Thu, May 20 | Google Meet Webinar

Scandal and Imprisonment - Gold Spinners of 17th Century England; by Dr. Tricia Wilson Nguyen

The often over looked history of 17th century thread makers is one rife with scandal that had men and women gold spinners thrown in jail for refusing to pay bribes, their homes raided by constables, sham courts, and screams of habeas corpus in parliament.
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Scandal and Imprisonment - Gold Spinners of 17th Century England; by Dr. Tricia Wilson Nguyen

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May 20, 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM
Google Meet Webinar

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Lecture - Scandal and Imprisonment - Gold Spinners of 17th Century England; by Dr. Tricia Wilson Nguyen

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About this event

From Dr. Tricia Wilson Nguyen - "As an experimental archeologist, when I look at a 17th century English silk and gold needlelace embroidered jacket or a heavily wrought cabinet with stumpwork, I never think any more of the embroiderer but of the thread makers neglected by history. During this time, their history is one of scandal that had men and women gold spinners thrown in jail for refusing to pay bribes, their homes raided by constables, sham courts, and screams of habeas corpus in parliament. Political cartoonists lampooned the king and his corrupt lackeys over embroidery thread, making political pressure so great that James I made a rare impassioned speech in parliament apologizing for his patents issued on embroidery thread. The making of gold and silver threads incorporated spies, thugs, thieves, henchmen, cheaters, double-crossers and clandestine manufacturing under the table and in the woods.

This drama played out many times in the 1620s, 1640s and 1690s with accusations of thievery and deceit by the thread makers, possibility blown out of proportion for others gain. These claims were used over and over for competing guilds and budding capitalists to wrest control of the extremely valuable and largely home-based industry, turning thousands of small business women and men into low-wage earners in an early example of industrialization. Women, who previously had operated significant businesses handling these precious metals were pushed out of freely practicing their craft.

Examples pulled from the depositions of these wire drawers, silkmen, and women gold spinners will be compared and contrasted with the infrastructure the author has had to build up to allow these embroidery techniques to be practiced again. Important enough to be a frequent subject of the King’s attention, to our modern eyes we are perplexed as no one considers embroidery thread important. But during this period gold threads appeared on garments with regular frequency, including on those used in the new world. A series of specialized and complex gold thread stitches appeared and then disappeared from the embroiderer’s lexicon between 1550-1700. "

The lecturer will present a hypothesis about the economic use of these stitches and some interesting conclusions about gold embroidery of the time will be made based the data learned from the Plimoth Jacket as well as that embedded in the depositions from the period. "

About the Artist/ Teacher

Dr. Tricia Wilson Nguyen is a teacher, historian, entrepreneur, and engineer. Her interests stretch between the embroidery and technology of the past and present. Dr. Nguyen’s primary field is engineering where she has been part of a small group of scientists and artists who have pioneered the new field of electronic textiles. Her product developments in that field have been seen in Land’s End, Brookstone, the fields of World Cup Soccer and have been exhibited at the Smithsonian. But in this venue, Tricia is best known for her knowledge and interpretation of historical needlework through projects such as the Plimoth Jacket. She is owner of Thistle Threads, a company which researches and designs historically inspired needlework. Her unique twist is viewing the objects through the lens of economic history using her engineering background to understand the clues they hold. Her current research project concerns embroidered caskets, applying experimental archeology practices to understand the genre. To do this, she is running a popular course, called Cabinet of Curiosities where over 600 stitchers are producing their own interpretation.

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