Saturday, December 27, 2014

Another Look at Kiminos

Another Look at Kimonos

"Enjoying the Cool at the Ryogoku Bridge", Utamaro Kitagawa,

In my blog,  Modern Kimonos ( November, 9, 2014), I reported on an exhibition at LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) which featured over 30 modern kimonos from their collection.

Another famous institution, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City is showing an exhibition (through January 19, 2015) of their collection of Japanese kimonos beginning with the Edo Period , 1615-1898.  Not only featured are glorious, beautifully embroidered garments but also garments such as firefighters’ coats, which might be considered rural textiles.

So-called “country textiles” differ from those created in the urban weaving centers.  While many have similarities with those silk, embroidered garments, there are significant differences in style, fiber content and patterning techniques.

Japanese Country Textiles, Anna Jackson, Victoria and Albert Museum, Far Eastern Series, Weatherhill,1997

Japanese Country Textiles by Anna Jackson, draws from the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum. 
Four chapters: 1. Definition and Acquisition
                        2. The Context of Cloth
                        3. Textile Techniques
                        4. Continuity and Change
explore the variety of textiles commonly referred to as “country” or even “folk”.

This volume offers another insight into Japanese textiles.  The photographs are instructive and there is also a selected bibliography for further sources of information.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

A Christmas Tradition

“The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would  be there”.
A visit from St Nicholas, Clement Clarke Moore, 1823

 The People's Home Journal, December 1907
  F.M. Lupton, Publisher, New York

Legend has it that St. Nicholas was traveling through a small village and heard of 3 impoverished girls whose father could not afford dowries for them.  St Nicholas entered their cottage by sliding down the chimney and found freshly laundered stockings drying by the fire.  He filled their stockings with gold coins.

St Nicholas was born in Greece (now the southern coast of Turkey) in the 3rd century.  He is the protector of those in need, fishermen and children.

Christmas stockings made from a 19thC quilt and trimmed with vintage laces and ribbons.


Hopefully your stockings, if not filled with gold, will not be filled with lumps of coal.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Armor-dillo Part 2

Armor-dillo Part 2

Last week, in armor-dillo part 1, protective clothing made of vegetable materials was explored.  Most likely, though, when we think of armor it is plates of metal made into protective suits that comes to mind.

During the 3rd millennium BCE a new material was manufactured for the making of tools and weapons, Bronze.  Bronze is made by alloying copper with tin which was more strong and durable than copper, itself.  The alloy could be beaten into shapes or pored into molds of stone or clay.  While copper and tin were not common, the demand for these ores lead to new networks for trade.

Greek Bronze Armor c1200 BCE

Greek Archaic vase painting

Souvenir postal card of a Chinese Terracotta Warrior wearing bronze armor.  The first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, built a massive mausoleum which was guarded by more than 6,000 life size terracotta soldiers.

During the period 1200 – 550 BCE metallurgy produced iron and the so-called iron age was the third of the prehistoric ages: stone age, bronze age and iron age.
 Adding carbon to iron ores produced steel, which was used to make the best weapons and tools.  If insufficient amounts of carbon were added the steel was not as strong.  If too much carbon was added the resultant steel was hard but too brittle.  Iron was not cast but hammered into shape.

Medieval knights wore suits of protective clothing , which included mail or linked iron rings.  Makers of mail could produce “tailored” garments by increasing or decreasing the number of links. A padding called aketon or gambeson made of quilted linen or wool and stuffed with horsehair was worn under mail, but could also be worn separately.

Scenes from the Bayeaux Tapestry: (see blog  8/24/14)  soldiers wearing suits of mail and protective helmets

It is a common misconception that plate armor was heavy and clumsy, impeding the motion of the warriors.  In fact, a full suit weighed approximately 50 pounds.  The advantage of plate armor, was just that: plates that were hinged to each other so that they moved with the actions of the wearer.  Separately moving plates also provided protection for the war horses. 

Body suits of full plated armor, including helmets with visors, gloves and boots.

Modern protective clothing for military, police and fire applications is a topic for a future discussion.

Sunday, November 30, 2014



If you’re not from these parts, you may not recognize this animal.  It is an armadillo, a toothless, burrowing animal of the southern US, Central and South America.  Its distinguishing feature is an armor-like covering of bony plates, even on his skinny tail.
So today we are not talking about zoology but about armor, covering worn to protect the body, more specifically, for protection from weapons.

Early man, from the Aleutians to the Andes, wore heavy, leather tunics, leggings and head coverings and carried shields cover in hide.  According to Anawalt (The Worldwide History of Dress), Eskimo men wore “armor” consisting of” a series of lower-body hoops made of double sealskin…the head and neck were protected by a large wooden shield covered in sealskin”.  There is also evidence that Eskimos of the Bering Sea area wore plates of walrus teeth (The Basel Museum).

 The Pacific coastal people, Tlinglit and Tsimshian, wore tunics of  multiple layers of hide. They further protected their bodies with garments made of wooden rods or wrapped rope around them for protection. For protection of the head and neck some wore heavy wooden face masks.

Basel Museum

The Plains Indians carried large shields made from buffalo hide.  Some native tribes wore basketry for armor or layers of deerskin.

Central American, Pre-Hispanic Indians, wore body protection made of densely quilted cotton.  Patagonian warriors wore bullhide helmets and layers of horsehide.

Evidence of armor-wearing warriors c.3500BCE was found in Ur (southern Iraq) which was the capital of Mesopotamia.  Excavation of a rubbish dump revealed a royal burial plot.  Amongst the findings was a decayed mosaic, The Standard of Ur.  According to the British Museum it was fashioned from shells, lapis and limestone and consisted (as found) of two main panels known as “war” and “peace”.  On the “war” panel are three horizontal sections depicting Sumarian warriors in battle.  The warriors on foot wore short skirts, covered with a leather cloak with metal studs
 and a fitted leather cap.

Standard of Ur

The peoples of Oceania (Sulawesi, New Guinea and the Gilbert Islands and others) wore wicker helmets and cuirasses (a piece of close fitting armor, protecting the neck and back).  This one-piece body armor was made of coiled bundles of coir (coconut fiber) or rattan held together with fine bast cording.  Beneath the cuirass was worn a shirt, cap and gloves of coir twine.

Next time we will examine the contribution of metallurgy and the construction of plate armor.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Giving Thanks


“Over the River and Through the Wood to Grandmother’s House We Go”
     The New England Boy’s Song About Thanksgiving Day
      Lyrics by Lydia Maria Child, 1844

This is supposedly the busiest travel time in the US, but few of us will be relying on transport by a horse-drawn sleigh through the snow.  Snow, we have.  The so-called polar vortex has frozen the country and dumped feet of early snow.  Most travelers will rely upon cars, buses, trains and planes.  This holiday is known for food, family/friends and football, as well as being the traditional start of the Christmas holiday season.  I remember, as a child, the department stores didn’t display Christmas decorations until after Thanksgiving, after all Santa didn’t arrived at Macy’s until the Thanksgiving Day parade.  Nowadays the boughs are hung in big box stores in late summer and the gift catalogs arrive in October.

I have been consoled by many TV and media ads which feature the true meaning of this holiday, that of giving thanks.  It shouldn’t take a special day set aside for this activity, actually we all should set aside a minute or two each day to express our gratitude or perform a simple act of kindness, or be thoughtful and polite.

                                                                    Gobble, Gobble

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Modern Kimono

Modern Kimono

Traditional Japanese clothing is most associated with the wearing of “Kosode”, a geometrical t-shaped garment comprised of two rectangular fabrics draped over the shoulders with seams at the back and each side.  Today, we know this garment as “Kimono”..  Kimono is a relatively modern term for this centuries old garment worn by both men and women.  In the late 1800s there was great western influence in Asia and with the defeat of the Russians in 1904 (Russo-Japanese War) Japan became recognized as a civilized non-European power and western clothing (white shirts, suits and ties) were adopted by Japanese business men.  Simultaneously, western women adopted the beautiful silken robes, kosode.  It was at this time that the traditional garment was renamed “kimono”

The traditional kimono began to blend contemporary elements of color and design in the Meiji (1868-1912). This evolution progressed to include modern fabric production, synthetic colors and art designs that included current events. 

In September, as part of the Textile Society of America’s biennial symposium, I visited LACMA, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and viewed a very impressive exhibition, Kimono for a Modern Age.  Curated by Sharon Takeda, the exhibition featured over 30 modern garments from the LACMA collection.  The modern kimonos were visually startling with vibrant colors and a variety of patterning techniques.  There was also the use of modern synthetic fabrics and contemporary themes such as space exploration and abstract art.

These photos illustrate the wide range of modern influences upon a most traditional garment.

This child's garment featured ice breakers and penguins.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Sarah Campbell and Susan Collier

The Collier-Campbell Archive

Last week I spoke to the talents of fashion designer Oscar de la Renta.  We are familiar with those who create “the look” but often we forget that there is another group of designers vital to the creation of fabric, be it for clothing, home furnishings or accessories, even industrial applications.  These are the designers that create the fabric patterning.

Today computerization has taken many tasks that were previously laboriously performed in the textile industry.  While design studios rely heavily upon computer programs, there is, or should always be space for designers to paint, sketch and imprint their artist’s hand in the design. 

 I recently purchased an amazing reference, The Collier- Campbell Archive.  This beautiful volume tells the story of two sisters, Sarah Campbell and Susan Collier and their 50 year career in fabric design.

Collier Campbell Archive: 50 Years of Passion and Pattern, Emma Shackleton,ILEX Press LTD, 2012 

Their career began designing for collections for Liberty, David Hayward and Jack Prince, and became design and color consultants for other design studios.  In the late 1970’s the sisters founded Collier and Campbell in order to control their design rights and the quality of the fabric and printing.

Their story is told in three parts:  The Collier-Campbell Story (their history), The Creative Process (their methods and themes) and The Gallery (their designs and patterns).

The color plates throughout are stunning and offer inspiration for any student of design, artist or textile lover.

 If you get the opportunity to peruse this collection you will understand my enthusiasm.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Designer to the Stars

A Tribute to Oscar de la Renta

This week there have been many tributes to couturier Oscar de la Renta, who died Oct.20, at the age of 82,  and I would be remiss if I didn’t join the accolades.

There have been many fashion designers who have established their place in fashion history: Fortuny, Dior, Channel, Schiparelli.  One must include in this pantheon  Oscar de la Renta. 

Born July, 22, 1932 in Santa Domingo, Dominican Republic, Oscar de la Renta began his career in Spain where he studied painting.  For added income, he drew sketches of fashion clothing for newspapers and magazines and after one of his sketches was featured on the cover of Life magazine, he turned to design, apprenticing with the famous House of Balenciaga.  He then worked for design houses in Europe and New York.

He was the winner  of many awards, including the coveted Coty Award and was inducted into the Coty Hall of Fame in 1973.

While he was best known as “designer to the rich and famous” creating fabulous gowns for such clients as Jackie O and wives of American presidents ( his last creation was worn as a wedding dress by Amal Alamuddin) he also designed clothing appropriate for a business meeting or luncheon date.  He diversified his business into fragrance (”Oscar”), and a line of accessories and housewares.  His moderately priced ready-to-wear clothing is available at his retail stores and other retail outlets such as Neiman Marcus and online.

He once said “ fashion is a trend, style is within a person”.  That is the genius of the great designers, that their creations are timeless and wearing their designs make their clients feel confident and beautiful inside and out.

This week is also Halloween.  “Listen to them- the children of the night.  What music they make.”  Dracula, by Bram Stoker, 1897 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

ATHA - Association of Traditional Hooking Artists

Rugger’s Companion

I recently picked up a back issue of the Rugger’s Companion, the bimonthly newsletter/magazine of ATHA, Association of Traditional Hooking Artists.

I had not known of this organization and an internet search produced the following facts:
        Their membership includes over 4, 000 fiber artists worldwide organized into 17 regions.
        In North America, there are 78 active chapters.

Their very professional news magazine held a wealth of information for rug hooking enthusiasts.  Dozens of articles and photographs of finished project submitted by the membership inspired me to finish a couple of hooking projects I have started. 
Advertisers feature hooking supplies of every description as well as instructional books and magazines.

I have always thought membership in an organization or guild which represents your hobby and interests to be very advantageous.  For a nominal membership fee, there are  many benefits, including working with artists with the same interests
(a great learning experience).  There is usually the opportunity to attend workshops and conferences and new products are offered in their publications.

ATHA is sponsoring a biennial symposium in 2015 in San Antonio, Texas.  For all information concerning this seminar and membership please contact

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Mystery Fiber

Mystery Fiber?

I received an advertisement from a catalog featuring towels made from bamboo-rayon and cotton fibers.  The person sending me the ad was confused about the so-called bamboo-rayon and questioned how bamboo plant fibers could be used to create synthetics.  Well,  the answer to that query is a simple one.  Rayon is not a synthetic fiber, although many assume that it is.  Like its cousin Acetate, Rayon is manufactured from cellulose.  So allow me to tell you a short history of Rayon.

Rayon, known as  “artificial silk”, was first produce over 120 years ago, the first patent was granted to a Swiss chemist who dissolved the inner bark of mulberry trees, chemically modifying it and formed threads by dipping needles into the solution.  The first commercial production of rayon is credited to Count Hilaire Chardonnet, a French chemist who demonstrated  his fabrics at the Paris Exhibition.  The first commercial plant to produce rayon was built 2 years later.  Chardonnet discovered that nitrocellulose could be dissolved in a mixture of ether and alcohol and the solutions could then be extruded into an acid bath to form a continuous filament. Rayon is a regenerated textile fiber, there is no chemical change in the cellulose and has the same characteristics as cellulose.

 In the US the first successful production of Rayon was made by the American Vicose Company in 1910.

Since cotton linters and wood chips of pine, spruce and hemlock have been the source of the cellulose used for Rayon, it is not surprising that fibers of bamboo would produce a profitable ( and sustainable) source of cellulose for Rayon, as well.

Rayon is highly absorbent, soft and comfortable with good drapability.  It is also easy to dye.  Rayon is often used with other fibers, such as cotton, in textile production.

Acetate, Rayon’s cousin is also a regenerated fiber, first processed in 1894.  Acetate, however, is a different chemical compound from the original cellulose.  It is created by adding acetic acid to the cellulose, creating cellulose acetate. The solution is forced through a spinneret into warm air which hardens the filaments by evaporation.

In case you were wondering, Nylon was the first synthetic textile fiber, produced by the laboratories of DuPont in 1931.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Corde du Roi

The Cord of Kings- Corduroy

Fall has finally come, the leaves are golden and the nights are cool.  One joy of living in a climate with all four seasons is having a diverse wardrobe. There is pleasure, at least for me, in bringing into my closet clothes for the upcoming season. In the spring, there are lightweight cottons in colorful patterns and flip-flops.  For fall and winter, there are comfortable, warm sweaters and leggings, jackets and boots.

According to one of my favorite fashion sources, The Wall Street Journal Style and Fashion section “Across the retail spectrum, at nearly every price-point, designers have embraced the traditional cotton fabric [corduroy] in a fervor not seen since the Carter administration.” (Christopher, Tennant, WSJ, Sept 13-14, 2014, pg 52)

The term “corduroy” comes from the French “Corde du Roi” or cord of the king.  It is a cut pile, machine made fabric where stripes of pile (wales) alternate with stripes of ground cloth (welts).  The wale stripes may be produced in various widths.  The most narrow wale is referred to as pinwale.  The weft pile is non-structural  supplementary weft, the floats are subsequently cut and brushed to produce the soft , textural fabric.

Corduroy is usually made of cotton or a blend of cotton and man-made fibers, which is very durable and takes dye well. 

 Large wale

Narrow wale or pinwale

Sunday, September 28, 2014

A Visit to The Fowler Museum of UCLA

Textile Society of America – The Fowler Museum

One of the benefits of a TSA Symposium includes visits to area galleries and museums.  Attendees were invited to the Fowler Museum of UCLA for 3 sessions featured in the current exhibitions with a cocktail reception following the lectures.

Events such as these give symposium attendees the opportunity to relax and enjoy food and drinks in a lovely setting and interact with textile enthusiasts from all over the world.

The Fowler Museum was established in 1963 as the Museum and Laboratories of Ethnic Arts and Technology.  In 1971 the name of the institution was changed to Museum of Cultural History.  A further name change came in 1992 (Fowler Museum of Cultural History) and in 2006 it finally became The Fowler Museum of UCLA and is ranked among the top 4 university museums in the US.

Since its inception, the Fowler has placed emphasis on works from Aftrica, Asia, the Pacific and Americas.

Admission to the museum is free.  For further information on the museum and current exhibitions contact

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Textile Society of America - 14th Biennial Symposium

Destination Los Angeles

I have just returned from Los Angeles having attended 5 days of the 14th symposium of the Textile Society of America.

The Textile Society was established in 1987 to provide “an international forum for the exchange and dissemination of textile knowledge from artistic, cultural, economic, historic, political, social and technical perspectives”. With over 700 members from countries all over the world, the society includes museum curators and conservators, textile designers and makers, historians and anyone interested in textiles. 

The biennial symposium features juried papers, day and weeklong programs and an opportunity to confer with other members and share knowledge and experiences.

This years proceedings were held in Los Angeles at the campus of UCLA and included many lectures, museum and collection visits and additional pre and post-symposium programs.  The theme for this year was New Directions: Examining the Past , Creating the Future and featured lectures ranging from pre-historic fibers to sustainability of resources in future textile production.

UCLA campus, what a glorious venue for a conference

In the next few weeks I will be discussing museum visits, exhibitions of contemporary textiles and lecture subjects.

For more information about the Textile Society of America, its membership benefits and programs, please visit

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Textile Society of America Symposium, 2014

This week I am attending the Textile Society of America's biennial symposium in Los Angeles.

You can read my blog about the last symposium (2012) in Washington, D.C Sept. 28, 2012

Since this coming week features International Talk Like  Pirate Day I would like to repeat for you Pirate Flags.

Wednesday, September 19, is International Talk Like a Pirate Day.  I suppose it is no more unusual than days dedicated to librarians, teachers, dentists, or family pets. The origin of this special day can be found in a great website  Seems as thought 2 friends John and Mark started, in jest, the notion between them and a few friends joined in.  Later they emailed Dave Barry, the syndicated columnist, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Actually, the history of pirates is a well- documented account of profiteering, violence and the dangers of the sea.  Mostly, we hear the romanticized version, of swashbuckling seamen and buried treasures on deserted islands.

Let us look at some facts about these guys.  Firstly there is a difference between privateering and piracy.  Privateers were privately owned and manned armed ships commissioned by a government to attack and capture enemy ships, especially merchant vessels. They flew the national flag of the country sponsoring them, adding additional symbol flags, such as red flags for warning and, good old, “Jolly Roger”, meaning bad things were coming your way if you resisted.  Without flying a national flag, these ships were considered pirate vessels acting on their own.  There are some accounts of ships flying national flags and banners of other countries (not their own) to entice unsuspecting ships and although this smacks of cheating, as long as they replaced the false flag with the correct national flag, this was considered ok under the rules of war.  Privateers were also known as “sea beggars”.

Pirate crews were not “shanghaied” and dragged into service, rather, when a well-known captain announced his ship was “going on an account”, members of his previous crews were given first preference and then others who wished to join came next. Another interesting fact is that these crews were actually very democratic.  The Captain and the quartermaster were elected, this insured the fair treatment of the crew.  Further, subsequent votes could be taken at any time. Articles of Agreement, signed by all, spelled out various duties and shares of any spoils.  The crew pledged not to betray each other, desert or abandon ship in battle.   In reality, most pirate crews preferred taking a prize ship without a fight.  If the warned ship surrendered, there was little danger to the crew, however, if there was resistance it was met with much violence, the crew, to a man, would be slaughtered.

Of course there needed to be a factor of intimidation to the victim ship.  Pirate flags conjured up fear, accompanied with the reputation of the pirate captain.  Each captain had a variation of the skull and cross bones and additional symbols were often combined. The skull was s symbol of death as was the crossed bones, dancing skeletons did a jig with death and weapons such as spears and swords promised violence was a’comin.

Pirate flags were sewn by the crew, and some, were commercially made by widows of sail-makers, who often accepted payment in brandy  

                                                                                       Calico Jack Rackman

                                                                                         Henry Every

                                                                                        Edward England

                                                                                                                                                             Christopher Condant

                                                                                     Edward Teach ( Blackbeard)

So, avast maties, think Johnny Depp, and unlock your treasure chest, get your map, and feed your parrot!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Judy Chicago

Judy Chicago

Several weeks ago I heard, on an early morning news show, that some young women today feel that the so-called third wave of feminism is not really relevant.  The first “wave” was, of course, in the 20’s, the second was the 60’s and 70’s.  Surely, there has been great progress but there are still areas of inequality to be addressed and I spent some time reflecting upon the leaders of the feminist movement in my lifetime.

One woman I have admired throughout the decades is Judy Chicago.  Born, Judy Cohen, in 1939, she adopted the name of her home town and rose among the ranks of both the arts and the feminist movement.   As an artist, Chicago fought the images of men as artists and women as crafts-persons.  She sought to empower women to excel is all aspects of art creation and became known as a champion in "process", by which I mean, the actual making of the art project using whatever necessary methods appropriately and with expertise.  No technique was too difficult to master, whether using automotive spray painting methods to achieve an effect or learning china painting for her famous Dinner Party installation.  If “God is in the Details” (Mies van der Rohe), then Chicago’s works are divine.   

Two of her installations featured vast pieces of needlework .  Probably, The Dinner Party comes to mind firstly, because of its sheer scale and well as its message (and, at times shocking presentation).  The Dinner Party was an examination of women’s history.

“The Dinner Party consists of an open, triangular table, 46 ½ feet on each side.   The table, which is covered with fine white cloths edges in gold.... Contains thirty-nine place settings- thirteen on each of the three wings.  The number thirteen refers to the number of guests present at the Last Supper and the numbers of members in a witches’ coven….Each place setting includes a fourteen inch china-painted plate…a set of lustered ceramic flatware, a lustered and gold ceramic chalice, a napkin with an embroidered edge. These rest upon an embroidered runner which incorporates the needlework style and techniques of the time each woman (dinner guest) lived. " (Embroidering Our Heritage)

Embroidering Our Heritage: The Dinner Party Needlework, Judy Chicago, Archer Press/Doubleday, Garden City, NY, 1980

This is a very impressive reference of the project which describes in great detail Chicago's technical drawings and their symbolism, the history of the women guests and the times they lived.  The needle techniques are illustrated and there are many photos of the finished textiles.

Begun in 1974 with the assistance of 400 artist contributors, The Dinner Party installation opened at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 1979. It now resides in the Brooklyn Museum.

Judy Chicago: The Birth Project, Doubleday, Garden City, NY, 1985

This publication reads like a journal of the project.  There are diary entries documenting each step.  There are many photos and illustrations of the needlework as well as explanations of Chicago's textile designs.  

The second installation (rather a series of small installations) is Chicago’s Birth Project, for which Chicago designed more than 150 fiber and textile works (only ½ were actually completed) “In the Birth Project, the content, birth, the essential female experience- fused with needlework, a traditional form of women’s art.” (The Birth Project)

Chicago has resided in Belen, New Mexico for thirty years and the New Mexico Museum of Art is featuring her works here in an exhibition: Local Color, Judy Chicago in New Mexico 1984-2014. 
 ( through October 12, 2014)      There is an excellent biography of  Chicago in El Palacio, the publication of the Musem of New Mexico Foundation.

Cover: Peeling Back, 2000, Judy Chicago

El Palacio: Art, History, and Culture of the Southwest.Spring 2014, Vol.119/No.1
El Palacio is available as subscription or as a benefit of membership.