At Sheep-to-Shawl: The fine art of reproducing period textiles


Thursday, 3/26/2015 2:33pm

Not all of the items in a living history museum are ­priceless, irreplaceable parts of material culture that cannot be touched. Some things need to be felt, worn, or used to be understood. That’s why reproductions serve an important role in any living history museum.

The Art of the Reproduction – Recreating Period Textiles, a special exhibit in the Philipsburg Manor Visitor Center auditorium during Sheep-to-Shawl, uses textile pieces from the Historic Hudson Valley collection along with a variety of samples from other modern venues to shine a spotlight on this often overlooked area of historic study.

This exhibit highlights the skills, talents, techniques, and materials needed to reproduce period textiles. It also examines these techniques as modern hobbies, and takes a look at their historical value as vital commercial skills, and how they played an important part in the educational training of women in the 18th century.

Among the reproduction textiles on display are a quilted coverlet from Washington Irving’s Sunnyside, quilted petticoats from the Philipsburg Manor collection, and a hand-sewn shirt from a private collection. Also on view are tools relating to reproducing textiles, samples of patterns, and the American Girl Felicity doll and clothing.

Period fabrics also play a role in many modern television shows, movies, and theater productions. If you’ve seen the popular dramas Downton Abbey on PBS or Game of Thrones on HBO, then you’ve seen reproduction textiles. To help exhibit visitors make the connection, a slide show and display board highlight images of historical reproductions at play in popular culture.

Workshops and talks

In conjunction with the exhibit, a series of talks and hands-on workshops will be available for those interested in learning more about re-creating period textiles. Historic Hudson Valley experts will share information on period quilting, knitting, hand sewing, and how to care for a family’s textile heirlooms.

The talks and workshops will be held in the Greenhouse in the Visitor Center both Saturday and Sunday during Sheep-to-Shawl. Seating is first-come, first-served. Here is the schedule:

11:30am: How to Read/Use Historic Knitting Patterns and Understanding Knitting Abbreviations, a workshop presented by Cat Hannan, Librarian at Historic Hudson Valley and an expert knitter and quilter with decades of experience. Cat recreates exacting reproductions of clothing and items from the past based on original pieces and period patterns. This workshop is ideal for those with some knowledge of knitting.

12:30pm: Caring for and Storing Family Textile Heirlooms, a talk presented by Jessa Krick, Collections Manager at Historic Hudson Valley. Have questions about how to preserve your heirlooms such as quilts and christening gowns for the next generation? Ms. Krick’s talk and demonstration will answer them.

1:30pm: Hand Sewing – Three Workhorse Stitches, a workshop presented by Jana Violante, Program Associate at Historic Hudson Valley and an accomplished costumer and weaver. This workshop is suitable for beginners.

2:30pm: How to Make a Reproduction Quilt, a talk presented by Cat Hannan, will feature reproduction quilts made from reproduction fabrics (late 18th century to early-mid 19th century) and period quilting techniques.

3:30pm: Tips for Reproducing Period Clothing, a talk presented by Jana Violante based on her experience creating historically-appropriate garments for fellow reenactors.

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