Historic Deerfield is fortunate to preserve many functional and beautiful silk objects in its collection. At the Flynt Center of Early New England Life visitors can see:
A silk neck stock, 1820-35.
The neck stock is a gentleman’s accessory worn similar to a necktie with a shirt and waistcoat. This one is made of black silk and reinforced with metal, spring steel and patent leather.
A pair of silk shoes, 1770
These shoes are made from pale blue silk, are lined in linen and have leather soles. Shoes were an excellent way to reuse expensive dress fabrics after alterations. While this pair could have been made to match a new dress, they were likely created from the remaining material of an earlier dress whose remodeling resulted in extra fabric. Most 18th-century shoes were secured to the feet by means of a buckle.
A silk pieced quilt made between 1850 and 1859.
There was a handwritten note written by the donor’s mother attached to the quilt which describes how it was made: “This patchwork quilt was made by Deborah Ellis Shaw (1796-1859), during these long evenings when she waited for her husband, a country Doctor.” Deborah Ellis Shaw was the wife of Dr. Samuel Shaw who moved to Palmer, Massachusetts, around 1857. She probably made this small quilt of out scraps from worn family clothes, as the fabrics used were common mid-19th century dress silks.
A sampler made by 12-year-old Temperance Clark with silk thread on a linen ground.
The sampler features these words: “Temperance Clarke / Sampler Worked in her / 12th year 1816 / The needle work of mine can tell / In my youth was learned well / And by my parents also thaught / Not to spend my time to / naught.” From its stitches and motifs, we can tell that this sampler was worked in the Northampton area in the early years of the 19th century. Look for baskets with fruit or flowers, various birds, and a border of rosebuds.
We are also fortunate to have some painted silk in our collection, and have invited visitors to paint their own silk bookmark as part of our program. Alyssa, a visitor from Littleton MA has prepared a drawing of the silk moth life cycle to depict on her painted bookmark.