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from the archives

November 17, 2017

last night was guild night

Victoria Handweavers and Spinners Guild

the guest speaker was

Carey Pallister, archivist, Sisters of St. Ann Archives

she brought examples of the needlework done by the sisters

and very thoughtfully, copies of a hand drawn weaving pattern (anyone remember those days?)

you can read more about the sisters and their needlework teaching

at the Royal B.C. Museum Archives

needlepoint –  wool on canvas

the dog was raised, tufted work, very fine and clipped to contour the body

the bird’s tail and the bull rushes were beaded

the lace and netting work is almost a lost art

sorry, there are several layers

wish I’d had a measure to show how incredibly fine the work is

have to wonder what their eyesight was like after years of doing such fine work

this was a small border – approx. 6″ X 12″ on an altar cloth

the bottom green border was appliqued and the tiny stitches almost unbelievable

sister Mary Lucy’s sewing basket

these don’t look like they were ever worn

can’t you picture them on little feet

and finally, the Victorian obsession with “hair work”

it gives me the creeps

in the studio – the weaving is black and white

woven with black and white weft stripes

and then with white weft


8 Comments leave one →
  1. November 19, 2017 9:12 am

    the lace is exquisite!


  2. Louisa permalink
    November 18, 2017 9:28 am

    My Catholic school teachers were Sisters of St. Ann. Don’t think any of them were needleworkers though or I would have loved to have learned some of the techniques. Yes, I was into textile crafts even in grade school! Better than math anyhow! LOL!!

    I’m with you on the creepiness of hair work. But really how is it different than other natural fibres like wool or mohair? And the silkworm was already dead when it’s wee shroud was unwound. Maybe the hair was simply clipped and donated? (My daughter does this periodically for charity – she has amazingly long thick hair.) Note that I’m trying to talk myself out of the squeamishness!


    • November 18, 2017 11:27 am

      Louisa – the Sisters in Victoria taught serious needlework classes, we also saw great old photos of classes. I’ve been stitching and knitting since I was old enough to hold a needle. Cutting your hair for cancer wigs is one thing, making art work with your dead relatives hair is totally different. Yikes!!


  3. November 18, 2017 7:02 am

    amazing! and i complain about the little bits of work that i feel are taxing my eyes…wow. love being able to look to the past and be astounded by what humans used to do. wish we all spent more time on these constructive pursuits and less on the destructive ones.


    • November 18, 2017 8:28 am

      Aimee – it is difficult to imagine doing this work now – who would have the time, or even the time to learn? Have to remember it was the nuns that did it and they did it all day every day!


  4. November 18, 2017 3:59 am

    Oh, those old pieces from the archives are spectacular! I love seeing it all–making lace is beyond my imagination. I like the black and white weaving, especially with the white weft. Are they towels?


    • November 18, 2017 8:25 am

      Kerry – it was the netting pieces that I found stunning, can’t even imagine how they did it. The weaving is a 2 yard sample piece, still playing with the weave structure.


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