Sunday, May 3, 2015

Embroidered 18th Century Wedding Pocket-Finally Finished!

Last year I bought this kit at Colonial Williamsburg in the historic area at the Mary Dickenson shop. This kit was happily full of much historical information and supplies from lovely linens, wool yarns, detailed charts, color enlargement of the original pocket, reproduction binding, and tape.
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The original two pockets (of which the kit replicates one) were made by Sarah Leonard to wear for her wedding on December 15, 1786 in Warwick, Massachusetts. Enclosed in the kit was a reproduced note from Sarah's granddaughter, documenting the pocket.

Four stitches were used in the embroidery of this pocket...Stem Stitch, New England Laid Stitch, Buttonhole Stitch, and Running Stitch.

Stem Stitch which is used for outlining...

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Here is some New England Laid Stitch which is used for filling in large areas economically. Little bits of fabric are grabbed by the needle at each end of the area to be stitched so that the top is covered in an interesting pattern...

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...whereas the back has two tiny rows of stitches.

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A combination of Stem Stich and New England Laid Stitch...

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The top amoeba looking flora was done with a combination of Stem Stitch, New England Laid Stitich...and Buttonhole Stitch! The acron looking one is strictly Stem Stitch and New England Laid Stitch...

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To the left is the addition of the fourth stitch, Running Stitch!

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I first learned embroidery as a little girl from my grandmother and I did many pieces through my childhood, into highschool and through college. Then I laid it aside because cross stitch, sewing dresses to wear to work as a schoolteacher, quilting, then historical clothing beckoned me. Now I'm glad to revive the embroidery in such a lovely and practical manner!

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Thus, I am familiar with many of the stitches, however New England Laid Stitch was new to me. The photo above that showcased that stitch was humbly, my very first New England Laid Stitch. I had lots of practice with this pocket so I got better and better, as evidenced I hope by showing the back of one of my final New England Laid Stitches in the next  photo. I chose not to worry about lack of perfection, because my goal was to reproduce the original which was not perfect either.

In my reproduction I stitched the light blue and dark blue wool threads in the same places and in the same directions as the original, as so clearly marked in all of my information sheets!

The history of English embroidery is detailed at the Victoria and Albert Museum, dating back as far as the Middle Ages, principally for the wealthy. Similarly, the MET details the history of embroidery in America as a young lady's educaton. Whether taught at home or at Dame Schools in early America, the stitching of samplers served a dual purpose in teaching basic stitches as well as embroidery. Young ladies who were privileged (usually of the wealthy class) to attend a school of higher learning learned more complex embroidery, such as a decorative pictorial sampler.

The MET also details that after marriage, these ladies were usually too busy running a household to embroider. However some lovely textiles to furnish the home are featured (see this link), that some ladies found the time to do.

As for this wedding pocket, I assume that the young lady that was soon to be married stitched this in anticipation of her marriage in spare bits of her time that she could find as many of us do today. Her future husband, David Mayo, built a tavern in Warwick in 1794, so she probably was not of the upper class. Embrodery wasn't exclusive to the upper class but certainly the upperclass found more time to work such beautiful stitches.  The pocket, as lovely as it is, would have been hidden underneath the skirts. In her day, the man owned everything. The little that a lady owned was kept in her very own private place...her pocket. 

This pocket is quite large. It measures 18"x13". I've worn 18th century gowns for entire days while with my children in Colonial Williamsburg. During those times I have needed large pockets to put all my necessities in to survive the day and to return to the 21st century after the day. Large sizes are highly practical.

Now how about War and Peace? (...because I am submitting my embroidery for the War and Peace Challenge for the Historical Sew Monthly)

Embroidery work was principally worked during peacetime, not war time. In war time the women, historically, have been busy sewing and knitting practical items like shirts and socks for their men at war. In WWII many women went to the factories to support the war effort. If they did needlework when they got home, it was usually for the war effort or for practical items at home. Of course a flourish for a special event might have been sewn here or there, but even Lady Washington put away her silks and wore homespun during the American Revolution. I have recently finished reading a biography on Jeanne d'Albret, Queen Regent of Navarre (between France and Spain) in the 16th century. When times were dangerous, she traveled quickly to different castles and forts for protection. Even as I worked on embroidering this, as much as I savored each stitch, I had to find time to stitch it due to all the practicalities of my need to run a household.

And now for the HSM details!

HSF 2015

Challenge #4: War & Peace

What the item is (and how it is a product of war or a lengthy period of peace:
Embroidered 18th Century Pocket. The pocket will be completed this weekend but the embroidery is done and it is my submission for the Peace challenge. Embroidery work was principally worked during peacetime, not war time. In war time the women, historically, have been busy sewing and knitting practical items like shirts and socks for their men at war. In WWII many women went to the factories to support the war effort. I have recently finished reading a biography on Jeanne d'Albret, Queen Regent of Navarre (between France and Spain) in the 16th century. When times were dangerous, she traveled quickly to different castles and forts for protection. Even as I worked on embroidering this, as much as I savored each stitch, I had to find time to stitch it due to all the practicalities of my need to run a household.


The Challenge: War and Peace

Fabric: Linen

Pattern: Reproduced from a 1786 pocket

Year: 1786

Notions: wool yarn

How historically accurate is it? 100%, hand embroidered, reproduced to have the colors in the same places and the same stitches in the same places.

Hours to complete: Over 50 hours.

First worn: Not yet.

Total cost: $69

Some might recognize the embroidery as Deefield Embroidery. However Deerfield Embroidery dates began in the 1890's in Deerfield, Massachusetts when Margaret Whiting and Ellen Miller studied 18th century embroidery found in a museum.

(Added 5-3-15) Preparng the Pocket

This afternoon I set out to finish my embroidered pocket.Now that the embroidery was complete, the next step was to carefully press it. I laid it face down on a light colored towel and steam pressed the back.

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When I pulled back the embroidery, a lovely imprint was found embedded in the towel. Can you see it?

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Pressed top...

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Lovely imprint. Can you see it? It was prettier in person. I wanted to frame it!

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I prepared everything to make the pocket from all the supplies in the kit.

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They provided this reproduction binding. Isn't it lovely? It is cut on the straight of grain, so it is a bit of challenge to apply to the curves. This was not a mistake, but rather period accurate. Fabric was so expensive in the 18th century that they would not waste it by cutting bias strips.

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Finis!

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