Friday, November 23, 2012

Velvet - A Fabulous Look

With the holiday season fast approaching some thought goes to what to wear for those dressy events.  One of the most popular fashion statements continues to be velvet, which has been popular for well over 800 years. The exact history of the manufacture of velvet is sketchy, but the prevailing evidence indicates that it originated along the fabled Silk Road and was brought west with the Arab invasion of North Africa and Eastern Europe.  By the Renaissance, Italy had become the leading center for its production. The term velvet comes from the Italian “vello” meaning fleece, “velluto” (velvet) means fleecy.

Actually, velvet is not one type of fabric, but rather a type of weave, a woven pile fabric, which can be made of different fibers including cotton, silk and rayon/acetate.  Other examples of pile fabrics include corduroy, velour, and terry cloth.  The weave is a supplementary warp over a plain weave ground.  Originally, once the ground was woven the supplementary warp was woven over thin, sharp rods.  When the rods were removed the warp was slit resulting in a pile, soft and luxurious. Different effects could be achieved by altering the height and texture of the pile.  The famous Italian “altobasseo” had varying pile heights against a gold ground.  When completely covered with pile the fabric is “solid”, when part of the pile is removed (now with chemicals) it is termed “voided”.  This voided silk velvet scarf shows the fine silk ground and areas of soft velvet pile.

This beautiful silk scarf shows the silk ground of peach and grey with the brown silk velvet pile voided in a design of stems and leaves,

Currently, velvet is made by a double-cloth method of weaving two cloths face-to-face with the separate pile threads joining the two layers creating a stable pile.  The pile is then cut with a knife creating two fabrics.  The pile is then trimmed, while the height of the pile may vary, true velvet is never longer than 1/8 inch. If it is 
longer, it is referred to as “plush”.

If the fiber used is cotton, the resulting fabric is called “velveteen” which produces a heavier textile more suitable for outerwear and upholstery because it does not have the draping quality of silk velvet.  Cotton velveteen is made with a supplementary weft ( not warp, like other fibers).

 Two samples of cotton velvet upholstery fabric

Velvet, especially made of silk or rayon/acetate can be embellished in many ways.  It can be embossed, crushed, batiked, painted and embroidered.

 This is a sample of a lighter, embroidered cotton velvet. While the drape is heavier than silk velvet it is still appropriate for apparel.

This is a sample of an embroidered rayon/acetate velvet, especially soft and lusturous

Regardless of what you choose to wear for the galas, I am sure you will look gorgeous!!!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Giving Thanks


It only takes a moment to be thankful for all our blessings

Have a great  holiday


Friday, November 9, 2012

Shade Pulls and Snowflakes

When I am asked what type of textiles are my personal favorites I have to admit that I love(and collect) small examples of hand work.  Crochet and tatted doilies, bits of patchwork and lace of all kinds. Actually my very, very favorite textile would be a 19thC Central Asian silk velvet ikat coat. But that , of course is out of the question.  What is well within my budget, and most other textile enthusiasts, are the bits and pieces .  They tell a much larger story than their size.  I am always amazed at the intricacy of the designs and the patience and time required to produce these little gems.  No matter if done by a proficient needle worker or a school girl in her first sewing class, these speak of loving intent and even the most unsophisticated (and often crude) attempt is a worthy treasure to be added to my collection.

Years ago small crochet and tatted pieces were very popular additions to the household.  Doilies of all sizes, from coaster size to placemats filled dining room drawers.  Small sachets filled with lavender hung in closets and needlework pulls adorned window shades.  These same shade pulls were often used as bookmarks and small ornaments, key fobs for armoires. I liken them to snowflakes because no two are exactly the same even though the patterns may be similar.  That is the beauty of handwork.

 crochet and tatted shade pulls

 shade pulls, curtain tie backs

small crochet doll shade pulls or ornaments

my shade pull snowflake wreath

Friday, November 2, 2012

Get Out The Vote

Since 1845 Election Day has been set as the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.  This is the general election for federal offices, many states hold state and local elections on different dates.

In 1790 when the constitution was written only white male adults who were property owners were allowed to vote, although this was a very small percent of the population.
Beginning in the early 1800’s states began to drop the property ownership requirement and by 1850 nearly all adult white males could vote.

In 1870 the XV amendment was passed giving former slaves the right to vote, protecting the voting rights of every male adult.  “The right of citizens of the Untied States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous servitude.”


In 1920 the XIX amendment granted women to right to vote.  “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”  There is a very interesting article written by Jason Shaprio in El Palacio magazine (Fall 2012) which states that while New Mexico became a state in 1912 New Mexican women were not granted the vote until 1920.  Surprisingly, NM was the last western state to grant women’s suffrage.  According to Shapiro, “the states of Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Washington, California, Kansas, Oregon, Nevada and Oklahoma all granted women the right to vote prior to the passing of the 19th amendment.

In 1924 the Indian Citizenship Act granted all native Americans the rights of citizenship, including the right to vote in federal elections.

This textile bag was used to store paper ballots in a 1960 election.

In 1961 the XXIII amendment allowed voters in the District of Columbia to vote in presidential elections.

In 1971 the XXVI amendment set the minimum voting age at 18. “The rights of citizens of the United States, who are 18 years, or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of age.” (In the 1972 election, 12,214,601 voters from age 18-24)

Textiles have been an expression of political thought since the beginning of political influence.  The recent biennial symposium of the Textile Society of America was entitled “Textiles and Politics” (See my blog , Sept. 28, 2012)   Not, I suppose, that early cave men wore campaign buttons but certainly when the ancient civilizations were formed there were visible forms of support for the government, but probably not visible forms of opposition.  In the modern political arena there are many “political” textiles, including banners, flags, quilts and bandannas.  Just because women weren’t able to vote, didn’t mean they were not interested in the political situation of the time and many examples of such quilt textiles with names such as Whigs’ Rose or Garfield’s Monument, many named after first Ladies.

This political campaign bandanna from the 1892 election features the images of the Democratic candidates Grover Cleveland and Adlai E. Stevenson

 It is not uncommon for foreign countries to produce textile art in support of US political figures.

This is not an endorsement!  I found this textile in the collection of the National Museum of Natural History Support Center. (See my blog, Oct. 4, 2012)  It was a gift from the People of Kenya.

Regardless of your affiliations, please exercise your right to vote.