Friday, March 17, 2017

May the Luck of the Irish Be With You

A Day to Wear Green

Wherever you go
Whatever you do
May the luck of the Irish
Be with you

Today is St Patrick’s Day and since my grandmother was Irish, as a child, I always considered this a very special day. I loved all the stories of the “wee people” and I was sure my family had a castle in Ireland. (Where that castle came from, I have no idea)

The textile tradition in Ireland is a long one.  The bogs were important to the production of flax and superior Irish Linen.  Taught by nuns, Irish women and their daughters made Irish lace and crochet.  See my blog “Irish Lace”, March 2013.

                                       Needlecraft, The Magazine of Home Arts, March 1931

Since my husband also has Irish ancestors, we have been dining this week on meals from Irish recipes:  Shepard’s Pie, Irish Soda Bread, Scones and Smoked Salmon.  But, tonight it is Corned Beef and Cabbage, my grandmother’s recipe!!

So today, wear green, whether Irish or not for good luck.  And, if you should see a rainbow, search for the pot of gold.  You never know!!!  

Sunday, February 26, 2017

C is for Candlewicking

C is for Candlewicking

This is the third blog in my series of alphabetical themed textile topics ( A is for Amalac, B is for Burlap)

If you are not familiar with this needlework technique, it is understandable  as this type of embroidery is not common today.  The history of candlewicking goes back to the late 1600’s when Englishwomen embroidered white bedspreads.  On a twilled woven linen ground they embroidered clustered flowers and fruits in very small French knots.  Flowing vines were made from white cord laid and couched.  In the late 18thC  this knotted worked appeared in America where the white cord was replaced with “wicking” giving it the name “candlewicking”.  Wicking is the material used for making fiber to be cut into lengths used for making candle wicks.

The early candlewicking was always worked white on white.  Vines  and clusters of grapes were popular motifs, also sprays and baskets of flowers.  For early American candlewicking 4-, 6-, and 8 ply thread was used.  The needles were long with a large eye and a wide shaft.  After the embroidery was completed the spread or counterpane was washed to shrink the fabric so that the threads were held in place more firmly.

Candlewicked spreads were replaced by the production of tufted chenille.  In the late 1970’s there was a limited renewed interest in this handwork, usually for the making of small, decorated items, such as sachets.  Kits were available which contained the ground fabric, wicking, needles and a pattern.

                      Design: Davie Harrington, LWS Productions, Inc., Union Lake Mi, 1983

Two kits from my collection.  The Christmas stocking kit (No. 8639 "Snowflakes") was produced by Creative Moments a trademark of National Paragon Corp., NY, 1983

There are many vintage candlewicking kits in new condition available on eBay at very reasonable prices.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Textile Treasures of Ancient Peru - The Amano Museum

The Amano Museum of Pre-Columbian Textiles
        Calle Retiro 160
         Miraflores, Lima, Peru

As you may have gathered from reading my blogs on textile history, I have not restricted my studies to any particular area , but have researched textiles from prehistoric to contemporary.  The information on recent textiles is easy to obtain and plentiful.  Not so with ancient textiles.  It is not unusual for ancient, extant, examples to be few and difficult to study.  Of course, the reason is that there are far, far, fewer of these textiles.  Many museums have some ( more likely a few) that would fall into this category but their condition varies to amazingly well preserved to dismally displayed, often with out-of-date information as to their provenience , fiber content or method of construction.  It has only been in relatively recent times that skilled professionals with the newest technological tools have been examining these remains and much still needs to be accomplished to begin to fill in the gaps of textile history.

It was during discussions with several colleagues at the TSA (Textile Society of America) Biennial meeting last October that I heard of a small, but outstanding museum, in Peru with an amazing collection of Pre-Columbian  textiles. (I had mentioned an upcoming trip to Peru in January).  Since I would be in Lima and, coincidentally the suburb of Miraflores where collection resides, this was added to my must-see list.  Little did I realize that it would become a quest.  Firstly, being a small, private institution it was not widely known to the locals.  Our taxi driver had no knowledge of it , and although I had the address, it was a bit of exploration to find the small suburban street set with housing.  When we arrived, the driver pointed to a moderately sized building and we paid our fare and set off.  My husband, daughter and I entered but discovered that it was not a museum, but a church.  Further, as it was Sunday the people we encountered naturally assumed we were there for services and directed us in Spanish to various rooms, which I could only assume were study groups that met before the actual service.  It was probable that many a textile visitor had made the same mistake and we were finally directed across the street to a modest, concrete grey, building surrounded with chain-link fencing.  But we were not deterred, we had finally found this treasure and what a treasure it is!.

For over 60 years, Yoshitaro Amano had collected ancient Peruvian artifacts, left behind by grave robbers and archeologists, alike.  In 1964 he opened a museum of these objects, especially a large collection of textiles.  This museum was renovated after 50 years and contains a collection of more than 600 textiles on display in chronological  sequence.  The exhibition is in 4 major rooms with the most up to date museum lighting and didactics in Spanish and English.  There are also video programs and a large area of flat cases of textiles for study by appointment.  One thinks of the Incan civilization as ancient, but after all it is  only the post-Spanish conquest of the Incans with which we are familiar.  These Pre-Columbian textiles were thousands of years old.  Their condition was remarkable, considering their age, colors still vibrant and fibers, for the most part still intact so that it was possible to understand their construction.

                                                                   Yoshitaro Amano

                                                                One of the exhibition rooms

                                                              Moi in the exhibition space

Net darning
Feathered cloak

 Only 3 of the examples of the textiles on display                                                  

If you are not fortunate to be able to travel to Lima, please take some time to view information of the museum and the collection on the internet.  There is also many visuals of pre-Columbian, Peruvian textiles on various websites.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

One Version of the Evolution of the Highlander Kiilt

Again, I have been reading Fashion Victims.  This time it was the chapter entitled “Entangled and Strangled: Caught in the Machine.  One of the reasons I return to this  reference  is that each chapter has many, many examples of the perils of fashion.

              Fashion Victims:The Dangers of Dress Past and Present, Alison Matthews David,                                        Bloomsbury, London , 2015

The one I wish to share today is the story of the origin of the Scottish kilt.  According to the author, in the 16th and 17th century Scottish clansmen wore a garment called a “breacon”, a length of plaid cloth which they wrapped around their bodies as protection       from the heather.  The breacon was worn belted around the waist and hung in long, loose skirt-like folds.  Scottish men of high society wore “trews”, breeches with stockings.

The story, as reported, is that an English Quaker from Lancaster, Thomas Rawlinson leased a wooded parcel of land for the purpose of smelting iron ore.  He hired Highlanders to cut the trees and man the furnaces.  He was concerned that the long plaid garments they wore was cumbersome and potentially dangerous.  He hired a tailor to create a short version of the skirt with sewn pleats.  Rawlinson, himself adopted the garment and soon the Highland clansmen followed wearing the “felie beg”, the small kilt we know today.

                                     Tartans, Belvedere Designbook, #34,  1987

  Author, A.M. David, states “Thus the kilt was actually a product of the early Industrial Revolution, designed by an English industrialist as a work uniform for his employees, bringing the Highlander out of the heather and into the factory”.

Again, this volume emphasizes slavery to fashion of the day is often detrimental.    

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Fibers of the Andes - Vicuna


Just after the holidays we took a quick trip to South America, visiting Peru and Argentina.

The fibers of  Peru include llama, alpaca and vicuna.  I discussed alpaca fiber  (1/7/17 Alpaca Christmas Gift) so today we will visit the vicuna, probably less known.

Llams, alpacas and vicunas are members of the family of camelids.  The ancestors originated in the great plains of  North America 40 to 50 million years ago. Approximately 3million years ago these New World camels migrated to South America.  All camelids have usuable fiber, and the cinnamon-colored fiber from the vicuna is the finest and most luxurious.  It is also the most expensive due to the their near-extinction  from European hunters. 

For decades the export of vicuna fiber was forbidden by international laws. With these efforts, the wild vicuna herds have increased to approximately ¼ million and the wool is being hand gathered legally.

These are shy animals and the smallest of the camelids, about 150 pounds. 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Alpaca Christmas Gift

Alpaca Scarf

As a Christmas gift my husband gave me a beautiful alpaca scarf woven in Bolivia.

 According to the hang tag. Bolivia Fair Trade “ brings hand made products to the North American consumer market from artisan groups, cooperatives and small businesses in Bolivia.  We promote Fair Trade with our purchasing practices, and we have a commitment to improve the living conditions for the people of Bolivia”.
For more information contact

Alpacas are South American camelids and were first domesticated more than six thousand years ago in the Andes mountains of Peru.  BY the 1500’s there were large herds of Alpaca throughout South America, but these herds were decimated by the Spanish conquest of  the Incan Empire of Peru.
Alpacas are bred for their fiber.  Their exquisite, supple fiber is heavier when compared to wool and most fibers are white, range of browns, black and spotted..

Bolivia Fair Trade states the” Alpaca fiber is 5 times warmer then sheep wool, stronger than mohair, more luxurious than cashmere and smother than silk.  The fiber is elastic, hypoallergenic…because it does not contain lanolin.  The smooth cell structure, with its microscopic air pockets contributes to the creation of lightweight apparel with higher insulation value and thermal capacity than almost any other animal fiber”.

Cute, aren't they?

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Hello 2017 !!

Greetings for a New Year

Time to get ready to welcome a other new year.  Whatever great and wonderful things you accomplished in 2016, try for even great successes in 2017.  That is my only resolution, to do better.  I think that covers it all.