August 15, 2019

To determine the accuracy of the date, we examine the information the cushion itself provides: the materials used and images selected. The ground cloth is a plain weave silk satin.  While the type of material does not assist in dating the cushion cover, the distinctive color does. The pink has faded dramatically but was originally a much more vibrant color that we see evidenced under a few of the spangles which are still loose...

August 15, 2019

The known details about this cushion cover are limited.  It 50cm x 67cm, was donated to MFA Boston in the mid-20th century by Elizabeth Day McCormick.  It has no other provenance, though a lot of hints about it’s time and place of origin, which we will explore in future posts.  For now, let’s talk a little bit about the collector.

Elizabeth Day McCormick (1873-1957) was a prolific textile collector born into a wealthy...

July 8, 2019

This gorgeous if somewhat faded cushion cover from the Museum of Fine Arts Boston is an enigma.  If you were looking at this piece passively in a museum, you might notice the imagery first: a woman sitting on a hillock looking in a mirror, stags, flowers…  Or you might be struck by the stitching technique: turkeywork, burden stitch, couching, satin stitch. You would rightly be amazed by the amount of work and the riotous cacop...

May 23, 2019

As researchers, we spend a lot of our time accessing collections at a variety of institutions: libraries, national museums, local museums, archives.  It can be a challenge to access artifacts not on display, especially when the institution has gone to the effort of digitally photographing and publishing images of their items.  We get asked, "why do you need to see it in person?" which is a reasonable question, especially when...

January 3, 2019

We are both proud to be a part of a special group: the Valley Quail Chapter of the Embroiderer’s Guild of America.  This chapter, based in California, just celebrated our 35th anniversary and is a group of dedicated and talented needleworkers that have fostered some amazing teachers as well as created a very innovative tool: the Needle Index.

Back in 1996, our then president and two members had a brainstorm to raise funds to su...

September 28, 2018

Women are often dismissed in many arenas, their accomplished overlooked or ignored, and yet we know that women make up half the world’s population and contribute a huge amount of good and productivity to that world.  We think about embroidery as one of these things.

Esther Inglis was a fascinating woman.  She lived in England in the 16th century and was a member of an artistic family and a prolific artist herself.  Esther was a...

September 7, 2018

Women’s caps, properly called coifs, are a fascinating, functional little item of clothing.  We’re not talking baseball caps or even those darling hats from the 1940’s. We’re talking Tudor-era caps.

We spell it coif (as in the French “coiffure” meaning hairdressing), but the English pronounced it “quaff.”  We know this from the phonetic spellings in period inventories.

During the 16th and 17th centuries, women of all classes wou...

August 20, 2018

Colors are fashionable -- meaning, that they are impacted by the fashion of a moment.  We see that from our own time and we see it historically.  During the 1970’s in the United States, you could buy a kitchen appliance in Avocado Green or Harvest Gold and that was about it.

It wasn’t that refrigerators couldn't be made in other colors (they were made in very different colors in the 50's and 60s) it's just those were the p...

July 25, 2018

If you’re in England, you see them everywhere.  The Tudor Rose is an incredibly prevalent image in political and historical iconography. From Hampton Court Palace to the local pub sign, Tudor Roses can be found on architecture, signage, heraldry --  if you just look, you’ll see them everywhere.

If you are at all interested in early modern England (from the mid-15th century, right after the War of the Roses through the mid-...

July 3, 2018

Unlike painters, needleworkers didn’t sign their work.  Unlike silversmiths and potters, needleworkers didn’t add a mark to their work.  Even thatchers would cut in a design pattern in the roofs that they worked on to proclaim their workmanship.  But embroiders didn’t follow this tradition, even if they were professional men.

The major exception to this are samplers where the girls who worked a sampler would sometimes...

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