More old silk

I spent most of yesterday studying these fabrics in some detail.  One of the things I find most interesting is the width of the cloth. 

This one measures 19″ from selvedge to selvedge.  I understand that this was the standard loom width in the 18th century.  This one is a damask weave, quite light weight, and looks as if it might have been part of a garment.  There is evidence of a hand-stitched dart or pin-tuck, and there is a decorative striped edge woven across the width which has been turned down and hemmed by hand:

Many of the heavier weight silks have metal threads woven into them, and I really hope I haven’t permanently damaged these by washing.  It was quite common for fabrics to include metal threads (which were usually a very thin strip of metal wrapped round a silk core).  Often, gold and silver threads were unpicked and sold to smelters and goldsmiths by wealthy ladies looking to earn some ‘pin money’ – pins were in constant demand and very expensive.  I think the metals in these fabrics are more likely to be something like copper.

This piece (above) not only has metal thread woven into the fabric, it also had metal fringes at either end.  I unpicked the fringes before washing the fabric, and brushed the fringe with dry bicarbonate of soda to clean the threads.  The panel is very worn, having many tears and splits, and measures about 17.5″ x 8″.  The cream silk backing has been attached by machine around three sides, with one of the short ends slip-stitched by hand.  Possibly a Victorian remake, perhaps as an anti-macassar. 

This piece of silk brocade has been repaired:

Many gold threads are evident in the weft of this fabric.  It has been patched with very fine yellow silk on the back and roughly darned:

And through the magnifying lens on the right side:

And, finally, a curiosity:

I’m not sure what this was.  It measures about 9″ at its widest part, 3.5″ across the narrower opening, and 5.5″ deep.  The silk top is very worn, and has been attached by hand to buckram with a finer silk backing.  The brown cotton tape binding has copper threads woven into it.

It seems vaguely reticule-sized, but I’m not sure whether a reticule would have been stiffened with buckram.  Perhaps it forms part of a crenellated pelmet, where the open part of a row of these pieces would have been stitched to a longer piece of fabric.  How I wish these old textiles could talk to me; what stories they could tell of their lives.  I wonder what they might have seen and heard on their travels through time, what hands they have passed through, what homes they have lived in. 
And as if this is not enough, there are more treasures to show.  Some fascinating old lace coming soon…

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7 Responses to More old silk

  1. arlee says:

    GAWDS what a a score–WHERE and HOW did you luck into these?

  2. Deborah says:

    So luscious and lovely. It's fun to wonder about their past.

  3. ger says:

    They can´t talk – but they have their saying concerning what hands they pass through + what new home they wanted to live in I´m sure…

  4. Kaite says:

    that copper thread may well be gold, i can't imagine copper being used as it would have tarnished the fabric eventually. you've really got some treasures there…k.

  5. i read these words:"it forms part of a crenellated pelmetit seems vaguely reticule sized"and i feel like i have enteredsome kind of sacred space, likemaybe an ancient convent wherethese things arestudieddocumentedin caligraphic script of some sortthat has yet to be seen in daylightbeautiful post. thank you

  6. Karen Turner says:

    Kaite, I think you might be right… maybe the duller threads are tarnished silver. Surely copper would have turned the fabric green…Grace – sacred space, yes! I think of these as almost holy things, certainly inspiring awe. They are so old, so fragile and frail, you can only respect their resilience. I wish you could touch them.

  7. maggi says:

    It is so good to speculate on the past of these pieces, weaving a history into them. The fact that you are now sharing them simply adds to their story.

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