The seamless shirt

Entitled “Fabric for (hi)story” the Weavermuseum Steinhude showed an exibition in cooperation with the University of Hannover. All about the 1728 in Steinhude woven seamless shirt, that is till nowadays technical highly ambitious to weave, the exibition attends to the bimillenary historical phenomenon of seamlessness in the art of weaving, a textile ideal simular to the squaring the circle or the the perpetual motion machine.

The idea to present this theme in a special exibition came up in the context of a lecture at the historic seminar of the Universität Hannover and has been worked out from a group of students under the help of museumsleader Sandra Kilb and lecturer Stephanie Kirsch. Because of the scientific descovering, pädagogic and thematic expertise and students initiativ it developed a project, that covers the historic context of seemlessness as well aas the crafting process of textiles with seemless manner.

The textile restaurator Eva Jordan-Fahrbach was head of the conservatoric cleaning of the shirt befor the start of the exibition. In a lecture at Leibniz Universität Hannover Eva Jordan-Fahrbach, textile retaurator at Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum in Braunschweig, demonstrated the results of her threemonthtaking analysis of the seemless shirt: The seemless shirt has probably been woven in 1728 sure in a couple of month taking working process from a joung and skilled 18 years young weaver Johan Hendrick Bühmann from the weaver village Steinhude in Lower Saxony Germany. The reasons lay in the shade of the historic indicies. From one part he probably wanted to show his ability for the master title – what has been rejected after reading the references. Into the shorttime before in Steinhude grounded guild he hasn’t been voted for at first. On the other hand he obviously kept an eye on the daughter of a local weaver master, whom he married finaly after a long time of waiting in the age of 26 – after the death of her father. The bride was at that time 34 years old and had obviously been waiting for him all the time. In Steinhude the history about this special shirt is still viral till nowadays, how the son of the mayor of the village reported from his own youth at the meeting.

The seemless shirt from Steinhude was originally a double. The young weaver wove a first seemless example. After that he did a second seemless shirt for his sovereign, Albrecht Wolfgang Graf zu Schaumburg-Lippe. Who disposed it concerning his aristocratic connections onto the king of Portugal. This second shirt is nowadays lost. The theme of seemlessness is a historic theme and has been told already in the bible. In times of Heinrich Bühmann in Steinhude and lateron in the 19st. century there are more seemless shirts been told of. One example from a scottish weaver owns the Glasgow Museum. This shirt has been produced as a present to the king König George IV. in 1821.

DSCN8569-webThis gorgeous example is additional woven with timeconsuming frills on the chest. A foto is in the book of Ursina Arn-Grischott “Doppelgewebe in der Handweberei. The museum tells as material silk. It could be also finest linen. In Scotland there ar in sum 4 seemless shirts still existing, therefrom one is from Henry Inglis, another from Henry Meldrum, both in Dunfermline Museum, that is getting a rebuilding in the moment. From others former existing shirts has been reported from Henry Meldrum. The Focke Museum in Bremen owns a seemless jacket from the year 1640.

Eva Jordan-Fahrbach reconstructed in timeconsuming work the following: The key to the proceeding is the combination from archaic and new weaving techniques. So for example is the old technique of band weaving since the bronce- and irontime till nowadays in the nordic culture vital. The germanic Prachtmäntel has been worked like that with a combination of ornamental bands and transformation of the weftthreads to the warpthreads at the former usual vertical loom. Details for this weaving technique shows the weaver master Erika Arndt in her “Handbuch Weben”. Here she shows the reconstruction of a Prachtmantel for the Landesmuseum in Hannover from the Hunteburg Moor near Oldenburg. Detailled reports onto this technique are also in Stefan Mecheels/Hergert Vogler/Josef Kurz Buch “Kultur- & Industriegeschichte der Textilien”.

Simular to this technique – so Eva Jordan-Fahrbach – the young weaver Heinrich Bühmann took his seemless shirt obviouly couple of times from the loom and turned it onto 90 degrees. He left wefts pulling out of the weaving, for to turn it around than and to put those threads into the loom than as warpsthreads and to continue weaving. He started his weaving from the neck – so  Eva Jordan-Fahrbach – with a Blöckchendamast out of fivebinding warp and weftsatin. Blöckchendamast has been named at antique fabrics a partiell patterning in warp- and weft opposite biinding, similar what we know nowadays for example at popular Grubentüchern and has been called also Bauerndamast.

Heinrich Bühmann worked this Blöckchendamast for the neckbunch in fivebinding warp- and weftsatin and worked two buttonholes directly into it. Out of the hanging out weft threads of the bunch inclusive more threads for the suplementary width he worked the sholders. The again outhanging wefts he mae to the front and backside. Here again he used supplementary threads for to get it wider. From the first part of the body he left the warpthreads hanging out for the arms. For the body – with the breast slit done into it – there comes together with the arms the gusset. The body is woven in doblecloth and finaly finished as tube and at the bottom again with slits. At the bottom the shirt is finished wis a strong edge with warpthreads going back into the fabric and have been knotted into pairs. The arm bunches are with slits also and woven in Blöckendamast, this time in parts of warp-, weft-twill 3/1, and. 1/3.

Hemd ohne NahtIn the complete shirt Eva Jordan-Fahrbach analysed binding techniques from twill and satin onto plainweave, doblecloth and antique techniques of taking off the loom and new positions of the fabric into the loom.

The density for alle the handwoven piece is extremly fine and high: About 20 to 25 threads per centimeter in warp or weft. That ment in the part of doblecloth a complete density of 40 to 50 threads. And that in finest singlethread handspun linen. The challenge was also startiing with the conception for the weaving with all this techniques one following another and couple of times taking out of the fabric from the loom, changing warp- and weftsystems and continueing weaving in contrasting position. Details to the sience report from Eva Jordan-Fahrbach with some fotos from her analysis are published in the magasin “Spin off – Summer 2015”.