Cook Waistcoat: Boring job of the year!

I have a serious contender for boring job of the year! I have been setting up to embroider the first main piece of the Cook Waistcoat: the right front. For those who are not aficionados of embroidery (aka anoraks!) this involves tracing the pattern, pricking it, pouncing through the pricked pattern, and drawing out the pattern from the pounced design. Then you need to frame up the backing fabric, attach the main Tapa fabric and you're off!

One of the problems with this process is that the largest flat surface in my house at the moment is a TV table. The studio is still in production, so the dining table is buried under a heap of boxes, books, crates and God only knows what else. Fortunately I was offered a lifeline by our friends Yvette and Dave, in the shape of the loan of their dining table: many thanks, guys! So I have been invading their place while they were away for the weekend, and taking over their dining room. First job: trace the pattern from the full-size photo I bought from the State Library in Sydney. It's A0 size, about 4ft long. That took an hour and a half! Picture from SLNSW below.

Then the REALLY BORING bit. Pricking the pattern. This involves using a pin vice to prick holes along the main lines of the pattern, through the tracing paper. High-end industrial draftsman's tracing paper. Not the flimsy stuff you used in school. Holes every 1/8 inch or so. On all the lines. It's a complex mixture of tedium and concentration, with built-in arm ache! Don't worry, Yvette, I had a thick pad of fabric between the pin vice and your dining table, honest! That job also took an hour and a half.

Then pouncing the pattern: I had to pin the tracing to the Tapa cloth, and rub very fine grey powder through the holes and onto the fabric. You then use the lines of dots of powder to trace the pattern more permanently: in this case in hard pencil. You can use ink, but I'm wary of how the Tapa would respond to ink, so I've settled for pencil. I did a bit of the pattern at a time, and it seems to have worked. Another hour - not as long as I thought. There ends the loan of the dining table. I owe you one, Yvette.

THEN: I had to attach the backing linen to the slate frame. It's the first time I have worked with a frame this big: mostly I've used a hand hoop or a roller frame. However, I'm not sure how the tapa cloth would stand up to being rolled tightly, and in any case, a slate frame is historically correct for the period. The framing-up process involved squaring up the linen, then hemming the edges. Then you stitch strong thread loops to the edges which will be laced. The other edges are then stitched to the tapes on the main bars with strong linen thread, starting in the centre of the bars. The stretcher bars are inserted into the slots, and soft cotton thread used to lace over the stretcher bars to tighten the fabric that way. Finally the main bars are pushed apart to tighten the linen in that direction, and the pins/dowels put into the holes in the bars to hold them taut. That took about three hours altogether!

Finally I've pinned the tapa cloth onto the linen. I need to tack it around the edges of the tapa, and around the pattern shape, to hold the tapa firmly. The pic below shows the frame ready for tacking the tapa - and, yes, that is an armchair it is leaning against. A big armchair!

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