Anyone how has studied or admired antique clothing knows that very few survive to this current day in their 'original' form. Prior to the early 19th c, textiles were highly prized. A single loom width of Indian muslin could take 4 men weaving 12 hours a day up to 9 MONTHS to weave....and silk brocades even longer. Precious metals were woven into the fabric, so literally, a fabric could be, and often was, worth its weight in gold. Garments were made up and then unpicked when fashions changed and updated to the latest styles. Many many wonderful 18th Century gowns were 'remade' during the Centennial years and for late 19th c dress up parties, and others, well they were just cut up for whatever reason.
A few years ago now, I purchased a 'spread' from a dealer on eBay, sight unseen. It was a 'silk spread pieced of lengths of 18th silks and metal laces'~ she had unpicked one side of lace and sold it before I found it and noticed the spread in the background of her auction. It was made up of the large central area in the photo above, bordered on all 4 sides by a different stripe silk in similar but unmatching colors, and edged with lace.
Each spring I repack the textiles, and this being such a huge thing, it is really a pain to fold and pad. I have not had the time to really study it until now, and am happy to share with you its marvelous details. Textiles can talk, if you know how to speak their language.
This silk is a wonderful shade of pink, between watermelon and cantaloupe, with woven pekin stripe and brocaded with silk and metal threads. Some folks think these are hand embroidered, but they are not~ the flowers & center stripes are brocaded with real silver metal flat plate, while the small climbing vine is brocaded with a twisted filament silk, and the large floral bouquets are worked with flat filament silk
The overall effect is bright and feminine, not too busy and with a pretty hint of sparkle from the silver threads. This absolutely just twinkles when its moved in the light.
Taking a look at the back of the silk quickly answers the question of weather or not it was hand embroidered~ and if it is a true brocade and not a later jacquard. The silks are not carried along the width of the backing with a brocade as they would be on a jacquard. The silks run horizontally, and are not carried over from one motif to the next, saving aLOT of precious thread.
Please do click on the picture and enlarge it. Look carefully at the right hand side, which is a salvage edge~ do you see the tiny pinpricks???? These are what I first noticed, being up the center of the spread, they caught my eye...This was no simple spread made from some furnishing fabric...this was once a beautiful gown, the pin pricks evidence of where trim was once attached.
Close inspection of the back showed original backstitch in matching silk thread where lengths were joined salvage to salvage
NASTY stitches. And yet I also found hideous machine stitching in.....gasp....polyester thread~BLEK. Personally, I find it insulting to all the hours and hours of hand work that went in to weaving this fabric to have machine stitching marring its surface. I spent a few hours carefully unpicking the tight poly machine seams....and when finished, had 4 pieces~ 2 of which are shaped as shown below
These are long lengths, nearly 6 feet.
To any of you who sew, do they look familiar???
This photo is of a 1765 Robe a la Francais at the Musee de la Mode et du Costume in Paris. Some of you may also be familiar with this type pf dress being called a 'sack or saque back' This too is made of Brocaded silk & pekin. Stripes were very en vogue at this time
This photo is a sketch of the fabric used in a c1770 Robe a la Francais in the Snowshill collection~ on page 34 of Janet Arnolds Patterns of Fashion Vol 1 if you have it.
Do enlarge this page so you may admire the kind of dress that this fabric most likely once made up~ note the shape of the back of the gown to the right in the cutting diagram~ the back of these gowns, from neck to hem is cut in one piece~ same shape as my two pieces. Thrilling to discover!
No longer must I pad and fold, and pad and fold for storage. The lengths can now easily be rolled, which is how I prefer to store all of my flat textiles, quilts included. I have layered each piece on acid free tissue, and covered an old wrapping paper tube with buffered acid free tissue as well.
I cut the tube to the width of my largest piece, cover it, then carefully, and loosely roll it. Once rolled, I tie it closed with cotton string. Having the tissue between each piece protects them from the metal threads scratching and catching/cutting the filament silks
All comfy and cozy on their new roll, ready for quick retrieval for study & inspection.
I you had been following my progress on my knit pinball from last year, here are the steps to making one up. You can follow these steps for an embroidered one too, construction is the same. I had planned on knitting the second side in beads, but my eyes have gotten a bit worse and I stopped as I just cannot see the beads anymore! It is a project for when I get my new glasses, or a microscopic magnifier, one of the two.
If you are knitting your pinball, the first step once both sides are completed, is to block them~ this is done by pinning them face side down onto the iron board, then laying a dampened cloth over them, and steaming with a hot iron. I leave them pin'd to the board to dry overnight
When you pick them off the board, they are wonderfully flat and ready to be made into a pinball.
Recipe for a Pinball:
sides for making up~ 2
wool roving for fill
pencil or pen
The first step after gathering your materials is to cut a circle from your cardstock the diameter you want your pinball to be. In this case, I made mine the same size as my knit design. I like to include little notes and things in all my work(dollys included), so I wrote on the cards, and on one of them, included a bit of MY hair affixed with read sealing wax and my favorite seal.
I like to use natural wool roving in my pinballs, you will need two handfulls, and this is a hand FULL if wool tightly wadded, as you want the pinball stuffed hard
I place a knit side right side down in my hand, then poke in the wadding and quickly cover this with one of the cards. I have my needle threaded and ready to go, and stitch the excess over the card to itself, going around and around, always stitching opposite to draw the knit around the card evenly. example, if I take a stitch from 12 o clock, the next one is at 6 o clock, ect ect
Do this with both sides, they need not look pretty, but do try and keep things as FLAT as possible
Now you are going to place both sides together, have a care to position your motifs carefully. I like to use the same thread I knit with for stitching them together, a blunt needle works better than sharp here.
Once positioned where you want, carefully squeeze and stitch them together. You need clean hands of coarse, and a good grip, if you look at my fingers you will see how really tightly I am squeezing, as they are turning white!
Again here, I like to stitch around twice. Pinball is nearly complete, save for the trim to cover the center seam.
Colonial Williamsburg offers a wonderful sterling pinball ring, but for 225 dollars. Perhaps when I complete a beaded one I will lavish it with a silver ring and chain, but for now, simple trim will do. I like this burgundy silk...it matches the color in my design perfectly...
I also have some precious 18th c silver braid, I like how this looks too....decisions decisions....
Not being able to decide on just one, I used both of coarse. First I laid on the silk, then the silver braid over. For hanging from a waist belt, I just braided a bit of the leftover cotton and tied round the top.
The Lady's Repository Museum is a privately owned museum dedicated to the collection, preservation and study of unique early American fashions of both women and children, the later being a specialty.
All proceeds from Diamond K Folk Art sales (antique reproduction Folk Art, Dolls & hooked rugs) directly support the Museum, of which can be found on ETSY, eBay and the DKFA Blog~ please see the links on the sidebar. You can also mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org