Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Young Textile Scientist

Winner of the Samueli Foundation Prize

On Tuesday, October 28, Broadcom Foundation and Society for Science & the Public announced the top winners of the 2014 Broadcom MASTERS.
Holly Jackson, 14, of San Jose, Calif., won the $25,000 Samueli Foundation Prize in honor of overall STEM excellence and for her study on the strength and best application of stitches in sewing.

According to a news release from the Broadcom Foundaiton
 " Grand prize winner Holly Jackson has loved to sew since the fourth grade, when she learned to construct dolls and and clothing."

Her research involved testing the tensile strength of various threads and their best applications.

Tensile strength  is defined as the measure of the ability of fiber,  yarn or fabric to resist breaking by tension.  It is expressed as pounds per inch (or grams per denier).  Tensile strength, as a characteristic property of each unique fiber, varies greatly.   Silk, for instance, has a significantly high resistance to breakage.  Spider silk filaments have a tensile strength that a cord of spider silk, the diameter of a pencil, is said to be able to stop a 747 airplane in flight. Polyester filaments, as Holly found, are significantly weaker, as any home seamstress can attest.

Her further research involved the application of sewing stitches.  Various types of interlocked stitches ( 2 threads, think of your sewing machine with a top as well as a bobbin thread which interlock) were tested, including straight, zigzag and stretch.  On average the straight stitch proved to be the strongest.  

It is vitally important that students interested in the textile industry realize the concepts of using sustainable fibers, industry safety standards and the  use of improved technology.  While economic considerations have resulted in the exportation of the US textile industry to overseas venues, it is recognized that such cost-saving measures often result in an inferior final product, and the exploitation of textile factory workers.  If the US is to regain a position in the world of manufactured textiles, we must educate young scholars.  Congratulations, Holly!!!

Broadcom Foundation sponsors the Broadcom Masters, a program of The Society for Science and the Public. It is a competition of science and engineering for middle school children.  The foundation's mission is to advance education in STEM: science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Founded in 19212 Society for Science and the Public is a nonprofit organization  dedicated to the achievement of young researchers. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Political Textiles for President's Day

President’s Day

February 16th is President’s Day honoring all our presidents.

Textiles have always been used to convey ideologies, historic and current events.  They also served as advertisements, as their graphic qualities caught the attention of the buying public.  Therefore, it is obvious that textiles were used to serve a political agenda.

In the US early textile printers, such as  John Hewson, used the copper plate printing techniques that were used in Europe, to produce pictorial handkerchieves and bandannas.  Copper plate printing allowed for finely detailed patterns, which could be produced in quantity.  By the early 19th C  a popular subject was political ( faces of potential candidates and political slogans).  There were many decorative motifs, such as flags, eagles, and maps, that could be used to enhance the overall message.  These textiles were also hanging squares used as banners and wall hangings as well as pocket hankies and bandannas.

1892 Presidential Campaign Bandanna

Grover Cleveland vs
Adlai Stevenson

                           The American Bandanna: Culture on Cloth from George Washington to Elvis, Hillary Weiss, Chronicle Books,
 San Francisco, 1990
This reference presents " a veritable history on cloth" with images reflecting over 200 years.  There is a chapter with many political-themed bandannas.

With the popularity of quilting in America came an opportunity for women to express their political views.  Although they could not vote until 1920, they were able to use their needles to commemorate bygone heroes and urge their suffrage.  Often they incorporated political banners, ribbons and bandannas.

An article in Quilter's Newsletter Magazine, July-August/87, Barbara Brackman

Washington's Own

Dolly Madison's Star


Contemporary textiles with images of historic figures can be found, as well as, images of current events in the political arena.

This textile is a panel measuring 43x23 inches depicting George Washington crossing the Delaware River.  The colors are startling with vivid reds, blues and gold.  The fabric is textured reminiscent of “bark cloth” ( the fabric your grandma used to cover her porch furniture or perhaps used as draperies.).  This textile was produced by the Reliable Textile Company of NY ( incorporated in 1926) under the trademark Wesco-Reltex.  Supposedly these panels were meant to be hung or framed.

It is not uncommon for foreign countries to produce textile art in support of US political figures.  I found this textile in the collection of the National Museum of Natural History Support Center
 ( Smithsonian Museum, Washington D.C.).  It was a gift from the People of Kenya.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Crin de Caballo

Crin de Caballo - Hair of the Horse

There are many fibers used to create textiles, many are common, many are not.  The use of horsehair has a long history.  Probably the upholstery “stuffing” of your grandmother’s sofa was horsehair, now replaced with modern synthetics.

Central Asians first domesticated horses around 3,000BCE.  The Moors brought horses to Spain and the Spanish brought horses to the new world. 

              In the western United States horsehair was, and still is, used in making tack (bridles, halters ) as well as accessories such as hat bands, belts and keychains.  These can be found in many shops throughout the southwest, selling local products.

              The method of construction is termed hitching, which takes half-hitch knots, using sets of plied horsehair, called “pulls”.  Since mane hair is generally too short and too soft, tail hair is used.  Pulls can also be braided, but braiding does not produce a silky, durable product, although braiding is definitely easier and quicker.

              South Americans have long used crin to create textiles, including beautiful mosaic designed carpets, using weaving techniques (usually flat woven techniques such as Soumak).   Crin offers good wear due to its strength, has nice tactile texture and accepts dyes     

              In a recent showcase of Chilean handcrafts were many examples of fine crin-work made into fanciful accessories.

Hair can be purchased cleaned, in bundles from firms overseas, usually in black or white.  Imported horsehair is, most often, used in making bows for violins and various stringed instruments. Musical instrument dealers who rehair bows are another source but natural horsehair should be ordered, not synthetic.  Also check the internet for US suppliers who sell hanks of  hair in various lengths and colors, usually by the pound ( a pound would make a lot of keychains!!)