If there were ever a place that knows how to entice and enchant needlework addicts and history nerds, it is Winterthur.
There were around 250 of us, and it was delightful to see so many people familiar from other times and places. The staff were always pleasant and very accommodating, welcoming us to "their" home.
And then there were the morning lectures. What an impressive line-up of speakers!
Tricia Nguyen led off, guiding us through the making of the Plimoth jacket. I stitched on it and have been addictively following the blog posts, so it isn't like I didn't know what was going on--but it was wonderful to relive the experience. And even better, the things we've learned from the making of the jacket, and the materials that are now available to us as a result of the needs of the project, will enrich us as needleworkers for years.
Tricia was followed by Jill Hall, who first conceived of the project. She talked about how clothing reflected the status and lifestyle of the person who wore it during the 17th century. One of the things I learned from her talk was the fear people of that time had of cold, which explains one reason that they were constantly and almost completely covered by clothing. And. . .hmmmm . . .cleanliness was determined by wearing clean linens (shifts and so forth) between one's body and one's outer clothing--so if you were out and physically active, you didn't come in and bathe--you changed your linen. I am glad The Big Kid was not aware of this during his early teens.
After a morning break (scones and muffins and mini-strudels, oh my!--yes, they spoiled us with wonderful food) we had a fascinating lecture by Susan Schoelwer, who wrote the book on the Connecticut needlework exhibit last year and is now the curator at Mount Vernon. She traced some of the patterns that appeared in English needlework of the 17th century into the 18th century in Connecticut. The same swirling pattern that appeared on the embroidered jackets in 17th century England appeared in bed rugs in Connecticut, for example.
And then, the morning ended with a lecture by Pam Parmal, one of the curators at the MFA in Boston. She talked about the embroidered accessories stitched and worn by Boston schoolgirls in 18th century Boston. We saw beautiful examples of embroidered aprons and stomachers.
After lunch, we broke into smaller interest groups. I found at the last Winterthur symposium that I need some activity in the afternoon, so I took a class each afternoon this year. The first day was Margriet Hogue's reproduction of Hephzabah Baker. Now, if you saw a picture on Winterthur's site, you would think it was very dark and kind of dull-colored. The colors on the reproduction were based on the back of the sampler. Oh, MY!!! Suddenly we had a quite vivid sampler rather than a dull and drab one.
And we got lucky. It so happens that Linda Eaton was teaching a class on her favorite pieces from the Winterthur textile collection right next door. And during our break, she pulled the original sampler so we could see it and compare. And while we were closely examining the original, she also gave us the condensed version of her class--so we got to see some lovely pieces that are not ordinarily on display.
The day was capped off by a reception (spoiled again) and then we left for the day, tired but thrilled with all we had learned. And there was more to come . . .