on The Plimoth Jacket: Listening to the Makers
Started looking at the master pattern used on the jacket. A panel in the Royal School of Needlework collection, the 1359-1900 embroidered jacket at the V&A, and possibly a nightcap in Nottingham. When compared with a master coil drawn and published by Trevelyon in his 1616 Great Book of Thomas Trevilian in section 12 of 'Drawen Workes':
pen-and-ink designs for black-work embroidery (an earlier work, The Trevelyon Miscellany of 1608 is at the Folger, available in facsimile from UofW Press) currently in the Wormsley Library, barely available in facsimilie form. The master coil seems the same with various elements substituted in or out as desired, such as a columbine side view
or a bunch of grapes. There is also a coif and matching forehead cloth in a private collection from the same pattern. Analysis showed that some insects on the jacket, the panel and the nightcap all have blue satin stitched heads- much like the ones recreated on one sleeve of the Plimoth jacket. There is also a portrait of a lady at Kenwood House that
shows the wearer in a jacket of the same pattern.
Showing another link, two other jackets also use a pattern identical to each other, only with different borage flowers, one in the Bath Musuem of Costume and one in the Burrell Collection.
Many of the embroideries have, what we call, heathered silks in use. These are a combination of two colors, and sometimes two colors and a metal wire, customized to a particular area and embroidery shop. Leads us to think that the embroiderers were custom twisting silks at the frame as needed.
A Triptych of the life of Lady Anne Clifford shows needlework supplies on a table including snips, thread on cards, and ‘twisted sisters’ or thick packs of reel silks that the embroiderer would split and then use. The Metropolitan Museum of Art also has a box of threads in a similar style. A box of embroidery bits including twisted sisters is in the Connecticut Heritage Museum. Some samplers show variance in thickness of the silks used, perhaps showing that the sampler worker was practicing splitting and twisting their own reeled silks and not always being completely even.
“Being challenged makes you think.”
Crunching numbers, it is possible that an experienced team could accomplish a jacket in 1-3 months with 6-8 working on each frame.
Where did the plaited braid stitch come from? Why these stitches? On the continent, and in other non-English embroideries of the time primarily couched metal threads down and covered ground using long and short satin stitch, in both religious and secular works.
Dr. Wilson looked into Parliamentary records. In those economic times, banks were not common and the gold and silver standard was in use. Records showed that the state was involved in thread production and standardization. There were also records of melting embroidery back down- returning to the melting pot.
Wealth was stored in objects at the time, and used to pawn for coin at the time, primarily plate/metal dishes and clothing. James I was notorious for pawning. Pawn brokers, or frippers, would have had a second hand market for turning around abandoned goods. 800 women and 250 men were selling second hand clothes in 1677. One jacket in the Museum of London may have been made from second hand embroidery, since there was embroidery in the seams and no attempt to line up design in pieces.
Metal lace was essentially coinage. It was loosely stitched on to jackets, coifs, etc. and care was not taken to tuck in loose ends or finish off nicely. The lace was also often not a technically complicated pattern, having more metal value than labor value in each piece.
It seems that embroidery and lace were a part of the economy, and thus a possible explanation as to why they appear and then disappear from fashion and history. The surviving jackets do show some wear, and they were a relatively comfortable style. They were recut and remade either within a family or a century later for fancy dress.