Monday, June 20, 2016

Museum Monday!

1780 Brown Jean Stays/Corset 248.2004.01
 This week's Museum Monday lucky number is 248!  This late 18th c corset, or 'stay' as they were commonly referred to as, is a true work of art.  After examining one up close and holding it in ones hands, it is easy to understand why the majority of stay makers in the 18th c were men~ they are heavy, all hand stitched thru layer upon layer of linen and whalebone....something that needed strong hands to accomplish.  This era of stays do not lie flat when placed on a table...their shape is like a funnel or ice cream cone, both on and off the body! The cream silk ribbons center front are merely decorative, and have been laced thru the stitching along the center front seams.
The outer fabric is a chocolate brown jean with linen lining. Shoulder straps tie thru single eyelet holes near the underarm side seam, which would keep the straps tight on the arm, pulling the shoulders up and back to achieve proper posture. Waist is tabbed to provide ease over the hips and a nice snug glove like fit. Stitching of the whalebone channels can be seen, with direction carefully placed on the diagonal, wrapping around the wearers torso, making wear very comfortable. Along the chest edge, horizontal whalebone strips can be seen.
 The linen lining is attached only at the edge seams, with body cut from a single piece. The tabs have been cut separately and seamed on across their tops, the whole lining appearing to hover above the actual surface of the stays.
 To really appreciate the workmanship and skill involved in stitching a set of stays, one really needs to get their nose up close~ here the shoulder strap lining can be seen, as well as the inside of the center back closing. A contrasting cream linen thread has been used, so each and every stitch can be seen, and was meant to be seen.  The hand stitched eyelets are wonderful.
 Inside lining at the underarm~ one can see slight perspiration staining, and see how close the shoulder strap hole is to the underarm? The placement of this hole was key in a proper fit for the upper body, to really get the shoulders drawn back, and push the bosom up. If one did not have a perfect fit here, in the cut of their stays, this area would dig into the body and cause painful chaffing~ the next time you have a chance to examine an 18th c corset, check to see if there is wear in this area~ you may even see some that have been cut out here and restitched.
 Minute perfect little stitches for each and every whalebone channel~ while the stitching reaches all the way to the edge binding, the whalebone is cut short, with a single stitch placed in the center of each channel to keep the bones from shifting.

I left this last picture large so you can click on it to see the stitching up close.  I hope you enjoyed today's Museum Monday~ if you did, please pick up to 3 numbers between 1-920 and leave in the comment section so Pip can draw out next weeks piece!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Thank you Early American Life

 Ladye Grace, Patience, visits Locust Grove, Kentucky
 As if being selected for the 2016 Early American Life Directory of Traditional American Crafts wasn't honor enough, words just cannot express  the excitement here when Patience's presence was requested at Locust Grove to be photographed for this years directory issue.  You can find her on page 56 smiling away so happy! What an honor~ this is the 9th consecutive year I have been chosen for the Directory, and each year, I am always so nervous my dollys wont be good enough. The level of craftsmanship is getting higher and higher each year, and I am truly most proud to be have been chosen.  I would like to thank all of the judges that worked so hard to put together this outstanding Directory for 2016~
Daniel Ackermann, Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts
Shantia Anderheggen, National Trust for Historic Preservation
Linda Brubaker, Historical Society of Early American Decoration
Michael Canadas & Davis Robinson, Carmel Doll Shop
Barbara Carroll, Woolley Fox
Gordon Converse, Gordon S. Converse & Co.
Lee Davis, Southern Highland Craft Guild
Michael Dunbar, The Windsor Institute
Linda Eaton, Winterthur Museum
Darby Erd, Company of Military Historians
Craig Farrow, Furniture maker & museum consultant
Darlene Gengelbach, National Museum of Play
Michael Graham, Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village
David R Hillier, Antique Associates at West Townsend, Inc.
Suzanne Findlen Hood, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
Thomas Kelleher, Old Sturbridge Village
James Kochan, Fine Art & Antiques
Peggy McClard, Americana & Folk Art
Lisa Minardi, Winterthur Museum
Roddy Moore, Blue Ridge Institute at Ferrum College
Rob & Lynn Morin, Americana and Folk Art Online
Aimee Newell, Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library
Candace Perry, Schwenkfelder Library & Heritage Center
Davis Puckett, Frontier Culture Museum of Virginia
Tara Vose Raiselis, Dyer Library/Saco Museum
Kirstin Rohrs Schmitt, Love of Quilting Magazine
Peter Seibert, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
Don Troiani, Historical artist & author
Ann Wagner, Winterthur Museum
Carolyn Weekley, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
Richard & Jan Wilks, Keystone Antiques

 I usually enter my earlier 18th c Queen Anne dollys, but this year, these little Ladyes asked to represent me. I love early 19th c dollys~ the cotton prints at this time in history are just absolutely wild and fabulous, and hairstyles so much fun to sculpt...I could sit and sculpt hair alllll day long
What is under the dress is just as important as the gown & hair....dollys much have shoes and stockings and pantaloons and petticoats...must, must absolutely!

Just got back from a much needed vacation, (which actually, I could totally use a vacation from my vacation!!)....so look for more dollys coming soon!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Museum Monday!

Child's Pillowcase, 1st Qtr 19th c , 902.2016.25
  This week's Museum Monday lucky number is 902!  This piece came to live here at the Museum as part of the contents of a trunk that contained wonderful baby things. Not fancy clothing....but an entire trunk of nursery items~ like someone literally walked into the nursery in 1825 and put everything up~ from dresses and baby shirts to pram covers and cushions, blankets and sheets...all hand marked, some with little notes attached. Many things that were kept were everyday use items~ like the sheets and pillowcases, such as this one, which brings one to realize the sad reality these may have been put up because Mamma or baby passed away....
 One may think it strange to have such perfect hand work on such a plain pillowcase, until I remind you that one did not go to town a buy a pillowcase for their pillow....if you wanted one, you made it yourself~ and babies were so precious~ families did not spend the entire time Mother was pregnant making dresses....they also made bedding items and covers.....I mean literally covers for tables, baskets, chairs, beds.....everything!


Thursday, June 09, 2016

What could compliment the Beads on my Flat Top Casket???

Why, Feathers, of Coarse!
 Aren't these colors pretty!? I think so!  This is the colour palette I have chosen for one of the butterflies on the front frieze of my flat top casket.  I was really really trying to stick to my bead only rule....but he's a butterfly....I mean come on... he needed a little 'kick'!
 I left these two pictures large so you can click on them to see better~ his body is lustre beads, with real peacock feathers worked in. Its hard to get the effect on the camera~ he just looks a little fuzzy I guess....and makes the looker really stick their nose in and then they say....'are those feathers in there?'
Yep! There sure are I say! Here you can see how fuzzy he is, and depending on the angle at which you view the feathers, his body changes from green to golds....I thought it a perfect effect for the lid, one of the few moving parts of my flat top. There are so many antique 17th c caskets and embroidery panels that have the remnants of feathers that once were there (especially caterpillars and bugs)....its really easy to see why they used them so much. When I finished his body I liked it so much my mind immediately was racing to think of what other areas I could use them in!  

Monday, June 06, 2016

Museum Monday!

1830 Lady's Horsehair cap/wig, 713.2013.31
 This week's Museum Monday lucky number is 713!  This piece is one of the earliest hair pieces I have in the collection~ one every so often sees the 1830's era false curls ladys would wear on the side of their heads, that are attached to little combs....but an entire cap, this early, is a wonder to behold. I have given it a soft date of 1830's, but if one looks into fashion plates, or early dolls, you will find this coiffure with back coronet popular in the 18teens. German mache dolls were commonly sent to France to have their wigs made in the 1830s, with side treatment and wig binding the same as this one, so really anytime during the first few decades of the 19th c one could have seen this piece on say, their best friend that had quite a bit of money, and thin hair.
 It has been plaited from real horsehair, with the underside woven in a series of loupes~ this acts as a padding of sorts, any maybe gave the wearer something to pin their real hair to....
 One would leave out bangs around the face, and work them up over the binding to hide it. With no shampoo available at the time, I would suppose hair had to commonly have this 'glaze' effect, from all the oils, so this shiny horsehair would blend in well. The entire piece is horsehair, save for the applied cotton tape ties
 The workmanship is truly amazing. It would really be interesting to know how long a wig like this took to make~ and was the entire process mechanized some how? The front band is so tight and perfectly woven, its hard to find the ends of the horsehair

Even the ties around the plaited loupes in the coronet are horsehair.  Its a real privileged to have it, and am so happy to share it today!

Friday, June 03, 2016

Like Oil on Water

Antique Lustre Beads
 Beads fascinate me, what can I say. Especially  working with such small beads, I have to have my magnifiers on, and in doing so, really am amazed by these little balls of glass. As if the history of how the beads in general were made so long ago isn't interesting enough, the different glasses are really fascinating...and made with metals and earth elements no longer available today, so the early colors are truly precious. I have a few lustre beads in my vast palette....Id say out of 300+ colors, I have maybe 5 lustres. So I save them for special.
Any color bead can be a luster bead~ lustre, or luster, is a finish applied after the bead is made~ except for black beads, those usually were Irisized. Simply put, black glass beads were put into big vats of lacquer that contained metal dust...then they were put thru a furnace just hot enough to burn off the organics and fuse the metal tot he surface, making the iris finish.  Lustring beads was reported in use as early as 1856.  The beads were sent thru a chamber that contained metal fumes...the metal in the fumes would stick to the hot glass and melt to their surface, producing the effect above...to look closely at them it looks like oil on water, but in a smooth allover effect, without the striations. I am always thankful to the nameless many, as there were sure to be many MANY people in the glass industry that died early deaths from breathing toxic metal vapors. 
Check back in a few if you want to see where I put these little beads!

Monday, May 30, 2016

Museum Monday!

c1855-60 Child or Dolly's Chemise 146.2002.14
 Today's Museum Monday lucky number is 146!  A quaint little girls white cotton chemise, entirely hand stitched in minute little stitches. There are 5 Clambroth glass buttons around the waist, for a petticoat to be buttoned on to.
 It has several really neat features, the hand stitched ruffle around the neckline and sleeves is marvelous....there are underarm gussets with reinforced bands under the arms..... ( pictures I left large so you can see the tiny stitches).  One cannot say for certain if this is a small girl's piece, or if it was made by a girl for her dollye~ which was quite common, to give the girls practical use of all the stitches they had been taught at girl's school.  The stitching on these pieces is always immaculate, tiny, fully hand worked. There are usually embroidered initials to go along with~ a young ladye would perfect her stitching in miniature for dollye, before she was on to larger things for herself or others.
 What I would like to focus on, for this post, is the one aspect of this chemise that is not hand stitched. The simple strip of whitework embroidery down the center front. Its attached with perfect tiny stitches....above is a picture of the back of the embroidery. If you are ever in question if an embroidery is hand or machine made, one need only examine the back. You can click on the picture to enlarge it, and note the carriage of the threads is in the exact same place on each reoccurring motif. Of coarse it also helps to know when the first embroidery machine was made~ 1829 by Joshua Heilmann to be exact.  He sold his machine to the Swiss, and by the 1850s, machine made embroidery was all the rage, having put hundreds if not thousands of cottage industry workers out of work.  And when I say machine made embroidery, don't automatically think it was crude....not in the slightest. It can sometimes take an expert eye to discern a machine made embroidered piece from a handmade one.
The process was not exactly simple either...above is a postcard c1905 of workers at an embroidery machine. The man sitting on the left is tracing the embroidery pattern with the long arm, which in turn transfers the design to several sets of needles that embroider the motifs at 1/6th the size of his pattern template. I dug around and found a video of the last Schiffli machine in use, by the Manchester Metropolitan University ~ its hard to tell, but the fabric is what moves, the needles are stationery.  By the 1860s there were literally thousands of these machines in use~ one can only imagine the noise!!!