Monday, October 17, 2011

A Textile Tour-de-Force

Of all the people I've met in the world of textiles and embroidery, I can honestly say that I've never met someone like Dr. Tricia Wilson Nguyen.

She's quite extraordinary.

Last April, our EGA chapter engaged Dr. Nguyen to both give the lecture of the making of the now-famous Plimoth Jacket and to teach this goldwork tudor rose...

Tudor Rose by Tricia Wilson Nguyen

While Tricia could not bring the actual Plimoth Jacket to our guild lecture, she was able to bring the coif and the forehead cloth that were also embroidered as part of the jacket ensemble.

And she graciously allowed me to photograph them and share the images on my blog.

Coif and Forehead Cloth: Part of the reproduction ensemble stitched along with the Plimoth Jacket

I thoroughly loved working on the goldwork project, but it was the lecture...the story of the Plimoth Jacket that completely moved me.

And funny, I had followed the Plimoth Jacket blog for some time so I was aware of some of the details by reading their regular blog posts.

But none of it compared to hearing the epic tale of the jacket...told by Tricia herself.

One side of Coif: Part of the reproduction ensemble stitched as part of the Plimoth Jacket project

From the birth of the the background stories of each major individual. From the blacksmith, the gold thread maker in London, the thread maker from the hundreds of lacers, embroiderers, and supporters who made the idea a reality...

It truly is epic.

The tale spanned centuries, continents and generations...

And once Tricia unlocked the secrets of how the 17th century stitches were embroidered, she set out to identify sources for threads. She researched and hunted until she found someone who had any knowledge of what she was talking about; and she followed the trail which led to someone who might actually be able to make the threads she needed. And then she cajoled them into making threads for the jacket project. While doing so, she recognized that their knowledge of thread-making was in danger of extinction.

The other side of Coif: Part of the reproduction ensemble stitched as part of the Plimoth Jacket project

Well. She wasn't about to let that happen if she could help it, so she set about trying to revive their industry and to create a market for their threads that went beyond the immediate needs for the jacket. So now she offers online classes, available to anyone with a computer, where her designs honor the makers, materials and techniques of historical embroideries.

Detail of Coif: Part of the reproduction ensemble stitched as part of the Plimoth Jacket project

I enrolled in her 18-month Goldwork Master Class...It just finished but I have piles of studying and stitching still to do. The depth of her coursework is phenomenal. She combines volumes of historical research, animation videos and images of historical examples together into one gigantic course. When she's says "Master Class", she means it. And when she says "Online University", she means that too. If historical embroidery interests you in the least, you will find a home in one of her classes and it is well worth the price of admission.

Coif Image: Part of the reproduction ensemble stitched as part of the Plimoth Jacket project

A graduate of MIT, Tricia is an engineer by day and uses her technical background to uncover the secrets of embroidered histories. She is rich in knowledge, enthusiasm and energy...and she has completely converted me to the cause. I would follow her anywhere.

Detail of Forehead Cloth: Part of the reproduction ensemble stitched as part of the Plimoth Jacket project

That's why, when I heard about the With Cunning Needle Exhibit at Winterthur Museum (Sept 3, 2011-January 8, 2012), I knew I had to be there. Coinciding with the exhibition is the Winthertur's Needlework Conference (October 21-22, 2011) So this Friday, I'll be driving up to Delaware to attend two full days of lectures and classes...and to see the jacket in the exhibition.

Forehead Cloth: Part of the reproduction ensemble stitched as part of the Plimoth Jacket project

And I'll get to see and hear from Tricia again in two lectures: The Plimoth Jacket: Listening to the Makers and A Tisket, A Tasket: Who Made the Casket? I can't wait to hear what she's up to now. She's a gift to the textile and embroidery world; a tour-de-force; and I don't believe there's anything she can't do when she puts her mind to it. And her field is textiles! Which is great for all of us.

Should you be interested in exploring this topic further, here are some links to note:

Thistle Threads -- Tricia Wilson Nguyen's website
Thistle Threads Blog -- Tricia's blog
With Cunning Needle Blog Post -- includes pics of exhibition (click to enlarge)
Tricia's Needlework Nibble -- All sales of these kits go to benefit the Winthertur exhibition
Tricia's Online University -- where she currently accepting enrollment for upcoming classes. I signed up for the Glittering Gentleman's Nightcap...
Plimoth Plantation Blog Archives chronicles of the jacket's creation

Happy Monday everyone. I'm still winging it!


coral-seas said...

I am officially jealous!

Moonsilk Stitches said...

Oh, me to. I so want to get to that show. Please do tell us all about it!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the info and links - I had not heard of this project. I'm not into doing goldwork but do appreciate the beauty and workmanship! To see that stitching up close would be such a treat.

Balwearie said...

Wow!! I've read about that jacket -- one of the needle-workers here in Richmond worked on it. The pieces you have photographed here are stunning. Always nice when someone with insider knowledge takes the pics! Totally jealous about meeting Tricia (go MIT) and seeing the exhibit at Winterthur. I obviously need to head north more often!

Anonymous said...

How wonderful that you can see the exhibit & take part in the conference! I envy you. Thank you for the article about Tricia - she is truly a gift to the needlework world & I love seeing her recognized. I just don't think the importance of the jacket project can be over-emphasized - it really was/is a seminal event.
Katherine M.

Catherine said...

Oooooohhhhhhh..... You'll be so close to me!! I haven't made it to the exhibit yet. And lucky you going to the conference as well!!

Marty52 said...

Oh, lucky you, Susan! I followed that blog the whole time they were doing the jacket, it was fascinating. I think that was what got me on the whole Medieval kick to start with. Take lots of pictures (if you can) this time! ;0)

FlowerLady said...

Oh Susan ~ Thank you so much for sharing all the delights of needleworking that you come across. The history and the beautiful work just makes me want to cry for some reason.

How wonderful that you get to see these awesome works of art.


MosaicMagpie said...

My what a story. It fills my heart with love for this woman. The thought of someone devoting so much time and energy, in the pursuit of their great of needlework. Without such passionate people, the world would have lost a great many treasures. Thank you Susan, for all the links. I will visit each one.

MosaicMagpie said...

in pursuit of their great love of needlework...
The comment should say. I really need to read what I write before pushing the buttons.

Anonymous said...

I do hope you will be writing up your trip to Delaware. I agree - I don't know where we'd be without Tricia!

Sandra Henderson said...

I have something I'd love to show you, if you want to email me, I'll send you a photo. It's an antique Chinese
silk/gold piece, very old. I'd LOVE to know more about it... have no idea.
Love your blog!

Hélène H said...

Oh wow, stunning work. And lucky you !

Claudine brodeuse de perles said...

Que c'est beau ! Bonne journée

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