Celebrating the Fiber Arts: The Helen Geier Flynt Textile Gallery

January 02, 2016 - December 23, 2016 | 9:30 am - 4:30 pm

Flynt Center of Early New England Life - Helen Geier Flynt Textile Gallery

Historic Deerfield’s costume and textile collection has long been considered one of the finest in America.  Begun by the museum’s founder, Helen Geier Flynt, the collection features a vast array of costumes, needlework and domestic textiles which are displayed on a rotating basis.  Newly installed in this permanent gallery for the season are 38 exciting examples of American and European clothing, accessories, textiles and needlework from the 17th century through the mid-20th century. 

Some of the current highlights featured include a dramatic, mid-18th-century gown, whose fabric was woven in Lyon, France’s renowned center of silk-weaving.  Yards of expensive brocaded silk were draped and sewn to create a gown whose considerable width was supported by panniers or side hoops worn under the garment itself and tied around the wearer’s waist. 

A man’s early 19th-century wool coat is displayed in an unconventional, horizontal orientation for visitors to get a better sense of the skills involved in tailoring the garment.  Padding, interfacing and stitching will all be seen to better advantage from this diagrammatical presentation.

Also on view is a recent acquisition by the museum, a modest pictorial needlework wrought by Violet Forward Scott (1786-1853) of Belchertown, Massachusetts in the late 1790s (pictured).  This piece represents an important step in Scott’s education.  It was likely her first attempt at a pictorial needlework that required her to develop the skill of composition, beyond the practice of count-stitching alphabets and numbers in horizontal rows onto a grid of warp and weft.  This example also incorporates watercolor and gouache, probably executed by the instructress or an outside professional.    

 A vibrant red whole cloth wool quilt is just one of the new items on view in the gallery’s quilt and coverlet rack.  This example’s all-over uniform geometric quilting pattern is indicative of styles from first half of the 19th century, while its cut-out corners – a design feature seen on the bottom corners of some quilts to accommodate its use on a four-poster bed – suggest a New England origin. 

See these and other outstanding textiles thematically arranged according to their natural fibers: silk, wool, cotton and linen. 

 This exhibition is made possible in part by a grant from The Coby Foundation, Ltd.