Monday, September 27, 2021

Deerfield Virtual Symposium - Education in the Early Republic

Deerfield will be putting on a two-day virtual symposium this fall (October 22-23) and registration is still open.  The official title of the symposium is:  Skilled Hands and Cultivated Minds: Art and Education in the Early Republic.  Needlework figures prominently in the talks.  Here is the description of the event:

According to the best political science of the 1780s, a well-educated citizenry was crucial to sustaining a healthy republic. New England and especially the Connecticut River Valley became a center for education and reform in the early 19thcentury, with dozens of academies founded to teach young men and women. Many offered a curriculum in English grammar, foreign languages, arithmetic, geography, and science including astronomy and natural philosophy. For additional fees, girls could take drawing, painting, embroidery, and other ornamental work. A few academies even rivaled the resources of universities by comprising museums, libraries, and expensive scientific equipment. Twice a year students demonstrated their newly acquired knowledge during a program of speeches, dialogues, and orations attended by parents, trustees, and townspeople. Workbooks displaying exercises, and special projects such as drawings, maps, needlework, and painted furniture prepared for school exhibitions survive in sizeable numbers and testify to the skills and at times budding activism of young learners.

 
This two-day virtual forum brings together a dynamic roster of academic and museum professionals discussing the development of early New England academies, their goals and curricula, and the decorative and graphic arts produced. Lectures will include topics ranging from educating children in the New Republic, a survey of art from academies, ornamental arts at the Litchfield Female Academy, New England schoolgirl needlework, the creation of anti-slavery needlework by white schoolgirls, drawn and copied maps, scientific instruments (orreries, telescopes, microscopes, sextants, air pumps, etc.), and short talks by Historic Deerfield staff about objects from the collection. 

The entire schedule of talks is available here.  For registration go to here or:  

Registration Information

This program is presented live via Zoom webinar. The link to the webinar is sent to registrants prior to the event. Recordings are available to registrants for a period of two weeks after each session. 

The cost of the webinar is $110 ($100 for members), $135 for new members*, and $50 for students. For more information, contact Julie Orvis at jorvis@historic-deerfield.org or (413) 775-7179.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Attacking Big Projects - Feeling Overwhelmed so Can't Start?

We have been talking on NING among the casket makers about how it is so easy to get stymied by a big project.  As everyone has been talking, I had forgotten that most people don't often take on enormous embroidery projects or likely very large projects in other aspects of their lives.  It is my 'speciality'.  

Since I was little, I often worked on very large embroideries for a youth competition or some sort of big project with many people.  A PhD, writing research grants/running big product developments, and dealing with a new 9-12 month robotics competition build every year.  All things that hone your ability to look up at some imagined skyscraper that needs to be built, which doesn't have a recipe book, and feel comfortable putting the first brick down for the foundation.

The key to this is LISTS.  Lists are also the key to creativity but I will talk about that a different time (it is counter intuitive to people who aren't used to exercising creativity).  The list is a way to both plan and off load your anxiety to a different place - it sits captured in the list.  Every time my dyslexic kids start to hyperventilate and insist that they are just overloaded, I use this technique as well with them.

Take whatever you want to do and write down all the parts or tasks.  Let's take an example of the Harmony Casket, starting with the parts first.  

Front Panel
Front Frieze
Left side
Left Frieze
Right Side
Right Frieze
Back
Back Frieze
Top 
Inside
Finishing


Then you sub divide it down to a monthly level of parts or tasks.  Then you subdivide the first few months even finer.  (I have only done this for a few months just to illustrate and save space).  Then assign a week or a day for each depending on the amount of work it looks like is reasonable.

Front Panel:

Month 1 - Satin Stitch of Front Panel
    - Satin stitch flowers (2 weeks, one flower or leaf a day)
    - gimp stems and centers (2 days)
    - gimp around ovals (1 day)
    - mounds (2 nights)
Month 2 - Center of Front Panel
    - mound (2 nights)
    - stumpwork animal (2 weeks)
        - work outline (1 night)
        - fill with needlelace (4 days)
        - couch padding (1 day)
        - install eyes (1 night)
        - tack down needlelace (1 day)
        - mane and ears (2 days)
        - gimp around edges (1 day)
        - flower/bug/clouds (1 week)
Month 3 - Garland of Front Panel
    - cut and bend Facette (2 nights)
    - lay out segments (1 day)
    - couch Facette (3 days)
    - detach buttonhole blue flowers (4 days)
Month 4 - Silk Purls and some needlelace
    - silk purls - 4 nights
    - Tulip petals - 4 days
    - Tulip Leaves - 1 day
    - Rose Petals - 4 days
    - Rose Leaves - 2 days

Then I will add these things for the first month to my calendar or other to-do lists, integrating them into the daily running of what I want to do.  It spreads it out.  If you look at month 1, I have a goal of doing the satin stitch for one flower a day for two weeks.  I get the flower done and I have accomplished all I need to get my casket done in the 24 months of my schedule.  I don't need to fret - because I am on schedule.  Sometimes I will feel calm and accomplished because of this and will do three flowers in that one sitting.  Now I am AHEAD of my casket schedule by THREE days.  I am not only getting my casket done but I am CRUSHING it with those three little bits of color on the big expanse of linen.  I bet that isn't how you feel when you look at three petals worked on a slate frame.  It is all about tricking your head and playing mind games with it.  Then when I get behind by a day, I just think to myself  - hey... you were ahead of schedule.  You just need to get all these satin stitched flowers done by day 14.  No sweat.  Everything else is off of my mind because it is written down in a schedule in my list.  As I complete things, I can bring new things into the weekly or daily to-do that runs around on my phone or in my head.  And when I start to approach the end of those fine grain listed tasks for panels, I do the same for the next set of a few months.

This is easy for courses like the Harmony with Nature or Five Seasons, etc. because I have already done the first list for you - I have divided it up into chunks that can be done in a month (some months are heavier than others).  And you can even go motif by motif or paragraph by paragraph and assign the number of days to it.  So it doesn't take too long for a project like this to be inputted into your daily calendar with days off in between.  And if you get ahead, you can just start some of the next stuff if you want to or put it aside for another project, confident in the knowledge that you are going to get this casket done 'on time'.  

You may have even taught your own kids to do this to plan out a research paper or something like that.  But those are usually short term projects of less than a month and not something that takes nine months to a few years.  Those types of projects just start to overwhelm.  We always have a set of big calendar pages on the wall in the robot room to allow the kids to see the calendar and take their program plan (i.e. lists) and distribute them in pencil on the calendar.  Then they see what has to be accomplished by what date to keep on schedule.  Sometimes you are ahead and can screw around a bit having fun doing something else.  Sometimes you see you are behind and need to come over and do a little more work to catch up.  You can apply that to your needlework life too.  You can space out the casket and still have time inside that schedule for not stitching (we all have periods of time where we aren't) or for some other project to be woven into the off days.  You can choose a different schedule - 36 vs 24 months if that is more realistic when you get the fine grain list done.  You should never feel like you have to embroider every day to make the list+schedule.  That is unrealistic.  

Usually my list for a month has all the big projects on it and I will look and determine that it is doable with slack or something needs to be kicked down the road.  I will have to have slack as always something comes up in life.  Or maybe I need to do a little overtime across the board and stay focused because this is my job.  

I can say that I completed the Harmony Casket AND Five Senses casket in the same 24-month period of time.  I was working on them both at once.  AND I ran the robotics group, my household and did all the writing of the instructions and shipping.  So I know it is possible if you are actually dividing the tasks up into small doable bits to get one of these done in that time frame.  I also had to stop and fret over the decisions for everything as I was originating the decisions for each thing - looking up examples, taking the pictures, etc.  Now the Tent stitch one took 3/4 of my time and the Harmony one took 1/4 of my time a month.  That is because there are less needle moves in a stumpwork casket.  So you can modify your estimates of what you get done accordingly - Tent stitch takes much longer.  Were their days that I worked for the day stitching - yes.  But I have a hand condition that doesn't usually allow me too.  So that is rare.  

I believe that the bigger issue is whipping yourself for not completing multiple panels a month... for having done a few petals and the frame is sitting there looking completely blank.  It is the slow and steady progress of a few stitches a day on a plan that gets enormous projects done - it sounds like boring 'exercise every day' advice.  Yes, it will be months before anything looks like something and it is so much easier to just whip out a Christmas ornament to make yourself feel great.  But will that be the item that proudly sits in the middle of the house in a few years that everyone who enters will see and go absolutely crazy about because they just can't fathom how you found the time to make such an amazing huge piece?  

First step is make some lists.  And afford yourself the luxury of slowly doing the framing up and tracing on that list.  Or divide the steps to getting to design changes.  Add all the stuff you can think of to it so you can cross it off when that part is completed. You will know you have made progress and can turn to something else on your daily/weekly/monthly to do with not only a clean conscious but a feeling that you are accomplishing your casket - you are crushing your long term schedule with progress.


Thursday, August 26, 2021

Afghani Robotics Team

Apparently my identity as a female robotics coach is something to remember in the needlework field! As the stories of the Afghan Robotics Team, that had been lifted up as the ultimate symbol of female empowerment in Afghanistan, began to make newspapers during the last two weeks during the collapse and airlift, my inbox started filling up from stitchers.

It is heartwarming that everyone cares and I wholeheartedly applaud that.  Some of you know that our own family was deeply affected by the collapse and evaluation in Saigon, which parallels this so closely.  So the Afghan situation has been something we have been following as well.  My husband was 10 when they had to make a secret and harrowing trip to the airport which was bombed overnight as they huddled under tin roof sheets in fox holes.  Then another trip to get to the embassy grounds and the masses coming over the walls.  My father-in-law was a translator and employee for the American embassy, and so had papers but the chaos of the situation had them holding the kids back as it was so easy to loose them.  They only made it on one of the last helicopters after he astutely realized the Americans were going to leave and abandon them when he heard a phrase in the room 'we will come back' by the attaché who had been with them there - he yelled and pushed ahead with his paper and they were rushed up the ladder onto a departing chinook, the rising gangway trapping my mother-in-laws foot which she almost lost - it was lifting as they jumped on.  While they were in the air, the ambassador left; ending the evacuation and the hopes of those left on the ground.  

I have to admit that I don't personally know the Afghan FTC team.  They are working in our division, but in a different, newer global competition that allows for a less expensive set of parts/competition set to encourage countries that can't afford to have the bulky $550 competition set sent over seas (it is usually 100 or more pounds of stuff in about 4 huge boxes).  That limited international teams to only about 20% of the total and so this new modified competition was started.  They participated in the first incarnations of  it and so we have never crossed paths.  I also can't get information about their location or where they might be finally settled (even they don't know that).  Understandably, the FIRST organization has to be super, super careful about letting out information on their teams and the children as there are unfortunately predatory people out there.  So even if you contacted them and said that you knew me and that I am the coach of The Brainstormers 8644 in Lexington, they would never in one million years give you my email address.  This is an issue we deal with all the time in the logistics of competition.  So I know absolutely that none of us would be given contact info for the Afghan girls or their coach, who I understand was also trying to emigrate.  

I also don't know any more than you do from the newspaper articles, sadly, even though I have been in contact with people at FIRST headquarters during the last few weeks on other topics.  Of course the girls have come up and as of yet there isn't more knowledge to be had or coordinated support yet as they don't know anything either.  I am sure when they do know and can coordinate something - I will find out.  

Their particular situation may be very perilous.  Some are minors and there are no reports on if their families were allowed out.  Others are just barely adults but again, in a society like Afghanistan, they will have a challenge in resettling without the support of family if they left alone.  Because they did not work for the Allies, their rights to resettle and gain visas to get to the US is in doubt.  I know that one group landed in the middle east and another in Mexico.  So what country will decide to allow them to resettle as refugees is unknown.  You can help by calling your congressmen/women and advocating for their resettlement in the USA, as we were the ones that put them in such danger that they needed to leave.  If you aren't aware, they were the poster-children for women's progress in US occupied Afghanistan.  Literally.  They were painted on the walls of the US embassy in Kabul.  The wall of course has been defaced already and you can imagine how cells of ISIS or Taliban would be happy to hurt them as a symbol, so I don't think where they end up will be plastered on the pages of the newspapers for a long time.  I certainly hope for their safety it isn't; especially as they may or may not have support family with them.


The wall of the American Embassy.  This painting effectively was a death warrent 

I very much encourage everyone reading this and interested in their plight to take that feeling and direct it towards helping every Afghan family that arrives here.  There will need to be sponsors who will commit to providing a job and housing.  Often this is an organization like a resettlement organization, a church, a hospital, manufacturing facility, etc.  The resettlement organizations will help pair up families with sponsors depending on the skills and language skills of the families.  Perhaps you can suggest to your church or you are involved in a company who might have jobs and you might investigate how to become a sponsor to see if it is a good match.  Once a family comes, they need so much.  They need things to set up housekeeping, getting their kids registered for school, finding and setting up services, navigating getting licenses, language classes, food shopping, banking, and on and on.  It is likely that the fathers will have English language skills but that the mothers and maybe children won't.  Being a refugee as a woman is unbelievably isolating and they are responsible for so much that they are unfamiliar with.  Anything you can do to help her be less isolated is such a help.  

They have left with nothing.  NOTHING.  My family has a grand total of five objects they left with.  Only a few pairs of clothes that they wore on top of each other as they had to abandon suitcases while moving between places trying to get onto helicopters.  Humans vs cargo.  If you want to understand the experience of a refugee, my husband was interviewed for the Library of Congress's Story Core oral history project about his first days in the United States.  You can listen to our son interview him.  It is an eye opening discussion from the perspective of a child trying to become American in a new land with many things that were unfamiliar.  Things you wouldn't have considered!  After spending months in Wake Island being processed, my family ended up in a camp in Pennsylvania and then getting sponsors to move them to La Crosse, Wisconsin.  I am not sure if the story of his first Christmas gift is in the interview, but the sponsors gave them two big boxes for the kids.  They were super excited - imaging TOYS.  Instead they were comforters for the cold winter.  Talk about a disappointed boy who was imaging some sort of truck toy.  As a note, he still has that comforter and still was sleeping under it during graduate school when I pointed out that it was falling apart and took it and make a male-styled quilt to cover it.  It is, as of this morning, on the end of our bed - being the preferred weight for summer sleeping.  A twin cover.  After 28 years of marriage, I am ready to cover it again with a very fancy quilt.  Each layer of this piece of textile is a document of his immigrant experience in the US.  

So think about both the need and the dreams of the Afghan refugees.  :-)  Also realize that the people who are willing to leave everything they have and family to get to another country are almost always the educated class of their country.  It is extremely humiliating to resettle.  They would have been the most respected university professors, engineers, doctors, lawyers, language specialists, officers, etc.  The Taliban suddenly realized this fact a few days ago and are trying to prevent people from reaching the airport as they will be left with no trained professionals to run the country's infrastructure with (their own damn fault!).  My father-in-law was a graduate trained mathematician and his final profession in the US was machinist, which took him years to get to.  He was proudest when an engineer would come down to the loud, dirty area he worked in to ask for his help with a math problem, but he came home with his hands dirty every day.  My mother-in-law was a surgical nurse.  The highest job she was ever allowed to do in the US was washing and sanitizing hospital equipment.  They had worked their way up to the elite in Vietnam, both came from very poor backgrounds, so this was highly unusual.  These are the types of people who realize their children will have no future and are willing to take the risk - to walk away from their lives and start over again.  RESPECT the Afghan refugees.  Think about if tomorrow things were to go south in the US, would you walk away?  (I have to admit that certain aspects of the last four years had my husband and I putting effort into that thought experiment).  They have evaluated not only their risk of being killed but the risk their children won't have a future and chosen the future for them, understanding that means supreme sacrifice on their part.  How can we best use the skills that these refugees have?  They will encounter a myriad of restrictive trade laws and certifications that they will not be able to get papers to satisfy.  Their children will become entrepreneurs, engineers, doctors, etc.  How can you support them in getting to those goals?  Hopefully there will be a few more Afghani robot teams, but maybe located in Iowa or Michigan!  

So please turn your sympathy for the Afghani girls robotics team into action for all their country men and women who are suddenly adrift like they are.  I will let you know if I hear anything specific we can do for them, but there will be around 100,000 of them here just as needful.  Remember that for 20 years they extended a hand of friendship and aid to our sons and daughters in their land.  It is time for us to do the same to them.  I know all too well how extending a hand to others to bring children into my family has been in many ways the highlight of my life.  Their friendship and hard work will be so enriching to you and our country.  

Listing of the State Refugee Agencies where you can find contacts that you can use to help out

Thursday, August 19, 2021

In Memoriam - Linda Eaton

It is with an extremely heavy heart that I let the needlework community know that our friend and great champion of textiles, Linda Eaton, passed away last night.  She was private about her battle with cancer but for the limited number who knew, she was as witty and hilarious as she always was - irreverent until the end in a way that had always endeared herself to others.  Linda was a consummate professional and intellectual but she never let that get in the way of her humanity and wickedly funny sense of humor.   

Linda was a mentor of mine and friend and I will miss conversations and debates with her immensely.  My last zoom call with her had us laughing from the gut about the need to jail break her out of the rehabilitation home she was at after a fall so we could go off and look at needlework together.   She was keenly interested in everything and helped me frame experiments to the end, firing off challenging questions to thoughts on historical needlework in between our laughter about her jokes regarding life's misfortune. 

She was a rare individual who made the transition from textile conservator to curator, one reason why we bonded over our love of deep scientific examination of objects.  She was the biggest champion of the need to engage the community of people who practice the craft and business of textiles in the study of historical works.  Not only learning from those who do but supporting many research projects and books on those who lead by teaching or designing.  Business wasn't a dirty word to Linda and I think her work celebrating the contributions of Erica Wilson in her last exhibition and co-authorship speak to this.  She understood that the history of textiles is also a history of female entrepreneurship.

Linda was one of those 'make things happen' people in ways that most embroiderers will never fully understand her impact.  She knew how to work the system and I say that in the most respectful way possible.  If you had a wild idea to bring people together, exhibits to life or research that should be done; the first person you would reach out to was Linda.  She was the best at recognizing the potential of ideas and helping you to get them moving and done.  As I sit here and contemplate the stories that should be told I am awed at the impacts and projects that she made happen and find it hard to choose the stories to tell - from those personally impactful to those that will change the way history is written.  From the establishment of the Sampler Archive project with Lynne Anderson, to the bi-annual symposiums that gave voice to those doing significant research in the field of embroidery, and her gracious acknowledgment of modern embroiderers by exhibiting our works alongside those of historic embroiderers; she has left a legacy that can't be understated.  And that is just in the field of embroidery - yet she is equally known in printed textiles, quilts, costume, flags, and other areas of textiles.

Linda showing a visitor at Hancock Shaker 
Village the motif she just struggled over
This photo of Linda, who traveled to Hancock Shaker Village in MA, to stitch on the Plimoth Jacket is one of my many favorite memories of her.  She was determined not only to aid the project with her labor but to experience the process in a way that would inform her curation.  So it was not a surprise that when the original exhibition the project was intended for was canceled due to financial problems, I knew exactly who to call when the Plimoth Plantation president asked me to see if we could find a way to get it exhibited.  I remember calling Linda and asking where would be the right place - she was so well connected - and she immediately recognized the power of the textile and said "Let me call you back in 30 min!!".  I am not sure whose arm she twisted and tied in knots in those 30 minutes, but she was quick back on the phone and let me know that Winterthur would be honored to exhibit the jacket.  I can't tell you how thrilled we all were with the care and vision she brought to not only the exhibition of the Jacket in the regular galleries but the exhibition and symposium she built around it.  She understood the need to bring some of the artisans to the Museum, such as Bill Barnes, to allow the collection of the knowledge and documentation from people.  

Linda with the Plimoth Jacket - at the handover
she showed up with an unmarked van at the
end of a secret train trip as if it was a big heist.
She always found a way to show humor in
every situation - making life fun
 
I cherished the phone calls from her to debate and collect ideas for her symposium every other year.  She was the ultimate in a collaborator and was so willing to see outside of the traditional.  I remember the super excited email I received from her after I sent her video of Janet Brandt's casket.  She had been toying with the idea of exhibiting a modern casket from my project, which she had whole heartedly supported with resources such as Xray time in the conservation department.  I sent her a short video and told her - THIS is the one she needed to honor with a place in an exhibition and she immediately understood she had to convince Janet to allow her to borrow it.  How many future embroiderers were inspired by the pieces she decided to exhibit?  

Linda was concerned that her beloved Symposium and Textile Department would be left in good hands and passed the torch to Laura Johnson, who will be an amazing caretaker of the legacy that Linda has entrusted her with.  Those of us who knew that Linda was retiring due to her illness wanted to honor her at the last symposium but understood her desire for privacy.  I wanted so badly to establish a fund at Winterthur in her honor for purchase of an object, but we had to refrain at the time.  I hope now, that those of you who greatly appreciated all that Linda did for needlework, will donate in her memory to Winterthur for the purchase of a textile object.   

I have added the memorial that Winterthur released today so you can read more about her and her amazing background below.  I know I am not the only one who feels deeply that she mentored and enabled my career, you almost can't talk to anyone in the curatorial and conservation community below a certain age and not meet someone who Linda mentored through the Winterthur program or her years working in the UK.  Personally, I have to thank Linda for believing in what I was doing and for not only helping with the projects I had conceived but elevating my profile by asking me to speak so often, bestowing on me credentials in the historical textiles field.  I couldn't thank her enough.  Even the stitching trial I will be starting soon with all my volunteer stitchers - Linda and I talked about this in depth just weeks ago.  Her superior and curious intellect contributing even as her body was letting her down.  

God bless you Linda, thank you from a grateful community who will be touched by all you did for hundreds of years.  


Winterthur Memorium

The Winterthur community mourns the loss of our friend Linda Eaton, the retired John T. and Marjorie McGraw Director of Collections. Linda passed the night of August 18, 2021, after a courageous battle against a long-term illness. Linda’s contributions to Winterthur and the field of textile arts and history were numerous and invaluable. Her impact and influence are immeasurable.  

 

Linda is recognized around the world for her leadership in the field of interdisciplinary textile scholarship. Over more than 30 years at Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library, Linda oversaw the acquisition, interpretation, care, and exhibition of the museum’s textile collections, which includes nearly 20,000 furnishings, articles of clothing, rugs, quilts, and needlework. A specialist in textile conservation as well as textile history, she advanced technical and scientific knowledge of textiles broadly.  

 

“Linda was one of those rare individuals who could speak with authority on detailed and technical matters one moment and in the next could sweep you away with her profound appreciation for the artistry and craft of an item,” said Chris Strand, the interim CEO of Winterthur. “She shared this gift through her teaching, her mentoring of staff and students, and the creation of our most popular and engaging exhibitions. All of us will miss her passion and her friendship.” 
Eaton has shared her knowledge and expertise through teaching hundreds of graduate students in the Winterthur Program in American Material Culture and the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation. She inspired future curators by widely sharing her enthusiasm with everyone from kindergarteners and her graduate students to serious quilters, stitchers, designers, embroiderers, and general audiences. Hundreds of loyal followers attended her regular needlework conferences at Winterthur.  

 

Linda curated popular and scholarly exhibitions about embroidery such as Quilts in a Material World; Needles and Haystacks: Pastoral Imagery in American Needlework; With Cunning Needle: Four Centuries of Embroidery; The Diligent Needle: Instrument of Profit, Pleasure, and Ornament; and Embroidery: The Language of Art, as well as Betsy Ross: The Life Behind the Legend, co-curated with Dr. Marla Miller. Linda curated the popular Treasures on Trial: The Art and Science of Detecting Fakes, and she was an instrumental partner in one of Winterthur’s most memorable exhibitions, Costuming THE CROWN in 2019, the only exhibition of costumes from the popular Netflix series.  

 

Her publications include Quilts in a Material World: Selections from the Winterthur Collection (2007), and Printed Textiles: British and American Cottons and Linens, 1700–1850 (2014), a revision of Florence Montgomery’s seminal 1970 book. Linda’s latest publication, Erica Wilson: A Life in Stitches, co-authored with Anne Hilker, was released in December 2020.  
“Linda must hold the record for number of scholarly publications and exhibitions emanating from Winterthur,” said Tom Savage, the former director of external affairs at Winterthur and a longtime friend. “Her Quilts in a Material World book and exhibition placed Winterthur’s extraordinary collection in a global context. There was nothing parochial about her approach. She knew the wide world of textiles internationally and brought that vast knowledge to the study of the most minute topic. Her update of Florence Montgomery’s Printed Textiles gave this landmark work new life as the publication of record on the topic. Two generations of scholars benefitted from her tutelage at Winterthur as conservator, then curator of textiles and McGraw director of collections, and her star pupils now head noted collections of textiles.” 

 

Linda’s students and mentees care for renowned collections at such institutions as the Victoria and Albert Museum, The Art Institute of Chicago, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the National Museum of the American Indian, Colonial Williamsburg, and the Te Papa Museum in New Zealand, as well as Winterthur. Linda was also a founding board member of the North American Textile Conservation Conference and a member of the board of Textile Society of America. 

 

“Linda arrived in 1990 as the Head of Textile Conservation and was initially my supervisor,” said Joy Gardiner, head of Conservation for Winterthur. “She quickly proved an excellent mentor to me and so many others, and she became a long-term good friend for my family—a wonderful presence and influence in our daughter’s life. Linda was a textilian to her core and a staunch—one might even say fierce—advocate for the objects made from fibers and the people who created them. In her generous sharing of this advocacy in teaching, publications, workshops and exhibitions, she fostered an expanded appreciation of the medium at Winterthur and well beyond. Her influence will be long lasting.” 

 

Outside the museum and the classroom, Linda served as the volunteer president of the Arden Craft Museum Board, which preserves the unique history of three communities known collectively as The Ardens. Linda’s leadership helped to transform the museum into a center of the villages that offers year-round programs and attracts researchers from around the country. 
Eaton trained at the Textile Conservation Centre and the Courtauld Institute of Art before working for the National Museums of Scotland. Linda arrived at Winterthur in 1991 as a textile conservator. She became curator of textiles in 2000 and was promoted to director of museum collections and senior curator of textiles in 2009. Eaton was named the John L. and Marjorie P. McGraw Director of Collections and Senior Curator of Textiles in 2012. She retired in December 2020. A curator of textiles position was recently created in her name.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Thank you to all the Voluenteer Stitchers

Stitchers are a generous bunch and I know everyone wants to be part of something larger!  Thank you to the 100+ people who have volunteered through the Frosting Club boxes to get a kit and send me back data.  For everyone else who keeps emailing or posting - I will be looking for more opportunities for you.

This first batch is to see how well the concept works as we are pursuing research funding.  Right now I am doing this on my own dime and so piggy-backing on the Frostings Box shipping made tons of sense.  Then between the donated silks and that - I only have to pay for linen from my own pocket.  The Frostings Box is at a weight that another 2 oz won't change the shipping cost so it was perfect.  Otherwise it would be in the one to two thousand dollars to send out research kits.  

Once we get a grant (crossing fingers) there will be money in it for shipping/materials for such things.  So keep tuned as we do have several ideas where having stitched samples is extremely helpful for data collection to prove ideas about labor or how to deduce if there are multiple stitchers on an object.  

I was able to keep control of the Plimoth Jacket stitching samples and have done work with them in the past, I will be going back to them again soon to do more research and then I have another idea of a stitching sample to engage with the public - THANK YOU!

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Want to Contribute to Historical Research?

I am looking for 60-100 people to volunteer to do some experimental stitching for me, about 1-hour worth.  Because sending standard kits to that many people would be expensive, I am going to recruit from the group of people who participate in the Frostings 6 Club this month - The kit will be included in the shipped product to those interested.  As there are usually 250 people - I hope enough will take me up on this.  So much more on this - the why and how below.

I have told people over and over that my work in embroidery is one great big research project.  A bunch of experimental archeology with some anthropology thrown in with you, the stitcher, a big contributor to the work.  As the Cabinet of Curiosities is winding down, the data and knowledge I have been taking in is really leading to some interesting conclusions and new methodologies that I am applying to embroidery of the 17th century.

During the last six months, I have used zoom to collaborate more fully with some colleagues I have always wanted to work with across the globe and this is proving to be a very fruitful set of work.  While we are embarking on proposals, papers, and in-depth examination of objects both now and in the next several months; one of the big things we need to do is establish metrics that can be used to evaluate embroideries.  

You and I have a good feel of how long it takes to embroider something and maybe how much thread.  But the decorative arts and academic community focused on history has no idea.  One of the most common questions I get from a curator is 'how long did this take?'.  That is a loaded question as it assumes a particular way of working with one person doing the work.  As you start to look at larger and more complex works, often a small army of people worked the pieces.  So there are many questions of how long, how many people, how much materials, and therefore how much did this cost?  My collaborators and I are aiming to produce methods and metrics that will allow some of these questions to be answered and thus illuminate much about how large embroideries were produced.  

So starting with labor, you could measure the time it takes to do hundreds of stitches or to be more efficient, you might break stitches into component moves and measure the time it takes to do a component move.  All stitches are made up of only four moves, which I call needle operations.


They are the stab up and down of the needle, passing the needle under thread on the surface, or wrapping the thread under/around a needle.  My collaborators and I have spent time looking at 17th century embroideries to look at how they stitched and have come up with two samples that can be stitched and timed to understand how many seconds each of these needle moves takes.  One sample, a centimeter square tent stitch sample averages over 512 needle moves of the stab up and down type.  The second sample, a 1-inch square worked in detached buttonhole has the time data dominated by the two other moves.  

Experimental sample of detached buttonhole

What we want to do is ask groups of people of different experience levels (Apprentice, Experienced, and Professional) to work the samples and time themselves with a set of materials we send out and under a particular set of stitch diagrams and fabric set-up.  This way the times for each needle move type is averaged over a large number of individuals and not the work of just one person (me).  Giving us a range of labor per move that we can then use to predict the labor for stitches of different types and scales.  

Experimental samples of diagonal stitches for timing trials.  Tent Stitch is the sample for this experiment.  Chosen afterexamining many 17th century pieces from the back to see that this is the stitch used in this period

I have now done this experiment myself and the data is exciting.  I won't reveal the numbers right now as I don't want anyone to think there is a goal to try to reach.  What we do want is for the stitching to be done in a frame such that you can use one hand above the linen and one hand below the linen.  This can be done in a slate frame or a roller bar frame or q-snap that somehow is balanced or secured so you can use both hands at once to stitch.  This is how the 17th century worker was working so that the needle was passed to the hand under when it went through the fabric.  It also makes working the detached buttonhole under the same conditions for each person.  Most of the objects we are studying were worked in a frame and not in the hand or on a needlelace pillow.  If the results of this first experiment are great, we may expand the concept to collect data for different working conditions with new experiments to see how speed changes.  

Complete instructions will be with each experiment kit and how to return the timed data.  Only two square patches are to be stitched - about 1 hour of stitching.  One in tent stitch over one thread and one in detached buttonhole with return (over two thread scale).  The linen is the 40ct. Restoration linen, cut 12"x12" which should allow for most frames to be used.  The experimental kit will contain pre-cut soie paris and soie perlee for the two experiments along with instructions/form to fill out for times and a survey about your experience level with the two types of stitches to help us place you into one of the three categories for data analysis.

This research is not yet funded (we are writing proposals as I write) but as I shoe-string and piggy back on  other things like the Frostings Box, I need to acknowledge special people in the embroidery community who have made the idea of doing large scale experiments possible.  

Sallie Pate passed away this year and had been a long time embroiderer who participated in my courses and loved historic embroidery.  Her husband asked me if I had use for the threads that Sallie had in her stash and we both felt that using them to enable experiments that would seriously contribute to the historical understanding of the embroideries she loved would be a fitting tribute to her because of her life and work.  The lives of our band of wonderful stitchers are always varied and complex and I so enjoy knowing you all.  I loved Jeff's obituary of his beloved wife and so want to share it here as a tribute to what we will all start together in her memory:


On 28 December, 2020, in Nassau Bay, Texas, the life of the most wonderful, caring, funny, intelligent, creative and beautiful person ever to walk the earth came to an end after 72 years of improving the world. If you had the privilege of knowing
, your world was enhanced and it may never recover from her loss.


She was born Sallie Ann Biggs on 24 May, 1948, to Robert Henry Biggs and Joleen Ruth Hunter Biggs in Enid, Oklahoma. She earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Phillips University and a Masters of Fine Arts from Texas Christian University.


After college she worked as an actress at Casa Mañana Playhouse in Ft Worth, Texas. A year later, she moved to Vermillion, South Dakota, where she taught acting, creative dramatics, children's theatre, and costume design and construction at the University of South Dakota. She also directed numerous productions along with designing and building costumes. In 1979, Sallie moved to the University of Houston Clear Lake City where she continued to teach, direct and costume. When she retired, she took up designing and constructing quilts, starting her own company, Sallie Pate Designs. She was very much in demand as a teacher of quilting and other fabric arts. When quilting became too easy, she switched to embroidery, earning a Master Craftsman award, as well as continuing to utilize her formidable skills as a teacher and designer.


Sallie was incredibly generous with her knowledge of stitching. For years she planned and taught more than half of the programs for her small embroidery group.  She usually supplied the materials as well as designs and instructions.  She encouraged all of them to design and to study the history of embroidery. Sallie's library was an inspiration to all of them and she was always happy to lend books. She collected old needlework books as well as the newest research books on stitches. The more detailed the stitch diagrams, the better. 


In 1972, she gave Jeff Pate the honor of becoming her husband. They lived happily ever after for 48 years.
In 2019, she broke all the rules and survived pancreatic cancer, ultimately though, her amazing spirit could not overcome her deteriorating body.



Saturday, July 17, 2021

Silk Purl Flower Baskets Course - Sept 2021

Finally I have collected enough materials to be able to run the Silk Purl Flower Baskets Course starting in September.  I will be opening up registration for it in August.  

The course is 3-months long and results in two embroideries that can be framed or used as the inside doors of an embroidered cabinet.  The course uses silk wrapped purls which are like little silk covered springs in a large number of techniques to fill the designs that are outlined in gold threads to give a bit of sparkle.








Saturday, July 10, 2021

What Have I Been Up To?

I have gotten a few emails over the last year, lovely people concerned that the blog is fallow and thus maybe things might not be ok.  Well, things are ok.  So don't worry!  

But as for many in business, the last 18-months have been overwhelming.  Anything hobby based just exploded with people wanting/needing materials, new things to do, etc.  And it coincided with, as you may have heard, enormous and unprecedented supply chain and shipping issues.  Things like six months to get pallets of silk picked up in Europe and transported to the US.  All kinds of things happened like silk would arrive but spools would have run out.  The blog ended up the last on the list.  As it turned out, there were several problems with my store/teaching infrastructure when the service providers decided to make major upgrade or changes in the early days of a pandemic which resulted in me having to rebuild on new platforms and switch people over.  Kinda a perfect storm as one would say.

In one of the emails, my 'staff' was mentioned and I had to have a huge laugh.  I am all the staff.  I am the IT department, the shipping department, the stitcher of the designs, the instruction writer, the researcher, the lecturer, the box packer, everything... So it can be a lot to get done.  And of course, as for all women, the last 18-months required us to put our normal roles of home organizer/provisioner on overdrive.  I now have a good feeling of what it must have been like on the prairie keeping track of every morsel of food and needing to make sure it didn't run out before the next harvest.  I had two 6-foot tall boys in my home who were exercising to pass the time, so I was even doing things like driving to farms to buy three dozen eggs a week which were being rationed in my area.  (yes, one boy eats six eggs a sitting).  So food was highly stressful for me and then we were cooking all meals which again, having BOYS, resulted in no leftovers unless I was to buy a military level sized pot!

Another enormous time sink has been the robotics team.  For both the college aged group and the high school group of kids, this was a disruption to their lives and how they had planned them out.  Kids who are 'doing everything right' were given a kick in the gut and they have had to adapt.  ACT/SAT tests constantly canceled, couldn't go to colleges to visit, school on zoom, the World Championship was canceled in both 2020 and 2021.  Our kids on the teams lean towards those with some sort of extra challenge.  Attention deficit, dyslexia, anxiety, etc are all part of their lives and the rapid change in the parameters of school was a new minefield to navigate while trying to excel and get to college.  So I feel like I have played mental health coordinator for almost a dozen kids for the last 18-months.  I know I talked about having work sessions on my deck last summer to give the locked-down kids an outlet so they didn't jump off a roof.  

Now that things are opening up, we have some pent up things to get taken care of.  Learning to drive is behind schedule, standardized testing, and seeing colleges.  Some of us with kids who have the same interests and thus likely the same college list are trying to be efficient and take each other's kids to get through this massive undertaking of covid-era university visits.  On Friday there was a big game of 'who is open and lets you on campus?'.  Texts back and forth with parents and trying to coordinate getting spots on tours and who is flying with the group to get these kids through the process, some of which are actually writing their applications as I speak and haven't yet stepped on a college campus.  As many colleges are only allowing you to walk around yourself, everyone is finding someone they know to help tour the kids around so at least there is something meaningful taken in.  It is a minefield as two years of kids asked for college deferrals, so there are less spots to compete for, as there is no housing.  It has resulted in kids being rejected from college at a much higher rate and thus now you have to throw a wider net because it will be years before each college is admitting the numbers they were before because of housing limits.  Our state does not have a large state college where they have to admit everyone, so the report from our high school is kids with all-A's were getting rejected from the engineering college at UMass this year.  The kids are understandably scared as what they knew and could work towards has been tossed out - its a lottery now.  

This is overlaid on the robotics which made a big change to allow it to go forward for 2020-2021.  They expanded the season so instead of Sept - April it is going Sept - August and will turn around again and start immediately.  So we aren't done yet!  If the kids were performing differently we would have cut it off.  They ended up #2 in the world in 2020 and couldn't try to win it all as worlds were canceled.  This year they aimed to win it all - ended up #1 in rankings and at the last minute the Worlds were canceled and they decided to go back on their pledge to hold it remote, which killed the kids.  An after-season event that is held yearly decided to do it in person and to only invite the top world teams so that it would be a default Worlds.  So we are working on that right now.  It makes it so there is a lot on their plate, but at the same time they can finally work inside and together without masks for the first time in 18-months and they are re-learning social skills which I had seen stay stagnant or go backwards and so it is a bit of a blessing instead of another summer of being alone.  I was thinking the other day that I can't wait for the robot stuff to be put away (for 4 weeks until it starts again) and then it dawned on me, the stuff and work has been continuous since Sept 2019.  The last time we took it down my son was a 8th grader and now we are running around looking at colleges.  Yikes - no wonder we all feel tired.  Usually we would have a four month break every year.

So things are ok but as most families are finding, we are all exhausted from the last 18-months and challenges to be overcome or adapted to have been thrown in our way (like the shortened intense college admissions cycle for the next 14-months).  Looking forward I am apprehensive.  We have a dyslexic kid who was just learning how to study for tests, use his accomidations, and learn to write.  Then school was canceled and they spent a year doing 'projects' vs tests or papers.  Just in the year where that skill set is learned, he didn't learn it.  So we expect that this junior year will be fraught with having to learn all that very quick.  So quick edit cycles, maybe tutoring needed, etc.  Things that were on auto-pilot for the other child by this age. 

So if the blog is not up - it is likely that I am handling the needlework classes and the shop and being mom to my kid and the many other robot kids.   Sometimes something has to give.  

Thursday, July 8, 2021

The Casket at Arundel Casket - Conservation

I stumbled onto a wonderful article with pictures about the conservation and display of the Arundel Casket at Arundel Castle.  I really liked the way that they newly displayed the casket so details such as the inside could be seen in the plexiglass case.  

Because it was a conservation, there are many pictures of the inside and parts of the casket as well as the embroidery.  This one is a common shape, not one that I have reproduced but one that is seen quite a bit with the drop down front.  

One of the things that people have a hard time realizing is that these caskets are multilayered with papers and fabrics.  So finishing them is quite the challenge, requiring conservation acid-free papers that are almost like fabric themselves so they can pull across corners without ripping. The added benefit of the paper is that is keeps the wood sap and chemicals from leeching onto the embroidery.  The way they are covered is that the wood is first covered fully with paper and then the silk linings and the embroidery are backed with the paper and then the paper to paper bond is made.  

You can kinda see that in this article with so many of the pieces taken out, the amount of paper/silk lining is a bit more obvious.



Monday, July 5, 2021

Queen Elizabeth I Burse

 One of the first Chancelor's embroidered burses is going on display at the Victoria and Albert museum for their new exhibit on purses and bags.  The piece has some amazing close up photos on a special article about it on their website as part of the exhibition.

The article mentions how the bags that held the seal were using leather or no adornment previous to Elizabeth, but after her accession, they became these heavily embroidered pieces.  This is very interesting as it matches an overall increase in the use of embroidery across society and one wonders if Elizabeth's own interest in embroidery influenced the zeal for it for a century.  

Drawstring deep red velvet bag richly embroidered in gold and featuring a lion, dragon and the initials E.R.

Burse, 1558 – 1603, England. Museum no. T.40-1986. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Casket Finishing Materials

After being out of most of the casket finishing materials for many months - I have all but the silver woven tape in stock!!  The gold tape arrived this morning so I have 500 meters of that with another 2000 meters worming its way through customs.

Papers are in stock as well, bottles, and inkwells.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Twixt Art & Nature Book


For those of you who attended my lecture at SNAD today - I promised that I would put out one of my favorite books for 17th century embroidery.  It is a gold star!  

The best part about it is it is out of print and now available as a FREE download!!!

So here is the link.  Add it to cart and give your info and you will get a free pdf download of this massive book to enjoy.

Tricia 

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Giving a Lecture Online


I am giving a zoom lecture at the San Fransisco School of Needlework and Design on Wednesday January 27th at 2pm PST.  I will be talking about the Plimoth Jacket™ reproduction project and the lessons learned that tell us about 17th century embroidery.  

You can go to this link to get a ticket to the lecture!  Join us!  Ask questions (anything about embroidery is up for grabs!).