Saturday, August 25, 2012

A lace day in D.C.

Everybody is familiar with the wonderful Smithsonian Institute and it's marvelous Museums in Washington D.C.  We were interested to know how it came about so if you too want to know ... here is the link!

Once a month, every fourth Thursday, there is a behind-the-scene lace tour at the Smithsonian American History Museum  at 10am. The link will tell you more about it, where to apply etc. because only a limited very small number can do it at a time.

Brace yourself for a long blog. My lacemaking friends might be happy that I could not possibly cut out even more photos then I have already cut. 
This was on the calendar for quite a time. But I could not forget this date. My mother would have turned 90 this day, the 23rd of August.

We had also bought the train tickets a while ago. That way they are more reasonable. James came too. Our train left our station at 6 am. My lacemaking friend Lali was also signed up for this. Since Lali and I sat together and chatted, James took a snooze in the seat behind us.
Here are we. Lucky since it is only me (taking the photo, Lali, Kelli and our Smithsonian volunteer Karen Thompson.

Let me tell you! the first thing she showed us almost took my breath away. Are you familiar with the Bayeux Tapestry?   James and I visited it August 2010 (before blogging). Here are some photos on Facebook (don't know whether this works). Seeing the tapestry (which is really more like a nearly 70 meter long (230 feet) cloth with crewel embroidery made in the 1070s).

What Karen showed us first was a lace cloth re-creating the scenes of the Bayeux Tapestry. My first photo showed the long photo of the whole banquet table cloth. It is 30 feet long and 42 inches wide. It's cotton but otherwise there is not much known about it.

Behind the three ladies in the above photo is this poster of a detail of the cloth.

And here is a video which might give you a little better idea. But all this is no substitute for seeing it in person. I highly recommend it!!!

To get an idea, in the picture is also a book about the tapestry.

And just when we thought there could nothing else so exciting ... the next drawer!

In this blog  I told you about a previous visit to D.C. by Mega bus. The reason had been to see the lace exhibition at the Hillwood Estate. The Hapsburg Veil ... which had also been featured in an IOLI Bulletin. That day was great but everything of course was way behind glass and no photography allowed.

O.k. here it is!!!

We could get as close as we wanted to with our eyes. On the left a photo of the whole thing. Huge. Next to it a photo of the first bride wearing it.

The name Leon Sacre, the person commissioned.
Brussels 1880

It is rare that info is stitched like this into lace.

The eagle, the hands, the castle. You could keep looking and looking ...

But then, there was more. This Honiton lace ... made in Japan! Missionaries taught the art there.
See all those drawers behind Lali? All full of gorgeous lace. Karen explained so well. She had pictures also so that visitors less familiar with lace and lacemaking could understand. Here she showed us the size of the collars in the paintings. You just have to imagine that they would be a few inches thicker.
Some metal lace. These stitches are not so impressive ... except if you ever used metal "thread" before and learned how difficult it can be.

This was interesting too.
The label said: Reticella and Genoese Needle lace and Bobbin lace in similar patterns
17th Century
There were even the handmade needles to make the fine, fine needle lace. You can't imagine how fine the needles were.
See all those many drawers. And these are only a few.

Antic patterns too.

The super-enlarged photo shows the horse hair used to stabilize the picots.

Look at this! Painted with thread! The shadowing.

Ah, yes, Napoleon. In order to help the declining lace industry he ordered a 20 square yard bed-set for his wife Josephine (who he divorced before the lace was finished and delivered).
He choose the bee as a symbol for ethical value.

There were several drawers with "War laces". These were laces made in Belgium as "Thank-yous" in response for the help during WW1. Here is a very interesting article. You have to scroll down a little to the article about the lace industry. I think some of them might also have been commissioned to help out.

Our time in the storage room ended with Karen showing us a replica of a lacemaker lamp (a water globe to magnify the light).
On the wall you could see pictures and paintings of them being used.

After lunch from 1pm until 2 there is always a lace demo next to the statue of George Washington. James had gone on a museum guided tour and told us a funny story about the statue.
Does this look like our George Washington?
Karen demonstrating. Many people stopped and asked questions. There was even a beginner pillow people could try it.
Karen's demo project ... a scarf in silk. And here I learned something new again. It is Tussar Silk which is called a wild silk because the worms eat oak leaves.
The other demonstrator today was Joyce. The visitor moved so fast that she ended up out-of-focus which is quite good.

Kelli also brought a beginner's pillow for hands-on experience. I had brought my shuttle to show tatting.

It was nice to chat with the interested visitors. Some came very far. I talked for quite some time with a couple from Australia.
After the demo time Lali and I wandered around. First we saw the reproduction lace pillow and pattern (original about 1790) made by Karen as well.

After that we looked for the exhibition of the gowns of the First Ladies. It was quite interesting but I am refraining from showing all my pictures.

This is the purple velvet ensemble from Mary Lincoln. It had a day-time top and an evening top. Very frugal.
By now we had "sensory overload". And, we were very cold. Too much air-conditioning! We texted James who felt the same so we met outside ... and headed straight for the ice cream stand. Dove bars! This fellow didn't mind me when I wanted to throw the paper away.
After a rest we headed for the Botanical Garden. We passed the Smithsonian Castle on the way.

The Botanical Garden by itself would be worth a visit to D.C. So much beauty. Here a "Golden Passion" Orchid = Spathoglottis Orchidaceae

James was successful to find the Irish Pub again which is very close to Union Station. We had to while away the time until our train at 7 pm and had dinner. James "whiled" with a Chicken Pot Pie. And we all "whiled" with delicious beers.
We did not talk much on the way back in the train. We were all digesting what we had experienced during the day and arrived home about 9:30 pm.

AWESOME! Just awesome!

Thank you, Karen! Thank you, Mr. Smithson!

1 comment:

  1. You and James are indefatigable! After all that incredible lace, you trek to the gardens. I don’t think I saw more than one museum a day when I was TEN!