Wednesday, December 16, 2009

All That Glitters: Two Extraordinary Embroidered Jackets

Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Susan reports:

It's easy to look at the phenomenal craftsmanship of the past and proclaim that it could never be replicated today, as if the skill, training, imagination, talent, and (perhaps most importantly) the patience that created the original item have somehow been bred out of humans.

The embroidered jacket to the left is an excellent example. The pale pink silk taffeta is covered with finely wrought embroidery in thread of silk, gold, and silver, with gold lace to trim the edges and cuffs. While jackets like this one were popular day-wear for affluent, upper-class ladies in late 16th-early 17th c. England, it's almost impossible for us in this era of instant-gratification to imagine the time and effort that went into creating such a garment.

Almost, but not quite.

Under the auspices of Plimoth Plantation, over two hundred skilled needleworkers recently joined together to reproduce a similar jacket. Even with so many able needles, the project took three years to complete, and included not only countless exquisite stitches, but also the recreation of 17th c. style metallic threads and sequins. The result is breathtaking; check out the blog, The Embroiderer's Story, that followed the jacket's progress for photographs of its creation, as well as its debut last week.

Three cheers (and congratulations) for all who were part of this amazing collaboration, and three cheers, too, for bringing history so stunningly to life.

And many thanks to the anonymous reader of this blog who send us the story about the jacket in the Boston Globe.

Above: Portrait of Margaret Laton (1590-1641), c. 1600, Victoria and Albert Museum. The jacket to the left, also in the collection, is the same one worn in the portrait.


Mme.Tresbeau said...

I don't know which is more impressive: the jacket or the story of the ladies who recreated it. Beautiful on all counts!

nightsmusic said...

Gorgeous! What an exquisite work of art.

I think we have no patience for anything like this anymore, whether to make it or have it is because we are too bombarded with outside distractions. They had no internet, no television, no radios, no cars, no shopping malls (such as we have today) and a host of other things we take for granted now and feel like we could never live without.

They survived. And produced some of the most beautiful things...


Marg said...

It's gorgeous, but I am all for instant gratification! 200 people taking three years to make it. Not sure I have anywhere near enough patience.

Isabella Bradford/Susan Holloway Scott said...

Because I do so much handwork myself, I respect and admire this level of craftsmanship, esp. since at this level, it's probably more art than craft. So much of history is remembering what's been forgotten, and I'm so glad that stitchery like this hasn't been lost forever.

When I was growing up, my godparents lived near the National Cathedral in DC, and their daughter and I used to run around the construction site, talking to the stonecarvers and other artisans. The cathedral had been begun long before any of us had been born, and none of the people who'd been there when the cornerstone was laid would live to see it completed, but everyone had a sense of being part of something larger than themselves. In a way, it's a path to immortality, I guess -- whether through a stone gargoyle or a butterfly stitched in gold thread. :)

Miss Kirsten said...

Computers last two years max, but that jacket has lasted 400 years. Bet the new one will, too.

Loretta Chase said...

That is simply stunning. I'm so glad we got the closeups--that's when one can truly appreciate what went into making this. As a former embroiderer, may I say that I am in awe...

Margaret Porter said...

Oh, Susan, a dear friend of our family was a sculptor who worked at the National Cathedral--I love to think he might have been among the labourers when you were exploring. We must talk! Every time we go there we look at his pieces.
I started the Williamsburg sampler when I was in my teens, at school in the UK. I finished it a only few years ago!

Jenny Girl said...

Just exquisite. One must feel so special when wearing this.

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