Saturday, December 3, 2016

Christmas Giving

Christmas giving

Each year, around this time. I get requests for textile-related gift suggestions.  I usually suggest visits to thrift or antique shops for vintage table linens, hankies, hand crochet doilies, etc.

This year I thought of another idea.  Why not visit your neighborhood bookstore (used books or new).  There are many magazines and books for every textile enthusiast .  Whether your gift is for a quilter, knitter, weaver, fashion follower or collector a subscription to  a related magazine is possible.  You might try giving just one copy to see if they really love it and then complete the subscription.

  For others, there are reference books and coffee-table flashy editions in a huge range of topics.  The advantage of shopping locally is the book can be returned if it is not suitable and  a gift certificate can be issued.  There are also fiction and mystery books with textile themes .

Do not overlook the selection of “gently used” books.  Often, out of print books are not only affordable but valuable references.  My last suggestion is a textile dictionary, encyclopedia or sourcebook.  

If your recipient lives in a city near a textile or art museum with a large textile collection, how about a museum membership?  Or a membership to my favorite organization, The Textile Society of America.  There are textile guilds  in most cities: Embroidery guild, Weaving and Spinning guild, Quilting guild and membership fees are generally quite reasonable.

Thoughtful gifts such as these will bring year-long enjoyment.

Happy shopping!!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving Day

“I am grateful for what I am and have,
My thanksgiving is perpetual”

                               Henry David Thoreau

Saturday, November 12, 2016


A is for…ARALAC

I decided to do an occasional series of textile themes in alphabetical order.  Taking inspiration from one of my favorite mystery writers, Sue Grafton, who uses the alphabet to title her books ( “A is for Alibi” etc.)

I have already written several “As”:   Armor
                                                            Aloha shirts

There are many textile As: acrylic, acetate, alpaca, angora and others.  But, ARALAC?

The story of this textile fiber is innovative and imaginative.   Remember the alchemists who tried to combine various compounds to produce gold, well, chemists throughout history have tried to manipulate certain elements to produce new innovations.

Textile fibers, wool and silk, have always been considered high end (and expensive) .  For many years there was a search for  fibers that could be created from common  ingredients, much in the way rayon and acetate were created from cellulose that was chemically manipulated.  This became especially important during the years between World Wars I and II.  Cloth produced from natural fibers was in great demand.  Cotton for bedding and military uniforms, silk for parachutes, wool for uniforms…..all were in  short supply.  Therefore the requirement for new fibers became paramount.

Work was being conducted on a class of fibers termed Azion.  Fibers in this class are made from regenerated proteins such as milk, soybeans, peanuts and corn. According to archives at the National Museum of American History, credit is given to H. Irving Crane  and a group of chemists working at the Atlantic Research Associates, Inc. which specialized in the development of products from the milk protein, casein ( ARA was a division of National Dairy Products Corp. which was later to be absorbed by Kraft Foods).

The casein required for Aralac was formed by adding acid to milk to form the curd (casein) which was collected from small and large creameries.  One hundred pounds of milk was required to produce 3.7 pounds of casein, which would produce 3.7 pounds of fiber. From the casein, crystals were formed by evaporation and then ground and dissolved into a solution.
The solution was processed by forcing it through spinnerets and hardened in a chemical bath. During World War II Aralac was blended with rayon and acetate for use in civilian dress fabric and,, interestingly, felted hats.  Other uses were tested (carpeting, knitting yarn, lace) but it was not deemed satisfactory due to its poor strength and difficulty in dyeing. Purchasers of the clothing products had a unique complaint:  when wet, the fabric smelled like cheese!!!   Production was halted in 1948.

As we all know, the search for alternative synthetic fibers and methods of their production  continued and endless possibilities seem inevitable.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

TSA - 15th Biennial Symposium

TSA 15th Biennial Symposium- Savannah

This year TSA partnered with SCAD-Savannah College of Art and Design- to present an exploration of the cultural crosscurrents that shape textile production and practice.

More than 400 TSA members from 22 countries attended the 5 day symposium held in Savannah, Georgia.  From the opening reception at SCAD Museum of Art to the closing awards banquet the days were filled with seminars, site visits and tours.  Independent researchers and historians, like myself, who are not affiliated with large institutions or museums feel, at times, isolated from others in our field.  Frequently, we are not always in the immediate loop of the most current information available.  Seminars such as this are the perfect opportunity to confer with colleagues and renew connections.

The wide scope of areas of textile studies was examined in seminars and study sessions.  Topics included fibers and their production, technique of fabric manufacture, fashion, costume,  dyes and design, museum studies and collections.  This year also emphasized what was termed “cross-currents”.  That is, the importance of trade, historically and currently.  The world is not so very large and  the “transnational flow of textiles” as a result of global trading explains much of the history of textiles and continues to be a major factor in today’s world economy.

The host city of Savannah was a most exciting venue for the symposium.  Culturally, historically and down-right lovely it is well worth visiting.  I regret that I could not have stayed longer and, although this was not my first visit, it will definitely not be my last.

For more information about the Textile Society of  America, including membership and additional programs, please visit their website 

Friday, September 23, 2016

Celebrating 270 Years - DMC

The Golden Skein – Celebrating 270 Years – DMC

TENUI FILO MAGNUM TEXITUR OPUS – “From one fine thread a work of art is born”

Familiar to every needle-worker are the initials DMC, which stands for Dollfus-Mieg and Company, manufacturers of fine threads and yarns.

The company began as a fabric printing company run by Jean-Henri  (1742-1802) and his brother Jean Dollfus (1729-1800), selling their hand-painted Indian cotton prints throughout Europe.  They expanded and sold their fabrics internationally.  In the late 1700’s Jean-Henri’s nephew, Daniel (1769-1818)  ran the company and married Anne-Marie Mieg, adding her surname to the company’s logo.  D.M.C.   Jean Dollfus-Meig (1800- 1887)   while studying at Leeds became acquainted with John Mercer’s process of thread manufacturing, “mercerization”  Mercer, a calico printer and self-taught chemist, patented his process (1850) which changed the texture of cotton thread, strengthening it and giving it a silk-like luster.   Jean Dollfus-Meig introduced this process in 1898 to the factory in Mulhouse, France.  Since thread quality depends on the purity of the water used in its bleaching and dyeing, the properties of the water (Vorges River)  in Mulhouse made this an ideal location for the factory.

The story of the manufacturing of fine threads and yarns  includes the meeting of  Jean Dollfud-Meig and the famous embroiderer, Therese de Dillmont.  When Jean  encountered her work in an exhibition in Paris, he invited her to Mulhouse to tour his factory.  She subsequently moved to Dornach , a nearby town and established  school of needlework in close cooperation with DMC.   Her famous “Encyclopediie des ouvrages des dames” (“Encyclopedia of Ladies Handicrafts) has been translated and distributed to more than seventeen countries.

In 1961 DMC merged with Thiriez & Cartier Bresson, a French Textile firm of over 250 years.  The company name remained DMC but the logo was changed , replacing the DMC bell with the now famous Thiriez’s horse head.

Manufactured threads include: Embroidery floss, six stranded cotton. *Twisted separable, shiny thread, suitable for surface stitchery, counted-, pulled-and drawn-thread work.  Available in 454 colors.
                                                  Pearl cotton. * Twisted, shiny thread, available in two thicknesses.  Used for stranded cotton where you require a heavier effect.
                                                  Tapestry wool.* Thicker, four ply wool.  Use as for crewel work.
                                                   Crochet thread
                                                   Metallic and fluorescent thread 
                                                   Machine embroidery thread

*The Complete International Book of Embroidery, Mary Gostelow, Simon and Schuster, NY, 1977

Advertisement - Home Arts Needlecraft, November, 1936

Early packaging for DMC thread

In addition to threads and yarns, today, DMC subsidiaries also produce fabric and sportswear

embroidery floss

pearl cotton

metalllic thrreads

To celebrate the anniversary, DMC is producing The Golden Skein. "a soft, flexiible six strand floss that incorporates a 24 karat gold wash.  A beautiful collectible, the Golden Skein is a fitting symbol of DMC heritage and also the product esteemed by stitchers: DMC Embroidery Floss.  This precious skein can be preserved or carefully stitched to add incomparable richness to a treasured embroidery.  It comes in a special deluxe box, with a bound book of DMC history and antique cross stitch charts."
For more information contact

Saturday, September 3, 2016


It has been said  that “clothes maketh the man”.  Mark Twain is quoted as saying” Clothes make the man-Naked people have little or no power”. Hans Christian Anderson wrote of the Emperor’s New Clothes (to which we will return momentarily).  Polonius advised Laertes (Hamlet- William Shakespeare) “for apparel oft proclaims the man”
So there appears to be a theme here.

Cloth is a basic human creation.  This experience is so commonplace that we rarely think about the multiple layers (no pun intended) of meaning our choice of clothing convey.  Intentionally, or not, we use our dress as an identifier to others.  This, I firmly believe, is an individual choice,, one based upon social, ethnic, religious issues.  

Throughout history there have been certain regulations enacted regarding this freedom of choice.  The common Roman was not allowed to wear the color purple.  There were laws forbidding the use of gold threads to accent clothing in China.  Now it is rare that laws proscribing dress codes become an international discussion.  Certainly, there is a case for dress that is worn to purposely antagonize or offend, although it could be argued that it is the right of people to be obnoxious.

All this brings this discussion to the recent controversy in France over the wearing of “burkinis”.  Muslim women have a modesty dress code, which ranges from hair coverings to full body garments, depending upon their customs and religious beliefs.  One fashion designer, Vanessa Lourenco, felt Muslim women should be able to conform with their religious codes and, at the same time, enjoy the pleasures of the seaside with their families.  Thereby, the “burkini” was born.  This is obviously a Muslim item of apparel, although, with all the uproar it has created, I would suspect many non-Muslim women might wear it in protest. 

This action follows the terrorist attacks in France.  There have been more than 30 bans
 (the first in Cannes) on so called inappropriate clothing for women.  That they are targeting Muslim women is obvious.  This ethnic profiling will not stop terrorist activities.  There must be more effective measures that can be taken.  On Friday, the highest court in France The Council of State struck down the ban in one town.

Back to Anderson’s The Emperor’s New Clothes.  The tale goes that there was a very  officious Emperor, who ruled with the notion that all who disagreed with him were worthless and stupid.  This bully was approached by two tailors, who claimed they would make the ruler a fabulous set of clothes, very comfortable and very prestigious-looking.  Of course, they said, only those who were wise and deserving of high honors could actually see the clothing, it would be invisible to all others.  You can already guess the outcome.  The naked Emperor paraded before his citizens, confident of his attire.  As Twain said ”naked people have little or. no power”

So, to those in charge of such things in France, I say “enough, already.  Let it go”.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Olympic Attire

What to Wear When You Play

I happen to have a free week.  Believe me, that doesn’t happen often.  No meetings, no classes, no lunches with friends.  To my joy, this coincides with the first week of Olympic competition.  In our house, every TV (yes, we have more than one) is channeled onto sport.  While my husband will enthusiastically watch nearly everything, his favorites reflect his own athletic routine of cycling and swimming and all types of sailing,  although sailing in the desert has been  relegated to observing and not participating.

While I enjoy watching many events, I admit tennis is always my favorite.  Which brings me to comment on the various styles of sports apparel worn by the athletes.  Most contests demand certain “costumes”.  For instance, swimmers have high tech suits to enhance their performance in the pool.  Equestrians and fencers wear traditional garb, safety is also a feature here.  Cyclists wear Spandex and helmets.  All this I understand.

But have you watched tennis lately?  Conditions on the court can vary greatly: wind, heat can change the efforts needed by the players to succeed.  They must be able to move quickly and safely around the court.  They must be able to focus their attention  on the oncoming ball, while planning their return strategy.  It seems to me that tennis ( and other sports) has become a fashion extravaganza among the women athletes.  Surely, one wants to look good before the fans and TV cameras, but have some of them even looked at themselves in a mirror?  Unflattering colors and styles abound.  There are few that can wear layers of pleats and  ruffles in bold colors.  Skin tight tops paired with shorts so short they cannot accommodate an extra tennis ball, if a second service becomes necessary.  It would not matter if these outfits were comfortable.   I have seen players tug and readjust their clothing after each point.  This has brought to mind an article in the WSJ Style and Fashion section, Sat./Sun, July 2, 2016, which  lauded, what they called the Wimbledon Whites Advantage.  According to the attire requirement for the Championships Wimbledon “suitable tennis attire that is almost entirely white” is to be worn.  Refreshing and professional.

Now, some will say that is an infringement upon the athletes ability to show themselves as individuals  If one wants to look frumpy,so be it.  Personally, I would rather appear as one very lovely competitor who wore a simple white slip dress over her bloomers.  She did not fuss with her neckline, but appeared focused on the matter at hand.  Athletic wear should be advantageous, not outrageous.

Speaking of which, beach volleyball women have no where further to go.  Although they are awesome athletes and their winnings are uber impressive I remember vividly sitting on a sandy beach in a swimsuit.  Not a pleasant experience.