07 December, 2012

Språng Stocking Purse at Dewitt-Wallace Gallery, Williamsburg

Here are photos I took of the English språng stocking purse currently on exhibit at the Dewitt-Wallace gallery in Williamsburg, VA, item 1971-1421.

The exhibit's label states
This purse is made in an ancient technique called sprang, in which threads are stretched on a frame and manipulated with the fingers to interlink or twine them, working from the ends toward the middle, and often using a stick to control the twists and keep them from unravelling.  The resulting fabric has natural elasticity, similar to knitted products, although the techniques are very different.
The distance between the rows on this purse strikes me as very small but that's just because I've been using bulky yarn for my pieces.  The cloth's fineness provides enough stability for the embroidery at the bottom.  The yarn is a fine two ply silk, and I expect it is handspun since the date is estimated to be between 1650-1720.

There is a slit in the top third edged with metallic thread.  The same thread runs along seams on either side and across the bottom.  The bottom seam and the looped threads in the tassel make me think that this piece was worked flat then folded, not worked on a circular warp.  The tassel is the meeting line.  In this photo you can see the loops.  I had to take the photo without flash then adjust the light levels on the computer so the colour is distorted.

I looked but could not tell if there was a slit on the back side.  I don't think there is.  Everything you do on the working half of språng fabric also happens on the other side.  If there's a slit interlinked on the front you get a slit on the back.  It may be that the interlinking was solid and afterward a vertical line was cut and secured on the front only.

Just behind the wrapped part of the tassel there is a metal ring that is used to shut the purse.  You slide it down past the slit to keep coins inside.

The holes of the centre diamonds appear to be twice the height of the outer diamonds.  There were four motifs up and down, and seven across I believe, though with part of the purse folded under a little it was hard to tell.

This purse's shape and proportions struck me as more pleasant than others in the case.  As I said, the slit runs down the top third.  That gives a ratio between the slitted and solid parts of 1:1.5, very close to the golden ratio, phi, 1:1.618.  The other purses were made with techniques such as crochet and knitting.

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