Prairie Linens

May 31, 2013 § 2 Comments

Once again a visitor on one of my tours commented on the detail work in the curtains in the nursery/dressing room in the Dana-Thomas House.   This is always my opportunity to talk about a little-known phase of the restoration project by the State of Illinois in the 1980’s. 

Under the leadership of Deanna Funk, the members of the Prairie Arts Chapter of the Embroiderers’ Guild of America voluntarily embroidered a collection of linens for the house.  No extant pieces designed by Frank Lloyd Wright existed, so Deanna undertook the research needed to recreated linens that would have been in a 1910 “Prairie Style” home.  Her quest led her to other Wright-designed homes of the period, the Milwaukee Art Museum, Taliesin, and libraries throughout the country.

When she had completed her research, Deanna determined what the restoration needs of each piece designed for the Dana-Thomas House would be.  Some were needed to protect the wood, others to cover stains, and others to present the ambiance of a 1910 upper-class home. Then, using the colors and motifs of the windows in each room, she created the designs and determined the materials and technique to be used for each piece.

Twenty different stitchers embroidered over 100 pieces in Deanna’s designs.  Under her supervision, they created bed linens, table linens, curtains, table scarfs, kitchen towels, an antimacassar, and a balcony hanging.  Today the pieces are rarely all exhibited simultaneously, but the curtains in the nursery/dressing room are permanent and a testament to the meticulous craftsmanship of Deanna and her team. In a dissertation on the project that Deanna presented to the 1993 National Assembly of Needlearts, she described the logic and artistry behind the creation of the curtains:

The glass design in the nursery, the room also called Susan’s dressing room, has one large “V” shape and small colored glass square details.  Because curtains were expected in a dressing room, these were necessary linens for the restoration.  The curtains have traditional Hardanger forming a pattern of stacked sumac motifs.  After each square is stabilized with stitches, each square is cut out, leaving a hole in the fabric.  Square filets are added to the holes to form a secondary pattern in the center of each sumac motif.

Hardanger  Detail (Photo by Deanna Funk)

Hardanger Detail
(Photo by Deanna Funk)

Nursery/Dressing Room Curtains  (Photo by Deanna Funk)

Nursery/Dressing Room Curtains
(Photo by Deanna Funk)

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