Friday, November 19, 2010

Mystery Solved!

Finally I've learned about the piece of needlework I found in a Vermont antique shop that had me stumped! After looking on-line quite a bit, I became convinced that I was looking at chain stitch made with a tambour hook.

As I researched further, I found a tambour expert -- Robert W. Haven -- and sent him pictures of the piece. Wow! Did I ever get some answers!

First of all, Bob Haven is an Associate Professor of Costume Technology and Costume Director at the University of Kentucky. His background is amazing!

Bob says it was definitely worked with a tambour hook and explained how he could tell. He thought that the darker threads were far less puffy, indicating that the core is wrapped in something, probably a gilt or foil covered paper as was common. He said it was difficult to know its age and that the tambour hook was not a common embroidery tool even in the "old days." The art was not widely known in the US so it could have been made by someone who came from Europe in the 19th century.

Then he said that the actual design has overtones of traditional English crewel work, but that I could also check out country French designs from both Canada and western Coastal France -- particularly areas around major ports / departure points to the Americas.

He further suggests that since it was never made up into anything, it might have been someone's "learning piece." It only contains the one chain stitch but executed very skillfully. "It's rather fun to imagine the hands that worked the piece, perhaps by gas light or even candlelight in a remote cottage in VT, or Canada. What other work did these same hands produce? In the hands of a good creative write this piece of hand work could be the basis of a potentially thrilling story!"

Spoken like a true needlework addict!! I have at least some of the mystery solved -- and that opened up a great opportunity! I invited him to give a lecture at the Sturbridge 2011 Stitcher's Hideaway Retreat! He's got a great sense of humor and has come up with a lecture topic: "From Curiosity to Addiction, a Journey through Needlework with no Road Map." I am so excited about this!! My husband and I are both looking forward to meeting him in person!

Here's a picture of Bob doing tambour beading.

And here's a link about Bob's very interesting background and the lecture he'll be giving at Sturbridge on July 8th.

There are some great links on the bottom of that page about him. In addition to tambour beading and costume design, he enjoys miniature doll houses! He's made the most fascinating miniatures -- including itsy bitsy oil paintings. SO cool.

So...if things can ever calm down for me, I'd like to do some research to see if I can recognize the design in my little antique! But right now...I've just opened registration for the Sturbridge retreat and things will be hopping for awhile! LOL!


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