“From the size of the bonnets, these women were probably petite by our standards. The area of the bonnet back was small, so the artistic and technical skills of the embroiderer had to be flawless. Imagine wearing such a head piece as you walked to and from church, or as you sat in a pew with those behind you glancing their approval, in admiration or jealousy! If the back of the young lady’s head was a jewel-like
flower, what about the nape of her neck – twisting, moving, stretching, turning – capturing the imaginations of young men? And what of the coquettish glance? Those were different times, with different interests and values. Zealand bonnets were a fad, a craze that pushed women to their limits. If a woman could sew such a beautiful bonnet, what about her wedding chest with its linens, towels and tablecloths? They were a challenge to other women and a lure to men. Today, it’s ice skating or tennis – then, it was embroidery.
“The workmanship on these bonnets is so exact and so precise that they almost seem mechanical. When you embroider from scratch, without the benefit of a piece with the blue lines of the pattern marked off, you can guide your needle and place your stitches by counting the weft and warp of the fabric. With black velvet that is impossible! How did they achieve the precision, the symmetry of their patterns?
“Antiques may be old things, but they are old things with a romance to them. Without the quality, without that touch of bygone humanity, they would be of little interest to me.”
Zealand Bonnet – Inside View
Zealand Bonnet – Embroidery Detail