Sunday, May 25, 2014

Prehistoric and Early Textiles References by Elizabeth Wayland Barber

Elizabeth Wayland Barber

When I began my journey through textile history I quickly realized there were several paths one could take. I could see the advantage in specializing in one particular area such as costume, or one particular period of time, such as medieval textiles.  For me, the problem with that approach is that you then sacrifice the overall picture of how everything (history, culture, economics, climate…everything) interacts.  Sort of not seeing the forest.  I felt I would be better served with an overall study, if, then, later I could specialize. Following the example of art history where one is introduced to art from prehistoric to contemporary ( sort of Art History 101).  I began categorizing my research into time periods, each of which was subdivided .  I have to confess I continued to collect information on any aspect of textile history, attending any workshops and lectures, classes and museum exhibits that I could find.  Slowly, I was able to make some organization of all the materials and now I can file information and actually find relevant material for lectures etc.

Starting with my Textile History 101, I found the works of Elizabeth Wayland Barber, a professor of linguistics and archeology.  Her work with prehistoric and early textiles is so very impressive and her reference books provide information that is easily understood, despite their academic format.  Valuable sections of bibliographies, notes and lists of additional readings allow further research, if necessary.  I have turned to her expertise time and again over the years.

I have been fortunate to have attended several lectures by Ms Barber.  She is an energetic, knowledgeable, and great speaker and I thank her for contributing  to my foundation of textile studies.

Prehistoric Textiles:  The Development of Cloth in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages, E. W. Barber, Princeton University press, 1991

Women's Work : The First 20,000 Years,
E. W. Barber, W.W. Norton & Co., NY, 1994

The Mummies of Urumchi, E. W. Barber, W.W. Norton & Co., NY,1999

Other works by E/W.B.:  World Textiles
                                        When They Severed the Earth from the Sky
                                       The Dancing Goddesses

                                       Resplendent Dress from Southeastern Europe 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

A Wondrous Prehistoric Net

A Short Historical Trip

As an historian I take short trips back through time nearly every day.  But 2 weeks ago my family and I took a brief trip back into New Mexico history.  A very good friend, Dr. Enid Margolies , had learned that my husband’s daughter, Hillary, was visiting and invited her to a tour of the permanent collection at the Indian Arts and Culture Museum.  Enid is so very knowledgeable about the museum and its collections that I gladly accepted the invitation for all of us.

(Note to all of you: if you are asked to join a museum docent tour, regardless of the museum, do it!  Docents add immeasurable knowledge to any museum visit.  You may think of yourself as an expert but you will be commenting “I never knew that” within the first minutes of your tour.)

But back to our private tour.  The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture is part of the New Mexico Museum Foundation and is located on what is known as “Museum Hill”, a short bus ride from Santa Fe Plaza.  They have, as could well be expected, a large, impressive collection which includes many textiles.

But one of my favorites is a large hunting net.  I have spoken about this particular textile several times in lectures.   Kate Peck Kent (1914-1987),  a professor of anthropology, wrote in Prehistoric Textiles of the Southwest   ” in 1960 archeologists working in a cave in southern NM found a prehistoric hunting net that measured 150 feet long and 5 feet high….1.54 miles of cordage, made entirely of human hair and over 19,000 individual knots, weighing 7.25#.  To create a net of this kind required more than 65 full heads of hair.”   I would imagine not many museum-goers would guess the fiber of that net.  The net had never been used and there is some speculation as to the reason it had been stored in the cave.

Humans have been looping and knotting threads since prehistoric times.  Linen nets over 10,000 years old have been unearthed in what is now Switzerland and excavations in other parts of the world have revealed bags, fish nets, hunting snares and mesh garments.

Nets were believed to have the power both to protect and cure and, conversely, to pursue and devour. 

If you are in the Santa Fe area a visit to the museums of the New Mexico Museum Foundation is a must.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Textile Gardens

Garden Bouquets

Some years it seems as though spring takes a bit longer to arrive.  False promises are dashed by cold un-spring-like days.  This year we had, in Santa Fe, some lovely weather in early spring followed by cold days and heavy winds that brought much dust instead of rain.  Finally, it seems as if we are on the right track and folks are preparing their gardens, cleaning their yards and descending on garden stores and nurseries.

I, too, have planted a few flowers, but do admit I am generally not in the running for gardener of the year.  For those of you who live in apartments, on boats or are still shoveling snow I offer some flowering thoughts, flowers on textiles, that is.

Floral motifs have always been a predominant theme for textile design. Textiles from lace to embroideries and embellishments, from vintage to contemporary, from all ethnic groups, have floral displays of botanicals (real and sometimes imagined).

Today I present to you several books from my reference library which illustrate the various textile interpretations of floral design.

A  Needleworker's Botany, Heather S. Miller,

Fifty examples of early botanical art from the library of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society.

 Lace, Heather Toomer, B.T.Batsforf Ltd, London, 1989

A guide to identification of old lace types and techniques.

 Flowers of Silk and Gold, Sumru Belger Krody, The Textile Museum, Washington, DC, Merrill Publishers Limited, 2000

Four centuries of Ottoman embroidery

The Embroiderer's Flowers, Thomasina Beck, David and Charles, 1992

"A feast of inspiration for all lovers of embroidery".

William Morris Textiles, Linda Parry,Weidenfelf and Nicolson, London, 1983

"A comprehensive survey of the many original, colourful textiles produced by Morris & Co..  Included is a fully illustrated, definitive checklist of Morris & Co.'s patterns for printed textiles."

Opulent Textiles - The Schumacher Collection, Richard E. Slavin III, Crown Publishers, Inc., NY, 1992

"This exquisite full-color volume highlights the artistic creativity and high quality for which Schumacher fabrics have been known over the past hundred years."

Russian Textiles - Printed Cloth for the Bazaars of Central Asia, Susan Meller, Abrams, NY, 2007

"Gorgeous, printed cotton fabrics created and manufactured in Russia from about 1860-1960 specifically for export to Central Asia."

These are only a few from my collection.  There are hundreds of publications featuring textiles available for your reading enjoyment.  Visit your local library or bookstore for a touch of textile gardens.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Designs from Paradise Revisited

Last summer I wrote three blogs on the subject of Aloha Shirts from Hawaii, entitled Designs from Paradise.
6/21/13,  7/16/13,   7/26/13

Much to my surprise I read in the Wall Street Journal , Saturday/Sunday, April 5-6, 2014 an article in the Style and Fashion Section entitled "Lei It On".

Author Christopher Tennant noted well-known fashion houses were interested this season in the wardrobe icon of the 50's, The Aloha Shirt.  He quoted the expert, Dale Hope and told a bit of the history of Hawaiian casual wear.
He even explored the secondary market in vintage Hawaiian design clothing.

Now, I might wonder if one of my favorite references for this blog, might be referencing me!