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Monday, April 21, 2014

Pocahontas's Wedding Jacket

The bride and groom. Photo by author.
For those of you who read the In-Depth Genealogist magazine for April, Going In-Depth, you know that I helped work on creating the weddingJacket for the reenactment of the wedding of John Rolfe and Pocahontas.  It occurred on 5 April 1614 and I was lucky enough to attend the recreation on 5 April 2014.  If you are interested in the history and back story, make sure you go read the article at the IDG.

In this blog post I wanted to let you know about the amazing opportunity I had.  It was my honor to work on the embroidery for the jacket the woman who played Pocahontas wore in the cemetery.  This post is a recounting of my experience as one of the embroiders on the project.

A call for volunteers went out in December, but as with most things in my life, I was late to the party.  I actually didn’t see the call for volunteers until late in January, a full week after they already started the project.  Never to let an opportunity pass, I wrote and asked if it was too late to audition for the project.  Happily, they said it wasn’t and sent me my audition package.

My Audition Piece
Yes, you had to send a sample of your work.  We were all asked to embroider a small bird using an image of a period design as our model.  I received the envelope Monday Morning, and I wanted to get going so fast that I had it back in that evenings mail.  To me, it was easy peasy.  Literally took me the course of a movie sitting on my couch one afternoon.

By the end of the week I was on the email list to schedule when I would come in and stitch.  To say I was excited would be an understatement.  I was over the moon with enthusiasm and couldn’t wait to get started.

My father’s mother taught me to embroider when I was a child.  While it was just simple cross stitch, it was a start.  From there I taught myself other techniques and stitches.  When I think about it I now realize that I have embroidered for 34 years.  Wow, now I feel old.

Over the years I have developed an interest with older styles of embroidery, including the styles that were used on this piece.  Black work is a beautiful form on monochromatic embroidery where black thread is stitched on a white (or light colored) back ground.  In the 16th and 17th centuries this form of embroidery was very popular. 

My first day embroidering was a bit nerve wracking.  Williamsburg is about 2 hours from my house which means that I was up early driving down there in all types of weather. When I arrived the first day it was a bit overwhelming.  There were 5 slate frames set up each with a different piece of the garment on it.  These were the biggest slate frames I had ever seen. 

Me stitching on the right front panel
Thankfully everyone was very friendly and we had a great time.  Sometimes stitching in silence, other times having very animated and loud conversations. In total I was there 6 times at least 6 hours at each visit. I was only one of about 70 embroiders who gave of their time for 10 weeks with about 1500 hours of work to make the amazing jacket Wendy Taylor, the Paumunky Indian who played Pocahontas, wore. 

The jacket was inspired by the Falkland Jacket (held by the Victoria and Albert) and custom made to fit our lady.  It was lined in pink silk and then finished with large pink ribbon ties.  If you are interested in if this was any way period or what she may have worn, there is a new article The Curator's Curiosity Cabinet where you can learn more.

For those of you who wished they could have been there, never fear, there was a video made!  You can watch it here (if you look carefully you can see me and my oldest sitting cross legged on the ground behind the guard at the front of the church) or see the official photo album here.  In addition, if you can get to Historic Jamestowne there is a special exhibit called “The World of Pocahontas.” In addition to learning more about her and the colony, they will have the jacket on display for everyone to see. 

I could talk about it for a very long time.  So…if you see me somewhere just stop me and ask me to talk to you about it.  You may regret it, but you will get an earful!  Below is a sampling of the items that I embroidered on the jacket.

A pelican in her piety

Oak leaves and acorns


I stitched the crab in this image


  1. This is wonderful! I love the designs and think it would be the coolest thing to be a part of a project like that, not that I've actually embroidered since I was a child. My mother-in-law recently made me a black work embroidery piece in an old Spanish style - beautiful! If I see you at NGS I'll definitely want to hear more stories about this event. :)

    1. Sure thing! It was an amazing opportunity and I am so proud to have participated.