Thursday, 30 June 2011

Threads of Identity


I was totally bowled over by two newish books on the block - not to mention the title of one of the works - Threads of Identity. Having seen how women in prisoner of war camps continued stitching, one can understand how this special activity of ours allows stitchers in sometimes the worst of circumstances to cling to the last shreds of their identities, to keep hold of the thread of who they are, what life is and what life is meant to be. (I suppose it equates in some bizarre way to my father's first thought on reaching dry land after his ship had been torpedoed. Standing in little more than the rags he asked where he could get a proper shave. And again, tales of the unemployed in the bleakest of past times would always involve getting up, having a shave and dressing carefully.) And so Threads of Identity is a history of Palestinian women told through aspects of stitching, rug-making and costume. The interviews with women who lived through the traumas and changes of the 20th century are a contribution to oral history, augmenting standard historical accounts. While most writing about the Middle East concentrates on politics, Widad Kawar's book focuses on the dignity of ordinary people, and women in particular, bridging the gap between the major events of history and everyday life. With this book Widad Kamel Kawar pays homage to Palestinian women - she is known as Umm ‘l-ibas al falastini - Mother of the Palestinian dress. Her world-acclaimed collection is the largest in the Middle East and has been exhibited in Germany, France, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, England, Scotland, Iceland, Japan, Singapore, Switzerland and Saudi Arabia.

Margarita Skinner lived in the Middle East for over twenty years and during that time volunteered in several Palestinian women’s projects in Jordan, Gaza Strip, West Bank and for over five years she supervised embroidery production by over 300 ladies in a self-supporting programme in the Gaza Strip. Her 1998 book Between Despair and Hope: Windows on my Middle East Journey 1967-1992 gives some details of this endeavour. Margarita met Widad Kawar when they both worked in the refugee camps of Jordan after the 1967 war. Her book Palestinian Embroidery Motifs 1850 – 1950: A Treasury of Stitches, is the first to document all the different motifs by origin and names used on the old dresses.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Stitching in Prison * The Museum of the Dutch Resistance * Until 22 May 2012

I was told that the women who were interned in the war sometimes would hide their needles in the calluses on their hands when spot inspections were called. Often forbidden with the threat of grave sanctions, these stitched cloths in Amsterdam's Museum of the Dutch Resistance (Versetzmuseum) are testament then perhaps to the perversity of stitchers, the indomitability of stitchers and the power of stitching to sustain the spirit in the darkest hours.
The exhibition has nearly a year to run, so if you are visiting Amsterdam, do make a point of visiting these remarkable cloths. For more information in English, click here. Thank you, Denise, for sharing.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

What Secrets in Your Drawers?


I followed my good friend Bertie's advice and while I was visiting friends in pretty Winchcombe this weekend, I stopped by to visit the Threads in Time permanent exhibition at Sudeley Castle which is in easy walking distance of the village. The castle itself is a wonderful, dreamy place within beautiful gardens loud with the shrieks of peacocks. Withing the grounds, too, is the village church that is the resting place of Queen Katharine Parr, fond step mother to Queen Elizabeth I. The whole castle is steeped in history - Henry VIII stopped here with Anne Boleyn and formulated the visitation of monasteries, beginning with a monastery nearby, which would eventually lead to the total dissolution of monastic like in England and result in the largest land grab known on these shores. I thought you might like to share this video describing the 16th century casket in Sudeley castle. There is a wonderful video as part of the exhibit, but unfortunately that is not available to show you - you must drag yourself along to see for yourself! What is so interesting about this chest are the number of secret drawers - and until you can see the video showing how they are withdrawn, you would never imagine their being there. I shall try to explain. Once the visible drawers are withdrawn, like any other chest of drawers which has two or more drawers side by side, there are vertical divides remaining. It is by gently pulling forward a divide - effectively withdrawing a supporting strut, that you realise it is a long handle on a wider drawer hidden behind the visible ones just removed. And what would have been put in these secret drawers? The Sudeley castle chest has quite a number - but they are not large at all - so perhaps coins or precious stones, or a key?

Monday, 27 June 2011

Monday Give Away

We talked about the Maldon Embroidery on Friday and as I was about to file the set of 7 cards and little accompanying booklet it struck me that rather than file them it would be nice to pass them on. So, that is the special give away this week. If you would like to be entered in the draw - just click on the angel below. The winner will be announced next Monday.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Rosa Sine Spine - A Rose Without Thorns

A little update for you on Mary in the Rose Garden - the centre of the Marienteppich in Rostock which was stitched around 1450, and featured in an earlier blog post.
Rudolf in Germany has emailed a guide to its size - 2.4 metres by 1.6 metres or 7' 10" x 5'3.
The tapestry seems to belong to a wider Germanic tradition of Mary being portrayed in a rose garden. Above you can see Stefan Lochner's Virgin in a Rose Bower painted in 1440. The rose was Mary's flower - she was often referred to as the rose without thorn. Two other points of symbolism are manifest here: the infant Jesus holds an apple signifying the holy couple's representation as the new Adam and the new Eve; and around Mary's neck is a medallion bearing a phoenix, symbolizing resurrection and rebirth. It is difficult to determine from this picture whether the rose bower is real, or whether it is an embroidered cloth held up by the angels in each upper corner.


And here is another lovely depiction of The Virgin and Child in a Rose Bower by Martin Schongauer painted in 1473.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Eungs Schöppe Museum, Markelo, The Netherlands

It was while I was returning south to Amsterdam from a visit to the northern Dutch Fries Museum, that I broke my journey to visit the Eungs Schöppe Museum in Markelo. Markelo is not the easiest place to visit - it is due south of Groningen and just south of the E30 which links The Hague to Osnabruck - but it is on a railway line - and if you can find an excuse to visit this small museum, you certainly should.
The museum has an excellent collection of samplers and lace - with the bonus of selling sampler patterns in its little shop. There is also a lovely and very interesting costume archive. Just click here for more details.

Friday, 24 June 2011

The Maldon Embroidery

The other week I decided it was high time (and low tide) enough to make a dash over to Maldon on the Blackwater Estuary in Essex to see the Maldon Embroidery. I was a guest on the private island of Osea, linked to the mainland by a causeway which is traversible only twice a day at low tide. So I crossed under the anxious gaze of egrets, shell ducks, oyster catchers and wildly shrieking herring gulls.
This embroidery designed by Humphrey Spender - as epic in its proportions as the Bayeaux tapestry - was worked on for 3 years between 1987 and 1990 by 86 embroiderers, female and male, to celebrate the millenium anniversary of the famous Battle of Maldon when a large army of Vikings led by Olaf Trygvassen, fresh from the sacking of nearby Ipswich, sailed up the Blackwater Estuary and made ready for an attack on Maldon.
Facing them up were the Saxon Earls, lead by Byrhtnoth with his trusty sword, Brighthelm. I think Byrhtnoth was a regular cricket player, since he allowed the Vikings passage to the mainland, so they could enjoy a level palying field, as it were. This very British gesture led to the Saxon downfall. The Battle of Maldon is one of the earliest and finest examples of English literature. And if you click on the link below you can hear some of it recited in the original language which we spoke hereabouts a thousand years ago.


Thursday, 23 June 2011

3 Scots Maids All in a Row & 2 Mysteries at Auction

Lot 817 at Willingham Auctions, Cambridge on 25 June will be this darling set of 4 framed alphabetical samplers, embroidered between 1784 and 1790. The outer pair were worked by Peggy Lennox, the longest one by Cicilia Lennox and the second from right by Agnes Kincaid. The estimate for all four is £200 - £400. To visit the auction website click here.
And here is Mystery #1 - lot 370 with an estimate of £80 - £120 for auction at Woolley and Wallis, Salisbury on 5th July. It is a George III needlework sampler apparently signed by James Eleanora Brown, October 13th 1795. It is worked with an alphabet and numbers and the text: There is nothing of so much worth as a mind well instructed. It measures 8.25 x 12.25in (21 x 31cm), in a later glazed frame and has repairs.
And here you can see a close-up of that name. So, while samplers by boys are rare but not unknown, is this sampler by a boy? And was his middle given name really Eleanora? Could these names have been the names of parents? What do you think? To visit the auction website, click here.
Mellors and Kirk, Nottingham are temporary custodians of Mystery #2. Lot 413 is a pair of early 19th century samplers without estimate for sale on 24 June. Most noticeable on the first sampler of the lot, a darning sampler, is the presence of a non-Roman alphabet above the top row of numbers and also above the central panel.
An identical alphabet is also present on the second sampler of the lot, although much less visible, it can be found above the top alphabet. Any ideas what language this might be? To visit the auction web-site, click here.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Hope House Costume Museum * Peak District, UK

The Hope House Museum collection focuses on fashionable dress for men women and children from the late 18th Century up to the 1970s. The museum now has over 600 items of clothing in its collection and all are available to view. Many of the outfits have been carefully researched and photographs of the original owners can be seen at the museum.
Located within easy reach of the picturesque historic market towns of Ashbourne, Buxton, Leek, Matlock and Bakewell, which provide a wide range of shops, craft and antique stores, the village of Alstonefield is situated just North of Dovedale, eight miles from Ashbourne off the A515 Ashbourne to Buxton road. Click here for more details.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

The Amsterdams Historisch Museum * Collection On Line

Thank you to Annie in Amsterdam for telling us about the Amsterdams Historisch Museum Collection which is now on-line for you to visit. There are 57 samplers, 62 darning pattern samplers and other embroidered pieces to enjoy. The example above is an orphanage sampler by Antje Geertruida Boom.
If you like the little red & white sampelrs, then you are in for a treat!
Simply click on this link to get to the collection. The enter the following as search terms one by one: Merklap. Stoplap. Borduur. You can click on an image to select what you would like to see and then click again for a larger image. You might also like to view the entire orphanage (weeshuis) collection - just click here.

Monday, 20 June 2011

The 7 Winners of the Dutch Chart Draw Are:

There is a lovely story attached to this little sampler of 1770 which featured in the magazine Handwerken Zonder Grenzen of 2005 (Number 129, page 61), the chart of which (taken from 7 separate magazines) is the give away this week. Trijnie in the Netherlands is the owner of the sampler and when she saw the give away, she emailed me. How wonderful is that! After all these years I am so happy to meet up via the internet with the owner of this sampler. Trijnie says: After a lecture, an elderly lady in the audience offered me the sampler. In return I gave her a little blue plate she liked. I think I saved the sampler because until then she had been using it as a little table-cloth on which she kept a vase - and we all know accidents can happen! Now, I am glad that more ladies can enjoy the sampler from 1770.
Now we shall look at and stitch this sampler thinking of you and this special story you have shared with us. Thank you Trijnie. And without further ado - thank you to everyone who entered the draw - of course you are not simply stitching one project, you have at least 15 on the go! The winners this time are: Sachie in Japan; Barbara in Leesburg VA; Meriem in France; Nancy in Ogden; Mary Jo J; Diana in Swannanoa NC; Celia in San Francisco and they have been emailed. Don't despair if you missed it this time round we have lots of special give aways lined up for you.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

A Preview of a Give Away to Come and a Free Jigsaw Download Now

I think I must always buy two of everything I like! I found I had two copies of this informative 16 page brochure from the Lady Lever Art Gallery in Port Sunlight, Liverpool. This is a wonderful place to visit - but do book ahead to see the embroideries as they are not always on show. I shall be offering this copy as a free give away in about a week's time, so keep your eyes open for it. In the meantime, I thought you might have fun piecing the cover together!
I hope you enjoy your jigsaw this week. However, sadly, this is not going to work for Mac users. Instructions: Click here next Click Open, then click the .EXE file name and click Run, when you see the jigsaw puzzle, click Play Too many pieces? Try clicking on Trays on the top tool bar to create any number of resizeable trays to sort your pieces ........ you can also click the Cheat button and watch the puzzle solve itself! The software is by David Gray designer of Jigsaws Galore - the powerful jigsaw player and creator for Windows.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Early Samplers For Auction at Christie's * London * 21 June 2011

Lot 445 is a pretty English sampler by Elizabeth Bridge which she helpfully states was completed in November 1712. Sometimes we can never be sure when a date is given by itself, whether the sampler was begun or finished in the stated year. Worked in silks and couched metal threads to a natural linen ground, it has rows of floral bunches, an alphabet and numbers along the top, and a central pious verse, beneath which sits a crown flanked by birds. It measures 8 x 19 in. (20 x 48 cm.) and is mounted in a bird's eye maple frame, glazed. its estimate is £700-£1,000.

Lot 451 is also an English sampler with a date of 1687 on an upper row. Lower down is text worked and inscribed in Latin by Katherine Ann Robinson declaring herself from Ayton in Yorkshire and the natural daughter of George and Elizabeth Robinson. The style of the texts appear to my eye later than many of the other motifs. Worked in wools and silks to a natural coloured ground with an alphabet and numerical panel to the top, pious verses in the centre, above several rows worked with flowers, birds and people it measures 9 x 17 in. (23 x 43 cm.) Estimate is £1,000 - £1,200



Finally lot 331, which is a needlework picture as opposed to a sampler. It is dated circa 1680 and is worked in silks with a central vignette of a shepherd and a lady, either side of an acorn tree, with sheep and a dog in the hillocky foreground, the border a flowering and fruiting garland. It measures 17 in. (43 cm.) square and is framed and glazed. Its estimate is £1,000 - £1,200.
For more details visit Christie's website.

Rebecca Jeffcoat Sold Out


It is like saying goodbye to old friends when the limited edition print charts sell out. Now it is time to bid farewell to Rebecca Jeffcoat - though I know she is now in many happy stitchers' homes across the world. We really loved making these charts. However, we are committed to doing better for our environment. Although Needleprint used an environmentally safe print process for all the charts, we couldn't help thinking of all the felled forests and the carbon footprint of all the air miles travelled to cutomers by our charts and that was just not good. We also thought of all our customers and friends who lived many miles from needlework shops and could only enjoy their needlework by shopping on the internet and others who did not enjoy the security of trusted mail services. We also remembered customers who lost their charts amongst other precious belongings in fires, earthquakes and floods - and we replaced wherever we could when such tragedies struck. Now we have a secure download system which means that even if you spill coffee, lose a chart or your computer crashes or dies, you do not lose your Needleprint charts. They will still be there for you, as if in some heavenly cloud! Unfortunately, this new environmentally and customer friendly delivery service was not such good news for our well-loved needlework stores, and we worked hard to find a model that would include them securely in our loop. However, we do believe that the more people who can enjoy stitching, the more people there will be to buy beautiful threads and fabric that never go out of style from their local needlework stores. What is more, shop owners don't have to worry about dusty, dog-eared patterns aging on their stands taking up inventory. So, perhaps our heavenly cloud has a silver lining for shops, also. I do hope so because they have a great place in our hearts - we have the greatest respect for all their hard work and we have always done our best to accommodate them.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Sylvie's Bright Start to Mary Peacock


We have a garden full of lavender and just as soon as it stops raining - maybe next week, I shall be out gathering some for the house. I adore the lavender fields in Provence, so when Sylvie showed me the her lovely start to Mary Peacock's sampler, it was love at first sight. These wonderful Ackworth samplers are so versatile, they look good in many colour combinations and this fresh, bright approach by Sylvie will be a joy to behold when completed. Mary Peacock with its 10 mystery motifs is amongst the last now of our limited edition printed charts.



Limited edition printed chart with 10 additonal mystery medallion projects and images of Mary's other known samplers. Price includes postage.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Fashion in the Middle Ages * The Getty Centre * Los Angeles * 31 May – 14 August 2011

For lovers of medieval fashion there is not only the exhibition at the Morgan Library we mentioned a little while ago, but also an exhibition of fashion related manuscripts - this time at the Getty Centre in Los Angeles. Click here for more details.
The Getty Centre literature tells us: While at times containing fanciful or idealized images of clothing, manuscript illuminations often reflect the actual styles and fabrics of the Middle Ages, as well as the economic factors behind them.
For the medieval viewer, color and material provided essential information about the social status of the figures on the page. For example, scholars wore red robes that carried the additional prestige associated with the high cost of crimson dye.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

The Caudry Lace Dress * On Display in Buckingham Palace * 23 July - 3 October 2011

In case your wedding invitation didn't arrive in time, shed no more tears - you can still see THE dress on display in Buckingham Palance throughout this summer and autumn. You can gasp at the French lace made in Caudry, Calais by the House of Sophie Hallette.
And if you are passing through Calais en route for summer holidays this year, don't pass up a visit to the Lace Museum in Caudry. There you can also buy some pretty items like this little naperron for just 3 Euros - it measures 14cm square.
Prêt-à-porter is this mantille for 39 Euros.
A tablecloth (dare you put a tea pot on it?) for 29 Euros.
And this stole is a steal at 39 Euros! To visit the museum's web-site for more information, just click here.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Fries Museum, Leeuwarden, Netherlands - Fabulous Sampler Collection On Line

Maaike in the Netherlands has just informed me that the wonderful Fries Museum in Leeuwarden has now a substantial portion of its fabulous sampler collection on-line - and more is being loaded.
Here you can see a small number examples to give you a taster.

The collection has some Spanish samplers, too, like the one above.
And if you look below you will see one of my favourite pieces - a knottedoek, or betrothal cloth which would have been made and used to hold the dowry.
Click here to go to the Fries Museum web-site and you can type any of the following search items in the box:  Merklap; Letterlap, Stoplap; Merkletterlap; Schoolmerklap; Knottedoek.
Thank you for sharing, Maaike.