Really making progress with Captain James

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 have also downloaded the images of the waistcoat I bought from the State Library of New South Wales, so I’ve now got detailed images to work with. I’m starting a trial piece to see how the Tapa cloth works and to try out the embroidery. Then I can take it with me to Australia to check it against the original. I also need to make some shade cards of the silk threads I have on hand, to match with the originals. There’s some evidence of fading, but not much loss of colour, probably because it was never made up and worn. I’ve added an image of the waistcoat below to show you the details: the ‘black’ stitching is, I think, silver thread and various sizes of silver spangles. [Image Courtesy Of the State Library Of New South Wales, Sydney] Another thing to check while I’m down under.

There are some other aspects of the originals which raise some interesting discussion points. I can’t see any evidence that Elizabeth was planning to stitch sprigs of flowers over the body of the waistcoat, which is unusual compared with the other court waistcoats of the period I’ve seen. I can’t see any ink marks on the images. Was she perhaps planning on doing this later, and stopped before she got to that point, or did she plan on leaving the exotic textile to show off? Or was it a class issue, that she didn’t want to be making James seem to be above his station? He was a Post Captain – perhaps upper middle class, but not nobility.

The Waistcoat in the Te Papa Museum in Wellington will give me information about details which are lacking in the original: chest size, construction methods and materials, button ideas and so on. I’m making a list of questions I need to answer while I’m down there, to make sure I don’t forget anything (I hope!)

The costume for myself is coming on as well. The petticoat is progressing, and I’ve started the second cap lappet as well. As soon as I have some dates for the stitching days in the museum and elsewhere, I’ll post them on the website: watch this space! You can also check out and ‘like’ my Facebook page. There’s a link button at the top right of the web page.

I’m busy this weekend at Pride-of-Place Art-space in Princes Quay in Hull: Top deck! I have some pieces in their new exhibition, and I’m demonstrating embroidery during the opening on Friday 4th – tomorrow from 6-8pm. I’ll be stitching on the trial piece, if you want a look! I’m also doing a lecture on the Biology of Needlework at 1.30 on Sunday 6th April in POP. Come and listen in: it’s free and open to everyone.



I have also been successful with a funding application to the Normanby Charitable Trust, who have paid me the rest of the funding required for the project. Thank you very much to them as well as the Society Of Antiquaries!