Reflections on first archive trip: Part 2 – Initial Approaches

Having selected the objects, I then had to consider how I would begin to document and study them.
I started by photographing the pieces, front and back overall and the focusing in on each individual pattern – my aim was to get as much detail as possible so that I could carry on back in the studio. Photography allowed me to gather a lots of information quickly and catalogue the patterns systematically. However, I did encounter two problems. Firstly, the quality of the close up photos isn’t particularly good – I didn’t have a macro lens and I was attempting to photograph with the camera in my hand, leading to a lot of fuzzy and blurry photos. This is a problem that should be simple enough to fix, I have been offered the use of a DinoLite digital microscope on my next visit and I can request photos be taken by the V&A (though this will take time). Having said that, the photos I have managed to take should give me enough detail to work with for now.
The second problem is a little more personal – I don’t feel photography engenders ‘close’ looking – perhaps this is something that will fade once I look back on the photos and start studying from them but I felt a certain ‘distance’ from the objects when looking at them through a lens.

T.230-1929: Pattern 1
T.230-1929: Pattern 1 (Reverse)

My next approach was to try and draw the objects – or more specifically particular patterns. I decided to document the pattern as I would if I were working it out for my own embroidery, using grid/dot paper.
I began by drawing the pattern ‘thread count’ scale – each dot representing a gap in the weave – this is a useful way to get the scale of the pattern (in the case of the first pattern on the sampler the pattern is worked in threes).

The second drawing was scaled down to one to get a sense of the pattern repeat.

I noticed during the making of the first two drawings (are these drawings or diagrams?) that the sampler pattern had a mistake – so I decided to draw the full pattern out as it had been stitched.
In the process of making this drawing I realised I could also include information about how the stitches are layered – and so begin to track the stitch path.

I also realised I could apply the same method to the reverse of the pattern and in doing so create a double-layered ‘map’ of the stitch path. (Now I am back in the studio I want to copy these onto tracing paper so it’s easier to see both ‘maps’ at the same time.)

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