Tuesday, November 11, 2008
The Payten Bed
I've been working 2 large projects together this year, the Women Transported Exhibition at Parramatta Heritage Centre which opened in August (warning this link is to my costume blog!) , and the refurbishment of the Payten Bed
We dedicated the new bed, and launched a reproduction quilt made by another group of volunteers, on Sunday 2nd November which was also Parramatta's Foundation Day. If you want to see what is UNDER the new quilt, click on the link to the Payten Bed above. The new upper valances, head curtains, headcloth, tester and lower valances were all sewn by hand by volunteers for this 1840's bed; after all the sewing machine wasn't invented till 1856 and then not widely available in Australia till a little later!
The burgandy hand knitted ravelled fringe took 6 knitters over 48 hours to knit then it was hand stitched over the hems of the valances and head curtains. The bed took about 8 hours to "hang" involving 4 volunteers including myself climbing up and down the ladders many many times. We spent over an hour just getting the box pleats on the inside of the inner upper valance to sit correctly, getting more and more overheated up close to the ceiling on the ladders!! I was certainly glad to see the bed assembled by the end of the day. On Dedication Day, I put the final touches in place, 2 embroidered watch pockets. I finished making them about 10pm on the Saturday night then made 3 Story Boards to display with photos and fabric samples on them.
Watch pockets were a chance to show off the lady of the household's embroidery skills on a practical project, a place to put small items (including your pocket watch) during the night at a time when bedside tables were not usually used. The fabric I used was a furnishing sample in burgandy and cream printed linen and I designed the shape myself based on descriptions in The Workwoman's Guide of 1838. I padded and stretched the fabric over card shapes, then knitted a little ravelled fringe in ecru 8 ply knitting cotton to trim the bottom. I appliqued a small wool embroidered flower medallion on each pocket flap, then stitched a blanket stitched chainstitch "braid" trim along the top of the knitted fringe. They are attached to the watch pocket strips with a hand made Dorset button. My forte is in the detail, and as you can see I really enjoyed this project.
It was a daunting prospect in the beginning. I couldn't imagine how we'd manage to make a feather bed, blanket, bed linen, bolster, and all the hangings from scratch and come in under budget. Well, the bed linen was donated by a Hambledon Guide who inherited them from her mother (probably late 1800's) and I managed to find a new cream woollen blanket reduced considerably at a sale event. We removed the modern binding and stitched around it in red embroidery wool. The bolster only needed some repairs done, and well, we did make a feather mattress, even though the yard at Hambledon looked like there'd been a duck massacre afterwards! The rose pink valances and head curtains were made from Indian cotton furnishing fabric bought at a furnishing wholesaler on the north side of Sydney at a good price, while the wool for the fringeing was bought online from Bendigo Woollen Mills in bulk.
The Parramatta and District Historical Society who manage Hambledon was very pleased to come in under budget thanks to some canny buying. We also stabilised and "retired" the 1860's Wood's patchwork quilt which was necessary to preserve it for future study and it will be brought out on special occasions to grace the bed once more after 30 years of being on display on the Payten Bed.