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Needlework Materials

Here's a few heraldic charges related to needlework:

The Broach is used for Or Nue. Quoting Donna Hrynkiw in an h-needlework post:
"The tool used to carry/manipulate the gold (and prevent the need to handle it with the fingers) is called a broach and looks like a large lace bobbin with a square foot to keep it from rolling."

Quills are bobbins. "A wooden bobbin, with a long neck on which the whole skein of gimp is wound". See TOWARDS A STANDARD NOMENCLATURE FOR DESCRIBING LACE BOBBINS.

A Trundle is generally "a small wheel or roller". I've been unable to determine its specific needlework use.

Needlework Tools and Supplies

Turn of the Century handmade, wooden embroidery tools are individually made of the finest hardwoods by William Schmidt

Nice photos and a place to buy reproductions of laying tools, embroidery punches, thimbles and darning eggs.

Anne Powell

Article: 18075 of rec.crafts.textiles.needlework
From: Kaye-Alan Barley
Date: 27 Jun 1995 17:22:45 GMT

For those enterested in owning some of these wonderful pieces, you might want to check out Anne Powell's catalog. The address is P. O. Box 3060, Stuart, FL 34995-3060, phone number (and FAX number) 1-407-287-3007.
This catalog has some really unique, gorgeous tools. For an additional $10.00 they have an additional list of rare antique sewing tools with color photos available.
I have no connection to this company - just sharing info.

Lacis & etc

Lacis Catalogue... Check it out...

Date: 26 May 1995 16:02:13 -0400 (EDT)
From: Library - Vineland Research Station
To: h-costume@andrew.cmu.edu

Hi Sandy:
A great book for information on needlework tools is by Gay Ann Rogers. As usual, my copy is at home and I'm at work. I've just completed a c. 1810 lady's sewing box with tools of the period (or pretty close) and I've discovered that it's a good idea do some research into what is appropriate and then go digging for the items. Too many suppliers and antique dealers will tell you "Yes, it's from the period you want" (Hey, it's nineteenth century isn't it, isn't that close enough?) I've seen too many 1812 reenactors proudly flaunting props that scream "Victoriana!" I guess.
LACIS, 3163 Adeline St., Berkeley, CA 94703 tel: (510)843-7178 has some neat things like ivory lucets, thimbles and tape measures, amongst other things. I'll tell to check my binders this weekend.
Speaking of LACIS, and of list problems, did anyone get my message about the LACIS batiste? They sell a very fine, transparent but evenly woven fabric for $20 a yard. To my eye, it's very similar to the fabric used in the dressy Empire style. I'm interested in knowing if the Amazon batiste is similar but lower in price. (Do I really want to spend the next year or so embroidering an evening dress?)
Please excuse typos and other infelicities. I can't edit in this program.
Sheridan Alder


To: h-costume@andrew.cmu.edu
From: "Joe Cook"
Date: Fri, 30 Jun 1995 8:50:37

I am attempting to gather materials for a display of embroidery tools within historical period. What I would like to get a hold of are needles that could be considered historically correct such as bone needles. Any ideas where I could track down such items?

Date: Fri, 30 Jun 1995 11:22:16 -0700 (PDT)
From: Heather Rose Jones
To: h-costume@andrew.cmu.edu

One important question is: within _what_ historical period? Metal needles have been available (and preferred) for long enough that bone sewing needles are likely to be found only in museums. That makes your best bet a close examination of museum specimens so that you can make your own. I've made bone needles as an experiment -- The basic shape is fairly easy, but finding a way to bore a small enough eye is the hard part.
Heather Rose Jones

Bobbins, Marking Designs, etc.

From: jennyb@pdd.3com.com
Date: Mon, 1 May 95 12:09:56 BST
To: h-costume@andrew.cmu.edu

>I'm currently pondering what people used to wind thread on, since we need
>to have a supply handy. Apparently spools, as we now know them, are an
>18th-century innovation (wooden ones, I mean - - in the 20th century they
>are mostly plastic, which is referred to at the RenFaire as "a strange
>material, like unto ivory, which I have ne'er seen afore"!).I had thought of
>winding the thread (it's natural-colored cotton quilting thread) into a ball,
>but apparently thread could also be wound on a bobbin of some sort. Anybody
>know what they looked like? I'll keep looking; I guess "needlework tools" is
>another topic to hit in the library (along with "memorial brasses," "Greek
>myths in the Renaissance" and several others...).
I would assume that the most common method of storing thread would be as skeins, when I spin thread for sewing I often need to dye it, to be dyed it must be wound into a skein, so at some point before it is used most embroidery thread would have been in a skein. A skein is also a useful way of measuring thread length (so many times around a standard winder). If the thread has to be in a skein at some point why incur extra labour by winding it into some other form? Embroidery thread is still purchased in skeins, so I would say that it was the most common method of purchasing it in the past too.
Friends who use frames for needlepoint just cut a complete skein into lengths suitable for sewing with & tie them around the edge of the frame with half hitches.
I find even the best made skeins tend to tangle if I use them a little at a time, and I don't like to cut up a whole skein at once as I use leftovers for weaving & want long lengths for that. If I have a small skein that I don't want to tangle I wind it off into a butterfly skein (a figure of eight wound around the finger & thumb that doesn't tangle so much as a plain skein)
When using small quantities of thread in a living history setting I once lost track of the skein I was working on so many times I ended up winding the whole thing around the needle case on my chatelaine. It worked a treat but I have no idea if similar frustration would have led one of my predecessors to do the same. Chatelaines often included devices related to sewing, so they might be a good place to look for some equivalent of spools?
I've seen line winders from archaeological excavations dated to a thousand years ago, but they are thought to have been for frequently re-used thread such as fishing lines. Not all thread that was re-used was stored like this as the weavers of Mandaalen valley (who preserved an ancient tradition of weaving on the warp weighted loom) wound the linen threads used to set up the loom into balls. They used yet another type of skein for weaving which had a tight packed end made by winding the thread around one end of the skein after each loop, I've not heard of this skein in use in any other context, though it is a marvellous way of keeping large amounts of thread free of tangles.
In Northern Europe ball winders have been in use for at least a couple of hundred years. They are turned pieces of wood with a slightly rounded conical top with a groove an inch or two down. I believe some of the "phallic objects" recovered from Viking & Saxon excavations are actually ball winders as they look just like the modern version to me, and yes they are very phallic! the thread is wound up and down around the top & produces a hollow cylinder of thread like the ones crochet cotton is sold in. I'm told Norsk Fjord Fiber sells them in the US as "Nostepinners". These balls have a looser start than a normal hand wound ball & do not cause the centre threads to get hopelessly kinked.
I would guess that before spools came into common usage any gadget for winding threads onto would probably be a rich lady's toy rather than a common workers tool, (I would guess that in the past as today there were plenty of people ready to sell unnecessary gadgets to anyone who would buy them!) Such a toy might be an interesting addition to your theatrical props, but I would not have thought suvh things would be absolutely necessary to depict someone sewing in a period fashion (though as always I'm quite ready to be corrected on that opinion.)

Date: Sun, 30 Apr 1995 11:20:27 -0700
From: Chris Laning
To: h-costume@andrew.cmu.edu

You may remember that I asked a question a while back ("Wanted: Fugitive Dye") about how to mark a quilting design on a project that would demonstrate quilting at the N.Calif. Renaissance Faire. (It's the post that started all the discussion about whether cotton fabric would have been available, what's meant by the word "cotton," etc., and no, I don't want to get into *that* again, thanks! )
I appreciate all the advice and thought I'd let you know what I've come up with.
After pondering all the discussion, I'm currently thinking I will stick to my choice of a polished cotton fabric for the face, since (according to the story I've invented) it's a piece of fabric given to the Guild by a wealthy merchant guild member. Since I became "Linen Mistress" I have (according to the story) made it known that gifts of fine fabrics to the guild are just as welcome as gifts of silver "plate." A fine glazed cotton would certainly be expensive, and not common, in the 1580s or 90s, especially since it was almost certainly imported, but that would explain why we are making something quite splendid from it. (This is a plausible origin because the "character" I play has several friends among the Merchant Adventurers, i.e. importers.)
I had originally thought of using polyester batting (and concealing it well), but I've decided this was pure laziness and I have to find something better. Those of you who are not quilters may not know that polyester batting produces quite a different appearance when quilted than traditional natural-fiber batting, which is more flexible and has considerably less "loft." In Elizabethan England, it seems that the most likely material for batting at that period would be wool. Rumor among quiltmakers has it that wool is wonderful to work with ("like quilting through butter") so I'm going to get myself a new set of wool cards (which I need anyway) and make a wool batting. Besides, that gives us one more good craft to demonstrate.
A friend in St. George's guild who is also on this mailing list reminded me that quilting was regarded as a type of embroidery, and thus would likely have been done on a rectangular "roller" frame rather than in a large hoop, as I had been thinking of (that's the common method now). Fortunately, I have a roller frame, and I even *think* it's the right size.
I didn't say anything about the quilting design, but I'm also re-thinking *that*: natural fiber batting means the background has to be quilted rather closely, every inch or so, and that is also the style of the period. So I'm spacing the motifs and lines closer together.
The finished product is going to become the top of a long rectangular cushion, for some of the higher-status guild members to sit on at dinner; if it takes less than forever to finish, we could even make a couple more matching cushions and extend comfort a little further down the benches!
As for my original question about marking the design, I got a number of interesting answers; the consensus seems to be that such a pattern would not have been inked, but would have been marked by "pouncing" with a pattern of dots. I'm also reminded that, even today, quilt kits are sold that are marked with ink that does *not* wash out - - it's supposed to be covered by the stitching. Anyway, eventually I realized that for *this* project, since the fabric is a medium shade, I can legitimately mark the pattern with a white pencil and pretend I used a sliver of dry (white) soap, which I am fairly sure *is* a period technique. My original question had assumed I needed to use something dark.
I'm currently pondering what people used to wind thread on, since we need to have a supply handy. Apparently spools, as we now know them, are an 18th-century innovation (wooden ones, I mean - - in the 20th century they are mostly plastic, which is referred to at the RenFaire as "a strange material, like unto ivory, which I have ne'er seen afore"!).I had thought of winding the thread (it's natural-colored cotton quilting thread) into a ball, but apparently thread could also be wound on a bobbin of some sort. Anybody know what they looked like? I'll keep looking; I guess "needlework tools" is another topic to hit in the library (along with "memorial brasses," "Greek myths in the Renaissance" and several others...).
Happily researching,
Chris Laning
Davis, California

Tapestry Frames

Article: 16838 of rec.crafts.textiles.needlework
From: Susan Profit
Date: Fri, 16 Jun 1995 02:22:23 GMT

On 13 Jun 1995, Amy E Logsdon Warner wrote:
> I thank all the peolpe who responded to my "going to try pulled thread"
> posting. I'm doing the pulled thread _not_ the drawn (where you cut
> threads) thread work and I really need to get clear about whether i can use
> scroll bars or if it really needs to be done on stretcher bars.
Hi. You can use either: but most folks that use frames of any sort are anchoring the fabric with exactly even tension on all four sides. I actually prefer the tapestry frames made up from highly sanded drilled woodstock from the local lumberyard over either of these options.
I dislike scroll bars because I have never managed to get the tension exactly the same after I change positions, and -that- makes a marked difference to me in the look of the piece. YMMV, though, so if you don't have money for another frame, don't sweat it.
If you are looking for the 4-way tension control you will have to edge the sides that are not on the roller bars, and lace them to the sides of the frames in order to get it.
With stretcher bars, you staple/tack/lace the fabric over the frame on all four sides and stitch away but the frame is larger than the scroll frames, so it may be more difficult to take on buses or to social gatherings (like stitch-ins).
> I just
> recieved my set of scroll bars and am a little miffed because one of the
> screws was thread (no pun intended) bare so I couldn't get the knob on, but
> since I have that and do not have the correct size stretcher bars... is it
> necessary to get the drum tautness you get from stretcher bars?
IMNSHO the drum tautness without over stretching -is- necessary, but other folks do not. Really honestly and truly: the only -really- bad thing is to use a round or tambour frame: although the threads are held tightly, most are on the bias, and when you distort the fabric in one of these, it will be next to impossible to block flat.
> I can see
> why it would be, but when I asked the owner of the store I go to she said
> she thought I could use the scroll bars. I'm confused and in need of an
> infusion of knowledge and experience. *sigh*
Remember that there are folks who stitch in the hand using only their own fingers to keep the tension exactly even in all four directions. Arthritis makes this not a useful option for me. You can make the scroll bars work for you if that is all you have. :) (However, I would also take back the defective piece and request one that works as it should, or one bar of the scroll frame will be less than useless IMHO: it will be constantly slipping as you are working.)
> Amy Logsdon Warner
Best of all is also the cheapest: the tapestry frames mentioned above. Head down to the local lumber yard and have them cut you some lengths of moulding stock (3/8ths to 1/2 inch deep, 3/4 to 1 1/4 inches wide). Decide the largest size you normally use, and add 2-3 inches to that. Get four lengths of that size. Get 4 bolts, 4 washers, and four wing nuts: one for each corner.
Drill holes every 3/4 to 1 inch apart evenly spaced down every length, making sure no holes are closer than 1/2 inch to the ends of the piece.Sand like mad to make sure there are no slivers left remaining. Do not finish with varnishes, shellacs, urethanes, etc: your own hand oils will do that very nicely.
When you go to use it, just position the bars around the fabric you are going to use, and place the screws in the corners, add some double fold bias tape to the edges of the fabric, and lace it on to the fully adjustable frame using a tensioning knot like the tautline used on tent ropes.
If the lumber yard makes you buy the whole 8 foot length of wood, use it to make yourself several pairs of bars in various sizes. Total cost for an 8 foot length of moulding stock in the Seattle area is running between $5.75 and $6.50 right now. If you want it out of fancier wood, oak, rosewood, mohogany and several other woods are nice when unfinished but they will be a tad more expensive.
@}->- ;) Tinne Laughter Heals :D -<-{@
We are beginners at more than we are experts of.

Silk: Conservation and Longevity Issues

Article: 17962 of rec.crafts.textiles.needlework
From: Phyllis_Gilmore@rand.org (Phyllis Gilmore)
Date: Mon, 26 Jun 95 11:30:41 GMT

I read something on Saturday that made me begin to sweat (figuratively speaking).
I recently acquired a text published by the J. Paul Getty museum devoted to the conservation of tapestries and embroideries. (It covers such things as cleaning, repair, and display.) I was really just skimming, not really reading when I came across the aforementioned sweat-making discussion.
The particular conservation project under discussion was a piece of medieval embroidery that was done with silk on silk. I had learned from earlier reading (Janet Arnold) that silk doesn't hold up all that well over the "very long haul"--say, four or five centuries--especially under less-than-idea conditions--say, in a grave.
In this particular instance, the conservators deliberately used cotton floss and materials because they had discovered that *20th century* silks were vastly more susceptible to deterioration--these conservators had discovered the hard way that today's materials tend to self-destruct within two or three decades.
Apparently, this excessive fragility is due to the chemicals impatient silk manufacturers are using to get the silk fibers out of the cocoons.
Any thoughts on this? (I *like* silk, but I'd like to think I can still admire my work 20 or 30 years from now.)
SCA: Philippa de Ecosse, Lyondemere, Caid
mka: Phyllis Gilmore, Santa Monica and Torrance, CA
My opinions are my own, unless donated. All contributions welcome.

Article: 18259 of rec.crafts.textiles.needlework
From: habura@vccnw04.its.rpi.edu (Andrea Marie Habura)
Date: 28 Jun 1995 14:14:52 GMT

Even pre-modern black silk decays over time. I do a fair amount of research on medieval embroidery, and I have a little "decay file" of pieces that have suffered damage due to disintegration of the fibers--and in almost all cases, the black silk has "rotted" while all of the other colors are in good shape. There's a chemical reason for this, which has to do with the dyeing process--I can post details if anyone wants.
(Incidentally, most of the pieces in my decay file are heavily embroidered ceremonial pieces like copes; they would not have been washed, or exposed to sweat.)


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