’d smash up the corners of the perforated card, carrying it around with her, so she decided to protect them with – - detached buttonhole stitch. Yes, really.

There is no end to the ingenuity, creativity and ambition of needleworkers.

For Susan, who wrote in the comments asking about stitching on the ‘oes’: yes, thank heaven, we can carry the thread. They are sewn on with a fine silk, and it doesn’t show. I’m so relieved – tying off each and every oe would have been a nightmare.

(There is, however, an end to my patience with this program. I’m having a lot of trouble with the newest version of WordPress; anyone out there know how to wrap text? What am I missing? Send me a note at jhall@plimoth.org if you can help. I have tried the WP documentation page, but I’m not finding the secret key.)

Women at Sea and Treasure Boxes

September 6th, 2008 by Jill Hall

Wendy sent this entry:

Of the many things that happen during a session one of the most interesting is the general conversation, exchange of ideas, favorite books, food, movies and music. To continue the exchange and sharing here are a couple of things:
At the last session I mentioned several books that deal with the women who accompanied their husbands to sea and the life that they and their children led. It’s an eye opener to contemplate: a ships kitchen in a boiling sea, all the forks and spoons going overboard, dentistry and childbirth to name but a few issues and all while wearing a skirt and petticoats.

So for those that asked here are a few titles to look for:
Sail Away Ladies by Jim Coogan pub 2003
Hen Frigates by Joan Druett pub 1998
Captain’s Daughter, Coasterman’s Wife by Joan Druett pub 1995
Petticoat Whalers by Joan Druett pub 2001
Captain Ahab Had Wife: New England Women and the Whalefishery, 1720-1870 by Lisa Norling pub 2000

Who among us doesn’t look for new ways to store and keep tidy our stash of stitching supplies?
The boxes or “Thread Chests” we are using to store needles, silk perl and the GST have gotten quite a bit of attention and many questions regarding where to get them. Tricia found them and used one for a project she created called “Pandora’s Sewing Box” published in Just Cross Stitch magazine. They are the perfect solution for this project as well.
The one we use is called ”Travis” and is available from Creative Imaginations – www. CreativeImaginations.us
Here is the stock number and description – #16333 Travis Case-3 Tray Inserts
Here is the direct link to the page – http://www.creativeimaginations.us/store/16333.php

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