an amazing embroidery project

I'm not posting this to intimidate those of you who are just learning embroidery. Trust me, some day your work will be good enough to tackle more ambitious projects than the ones you're starting out with. Although this project may be more ambitious than you'll ever do, keep in mind that much of the work was completed by ordinary people who spent a few hours or days of their vacations helping out. I had to share because the finished result is so amazing and gorgeous. The Boston Globe published an article about the project a few days ago but I would have missed it if Kathleen Fasanella hadn't mentioned it on her Fashion-Incubator blog.

Three years ago Plimoth Plantation was planning an exhibition on how America's founders dressed themselves and wanted to re-create a lavishly-embroidered 17th-century women's waistcoat as the centerpiece of the exhibit. They approached Tricia Wilson Nguyen, a specialist in historic needlework, to see if she would lead the ambitious project.

Photo by Ed Nute

“I told them they were totally crazy,’’ said Nguyen. She knew it could take hundreds of people thousands of hours to do the intricate needlework, using a centuries-old embroidery stitch few people know. As if that wasn’t enough challenge, the materials needed - silver gilt threads, hand-cut sequins - had been out of production for centuries and would have to be reinvented.

The design is based on two jackets in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. It's a tight-fitting linen waistcoat heavily embroidered with curling vines, silver gilt stems, gold sequins, gold and silver metal lace, and a wild assortment of flowers, leaves, birds, insects, and three-dimensional butterflies.

Photo by Ed Nute

The project, which was unveiled a few days ago, took three years, cost $12,000, and took the embroidery skills of more than 250 people, most of them volunteers, to complete and construct the jacket. You can follow the story of it's creation on Nyguyen’s site Thistle-Threads and on Plimoth Plantation's The Embroiderer's Story.

A few months ago they received some bad news. Because of budget cuts and fund-raising shortfalls, the museum was forced to cancel the exhibition that inspired the jacket. Although Plimoth Plantation will still own it, the jacket will spend the next two years at the Winterthur museum in Delaware, which has a large collection of textiles and needlework. After that, it will return to Plymouth in hopes that the exhibition will be revived.

Nguyen is convinced that the jacket is the most ambitious embroidery project since
Queen Elizabeth ll’s coronation robe and contends it is as fashionable now as it was in the 17th century.

“It’s very stylish,’’ she said. “I hate to say it but, God, it looks great with jeans.’’

I've been wanting to go to Winterthur for ages (it's a couple of hours drive for me) - this might be just the attraction to get me there.


Melody said...

Holy Cremoly!!! Exquisite..inspiring...awesome.....
Have you checked out a mag I just found at Jo-Ann's..Inspire..it's out of Australia. Cost's $15, but I use the coupon in the mailers to get it. The embroidery is...you just have to see it.

janet said...

Melody, I have some back issues of a magazine called Inspirations that I found at Borders a few years ago - is that the one you mean?

It has truly stunning (is that the word you're looking for?) embroidery. There's an article in one issue about embroidered (with beads) berries and they look real enough to eat! And they feature a lot of what's called thread-painting for super-realistic effects.

Good to know that Jo-Ann's has it and that you can use coupons!

arkie said...

Gorgeous! I would love to be able to see it up close. Thanks for the picture of the handwork!

Shirleymac said...

Oh my goodness! Life must have been grand when women had maids and could just sit and do needlework all day. Never in a million years would I ever be able to do anything so grand. Thanks for sharing.

blushing rose said...

Exquisite! I am stunned by the awesome beauty created.

Merry Christmas ~
TTFN ~ Marydon
Follow/read us on new blog ~

Melody said...

That's it. I was at work and couldn't think straight. I've got it here on my nightstand. You can get half off sometimes.

Sioux B said...

Wow. That is a stunning piece.

Andrea Halliday said...

That embroidery is incredible! I couldn't imagine stitching something like that. Of course, I'm just getting into designing my own cross-stitch charts. Like you said, I might come up with some pretty intricate designs myself in the future.

Mom Wald said...

You simply must go, and take lots of photos to share with us!

Thank you for sharing this exquisite creation with us. To think that back in the "good ol' days" craftsmanship like this was available for those who could afford it. Not that the craftspeople could make much of a living at it.

Off to check the site!

Niesz Vintage Home said...

Oh my word! Is that ever gorgeous!
I can't even imagine the time and skill required for something like that.


Buttonchief7 said...

Wouldn't it be heavenly to have the luxury of studying that beautiful piece of work for a few days? What workmanship and perfect coloring. Thank you so much for the inspiring work of art. Peggy

crimsoncat05 said...

oh my gosh, this is just gorgeous!! If you go to see the exhibit, take lots of photos, okay??

tammyCA said...

Incredible! And, when you think about all the intricate hand needlework that went into clothing before sewing machines, electric lighting and textile machines/cotton gins...it boggles the mind what was produced & the high quality.

Pet said...

This is really nice!


Hi Janet, it's 2013 now, what happened to the jacket? Thanks for sharing.

janet said...

I really don't know what happened; I imagine that Plimoth Plantation still has it in their collection. But, if you want to read more about Tricia, you can check out her blog, Thistle-Threads at http://www.thistle-threads.com/blog/