During my reading of the text books on my shelves, the words “vulnerable to alteration” stuck in my mind, it related to C18th dresses.
In the past I have focussed on the reusing of textiles, often until they had become rags, but these words seemed to present a slightly different meaning and I had a starting point for a body of work.
I knew that there were very few unaltered C18th dresses in museums around the world, fabrics could often be dated to up to 20 years before the style in which they currently presented and with signs of old seams, pleats etc.
I decided to focus on this piece of 1780’s woven silk, it’s heavy with metal threads woven through it, but what really appealed was that the side selvedges were still there, with a distance of 21” between them. Standards of the day prescribed that the width of woven silk should be half an ell, i.e. 22.5”. So even when it was new it had already altered from the norm, being narrower made it cheaper and quicker for the weaver.
At the sides there is evidence of two different seams, one with fawn thread and one with red and the top edge has holes, probably where it had been tacked to a board and then ripped off. There are also some stitches in the fawn thread that might have been darts or pleats. All the threads are old, probably pre 1850.
I used the width of the silk as the length of my printing plate, 53.3cm, as my starting point, and then, full of enthusiasm I began designing. However my first two designs fell short of what I had in my minds eye, never seeming to capture the spirit of the silk.
So I started again, from a different angle and this is where I am now.
And the books that I looked at are…..