A highlight of the Ladies & Gentlemen of the 1860's conference is the needlework competition.
This year's competition was for the best reproduction of an article of clothing or an object embellished with braidwork.
Entries had to be a style commonly found and used between 1855 and 1865 and had to be made using
period construction techniques. A variety of materials and methods could be used to embellish entries,
including manufactured braid, hand-made braid, or embroidery stitches that resemble braid.
Participants were divided into two categories - Those who have won in a previous competition, judged or popular ballot, competed in the Masters Class. Those who had never won in a previous competition, competed in the Needleworkers Class. Two prizes were awarded in each class: one for the best reproduction as judged by the speakers and one for the entry selected by popular ballot of the conference participants.
Here's this year's Needlework Class submissions - as there were only two, both were winners:
This teal silk necktie was the popular vote winner. It has gold braidwork and handknit silk lace and was accompanied by very good documentation.
The Judged winner is this grey wool Spanish jacket, with a scrolling couched design.
The speakers at the conference are the judges - I was one of the judges this year. We assign a value of 1-5 for each of the following criteria:
• Overall Appearance. Is the entry typical of an item used during the period? Does it have the correct
style and shape?
• Fabrics and Materials. Are the fabrics, materials and findings used consistent with those used for similar
items during the period? Are they made from appropriate fibers? Do they have the correct weave, color,
pattern, weight and hand?
• Trimmings and Embellishments. Are the trimmings and embellishments used consistent with those used
on similar items during the period? Are they made from appropriate fibers? Do they have the correct
weave, color, pattern, weight and/or hand?
• Construction. Are period construction techniques used? Are they the appropriate techniques for this
• Workmanship/quality of detail. Is the workmanship typical of that found on original garments? Are fine
details and finishing incorporated into the construction?
• Documentation. What references were used in the creation of this item? Where did you get the idea?
Any unusual features should be especially documented.
We could also assign "Judge's Points" for outstanding effort in any of the categories.
There were several entries in the Master's Class:
A crimson wool flannel "Lancer's Jacket", with black braid and velvet buttons.
A heavily embellished vest, created as part of a fancy dress costume for a Pasha.
A "watering place" ensemble.
The Popular Vote winner was a net, silk and velvet mantle.
And the Judged winner was this brown wool paletot, based on an original. I was especially impressed by the use of crushed cuttlefish bone as the pattern transfer methodology and assigned extra "judge's" points for the documentation.
The needlework competition is a great way to stretch your skills and knowledge base; I spent a year researching cork soles as a result of the slipper competition and managed to find a source of material from a company that has been in production since 1852.
Next year's theme is a doll, with one outfit - you might want to start working right now!