Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Age Of Discovery

Last week I made an MP3 player cozy using a technique called cross-knit looping. While I was stitching, I had some time to think about how much my world has changed recently.

In rural areas like ours, internet options are very limited. Until two months ago, we were still on dial-up. Now, with a faster connection, pages load before I’ve lost interest and I’m learning a lot. In the last few weeks, I feel like I’ve traveled around the world and through time.

That reminded me of an article I read some time back by Jennie Durkin. Published in 1989 in the Bulletin of the Needle and Bobbin Club, it’s called Loop-Stitch Embroidery: Peruvian and Elizabethan. Thanks to the University of Arizona, here’s a link to the PDF.

Durkin’s study of Peruvian textiles led to her recognition of an apparent connection between the embroidery version of cross-knit looping (from Peru’s Nazca region) and Ceylon stitch (which apparently was not used in England before the reign of Elizabeth I).

A skilled embroiderer in the Elizabethan age would have been able to look at a sample of a foreign technique and figure out how to reproduce it. There may be no direct connection between the Spanish conquest of Peru and the English court, but there were plenty of indirect routes by which the connection could have been made. As she says,
“The absence of direct contact did not prevent the spread of potatoes and tobacco by the later 16th century. The nature of the interest in embroidery at that time required only one example to reach a competent embroiderer.”

As my voyages continue in my own Age of Discovery, I can’t help but wonder what the Virgin Queen would have worn if her ladies had been reading the blogs.

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