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January 28, 2014

Labor for Love: Volunteers recreate a special wedding garment

Volunteers embroidering

Volunteers are hard at work recreating a wedding garment for the spring wedding re-enactment between Pocahontas and John Rolfe at Historic Jamestowne. They are embroidering the recreation of a special jacket that she is believed to have worn.

“I have about 50 volunteers so far,” said Brenda Rosseau, manager of the costume design center, “but I just sent out 60 more packets.” The packets are small swatches of linen that are sent out to people who want to volunteer their embroidery skills for the project. They are asked to send back their sample embroidery swatch as an “audition” for the project.

Volunteers come in to the costume design center at Colonial Williamsburg and work on frames, which are stretched linen panels with drawings of the outlined design to be embroidered. Eventually, five frames will be in the works, with two to three  embroiderers working around each one.

The designs are from a 17th-century book depicting small plants and animals that would have been known in eastern Virginia at that time. The embroidery and sewing would have been done in the homes of the local English women, rather than in a millinery shop.

“They did have access to linen and silk,” said Rosseau. “If you look at the original jacket, you can see that there were a lot of different hands involved in the project. I like it because it has a human touch.”

The completed costume will belong to Historic Jamestown and will remain in its collection.

Volunteer embroiderers of all skill levels are invited to contact Julie Zellers-Frederick at julie@preservationvirginia.org or 757-856-1259.

– Photo, story by Karen Gonzalez

Listen to the podcast Marrying Pocahontas

More about the Pocahontas wedding jacket

Portrait of Pocahontas

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