CNCHnet . . . The Textile Arts Webzine of the Conference of Northern California Handweavers

Special Report: Convergence 2014 Providence, Rhode Island

This year, the Convergence Conference by Handweaver’s Guild of America was held in one of the oldest cities in the United States: Providence, Rhode Island. With its vibrant arts community and textile history, the “Creative Capital” proved to be a perfect location in which to hold an HGA conference. Along with the many workshops and seminars, several textile related tours of the Rhode Island area were being offered. While registering for several seminars, I also chose to participate on Tour 7: a day trip to the University of Rhode Island’s Department of Textiles, Fashion Merchandizing and Design, to view its Historic Textile and Costume Collection.

A Welcome to URI

A Welcome to URI

The University of Rhode Island is located in Kingston, a short bus ride south of Providence. Upon arrival, we were greeted by both Dr. Linda Welters, (director of the graduate program), and by Dr. Margaret Ordonez, (director of the Historic Textile and Costume Collection). They proceeded to guide us through a personal tour of select textiles which came from the nearly 20,000 objects in the Historic Textile and Costume Collection. The specially hand-picked items they chose to share with us not only included textiles from around the world, but locally made textiles and garments as well. So local in fact, we were able to closely examine antique clothing and coverlets specifically from Rhode Island families. Many of the amazing hand woven textiles were from the late 18th century. In addition, we were able to watch the process of garment restoration in the Textile Conservation Laboratory.

Extreme Close-up of antique cashmere shawl

Extreme Close-up of antique cashmere shawl

 

Double weave coverlet, obviously made in 1933

Double weave coverlet, obviously made in 1933

 

 

& [photo 3 – coverlet] : Double-weave coverlet, obviously made in 1833

After a wonderful lunch, appropriately served in a room filled with looms and weaving materials, we then viewed the “Curator’s Choice” exhibition located in the Textile Gallery. The current exhibit shown during July was entitled “The Other White Dress”, and showcased white dresses other than wedding dresses from throughout the last century. Among those represented were: dramatically long milk colored christening gowns, shimmery silken bodices paired with snowy tiered skirts layered in delicate crocheted hems of pearly hues. In milky shades, the intricate and detailed turn-of-the-century tea dresses with their ornate gathered laces, ruffles, and pin tucks were my favorite.

The Textile Gallery exhibit promotion

The Textile Gallery exhibit promotion

 

As a presenter of ancient textiles, one of the presentations I provide is about the subject of Ancient Egypt’s flax and linen. When I kindly asked if there were any early Egyptian textiles in the collection, the answer was ‘yes’, the items brought forth, and the tour made complete. Our generous tour guides stayed beyond the official tour ending time in order to share these most rare and precious textiles with us. Everyone was fascinated by the product of weavers from thousands of years ago, noting the perfection of the weavings. To see such articles without breath marks or the reflection on protective glass cases made the experience even better.

Egyptian weaving of a roundel; wool &linen, Coptic period

Egyptian weaving of a roundel; wool &linen, Coptic period

Everything we observed on this fascinating tour of URI’s Textile Department was an experience that cannot be repeated. Overall, it was certainly an ultimate fiber experience and was a wonderful way to meet and share time with others who are of the same mind. Participating on this tour fulfilled all my expectations and certainly made up for the 14 hour travel time to get to Providence from California. At the next HGA Convergence Conference, no matter how far you might be traveling, be sure to sign up and participate in one or more of the tours that are being offered!

A variety of antique garments in period prints

A variety of antique garments in period prints

 

Author’s bio: A published photographer, Christi is an award-winning textile artist who loves to spin, knit, weave, and quilt. She also enjoys speaking at universities and textile-related guilds about ancient textiles. Contact egyptknits(at)yahoo.com for more information.

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