Monday, November 21, 2005

On laundry- the start of looking

Inspired by this line in Sir John Harrington, "being too lazy to wipe should not be condemned, as surely any competent laundress can remove the stains from one's linen," I have sought the advise of one Mistress Rhiannon y Bwa, and she sent me the following to get me started on looking for things from there:

I am assuming that the speaker below is referring to the washing of linen, which is a subset of cleaning textiles. Wool and silk would be quite differently handled.

I would look into stain removal (I know Drea is working on this as a topic and might be at FF&F). However, I suspect that the main chemical cleaning used was 1. lye or 2. urine fermented until is smells of ammonia.

The main washing action was done by soaking in one of the above (diluted) solutions and then pounding on rocks and/or rubbing on flat boards. The washboard is pretty late, if I remember correctly, past our period. The pounding might accomplished with a bat. The procedure was dip, flop down, pound, rotate, pound, rotate, pound, redip, etc. Then wringing out. I think the multiple pounding and dipping is what removed the dirt. After that, it was bleaching. Accomplished by grass bleaching: lay items flat, keep them damp by sprinkling with plain water, repeat as necessary in sunny weather. This could take quite a while. I am old enough to remember laundering baby diapers of cotton. Even when washed with soap, the no. 2 deposits left a yellowish stain. This could be removed by hanging out in the sun for a while. We tried not to bleach them with clorox to save the baby's sensitive skin. In period, they didn't have the bleach we know today.

The lye was obtained from wood ashes, with water dribbled down thru it and collected. Hard on the hands.

Sometimes, I would not be surprised if nothing was used, just washed and pounded in a stream, etc. There are pixs of this activity. And some surviving grotto like rooms with stone ledges around a pool of water that have been used for centuries.

The clothes pin is another fascinating story. Most clothes were just hung on available objects or clothes bars. As for flattening and ironing, that was what my class was mostly about. Research the mangle (round wooden roller wrapped neatly with wet cloth, rolled back and forth by a flat paddle to squeeze out water and flatten the cloth.

I have to dig out the Markham again and look for things other than booze. :) And see what else I already have in household books, because now I am curious.

The Italian Guicciardini Quilt

There has been an update on the Italian Guicciardini quilt. It is going in for restoration - to France. Meanwhile, the local Italian needlework group is sponsoring a show of works inspired by the Guicciardini quilt (as they call it). Encouraged by an Italian contact, I sent them the information that I had gathered on the quilts and pictures of my replica. I asked for close up pictures so that I could count threads and stitches per inch and density of quilting, and how the original was bound. I am waiting for answers, and hoping I get some.

Meanwhile, here is the information that the Italian club has gathered on the quilt, kindly translated by them into English:

The Guicciardini bed cover is a quilt made of three layers of ecru material sewn together with figures, plants and writing. The top layer is lightweight linen; the bottom layer is an unevenly woven material and the batting is crude cotton.

The figures, plants and the script of the old Sicilian dialect which decorate the quilt are outlined by a beige thread. Where there are no figures, the quilting has been executed in a cream colored thread with tiny stitches.

The top layer of the bedcover was made by sewing together, in a vertical direction, three long strips of linen measuring a total of cm. 247 x 207. The different qualities of the stitching suggest that the work was executed by more than one person.

It seems that the narration is the story of Tristan, grandson or nephew of King Mark of England who was battling with the Irish, but the coat of arms on the shield of the horseman in the center of the quilt is that of Count Guicciardini. Often noble families adopted heroic or legendary figures to impersonate their own house and probably for this reason the story of Tristan was used to incarnate a noble Guicciardini.

The quilt was found in the Guicciardini villa of Usella (near Prato) at the end of the 19th century by the Countess Maddalena and was then sold in 1927 to the Museo Nazionale del Bargello of Florence, probably with the hope of insuring the conservation of the quilt and the promotion of research by scholars.

If the coat of arms on the shield of the central horseman is of the Guicciardini family, then it has been suggested that the shield of the horseman facing him depicts the Acciaiuoli family. In the past it was believed that the bed cover (together with a similar one in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London) was commissioned to celebrate the union of the two noble families at the time of the wedding of Pier di Luigi Guicciardini with Lauamia Acciaiuoli in 1395. Laudamia died giving birth to their son Jacopo on 1397 and for this reason it is possible that the bed covers remained in the house of the Guicciardini family, even thought they were part of the personal corredo of Laudamia and after her death were never used again. It would be interesting to know what else was in the trunk in which these two quilts were found.

It was the custom of the times, in the event of the union of two families, to commission objects that carried the coat of arms of both families. However at this time studies are underway to establish the certainty of the second coat of arms, as it is not sure that it belongs to the Acciaiuoli. It is hoped that these studies bring to light this and other secrets that are possibly hidden in the quilt.

We have spoken of a second quilt in the Victoria and Albert Museum that is similar to the one in the Bargello if Florence only it is larger. This second quilt was also sold by the Guicciardini family probably with the same scope of conservation and study.

The two quilts describe the same story and they both carry the same coats of arms. They were both executed, probably in Sicily, in the same workshop using the same techniques and work methods.

The episodes depicted describe the tragic story of Tristano and Isotta, who after loving each other unfortunately drank the same poisoned love portion.

It should not surprise us that the Sicilian craftsmen of the 14th century could be inspired by a legend from such a distant land because the story of this famous love tragedy was known all over the known world and in Sicily it was sung by the minstrels, told by the story tellers and acted out by the puppeteers even in the 19th century. The scenes that appear on the Florentine quilt show episodes of battles of Tristan.

According to the legend it seems that on the tomb of Tristan and Isotta there were planted ivy and grapevines and on the quilt we find these same vines as decorative elements quilted in among the other decorative plants and flowers.

Until now there has not been much written about this quilt and also these notes are only an anticipation of what we hope the studies will reveal. It is hoped that together with the Lostra di Arte Tessile, to which this quilt is dedicated, that the scholarly studies will reveal many of the secrets of the planning and execution of the quilt. Keeping in mind that this quilt is one of the oldest known and certainly on of the best preserved in the western world.

It is hoped also that the secrets revealed by this study will permit the club Punto in Croce to made a copy of the Guicciardini quilt and the donate it to the Museum Nazionale del Bargello and that by making this copy the methods of planning and sewing in the 14th century will be better understood and will serve to encourage further studies.

Club del Punto in Croce - c.p. 1542 - Firenze tel 055 2345257 -

So I am excited to learn more about the show and the quilt. They did invite me to send on Rurik's quilt, but as it is Rurik's now, and not mine, I cannot comment on if I will do so or not. I have asked how to get a copy of the thesis on the quilt, as there is a doctoral candidate researching the piece right now, and hopefully we will have answers from her, if I can get my hands on a copy.

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