One of the really special things about our visit to Stenton, was being able to see some of their textile collection which is not normally on display. Who knew historic house museums are just like the rest of us and store their out-of-season things in boxes under the beds?
We were able to take a close look at several of the quilts at the house, which were still just beautiful after more than 200 years. This quilt was a beautiful eau de nil silk with a reverse of gold and a binding of a slightly darker eau de nil fabric, most likely also silk. The stitch work was just extraordinary, especially given the conditions in which it was worked, namely poor light.Think about the work that went into this quilt, including the stitching, and also the laying out and transferring of the pattern. It’s amazing.
Another quilt was a little more simple, with the top of an Indian printed cotton and a bottom of a polished cotton chintz. It is not as elaborately quilted as the eau de nil quilt and the fabrics are more simple and homespun. This quilt was in worse condition than the other two, and it looks like the silk has shattered. Once that has started, it’s impossible to do anything about it. The final textile piece we were able to look at closely (but not handle!) was a small purse made in 1744. Again, the work on this piece is mind-boggling. JCB, who does beautiful needlework, told us that this is a cross stitch piece, with each cross covering an intersection of two fibers of linen. You can only imagine how small that would be. What’s even more incredible, is that the apples on the tree are worked in an even smaller gauge! The final piece is a contemporary working of an older piece. It’s actually the cushion on the potty chair! Its worked in a bargello Florentine stitch, a very old Italian technique, which is also very durable. I have such admiration for women who did this kind of work and it makes me happy to think that this beautiful handwork has survived for almost 300 years. I worry about what of ours will survive for that long.