Extreme Textile Happiness

Somehow I got on Gretchen Rubin‘s mailing list, so every Friday I get an email with “Five Things Making Me Happy” as the subject.

It got me thinking about some great textile finds I have come across lately, so here is a list, ranked from general-interest happiness to specific textile nerdiness:

5. Gilad TV.  Including this one is a “stretch” because the only textiles in view are high-cut Lycra leotards. You might remember Bodies in Motion and Total Body Sculpt, fun fitness shows from the 1990s, filmed in Hawaii with hunky Gilad and his energetic fitness crew.  It is now available on a streaming channel, that costs about $10 a month, and in these quarantine times, it is worth every penny to me.  I used to work out to the show when it first ran, so now, stretching and kicking along makes me forget 30 years’ worth of aging.  🙂 

Every episode has a few minutes of low-impact aerobics and some light weight work, and I still have no trouble keeping up, which I think says more about the level of physical effort required than about my retaining a high level of fitness. I may not lost any weight but it cheers me up immensely, and it is a great antidote to hunching over the sewing machine all day!

4.  A Stitch in Time, a 6-part series from the BBC.  This documentary was available through Prime Video a few months ago; I don’t know if it is streaming anywhere at the moment. Each episode looks at a specific historic garment (sometimes as seen in a painting, other times the actual garment), and then recreates it with historic methods (more or less — starting from commercial fabric.  There is no hand-spinning or -weaving here).  I liked the show’s inclusive nature — along with well-known people like Marie Antoinette, it showcases both a common working man and a black aristocratic woman from the 1700s.

3.  Dressed: The History of Fashion podcast. I love love love this podcast!  It covers so many different aspects of the fashion world, past and present.  When the topic is one I know something about — say, the designer Charles Frederick Worth, or cashmere shawls — I learn so much more than I already knew.  But much of the time, the episodes introduce me to totally new topics — the work of Gordon Parks, or the development of the Fashion Calendar, or “Fashionable Filipinas.”

I especially love the “behind the scenes” aspect to many of the episodes — when famous designers relate the twists of fate that brought them to their careers, or curators describe items in their collections.  One of my favorite episodes was about the engineering and teamwork required to mount an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The episodes are the perfect length for when I have to drive into town — which isn’t often, so I am still working on the 2018 episodes.  There are two more years of episodes available and I like having them in storage, so to speak, for a treat while driving.

2. I picked up The Dictionary of Needlework, (1882 edition, reprinted in 1972) at a used bookstore, for $2!  I have a few other massive needlework books from that era — they go through each craft step-by-step, which makes perfect sense.  But I also like the alphabetic arrangement of this one especially because it is not limited to terms and definitions; it also gives patterns and directions!  I like to dip into it while I eat lunch, and read about Croydons, Crumb Cloths, Cucumber Braid, and Curtain Serge all at one go.  It is online in its totality here at the Internet Archive.

Page from The Dictionary of Needlework, 1972 reprint.

And my Number One Item of Extreme Textile Happiness is —

The Textile Museum Thesaurus!

This is the result of eight years of work by many textile specialists, to come up with a unified terminology for the wide world of textiles.  And then these terms were put into a hierarchy, so that textiles could be catalogued.  Here is more about the hows and whys of putting this thesaurus together.

Their hierarchy is Object/Material/Structure/Technique, and within those large categories everything is broken down into further and further levels of detail.  So if I was cataloging one of my collected coverlets, I could label it “fabric/furnishing/bed cover/organic material/wool” etc., finding all the proper terms in this thesaurus.

These terms are specific to the collection of The Textile Museum in Washington DC, and other institutions would have to adapt it for their own collections.  But it just makes me so happy to know that if I wanted to, I could catalog my small collection in a way that would communicate to other textile people.  And it also offers me a systematic way to study textiles, rather than random dipping into whatever comes my way.

So nerdy but so satisfying!

What finds have given you textile joy lately?