HNW - Longevity of Blackwork
kbsalazar at mediaone.net
Fri Aug 18 06:59:07 PDT 2000
LONGEVITY OF BLACKWORK
I heartily second Liadain's assertion on the durability of blackwork.
I stitched a blackwork front for an underdress in five months, starting in
October '77 and finishing in April '78. I did it in a mix of linen and
cotton thread on a linen blend ground. Think big scrolling fruits and
flowers, and a zillion filling patterns. For the SCAthains here - it
started out intended to be a tablecloth, but Fernando won the crown, so it
ended up being part of a coronation dress. [grin]
Not only do I still have it, it has outlasted three dresses, one very
hungry horse, a smoky apartment fire, and innumerable aggressive
launderings. It is now firmly settled in Dress #4, and looks to outlast
that one too.
Of course, I have made other things that have abraded away to nothing. I
recently re-stitched my part of the Carolingian Ladies' Favor - done on the
count on a muslin-count cotton backing with cotton sewing thread. Since
that piece was done, circa 1979, my section had rubbed out to nothing,
probably because it was in the section that received heavy abrasion from
the wearers' belts. However the favor I made for Don Fernando's dated AS.
IX (1975 - blackwork, linen and cotton on linen, edged with needle lace in
linen, backed with silk velvet) still exists, and sports its stitching
HINTS FOR LIFE-EXTENSION
Here are some things that help a stitched piece hold up. These hints are
intuitively obvious, so I apologize if I am restating things we all know.
1. Matching the washability of the threads used to the ground cloth, and
to the intended use. If the cloth is very sturdy, and you intend to wash
the garment often (as with body linen) use something that can be treated in
the same manner. Many silks are surprisingly washable to those of us
brought up with the silk/dry cleaning mantra. Some are not. Linens and
cottons tend to wash better, but beware! Horrific shrinkage, color
migration, and shredding are not unknown in ANY fiber. Testing out an
embroidered swatch is HIGHLY recommended - even if you are using one of the
"name brand" threads. If you do a small piece as a washing-swatch and it
survives, it can always be mounted into a small sweet bag or similar
item. If not, well it was better to find out before you completed eight
yards of edging for a new shift...
2. Shorter stitch lengths tend to last longer. A beauty of this
particular counted style is that even long straight visual lines are made
up of lots of uniform smaller units. This minimizes catching and
abrading. For long-lived pieces, please don't be tempted to take one
stitch to cover the length equivalent of three smaller ones.
3. Keep even tension along the lines of stitching. I think that blackwork
gets a length-of-life assist because much of it is done with all of the
tension balanced both above and below the ground fabric, and with that
tension spread longitudinally along the stitched lines themselves. While I
have seen pieces pucker from too-tight stitching, from insufficient tension
on the frame while working, or from the stitching threads shrinking
disproportionately to the ground fabric after washing (the stitching begins
to look a little like smocking) I haven't seen a band-style blackwork piece
distort the ground cloth otherwise. I have seen areas of the infillings
done in inhabited style blackwork distort, but mostly because the stitcher
chose to work those particular fillings were worked with very different
appearances on the front and back.
4. On clothing, place stitching on areas less likely to suffer abuse, or
do the stitching on a replaceable unit. (This is the most obvious of
all). For example, detachable sleeves are a nifty idea that make greater
sense when you consider that one's most elegant stitching may not be
suitable every time an outfit is worn.
So I encourage everyone to stitch away, whether the item being worked is
for display or for wearing. With only a small bit of luck, some time from
from now you will still be able to look on your completed pieces - perhaps
a decade or two older but still smiling back at you.
ianthe at carolingia.org
kbsalazar at mediaone.net
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