Period perfect?

Last night I had some great discussions with a few friends about what seemed like a zillion topics. One that stood out was the discussion on perfection, or more aptly: period perfect.

It started with a discussion about extant embroidered shock, the were not perfect. A hanging meant to be viewed 30 feet away did not have neat tiny stitches. The people making it were probably more concerned with getting it done.

We also talked about inventorying stitches: a modern concept. They wouldn’t have commissioned a piece and said “I want you to do it in this stitch”. They would have said ” I want an embroidered hood with gold, pearls ad my heraldry.” The crafts person would then make it in the technique they were trained to do, or what the design called for.

Okay I know, you are going to point out that there are certain techniques that are mentioned in period, but most of the time they refer to a style not a pacific stitch. Archeologists, Victorians, historians put most of the labels on things. If they did embroidery in both cross stitch and long arm cross stitch, does it matter which you use on your project if they may have been used interchangeably?

It’s like cooking with rabbit vs another protein. What did thy have? They I’d not say.. You can only make this if you have venison.

So how does this impact us? I think we are too focused on perfection or “period perfection” and not focused enough on the interpretation, exploration and understanding of period practices.

I read on a list recently that pearl purl ( a type of metal used in goldwork ) was not period, a form called lizardine was more correct. How do we know? One is flat metal wound up the other is round wire wound up. Why would both not have been used? Just because we don’t have extant examples, we don’t have extant examples of many things before the 17th century. It doesn’t meant thy dint exist, they may have just not survived.

We know from primary accounts that precious materials or items were picked off , cut apart, repurposed and were usually part of a household’s inventory. Also most of the items that survived from before the 1600’s were com churches, very wealthy / princely families. And those would have been the best of the best.

Now I am not saying its okay to run amok and start mixing forms, materials and designs and claiming its period. But I am suggesting that we step back a bit and not expect re-created items to be exact.

If they used silk, linen, or wool for an appliqué interchangeably does it matter which you use as long as it makes sense for the item? I am not saying go use silk appliqué on your 10th century Norse wool garment, because that may not make sense for a number of reasons. But for that appliquéd banner, look at what was used regionally and available and have fun.

As far as those perfect stitches. I am all for being judged on my work being museum perfect because let me tell you, they are usually own right sloppy.

Thanks Denise, Joe, Rick and Kandi


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