Here is the first stage of the production process for the Cook Waistcoat! It is the pocket flap from the right front, which I have been using as a test piece to confirm the colours, threads and techniques.
I have had a very pleasant colour-fix over the last few days. My absolute favourite threads, by Silk Mill Silks, have been extended to include another 100 COLOURS, making 700 shades in total! I indulged myself in the set of the new ones, to add to my complete collection, and have spent a happy few evenings winding them on to plastic bobbins. They come as skeins - in the first image - but I find they store better on the bobbins. Bliss!
Success! The one concern I had with the embroidery for the Cook Waistcoat was how tambouring would work with two layers of fabric, one linen and one of tapa cloth. I was worried the tapa would tear, or it would be very hard to get the hook through both layers. However, having tried it on the sample pocket flap, it works quite well. The hook is sharp enough to go through the layers, and the tapa copes well. The holes even close up a bit afterwards. I even managed to separate the strands on a skein of silk embroidery thread so I had single strands the length of the whole skein.
After a MOST AMAZING visit to Australia and New Zealand to examine the various Cook Waistcoats, and to have a rather stunning holiday as well, I am now trying to come down to Earth and get back into the swing of work. The house is still a bit chaotic, as the builder, Keith, is still working on the studio conversion for me, but I can get on with the waistcoat, with luck, and a following wind!
What a day! We're in Sydney, which is amazing for a start. It's a vibrant place, with loads to see and do, even just in the area around Darling Harbour. We've been to the Opera House, had dinner overlooking the harbour, explored the Endeavour replica..... It's been fantastic. Then there has been today!
I have finally got hold of full-size prints of the images of the Sydney Waistcoat pieces. My friends at Images Framing have a VERY BIG printer, which can print A0 size. It's a mild shock to see just how big the pieces are. One tends to forget that James Cook was 6 foot 2 inches tall! When you add to that the fact that men's waistcoats of the period came to thigh length, it means the pieces are about 36-38 inches long.
Great day yesterday. I went to Gawthorpe Hall, near Burnley, for a Study Day. If you don't know Gawthorpe, it's well worth a visit, especially if you are into textiles. It's National Trust, late Tudor/Jacobean, and rather like a miniature Hardwick Hall. Very attractive and more 'liveable-in' than Hardwick, because of the smaller scale. But for textilers its main attraction is the Kay-Shuttleworth Collection of embroideries and textiles: over 30,000 items of textiles ranging from 16th - 21st centuries.
I'm working on a sample piece for the Cook Waistcoat project at the moment, using information from the digital images I bought from the State Library in Sydney. It's based on the right pocket flap of the waistcoat, and is stitched on Tongan Tapa Cloth I bought from Hawaii by Mail order. Seems you can't get Tahitian tapa cloth any more! I'm using silk thread from The Silk Mill, split into half and a quarter of a strand, which looks about the same as the threads used by Elizabeth Cook.
The Captain Cook Waistcoat Project is really making progress. I have received the funding from the Society of Antiquaries of London – a cheque from Coutts bank, no less! Chris and I are planning the trip to Australia and New Zealand, and making it a bit of a special retirement holiday as well. Both of us have always wanted to see New Zealand in particular, so we’re going to Carpe the old Diem! Really looking forward to it….
I am seriously shell-shocked. Last Thursday I got an email from the Society of Antiquaries of London, to say they had accepted my application for funding under their Janet Arnold Award for costume research. They have offered me the funding to pay for a trip to Australia to see the original pieces of the waistcoat I am reproducing for the Cook Museum, as well as a visit to Wellington, NZ, to see another waistcoat attributed to Elizabeth Cook, and supposedly worn by James. I can use that to get a feel for the original sizes and construction, I hope.