What happens when you combine an afternoon of cleaning and organizing your workspace with a desire to play with silk?
You end up playing with silk, of course!
Yesterday, I set about cleaning and organizing my workroom, with the aid of my Minion. My workroom is a garage-gone-studio + general-household-storage space. If you’re curious to see it, you can find pictures of moving in and organizing here, pictures at the end of a typical day in the workroom here, and pictures of my workroom when set up for a class here.
So, yep. That was the plan. Clean up. Straighten up. Organize. The Mid-Week Re-Group & Re-Charge. The Wednesday Afternoon Ritual.
Only I had this box of vintage silks that needed my attention. Or… er…. that caught my attention.
And my attention was happy to oblige!
You are my justification for the distraction. After all, it’s vintage silk. It’s fun to look at. The tags make great reading. And we can even glean some good tips from them!
Belding Brothers silk company began in 1860, and eventually operated silk mills in five locations – four in the US and one in Canada. In 1925, Belding merged with Heminway Silk company, which operated for a time as Belding-Heminway, which was eventually bought by Corticelli Silk, which then did business as Belding-Heminway-Corticelli. The last Belding mill closed in 1932.
The silk produced by these companies was popular especially due to the “Society Silk” (or Silk Art Embroidery) that was in vogue from around 1875 – 1915. The style featured typical Victorian floral designs, stitched in silk, usually on linen, using long and short stitch. Taught to women in America in order to give them a source of income, this style of embroidery had a relatively short – though vibrant – period of popularity.
Above, a Heminway & Sons tag.
There’s a nice history of silk production in the US, specifically in Northampton, Massachusetts, on the Northampton Silk Project website. The Northampton Silk Route brochure (PDF) is especially worth reading, if you’re interested in the subject.
And here’s a Brainerd & Armstrong Company tag. Brainerd & Armstrong was based in New London, Connecticut, and operated from the late 1800’s through 1922.
If you’re interested, you might like the book Brainerd & Armstrong put out in 1909 called Silk: The Real Versus the Imitation, which you can find available on Google Books. It is a brief history of silk production, and includes discussion of different substitutes for silk. Interestingly, they discuss the use of spider silk produced by spiders in Madagascar, and of the cloth that can be made from this spider’s silk. In 2011, a gorgeous golden cape was woven from Madagascar’s Golden Orb spider’s silk and can be seen on the Victoria & Albert Museum’s website.
Here’s another Belding tag for Rope Silk, which is considerably thicker than the regular floss used for more delicate long and short stitch shading on Society silk pieces.
At one point in Belding, Heminway, and Brainerd & Armstrong’s production, these sleeves were a popular way to sell skeins of silk.
They could fit a lot more “promotion” on the sleeves than on the tags.
Brainerd & Armstrong sleeves also included a bit of promotion:
We were the first to produce Wash Embroidery Silks in this country, and are the sole makers of the justly celebrated “Asiatic Dye” Silks. Our Wash Silks are used and recommended by all the leading Art Societies of the United States and by the large majority of teachers of Art Needlework and dealers in Art Embroidery materials.
So there you have it!
Probably not worth mentioning to them at this point that their silk company was not as long-lived as their competitors’ companies!
On all the tags and on the sleeves, there are variations of the same tune when it comes to cleaning articles embroidered with these silks.
Wash in warm water with Ivory soapsuds. Rinse in clean warm water; absorb moisture quickly between cotton cloths. When the silk is dry, press under damp cloth. Do not rub soap on the silk or linen and DO NOT PRESS WHEN WET. Avoid boiling water and severe wringing.
AVOID Scalding water, Cheap Washing Powders and Hard Wringing. Do not fold or roll up the Article while wet. THE RIGHT WAY – Use Warm Suds with IVORY SOAP (or any other Pure Soap.) Rub Lightly, Rinse Thoroughly, Dry Quickly.
Use warm water, make a light lather with “WHITE CLOUD” or a pure, neutral soap, rub lightly and rinse well with warm water. Avoid boiling, squeeze the water out, lay article face down on flannel, cover with a dry cloth and press until dry.
USe warm soft water with “IVORY SOAP” or any other pure neutral soap. Cleanse thoroughly – rinse well in warm water, squeeze out water and dry quickly – sprinkle and press face down on flannel. Do not fold or roll up the fabric while wet.
Use warm Suds made from a good neutral soap. Rub lightly. Rinse thoroughly. Dry quickly. Never allow wet embroidery to lie in a pile. Do not use an iron too hot.
We aren’t supposed to leave our wet embroidery lying in a pile? A pile of what?!
Well, now you know! Don’t leave your wet embroidery lying in a pile, ok?
Well, it’s beautiful stuff. It’s wonderful to look at, wonderful to touch!
It’s even wonderful to stitch with – but I’m hesitant to use much of it, because I don’t have much of it, and there’s no replacing it once it’s gone.
The colors! Oh, the colors!
It was a fun bout of playing with silk, even if it did distract me for a bit from the Wednesday Afternoon Clean-Up. But it only distracted for a while – all is back in order and ready for a fresh start today! And perfect timing, with a hefty (for Kansas) snow storm on top of us, it’s a good day for stitching!
Hope you have a chance to spend some time with your needle and thread today, too!