Gracious Preservations is the name I have given to this garment.
The back panel, front panels and the neck facing are handwoven in silk and organic cotton, while the side pieces and neckband are a lightweight organic Tencel I purchased from Bawn Textiles. I used the Tibetan panel coat pattern from Folkwear, adapting it somewhat to eke out the small quantity of fabric I had woven – because when I wove it, I had a different garment pattern in mind – but isn’t that the way things go?
The fabric itself is a close relation of this project – yes, it is the same warp and weft, and the weave is also based on sound recordings of handwashing during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, I used that underlying structure more loosely this time, allowing myself to intervene in the design and introduce marks of my own.
The phrase Gracious Preservations comes from a description of a journey taken in Ladakh in 1885 and recorded by my great great grandfather. He wrote, “Passing through rivers, or over them, on swaying bridges made of twigs; crossing glaciers, with dangerous ice hanging from steep, rocky precipices, where one truly carried one’s life in one’s hands; traversing partly snowed-up passes 14,000, 16,000, 17,000 and 18,000 feet in height. There were so many gracious preservations from danger that the recollections of this journey are truly a page of memory which my dear wife would not, on any account, be deprived of.”
The fabric and the coat, then, are a reflection on the life of my great great grandmother, Adelheit Schubert, which seems a very extraordinary one from a distance of 150 years and several thousand miles.
In brief, she travelled from Germany to India in 1876 to marry her sister’s widowed husband and work with him at the Moravian missions along the Indo-Tibetan border. And I must admit I find every part of that sentence is quite startling, before we ever get near the snowed-up passes.
I only know the barest outline of Adelheit’s life, but I find it striking how profoundly its course was affected by disease. Her older sister had died of a fever, possibly typhoid, in the spring of 1876, which was the catalyst for her journey and her marriage. And in 1891 her husband died of typhus. Adelheit herself, though she became very sick, was again graciously preserved. However, her life in Ladakh was now over and she returned to Europe at the end of that year.