SAVE ME!-15th and 16th Century Textiles in the Philadelphia University Design Center

The top layer of the box of 15-17th c. textiles at the DC

I’ve been holding my class at the Design Center of Philadelphia University this semester.  This is the fashion and textile schools study collection for their students and scholars.  Recently I found a box of textiles (while looking for something else entirely) that was simply labeled 15th century.  Upon inspection Sarah and I found (Sarah is the head of the Design Center) a box with approximately a dozen or so samples of textiles from the 15th and 16th century (there are a few 17th century in there too).  Most were brocades, some were silk velvets and they ranged in scale from clothing use to full on wall hangings.

In any case some are in need of a lot of care, which costs money the Center does not have.  So here is the deal, as a fund raiser they have agreed to host a small hands on exhibition of these textiles.  This means that those who go can examine them up close, in detail for a long duration (maybe two hours total for the tour).  The whole box will be pulled (I think).  And yes, photos, sketches, magnifying  glasses are all welcome.  Go ahead and count the threads per inch, its fine.

The tour will be approximately 10-20 folks and since its a fund raiser it will be somewhere between $50-100 a person.  The money will go directly to helping these textiles get better housing in larger boxes and for some flat preservation.  They are not in a position to pay for or do restoration of them at this time.

So here is how this will work for now: I will get the assession sheets and publish them to the website so you can tell if you want to join us.  I will post tiny thumb nails to go with them where I can.

We will work out a time and date (I hope for a weekend) to do the tour.  Once we have that I will accept on a first-come-first-served-basis names for the list.  I will provide an opening date and time for this list so everyone gets a chance.  I will post when it is closed.  If there is more demand than space there will be a waiting list and maybe a second tour.  When you come you will need to bring a check for the design center.   The details will be posted soon.

I am willing to provide some crash space for out of towners who might like to join us as well.

UPDATE: Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Dear All,

Thank you so much for your overwhelming interest in this project.  I am working with Sarah, head of the Design Center, and the University to set up a date for a tour, to establish a way to donate to this project with or without the tour and determine what needs to be done with the textiles so you/we know how the money will be used.

I have received the information sheets for the box but while the box has about a dozen samples the Center has only 4 sheets.  These textiles are from the earliest part of the collection, that is the 1970’s, and so the standards for the Center were not established at that time.  I’m going to make an inventory of the box tomorrow to see what is there (and a few more boxes).  I will post this list and the information sheets I have on Friday.  No, I’m not trying to tease but I have sewing project and class to do first.  🙂

I’ve seen that there is also some confusion on how this will work:

  • step one: set a date for the tour and a cost.  It will be on a weekend but I don’t know anything else.
  • step two: sigh up for the tour.  Given the response I may have to do a lottery.  But in any case we will have on a specific day and time, a sign up for the tour or a lottery.  I am NOT taking names now though I do appreciate the interest.
  • step three: If there is a lottery, inform those who will go on the tour of the final details
  • step four: go on the tour
  • step five: a stitch-and-gossip 🙂 post-revel.  Details also tbd.

Thanks again for all your interest.  More soon I promise.

Elizabeth Ives

UPDATE : AS OF APRIL 12th 2011

Photos have been posted (though they are small) and there is more news:

As it turns out we/I will be able to sell CDs of high resolution photographs (including detail shots and closeups -500+ in all) of the finds at the Design Center. They will be on sale at East Kingdom Crown Tournament (SCA Event) and later by mail order. They will be $20 and have what research we have been able to do so far. All proceeds will go to the Design Center for the conservation and preservation of these textiles. CASH ONLY for this sale. The date is May 7th, 2011 and the event information is located here:

I will also have forms to fill out for the lottery slots for the tour. I will also be accepting them via email and this is NOT the only opportunity to sign up for it. I should have a sign up sheet posted before May 7th for those who will sign up via email.
I hope to see you there.
Elizabeth Ives

One of the brocades in the box

Another of the silk velvets

35 Responses to SAVE ME!-15th and 16th Century Textiles in the Philadelphia University Design Center

  1. Barbara Puntin says:

    Very interested in seeing the textiles, thank you for making the arrangements, and best wishes for excellent attendance for the fundraiser!

  2. DB says:


  3. Isabella says:

    Hi! I’m part of a mid-Atlantic costuming group and I know of several people that would love to see these in person. Would you mind providing details of the fund raiser so I can pass them on?

  4. Salli Weston says:

    I’ve been passing this on to my friends and the universal response has been “How can I donate?” We’re all in the Midwest so unlikley to be able to attend a viewing but would like to help. It would be great if you could work with the center to set this up.

  5. Wynne says:

    I’d love to attend the fundraiser. Thanks for the heads-up!

  6. Marie de Blois says:

    I’m interested and local enough I could show up.

    Just a thought – could you possibly work through for this? Their ‘rewards’ setup for people who contribute seems like it would work well, allowing the many people who can only contribute a little to get a “thanks!” email or access to pictures or something, and a limited number of “rewards” slots for large-contributors to get in the tours. Their payment methodology is through Amazon Payments, so they deal with taking payments from people and Amazon just sends you a big lump of money at the end.

    Disclosure: I don’t have any relationship with Kickstarter other than as a happy contributor to several projects/fundraisers I found through their site.

  7. Marilee G. Humason says:

    I would like to do this tour and I would need crash space I would be coming in from Louisiana. thanks so much!

  8. Suzanne says:

    I so wish I could be part of the tour, but I live in the midwest and am unlikely to be able to visit Philadelphia any time soon.

    Could we get the Google Art Project interested in this?

  9. Jonna Hayden says:

    Oh. My. I’m on the west coast, so it’s not likely I could make the tour–however, I’d like to second the Kickstarter idea. I’d happily donate to this project, and it’d be a great way to generate funds to help with the restoration and conservation.

  10. Broom says:

    Sign me up!

  11. I live in Decatur Il and would also like to go. I wonder if a rideshare set up could be arranged so all of us in the center of the country could go together (maybe rent a bus; block out space in a hotel). Contact me through my website and I’ll be happy to work something out.

  12. Jaqueline de Molieres says:

    I’m about 3 hours from Philly, so am very interested (of course, depending on the date). May have other SCAdian friends also interested, I will pass on the info. Please put me on your list & when a date is finalized, I will know for sure if I can make it. thanks!

  13. Alonya Mazoyer says:

    I am in Australia and would happily make the trip for this. Just tell me where to be and when and I will be there. My wallet won’t enjoy it but I definitely will.

    • forgive me if I say this but your crazy. My kind of crazy but crazy all the same. Perhaps the V&A would be closer?

      • Dear Alonya,

        If you come to the US for this tour in Philadelphia, make plans to come to the Boston Area as well. I have couch space I can offer and a trip to the American Textile History Museum, as well as any others you’d care to visit.

        If they can make the tour coincide, the annual Costume Society of America Symposium is in Boston this year, June 7-12, 2011

      • Lori Q says:

        Crazy? Nuh-uh. What a great reason to come to the States in the springtime! FWIW, Philadelphia and the V&A in London are probably equidistant from Australia. 🙂

  14. If I may make a suggestion given that this has pretty much gone viral?

    You can go about this two ways given the amount of attention: Hold a raffle and stick to your 20 slots you originally believed would be enough. Everyone who wishes to get a chance to see the textiles pays maybe $5 for a ticket and you pull 20 tickets. The lottery system does have it’s drawbacks but you would end up raising a lot of money this way as well.

    Given the attention, you may wish to, instead, have a tea/ball/some sort of other party in which the venue is large enough to accommodate up to 250 (if not more! Many Church Halls would be big enough.) You can make it a “fancy dress” party if you wish, but have tickets at the $50 (or, given the attention, $25) rate. Although you would need to spend a bit of money for this (food, the hall ect), you’d easily rake in what you need plus some! And everyone who wants to would get to be able to see the textiles in person.

    Just a couple of thoughts!

    • a lottery is a good idea for fairness sake.

      But I don’t know about the party. That is more than the University is willing to do I think. I’d love to see a “fancy garb/clothing party” just for the fun of it.

      Thanks for the suggestions.

  15. Kat Anderson says:

    In Wisconsin, but seriously interested… how soon are they talking about doing the fundraiser? Is it going to be a one time thing, or can it be set up by “appointment”, say, for $100 you get a VIP ‘tour’ of the fabrics, etc?

  16. Melanie Schuessler says:

    I’m very interested in this! Why not do more than one weekend rather than a lottery? More people, more money raised.

  17. Constance Hull aka Constanza Maria Colonna says:

    How exciting!! Our East Kingdom SCA sewing guild is particularly dedicated to authentically recreating 15th and 16th Century Italian garments. Please do keep us informed. We look forward to participating in this wonderful opportunity!
    Kind regards,

  18. Linda says:

    Oh, yes, yes – lottery, raffle or otherwise. I’m in!

  19. Taranach Mcleod says:

    I am close enough that I would definitely try to attend. May I make the suggestion that you have someone with some high technology to document these finds in high detail? Have good quality photos or maybe even video taken, one could even get microscopes that hook up to a laptop or desktop to do “thread count” pictures and close-up pictures of areas of specific interest. Have some of those that come in write up documentation of the experience and annotate specific information that can be discovered about the cloth, then collect everything together into a PDF or online documentation that someone could download for a nominal $5 fee. There are many sites that could facilitate this and would continue to bring in funding for this project and possibly similar projects in the future.

    Of course these are merely suggestions, but at least the documentation is what *I* would do if I were allowed, if nothing else but to allow the most widespread availability of a precious resource.

  20. Drea Leed says:

    What a wonderful idea! I will keep my fingers crossed that I’ll be able to get on the list, once it comes together.

    With so many people interested in donating but unable to actually go, have you thought about having an additional feature of “for a donation of $20, you’ll get a cd of the photos and notes taken by the people that visit?” I know I’d jump for that in a heartbeat! 🙂

  21. Sarah Toich says:

    I am interested in participating as well. It will simply depend upon the weekend you choose. Perhaps if there is enough interest you could do two weekends!

  22. I just received information about this post/event from a friend on the west coast. I live outside of Philadelphia and belong the the SCA. I would be interested in getting a 100$ ticket. Please feel to contact me via my email address. I realize there are many in front of me who would like to attend. If there is a waiting list please add me asap. Thank you. 🙂

  23. Asking someone to do more than one weekend is asking people to do more work and use more resources. While the raffle idea is fair, another way that could raise yet even more money is to auction slots available.

    The idea of creating a CD with photos and information is one that many, like me, would love to purchase. Instead of $5, though, I would give thought to charging something like $20 each since it is a fundraiser. If enough people cooperate in providing documentation after the tour, that will make the CD even more valuable to those of us that can’t be there. The nice thing about the CD is that you can make more copies if your first batch gets sold out.

    Or you could look at doing a pre-order capability for $X and charge $Y after the tour is done. I would look at giving the people who pre-order something like a $5 discount, and that will give you an idea of the amount of interest in doing a CD.

  24. Rose Brook says:

    I’m an independent researcher/costume historian specializing in the last two decades of the sixteenth century in England. As I am not affiliated with an educational institution it is difficult to gain direct access to surviving pieces in my area of study.
    I would happily fly in from Edmonton, Alberta for a chance to look at some extant textiles. I’ve seen the pieces in the Cloisters but they’re behind glass and the guard asked me to stop leaving nose-prints on the glass. 🙂

  25. Rose says:

    I would be most grateful if you would include me on a list for a CD if one should eventuate.
    Rose Pelvin
    Convener, Professional Weavers’ Network of New Zealand;
    Exhibition Convener Creative Fibre Festival 2012 in Marlborough NZ.

  26. Emma says:

    What a fabulous find and opportunity! I’d also like to put in an order for/get more information on a CD; as I’m another west-coaster and wouldn’t be able to make it to the viewing (raffle notwithstanding!).

  27. A. Thurman says:

    Count me in as another interested party, for raffle or for a CD containing information if I’m not one of the happy few 🙂

  28. Rowena says:

    I would really love to go on that tour! And want the CD. And thank you for posting this – now I also want to keep reading your blog!

  29. Elizabeth!! I need a Copy of the CD, but I am in the West Kingdom! How can I get it as well?

    Cilean Stirling

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