Sunday, November 3, 2019

Colonial Williamsburg Costume Design Center Visit

I had the wonderful opportunity, this past Friday, to tour the Colonial Williamsburg Costume Design Center and thought you'd like to visit along with me. We were able to see finished garments, garments in progress and speak to the talented crafts people that create these costumes. They provided us with a little fact sheet and I'll be quoting from that for some fats. First, there are only 10-13 people staffing the operations unit of the design center at this time, due to cutbacks, and they are responsible for dressing over "600 staff members for 1122 different positions"....mind blowing!!! There are additionaI employees in the laundry, issuance, accessories, research and development and inventory departments. I was very impressed with the obvious enthusiasm these sewers/tailors have for their art...and I was happy to see some younger costumers working there.

Upon entry,we immediately noticed a laundry counter and rotating racks like you'd see in a commercial laundry. The Laundry Counter provides dry cleaning and laundry services for the costumes and inspects/repairs articles daily.

 Then there is an Issuance Dpeartment that  "keeps track both physically and electronically of an inventory of 59,746 costume items". Wow!!!

As we wound our way through the building, we were able to get 'up close and personal' with some costumes and were allowed to touch and ask questions about their process and construction.  This first photo is of George Washington's complete and one on the cutting table. 

The wools are from England and luscious!!!

Close up of cuffs
The buttonholes are hand sewn with metallic thread, the pile of brown buttons were all hand wrapped with thread and there were some dorset buttons in upper right corner  

A dress in progress for Martha Washington.  Most of the underskirt is done on machine (they can't keep up otherwise) but the outside layers were hand stitched.

I'm pretty sure I remember them saying the dress was based on an original of Martha's

This delicate silver dress (above) had unique ruffling around the neck and sleeves. It is accomplished with a pinking iron. They would take the metal semi circular metal tools (shown above) and hammer with a mallet...up to five times each create the lovely scalloped edge. The lady who worked with these said it was 'migraine inducing' when these punches were in use!!!

These "flies" were hand tied on some pre-made trim

An elegant pair
For the common man/woman      
Now, some undergarments....not sure I'd want to be wearing these, but they are lovely.

It's a shame this was hidden underneath....

Some embroidery techniques.....

Silk ribbon embroidery

Some machine tambour work

Hand tambour work
The Accessory Department.....lots of shoes and tricorn hats but I forgot to take a photo of them


Men's wallet
Upstairs was their Inventory Department....lots of fabric, thread, buttons, etc.. Sorry, my phone ran out of juice after this photo! :(

 There was also a Yard Sale going on where the public could purchase retired costumes, shoes, etc. That was extremely popular and had very long lines!!! I hope you enjoyed coming along with me on this adventure; it is an annual event and I'm planning on returning next year.

On to some stitching...I did have a finish this week....Pumpkins for Sale by Sally Rutka. This was the second kit Sally designed for Salty Yarn's Jamboree. It will be a quick FFO since it gets finished on top of a small, provided tin. Stitched over one on 32 ct. Pampas linen with called for threads. I did substitute red for the wagon.

Thanks for stopping by and your"twisted threads" of friendship!




  1. Holy Smokes! A tour the Colonial Williamsburg Costume Design Center is so cool and pretty!! Thank you Stasi for taking us along! My only complaint is that your phone died! Just kidding. Thank you! And your new finish is darling. :)

  2. Stasi, thank you for sharing photos from your adventure to the Colonial area and the Costuming Design Center! What a fabulous experience you had! Congratulations on your sweet fall finish; can't wait to see it on the box top!

  3. Stasi: How lucky you are to have experienced such a beautiful place, wow the costumes are amazing.
    Thank-you for taking us along with you.


  4. That looks like a fun tour with amazing costumes.
    Cute Fall finish.
    Have a great week!

  5. Stasi, I really enjoyed reading this post. I have done a couple of behind-the-scenes tour at Williamsburg but not the costume department. Great information and great pictures! Thanks for sharing with us.

  6. What an interesting tour that must have been, Stasi. My family used to visit colonial Williamsburg each spring for years. In fact, I almost went to William & Mary to college! (I was accepted, but decided it was just too far away from home :)

    Your finish is darling--I like the red wagon! Hope your November is off to a great start!

  7. I thoroughly enjoyed your tour of the design center. I'm impressed that they hand stitch the outermost part of the garments. What an undertaking to clothe so many with so few workers.
    Your finish is very sweet and I agree, a wagon should be red!
    I am finally able to get back on your blog and it's going to be enjoyable to see all that you have been up to. I have lots of catching up to do! Mary