Thursday, 12 April 2018

A Stitch in Time - Part One

Did anyone else watch a wonderful series on BBC4 called "A Stitch in Time". I accidentally found this programme, but then got completely hooked. Each episode picked a piece of historical art, and then recreated the clothes using the original materials and techniques. 

It was presented by the rather fascinating Amber Butchart - British fashion historian (well there is a career that passed me by, but I wish I had known about). She usually wears an elegant turban, or velveteen knickerbockers, and after guiding us through the art and the process of recreating the garment, the lucky duck gets to model the clothing at the end. So as well as all the technical sewing bits, she also tell us what it feels like to wear the garments.

So I was very excited when I found out that the six costumes were on view at Ham House, a National Trust property which is just up the road from where I live. I had a lovely morning visiting, and being able to closely look at the garments. I'm going to show my pictures in two posts, as I think there is a lot to take in.

Charles II  was credited with introducing the three-piece suit. The painting show him being presented with a pineapple by his gardener, John Rose. His outfit looks relatively simple but involves an extraordinary amount of fiddly hand-stitching – his jacket has more than 100 buttonholes, complicated pleating and yards of decoratively looped silk ribbons.

In the second episode she looks at Dutch painter Jan van Eyck's Arnolfini Portrait. The bulky, fur-trimmed wool dress is a brilliant green. The programme looks at the interesting process of weaving and dying the fabric. 

The starting point for this garment was a rare portrait of a working man, wearing a jacket probably second or third hand. The programme looks at working with leather. When the jacket is recreated and in pristine condition, it is clear that it started off as an incredibly elegant garment.

The series doesn't seem to be available any more on BBCiplayer though you can still see some interesting clips. I do hope they repeat it, perhaps on a main stream channel. The team who recreate the outfits are led by Ninya Mikhaila, and use only traditional methods. In their workshop is probably where I would like to be. 

There are so many people who love fashion, sewing, art and history. I am sure there would be the scope for another series. 

I will show the other three garments in another post in a few days. 

My daughter has shown me how to use Layout to arrange my photos. Never too old to learn. Expect all sorts of fancy arrangement in the future.

Just a reminder that you can still to join in my Ginx Woolly Linx party for April. Click on the photo above or at the top of the page to find the party. I would love to see what you have been working on this month.


  1. Gorgeous! I do love the idea of the intricate stitching. Thanks for sharing, and here are MY SATURDAY SNAPSHOTS

  2. Beautiful photos of exquisite garments. It's hard to imagine how much work went into creating all those buttonholes, embroidered trims, ruffles, and all the other embellishments. Since I love to sew, I'm extremely interested in these creations. I'd love to see that exhibit and the BBC show, too. I'm pretty sure it hasn't been aired in my area. I'm looking forward to your next post.
    My Saturday Snapshot post features a hike on the Foothills Trail.

  3. Oo this is so cool!! Thanks for sharing - I never heard of this career either, but it sounds interesting. :)

  4. I missed this programme and fingers crossed they do bring it back. They repeat everything else. Fantatic clothes and looks like a fabulous day out.

  5. Oh no, I've not seen this. I'll look for it when I get a moment to myself on catch up - this looks like just my cup of tea!