I have known for a long time that the 17th century embroiderer was adept at taking a filament silk and dividing it or combining lengths and spinning it to make what they wanted. That hand spinning technique is something that is still practiced in Japan and other Asian embroidery techniques and can be adapted to make many of the threads I have seen under the microscope.
One of the clues was the sheer number of variations we could find on one piece. Threads that were made with three colors and two weights of thread and then there were 10-12 different ones in one grotto. That didn't make sense that you could go and buy spools of those threads off the shelf when if you just had a few raw spools - you could make about 18" of any combination you wanted. The best example out there is the mirror with Jael & Barak at the MET. If you look at this close picture, check the rock on the left hand side from the mirror in the mermaid's hand and then skip over one more. It is made of threads that are sometimes called boucle. But if you magnify them, you will see that the thick undulating core thread is wrapped by two very thin threads, often in different colors. One goes in the Z direction and the other in the S direction around the core.
So for years I have been experimenting with the Japanese flat silk and Soie Ovale to try to get these threads. The missing link for the historic color line has been a thin thread to use with the Ovale.
|Just like on the Jael & Barak grotto|
So while I am telling you now - I WAS going to accompany it with videos immediately showing how I made these with the Trame and Ovale. That will have to wait a few more days until the finger heals enough to have the bandaids come off so I can hand spin threads again.
In the most basic of discussion, thread making is all about putting the opposite twist into filament silk and then joining it with a second with the same twist and giving them a reverse twist together to balance them out. When working with three plies, like the picture, I then put more twist into the pair and added a third ply. Until the videos, this will seem like gobble gook.
Anne Gomes has put a lovely primmer on making a basic 4 strand -> 1 twisted thread online which is a great basic if you want to start thinking about what can be done with these threads and how you can go to the next level of hand making threads.
Here are some other examples of threads made with both Trame and Ovale.
|From the left to right (1) Soft twist with ovale and trame, (2) hard twist with ovale and trame and (3) a boucle with two different trames and a ovale|