Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The House of Givenchy

A Change at the Top

This year Clare Waight Keller, an English-born designer. was hired by Philippe Fortunato, chief executive of Givenchy, to become the first woman to hold the position of Artistic Director of women’s and men” ready-to-wear, haute couture and accessory collections.

Hubert de Givenchy  was a student of the Beaux-Arts, studying and working with other famous designers at a time when noted fashion houses  used their designs as  property of the “company”.  Young designers , in order to gain recognition,  began creating collections of their own and showing their collections at various venues much smaller in scale than the lavish “fashion week” showings offered by the “big” houses.

In 1952 Givenchy founded and launched a collection called “Les Separables”, the first designer to create luxury ready-to-wear. The collection received great acclaim from sources such as Vogue, NY times and Album du Figaro.  It was at this time when middle class buyers were demanding high quality and the same fashion aesthetic accorded to couture clothing, which was, of course, sold at a much greater price point.  Realizing the potential of this new purchasing market would change the face of international fashion as it was known at the time.  Fashion houses were being combined under the auspices of financial entrepreneurs, commonly called “kings”, and the pressure was now profit driven.

In 1969 the House of Givenchy developed a fashion line for men and further diversified with shoes, jewelry, table wear and upholstery and in !976 established their flagship store in New York on 5th Avenue. 

In 1988 Givenchy joined the powerful and influential LVMH (Louis Vitton, Moet and Hensley).

Hubert retired from  the company in 1995.

Interlink Books, Northampton, MA, 2014

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Celebrating Italian Design

A Tribute to Italian Design

While we were in Milan ( see my blog on  Milan fashion week) wandering and window shopping I spied the most awesome store front in the plaza across from the famous La Scala Opera House.  The first floor of a block-long building showed the interior of a high-end haberdashery shop.  Through the windows the public could see stacks of fabrics, masses of buttons, zippers and all manner of sewing accessories.  This display was so realistic that many people tried to enter the building.  I admit, I would have spent days and days within.  But, of course, none of this wonderment was real.  It was the most clever façade celebrating  Italian  design.  There were other public displays to be found around the city featuring design in many areas.

This is another Italian Design display found in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.  This ornate shopping arcade has a floor plan on the shape of a Latin cross.  Mosaics represent the continents of Asia, Europe, America and Africa and the glass and metal ceiling was the first in Italy to be structural rather than merely decorative.  This display, in front of the Prada flagship store, featured Italy’s great reputation as jewelers to the world.  Renaissance figures adorned billboard-sized panels, dressed in finery, and, of course, their fabulous jewels.  The jewels were showcased in three dimensions .

You just never know what you might encounter.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Italian Fashion Week- Milan

Milan Fashion Week

We recently returned from a short trip to Italy, beginning with Milan during Fashion Week.  Milan, capital of the Lombardy region in northern Italy which stretches from the Alps bordering Switzerland to the flat plain of the river Po, is both the financial and fashion capital of Italy.  A fashion design rival of both New York and Paris, Milan hosted more than 60 fashion shows and more than 80 presentations with  800 showrooms throughout the city.  “This is an Italian city of progress and change” stated “King” Giorgio Armani.

Before a glimpse at the fashions for spring, 2028, let’s take a walk through the so-called “fashion quadrilateral” ( Via Montenapoleone, Via della Spiga, Via Manzoni. And Via sant’Andrea). Flagship stores from Armani to Versache  along with many independent boutiques offer a window-shoppers dream.  The one word I thought of as I viewed the fall and winter displays was “texture”.  Designs were often of several fabrics, heavily textured (some bulky).  The addition of animal furs ( and hair) both faux and real  added additional layers which, at times appeared to be in their natural state.  Long rovings of slightly curly fleece-like material hung from the waist or hem of garments.  (I called this the “wet English sheep-dog look”)  Other trimmings were fine textured, obviously synthetic and highly colored, Even handbags could not escape this furry look.



But you did not have to spend your Euros in the up-scale establishments, as the market stalls offered much cheaper versions.

The promise of Spring was similar but slightly more refined.  Plaids and checks from head to toe and multicolored jackets worn with cowboy boots.  But there was also shimmer and glitz with Armani’s shiny black suits and iridescent fabrics from Gucci.  But fear not, fringe was still shown , now floating on the hemline of long dresses.

Though those of us who do not walk the red carpets , do not greet heads of state, nor jet around the world with valets to care for their wardrobes can still appreciate these outpourings of fashion creativity.  The “trickle-down effect” soon reaches the ready-to-wear consumers and don’t we all want to be in fashion?

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

A Spider Silk Sweater

Spider Silk

On the outside of the patio door to my office is a huge spider web.  I would say about 18 inches in diameter and tethered  to various hanging baskets.  The spider responsible is an enormous orange garden spider who appears occasionally in the center of the web, otherwise I don’t know where it resides, which, I admit makes me nervous when I’m outside.  I don’t like spiders at all, but “Goldie” is living outside and her web is so delicate and intricate that I find myself looking at it often.

                                            fabric swatch   American, cotton, c 1930

Many years ago I was writing an introductory course on Textile History  (Textiles 101, if you will) and prepared a lecture on little-known animal fibers.  Several animals produce silk filaments, of course Bombyx mori is the most notable, but certain mollusks, insects, as well as my “unfriends” the arachnids. 

According to the Roman poet, Ovid, Arachne was widely noted for her weaving skills and challenged the goddess Athena to a contest, which, apparently she won hands-down.  Now Athena was never known to be a gracious loser and in a rage of envy destroyed Arachne’s beautiful tapestry.  In despair, Arachne tried to hang herself , but was transformed by Athena into a spider.

As silk producers, arachnids ( nearly 300 million years ago) far preceded the silk “worm”.
The physical properties are very impressive.  Different species produce silk of varying characteristics.  Spider attachment discs are made of a strong glue to secure the draglines and framelines.  Certain species produce a dragline silk that is stronger by weight to steel, surpassing Kevlar.  This excellent tensile strength has been suggested that a pencil thick strand of silk could stop a 747 in flight., and its elasticity is superior to Nylon.  Some silks are good insulators, while some absorb water, and some are water resistant.  The reason insects, when in contact with a web, cannot escape their demise is as special silken thread called “cribellate” which forms a fine sticky mat combed atop the more substantial silk tract. 

Historically, several cultures have used spider silk medicinally , as well as for fishing nets  There have been attempts to use the silk for textiles in the early 1700’s but the care of the living spiders proved too difficult.  Speaking of difficult, in the 1800’s spider silk was reeled directly from harnessed spiders.  The military has long investigated spider silk for strong lightweight materials.

DuPont’s advertisement in the Scientific American of July 1996 tells that they were studying these biopolymer structures of spider webs by using recombinant DNA technology.  I had not heard more about this research until several years ago while attending a Textile Society conference, I met a retired chemist who had worked for DuPont.  She told me a fellow chemist had resurrected these studies.  So maybe, we shall see spider filament for use in textiles.

For me, a spider silk  sweater, NO WAY!!!!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Researching the Textiles of Ancient Peru

Referencing Pre-Columbian Peruvian Textiles

After visiting the Amaco museum of pre-Columbian Peruvian textiles in January (See my blog Textile Treasure of Ancient Peru, 2/19/17)    I was inspired to do more research on the cultures of ancient Peru.  Here are only a few of references I am using.

                                                              DK Publishing INC, NY

                                           Paul Hughes, FINE TEXTILE ART, London, 1995

                                     Andreas Lommel, Hamilton publishing Group LTD, 1966

                                                   Samuel K. Lothrop, Rizoli INC., 1964

                               Lucy Davies & Mo Fini, Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 1994

  There is also much information available on the internet.  The images of textiles created thousands of years ago by these peoples is truly inspiring.

A few ancient textile tidbits, for now

                                                      Feathered textile, Amanco Museum

                                                   Weaving fragment, Amano Museum

Friday, August 4, 2017

Magic Clothes of Power:- Episode 1, The Wild Swans

Magic Cloths of  Power

For many years I have been asked to present lectures on various textile topics.  One of my very favorite topics I will share with you over several months : Magic Clothes of  Power.

I once had read a book by Barbara Michaels about a “bad” quilt.  It was not poorly constructed, not green and purple and orange, it was EVIL. and very dire consequences befell anyone who came to be associated with this textile.  So I began gathering stories and information about textiles that had intrinsic powers.  Not represented power, such as flags or military uniforms, but possessed actual , beyond the norm, abilities.

Folklore and literature abound with these legends.  However there are equally as many accounts of peoples and cultures that, today, believe that certain textiles have been empowered in some way either by their creator, or the fibers and materials used in their manufacture, or by some divine intervention.

                                                      Fabric-  England, Chintz, c.1835

Today, I go to literature for such an account: “Wild Swans”, Denmark, Hans Christian Anderson.
In this story, a beautiful princess weaves shirts made from the fibers of the stinging nettle plant for her 11 brothers.  It seems that their evil stepmother had cast a spell upon the boys, turning them into wild swans.  A good witch told the princess the completed shirts, when worn by her brothers, would turn them from swans back into young men again.  These wonderfully soft shirts made of something so unlikely could reverse magical spells and would endow their wearers with magical powers. And so it was.

There is, usually, in the background of such  stories a grain of truth.  In this case, it is the fiber of the nettle plant.  Stinging nettle – Urtica dioica, is a herbaceous perennial 1-2 meters in height, found abundantly in boggy areas in northern Europe and Asia, less commonly found in Canada and US.  The underside of the leaves are found with slender hairs containing several toxic chemicals which are released when brushed against causing itching and pain.

The textile fiber is a bast fiber found in the stem and is processed like flax.into very soft , supple fabric. Nettle, which was still used in northern, central and eastern Europe well into the 20th C, was found in a tomb in Denmark dating to 1,000 BCE.  White fibers originally believed to be flax by archeologists were later shown to be nettle.  When Germany and Austria ran short of cotton during the war, the value of nettle was recognized and 2 species were chosen for textiles.  It is estimated that Germany harvested over two thousand tons of wild nettles to weave fabric for their shoulders.

Several years age, my husband and I were dining in a restaurant in Istanbul which served us steamed nettle, apparently the toxins are eliminated by cooking.  Frankly , it tasted much like any cooked green.

I will share more of these textile tales in upcoming blogs.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

"E" is for Eyelet


Eyelet fabric can be described as a combination of lace and embroidery.  It can be found in a variety of patterns which cover the fabric surface from selvage to selvage.  Usually produced in white but occasionally it can be found in colors.

The design is punched into the fabric ground by a series of knives called bohers.  The “hole is then stitched to prevent fraying. 

In the 1860’s an early hand-operated embroidery machine was developed, subsequently, a 24 needle machine was produce which could be powered by hand or electricity..  This machine was known as the “schiffli”, German for boat.   Programs were written in punch paper( somewhat similar to Jacqard weaving and computer punch cards).

Early schiffli machine circa 1910.  Note the machine operator is following the punch pattern.

Today a modern schiffli machine is 65 feet long and 16 feet high, containing 1,020 needles.. Most manufacturers in the US using these embroidery machines are in New Jersey.  These machines are computer run.

Friday, June 30, 2017

A Celebration- 250 Years of Hand and Lock

Hand and Lock

I love textile embellishments: embroidery, beading, appliqué.  I greatly admire those superior crafts-persons who produce these exciting, artistic creations which add so much aesthetic value.

This year, 2017, marks the 250th anniversary of one of the most prestigious embroidery firms, Hand and Lock of London.

Their history tells of their initial services to the military for badges and embellishments for uniforms.  Today they offer their exquisite talents to the Royal House and Family, international fashion houses, designers of costume for theater and television.  You can read more of their story on their web page.

Hand and Lock also offers educational opportunities, with courses and workshops in beading, goldwork and other embroideries, worldwide.  If you are in London you may visit the atelier and view archival pieces and embroidery samples.  They also have a large assortment of laces and designs, appliqués, embroidery tools and kits available from their on-line shop.

I would love some gold-work letters.  I can see my initials on an evening bag or made into a small broach.

                                           Photo courtesy of Hand and Lock website

Quality workmanship is not always easy to find. Just browsing their site is a joy,

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Extraordinary in the Ordinary - An Extraordinary Man - LLoyd Cotsen

Too often we are blinded by the bling of our culture. For some reason . perhaps a trait of our competitive  human nature, we feel compelled to strive for stature by obtaining objects, many of which are “only for show”.  This results in over-extended finances and households brimming with unappreciated “stuff”.  Undoubtedly, there are many examples of outstanding articles : luxury cars (that I would be fearful to drive), crown-worthy jewelry (that I would be uneasy to wear) and medieval manuscripts ( that I could only touch wearing gloves and would not understand the language at any rate).  These extraordinary objects have much merit, of course, however, they are eclipsed, in my opinion, by those I can touch, admire and appreciate within my lifestyle.  The most frequently asked question I receive when asked to identify  a textile is:”What is it worth?”  My answer is always the same: “It is worth what someone is willing to pay for it, nothing more”  There is a difference between worth and value.  One might value a family keepsake, its “worth” may be negligible. 

These thoughts are the result of my learning of the death of one of my favorite people: Lloyd Cotsen, (1920-2017).  I was not a family friend, nor had I ever met the man, but he had a passion, a passion for the everyday, the little things that told a story. He was a man I could relate with, at least in a small way..  Cotsen was a collector..of many, many things.  An outstanding business man, he was CEO of Neutrogena and marketed the brand to every dermatologist and into most households.  His business successes enabled him to financially add to his collections.  However, his collections were of a broad interest and a result of a lifetime study of archeology.

He was also a great philanthropist and a benefactor to many museums.  His donation to the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco consisted of Japanese bamboo baskets, to the Firestone Library at Princeton his collection of more than 40,000 children’s books.
To us in Santa Fe he is very highly regarded for his contribution of over 3,000 articles from his collections to the International Folk Art Museum and the endowment funds which provide support to the museum.  This very varied accumulation of articles include many textiles ( an arctic parka of walrus gut, as an example).

“I buy things because they strike an emotional bell, they appeal to my curiosity, to the thrill of discovery of the extraordinary in the ordinary.”
Lloyd Cotsen, 1998

It might be a worthy exercise to follow Cotsen’s ability to see the “extraordinary in the ordinary”.

                  The Extraordinary in the Ordinary,  Kahlenberg, Mary Ed., Abrams, Inc., 1998

This is one of my most favorite of all the books in my reference collection.  The text is informative, the photographs beautifully printed and the scope of Cotsen's collection is outstanding.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Cultural Appropriation

Cultural Appropriation

I recently read an internet article “A much needed primer on cultural appropriation”.

So, what does “appropriate” mean?  According to the dictionary the word appropriate means to take as ones own, to take for ones own: hence to steal.  We are all familiar that taking an invention protected by patent  is fraudulent.  Using another’s words either orally or in print is plagiarism.  However, it becomes more murky when we speak of intellectual properties or cultural values.    The reason I was intrigued by this article is that it addressed the issue of fashion and designers that have (and are) using cultural references in their designs with little appreciation to their true significance.

There has always been the idea that design (in whatever form) is derivative,  that is, it is based upon previous concepts , sometimes very explicit references, sometimes  only a vague hint of a precursor.  In Textile Designs (Meller and Elffers, Abrams, 1991) the authors state “…the recycling wheel, which sets the motif of textile designs on a circular road of eternal return.  Nothing disappears, and nothing appears out of nowhere.”  This might be taken to imply certain permission to copy.  But this is not what I am talking about in appropriation of culture.  Certainly we are seeing in the past few years a return to mid-century style, design and color patterns.

Cultural appropriation is very different.  It is taking the values and beliefs of a people, their physical characteristics and/or lifestyle.  It is removing these symbols from their original context and  using them in fashion , let’s be real here, for a profit.  The meaning of these cultural references is nowhere addressed, and, indeed often far, far removed from any original significance.  This is not a new problem.  In the 1950’s there was great interest in so-called “ethnic” designs. Yards of printed fabric presented Mexican senores in sombreros asleep beneath palms or with burros and senoritas with baskets of flowers.  There were “Little Black Sambo” pajamas and “Aunt Jemima” aprons.  Today this is not only considered sooo politically incorrect, but down-right inflammatory.  And yet today it continues with many ethnic groups.

The problem is, I think, the consumer sees a pleasing, or intriguing design, either in the print of the fabric or the construction of the final product.  Perhaps the offense lies in the glossy advertising.  Because  the real symbolism  is unfamiliar the consumer is unaware that this is perhaps offensive and derogatory to some.  Is there a solution?   Of course, but it may be a complicated one.  The onus is on both the consumer and the producer.  We must be more aware and receptive to the idea that everyone does not live, think and believe as we do.  If there is no market, there will be no further production.  Fashion manufacturers must be held accountable. Apologies after the fact should not be the final word.. If there is an instance of such breach of good faith the public should make their voices heard.  Afterall everyone is entitled to their heritage and beliefs  

Sunday, May 7, 2017

"D" is for The Draper Corporation

“D” is for The Draper Corporation

Today, we take technology as a given.  New advances are made daily, increasing the productivity of our endeavors.  These advances are exponential, not linear.  By this I mean the tech wizards do not rely on a step-by-step method of discovery and advancement (starting from the beginning every time) but rather on the entire “mass” of information available.  Because we are so demanding of immediate advances  ( new cell phone technology is a great example) we forget  the difficulties encountered in the past by the pioneers of mechanization, the tinkerers and the inventors.

When the Draper Corporation ceased making power looms for textile production in the mid 1970’s, it had been in operation for over 130 years in Hopedale MA, and was once the largest maker of power looms.

Ira Draper was a wealthy farmer from Weston Massachusetts with an ability to improve heavy machinery, making it more efficient.  His great-great-grandfather, from Boston, was one of the first of the colonists to begin a business weaving and selling cloth, so textile production was an interesting pursuit for Ira.  In 1816 he obtained a patent for an improved flyshuttle hand  loom and the first self-acting temple.  The loom temple was a moving device allowing the weaver to manage 2 power looms at the same time   In 1829 he received a patent for an improved version off his original design and later sold his patents and the business to his son, James.

Ebenezer Draper bought the business from his brother, James, and in 1853 another brother, George, joined the firm of E.D.& George Draper.  Over the years, he created dozens of variations of the spindle.  Following Ebenezer’s retirement in 1868, George directed the company into the developing area of Ring Spinning.  By 1887 the company owned patents of 12 varieties of ring spindles. There are two methods of spinning Mule spinning and Ring spinning.  Mule is a type of spinning frame with an intermittent action.  It was used to a considerable extent for spinning wool, but only in limited usage in this country for cotton.  Ring spinning takes place on a ring frame which drafts the roving, twists the yarn and winds it on a bobbin simultaneously and continuously, greatly more efficient.

Many automated looms had been patented but were found to be impractical and were not used.  The Draper brothers decided to redesign and  manufacture automated looms.  One, the Northrop loom (named after its inventor, James Northrop), was redeveloped, allowing the weaver to run 16 looms at once.  In 1895 the Northrop Automated Loom was patented in England, Belgium, Germany, Russia, Austria and Spain, selling over 60,000 looms by 1900.

For many decades the Draper Corporation continued to make improvements on their products, selling to southern textile companies after the northern mills had closed.  In1967 the company became part of Rockwell International, ceasing production in the mid 1970’s. 

I am a great admirer of these far-sighted pioneers who through their imaginations and hard work have made incredible advances possible.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Easter Holiday

Easter Holiday

This weekend we celebrate Easter.  For those in the northern hemisphere, Easter is synonymous with Spring!  After a long winter season, flowers and trees are blooming, birds are singing.  Easter also means bunnies and baskets of candy.  Of course, Easter has another meaning .  For Christians throughout the world it is the celebration of the Resurrection of Christ following his death by crucifixion as ordered by Pontius Pilate, the Roman prelate.

Many believe that certain textiles have intrinsic powers, not merely symbolic, that provide protection or bring good fortune.  One such textile is the Shroud of Turin.
The earliest legend concerns the “Image of Edessa”.  The king of Edessa (Turkey)
wrote to Jesus asking him to come and cure him of leprosy.  Unable to visit, Jesus sent a miraculous self-protrait imbuded with curative power.  Some equate this story with the Shroud of Turin, however the shroud’s  linen cloth bears the image of the entire front and back impressions of an apparently crucified man.  There has been controversy on whether this textile is the burial shroud of Jesus Christ or a medieval fabrication.  Results of carbon-dating posed the age of this textile to be no older than the 1200’s.  Others suggest the actual date cannot be determined due to contamination by centuries of manipulation.  The 14 ½ foot of linen fiber is owned by the pope, but it is in the care of the archdiocese of Turin, Italy.  The Catholic Church does not make any claims toward its authenticity and has long acknowledged that there are disagreements and questions that have not been successfully addressed.

There are other “miraculous” portraits of Jesus, one of which is known as the Veronica Veil.  Veronica, it is said, was a wealthy woman of Jerusalem who witnessed the journey to Golgatha that Christ made with the cross.  She wiped his face with her veil and his visage was imprinted upon it.  There were many “originals” of the textile and it was assumed that they had been painted, however the legend asserts that the image could duplicate itself miraculously.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Children's Clothing

Clothes for Tots

I read an article in the Wall Street Journal ( Sat-Sun March 18-19, 2017) entitled “Kid’s Style: The New Order” by Kari Molvar.  According to Molvar, there are on-line couture sites dedicated to children’s clothing and accessories for parents ( and presumably grandparents and other gift givers) specializing in the very high end , and price!, attire for the kiddie set. While there are retail outlets for children’s clothing at the mall, the variety is, admittedly, somewhat limited.  I remember shopping in Lisbon, where nearly every third shop specialized in clothing for infants and children.  This got me thinking of the history of clothing for children and the lack of information available, especially in the times prior to the 17th  century.  

After the 1700’s there is more information on this subject of youth fashions ,which can be found readily on the Internet.  It was not until the mid 1800’s that journals gave detailed descriptions of children’s wear.

 However, before that time there  is scarce reference to the costumes worn by children.  We get information of the past through paintings, drawings and literature created at the time.  While not always totally accurate, there is a tendency to put on a “good face” when rendering life styles, these sources do give  clues from which historians can draw plausible conclusions.  Herein lies our problem.  There are few pictorial references to children in early history.  One of the few references I found was a painting now in the Louvre “The Dauphin Charles Orland” 1495 by Maitre Des Moulins.  According to Francoise Boucher, ( 20,000 Years of Fashion), in the 16th C children’s costume “was still largely practical: flannel gowns, linen bibs, caps with turned up flaps worn over *‘beguins’.  In the course of the century they began to be dressed like miniature adults”.

                                                           Harry Abrams, Inc, NY

It is reasonable to assume that before the emergence of the middle classes in the 1800’s, few had the financial ability to hire portraits of their family.  Most paintings that were not of religious nature were those commissioned by nobility and, therefore, not an accurate representation of the general populace.  There is, sadly,  another reason that children were generally not represented in early times.  The rate of infant mortality was extremely high.  Many infants did not survive to childhood, many children did not survive past the age of five years. Perhaps, it was not deemed necessary to provided anything but the basic clothing of tunics and stockings and caps.  Until children reached an age when they were put to work in the fields (or later in factories) there was no perceived need for children’s costumes.  Even as they aged, as referenced by Boucher they were dressed in scaled-down versions of clothing worn by their parents.

Now, even the young toddler has a sense of what they would prefer to wear.  As I have said previously, I volunteer in the Children’s Room of our public library.  Every week for Pre-school Story-time 2-5 year olds attend dressed in costumes of their fictional heroes, or dress as seen in the media,  choosing their dress and accessories for themselves. Occasionally, their choices are humorous, albeit, whole hearted.  Nevertheless they are confident in their fashion style.

*Beguin- a folded piece of linen worn as a hood, under a cap, in the Flemish style.

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.