Saturday, 31 December 2011

The Earliest Quaker Sampler * New Needleprint Chart For Download * Elizabeth Pim 1729

This sampler is most remarkable because until it was noticed by Micheál & Elizabeth Feller in the Friends’ Historical Library in Dublin, the earliest known sampler presenting Quaker motifs was dated 1775 (Betty Ring Girlhood Embroidery Volume II, page 292). Strictly speaking a double sampler, since it is composed of two joined cloths which stand as designs in their own right, it is signed and initialled Elizabeth Pim for 1729, 1730 and 1731 - some 45 years earlier! The Pims are a notable County Laois family. John Pim arrived there in 1659. One family member, Sarah Pim Grubb was sister-in-law to another Sarah Grubb, née Tuke of York, famous for her founding of Clonmel School, her links to Philadelphia and her account of Ackworth School. By the early 1700s the Pims were well established and there are a number of candidate Elizabeths for the maker of this sampler. The most probable candidate is Elizabeth who in 1749 married George Newneham. This would explain the initials EN and the date 1750. Elizabeth Pim’s repertoire of motifs includes those we normally associate with Ackworth School in the UK, but in addition there are distinctive motifs that appear again on the later Sarah Harris example of 1786 It is interesting to note that although the left portion of the cloth is relatively plain, the right portion has the scattering of capital letters, so well known to us from Ackworth School samplers. Ireland has been relatively overlooked in the research into Ackworth School samplers. However, given that the Quaker school at Mountmellick was established there as early as 1677, and that boys were also taught to knit and that these motifs worked in wool were probably samplers of knitting patterns, then their origination in Ireland is something that should be seriously researched. Ireland was also the source of many migrants to the east coast of the USA which could explain why similar samplers have found a home there. You can work Elizabeth’s cloth as a single sampler - we have removed some of the empty linen between the two to bring the motifs closer together than on the original - or as two separate samplers. The entire work measures 307 stitches wide by 272 stitches long and when worked on 32 count linen results in a finished piece of 19.2” (49cm) wide x 17” (43cm) long. You will need to add a margin around all the edges. To work 2 panels allow for 160 by 272 stitches and 10” (25cm) x 17” (43cm) linen for each. Click here for more details.

Friday, 30 December 2011

New Year's Resolution * Join The Textile Society * This Year's Remarkable AGM * & 5 Gift Memberships


Throw out any dusty, musty, fusty notions you may have of AGMs and make the easiest New Year's Resolution ever. Simply join the Textile Society - only £10 per year for Senior Citizens, Students and Unwaged - £18 for everyone else. Then make a big date in your diary for next year's AGM on 23/24 November at the Wellcome Collection, Euston Road, London. It is free.


This year we were treated to 10 excellent papers, eloquently and expertly presented by speakers such as textile luminaries Mary Brooks talking about changing views of 17th century English raised embroideries, Jacqui Hyman discussing analysis of children's clothing in Mamluk Egypt and Nikki Gordon Bowe on Irish Arts and Crafts Textiles. I name these few just to give you an idea of the range. Though I knew someone who had a pair of WB Yeats' underpants, I didn't know that his brother, Jack, the artist, also designed sodality banners for churches which were stitched by his sisters, Lily and Elizabeth Yeats - I am still following up all the fascinating things I learned.


The Textile Society also organizes outings and tours and has a Collector's Group. As a member you receive a free journal of the society - Text - which is a fabulous read - full colour 76 pages of articles, exhibition and book reviews - see the sample pages on this post. And, best of all, bursaries are awarded to textile workers, museums and schools in continuing support of this wonderful field we all love. Can there ever be not a reason to join?
Click here for more information. And because I am so grateful for all your interest and simply love sharing wonderful things with you, I am offering 5 free Textile Society Memberships for 2012 to anyone not already a member. Simply click on the flying angel below and, in one paragraph please, tell me why you would like to become a member of the Textile Society. I'll announce the lucky new members on 4 January 2012.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

The Sampler That Claimed An Estate - Naomi Tarrant - The Scottish Genealogist

This sampler from Dunfermline Museum, the gift of Miss M Hutton, has been described recently by Naomi Tarrant in The Scottish Genealogist (Volume LVIII No.4). It is one of those tantalising Family Record samplers associated in the UK with Scotland, but also found in the USA. Naomi's article is a delight to read. She has traced and researched the family which gives dimension and substance to this sampler. I particularly enjoyed reading the description of how a daughter of Jane Sutherland married a weaver called John Hutton and their unmarried son, leaving his native land for a better life in New Zealand, made a fortune there. A photograph of this sampler was sent by the Hutton family lawyers to New Zealand and was used in evidence for their claim to his estate. If you are interested in reading more of this article, simply click here for more details of how to obtain your copy of The Scottish Genealogist.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Going, Going, Gone - Museum Disposal

This silk picture along with 15 others, silk painted and embroidered with polychrome silks between 1917 and 1950, is about to disappear. It is on the disposal list of the Fashion Museum in Bath, UK. It may be, in fact, that it hasn't been seen in some time. In many museum items spend much of their lives in storerooms - there is only room to display about 1% of museum holdings at any one time, so even with a prodigious effort on the museum's part to achieve annual rotation, you would have to live to be around 100 before you got to see all that your museum curates in the normal displays.
The Museum Association in the UK states: Museums enable people to explore collections for inspiration, learning and enjoyment. They are institutions that collect, safeguard and make accessible artefacts and specimens, which they hold in trust for society.
And there are guidelines concerning ethical disposal which is characterized as being when it is:
within the framework of a clearly defined collections policy
• on the advice of a range of staff (not an individual) and is agreed by the governing body
• done with the intention that wherever possible items remain within the public domain
• unlikely to damage public trust in museums
• likely to increase the public benefit derived from museum collections
• communicated openly to stakeholders and the public.
Justifiable reasons for disposal are: duplicated items; underused items; items that the museum cannot adequately care for; items damaged or deteriorated beyond the museum's ability to repair; unprovenanced or uncontextualized items; items that are a risk to health and safety.
Only recently, in 2007, was the Code of Ethics amended to accept financially motivated disposal in exceptional circumstances, when it can be demonstrated that: significant long-term public benefit will be derived from the remaining collection; it is simply not to meet budget deficit, nor is it a last resort when other sources of funding have been explored and sector bodies have been consulted; the item is outside the museum's core collection as defined in  the collections policy. As an additional safeguard any money raised as a result of disposal must be used to benefit the museum's collection, in particular it must be restricted to long-term sustainability, use and development of the collection. For more information you can download the Museum Association's Policy Document and also the detailed Code of Ethics.
It is interesting that with the best will in the world, policies created by a single stakeholder tend to be focused around and led by that same stakeholder. I remember once going to a Chinese restaurant for a New Year's meal. We were to choose a variety of plates amongst ourselves to share, and I still remember one strident voice above all others declaring: We can't have everyone deciding. Maybe that is right? Or is it?

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

New from Gail Marsh


I am a huge fan of Gail Marsh and already have her two books on 18th and 19th Century Embroidery Techniques. Gail is Development Officer of the Rachel Kay-Shuttleworth Textile Collection at Gawthorpe Hall, Lancashire, UK. After spending so much time with early textiles, it is easy to dismiss stitching of our own times, but the fact remains that there was a great resurgence of interest in embroidery techniques at this time. Certainly, the arrival of the New Elizabethan Era with the Coronation of our present Queen, now in her 60th year on the throne, heralded a return to the attic and archives and a great dusting down of lost gems of British culture. There was a folk revival of country dances and songs begun earlier in the century by Cecil Sharp. At school we learned traditional English songs and sea-shanties before we could read. And we embroidered needlecase covers a little in the manner of Rachel Kay-Shuttleworth's own sampler shown above.
I know my friend Vivien Caughley in New Zealand has been researching modern samplers such as this Guides and Brownies one below - if you see any, they are likely to be cheap and they are hugely collectible.
The wonder is that we live in age where many embroiderers and designers are well known by name and will go down in the records, and there are many case-studies in this new book focusing on a single person and their work, so it is an especial treat to be able to put a face and personality to a piece of stitching, which, for the most part, we are unable to do for previous centuries. I also adore this book, because it is like a trip down memory lane. My aunties and grandmas all produced items influenced by the designers documented in Gail's book. I do recommend it!
Two other books which have me in their thrall at the moment are the first of Daniel Yergin's books on the history of oil The Prize (I have his second book The Quest lined up to read next) and an absolutely wonderful book called The Emperor of All Maladies - a Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee. Strange recommendations, perhaps, but absolute page-turners - impossible to put down - I have to make myself do just that to get on with other things!

Monday, 26 December 2011

Boxing Day Give-Away * Mary Queen of Scots Playing Cards * 2 Decks

I just happened to come across a lovely boxed set of 2 decks of cards featuring Mary Queen of Scots and her needlework. Each card carries Mary's stitched device on the reverse.
It is a vintage Viennese Platnik set - I have no idea when it was published - so it is not new, but it is in excellent condition and would certainly cut the mustard at the bridge table.
The Hearts honours are populated with Henry II of France, and James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell first husband and lover respectively of Mary Queen of Scots.
In the Spades camp are the formidable Henry VIII, Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester.
For Diamonds are Mary's parents: James V, Mary de Guise; and Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley her second husband.
And clubs are Francois I of France; Mary Tudor; and James, Earl of Moray - Mary's half-brother and nemesis.
To enter the draw just click on the flying angel below. The winner of the draw will be notified next Monday, 2 Jan 2012. Good luck!

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Happy Christmas! Christmas Day Jigsaw to Download

You will be too busy making happiness to even think of a jigsaw today, but I hope at some stage over the holiday, when you are replete with joy, you will have a moment to indulge yourself. I hope you enjoy your free jigsaw download today. 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.
Richard and I shall probably go up to Ditchling Beacon and walk off a few spoons of Christmas Pud.... So I leave you with the Ditchling Carol

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Christmas Eve and The Virgin Mary

Like anyone who has had children, I think of the Virgin Mary on the eve of her giving birth and wonder what trepidation and apprehension she felt about giving birth to a first child, the pain, then the relief and calmness afterwards - that moment when a child is born and Time calls time to its headlong trajectory; calls a Chrstmas truce when past and future rejoin across men's trenched divides, and in the hush and stillness, holds its breath in sheer awe of what has just happened. And I remember the little saying, God reminds Earth of Heaven when a child is born. May every child born this eve and every day remind us of Heaven in case we forget. In this panel by Lluis Borrassa, a Catalan artist who lived about 1360-1425, the Virgin Mary (haloed) with her classmates is showing needlework samplers to their teacher. The Virgin Mary's needlework shows a fountain (symbolic of the Immaculate Conception) surrounded by five flying angels. This fountain is remarkable similar to those fountains favoured by Stuart embroiderers.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Parchment Sampler

Now in a private collection, this very fine parchment sampler of the Ten Commandments and Creed was painstakingly cut by John Sparling 1729. I don't know if there are any others like this out there, but I would be very interested to know. Is this a gendered exercise - the equivalent of a stitched sampler?

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Nazareth At Christmas

Ann Nazareth is another artist I came across in the shop at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Ann took her degree in constructed textiles as a mature student and was drawn to basket making techniques as a way to produce 3-D pieces. She is inspired by creation myths and folk tales - stories duplicated in world cultures showing our similarities not our differences.

Her basket work figures always bring a huge smile to my face.
Ann says: I enjoy meeting a challenge and believe all forms are possible, until proved otherwise. I'm not afraid to experiment because what doesn't work usually acts as a catalyst for new ideas. Would you just Adam and Eve it! To read more about Ann Nazareth and see more work, click here.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Hampshire Museums Service Has Embroidered Bags On-Line


Hampshire Museums Service has their delightful bag and purse collection on line for you to search. Here are just a few stunning examples for you to enjoy. This example is from the 1830s-1840s and is wool on canvas. All the edges are piped with pale pink and white cord, with matching cord handles having two ornate gilt or pinchbeck trims shaped as thistles. It is trimmed with large pink and white chenille tassels. Sizewise it is about 6 inches wide and 4 inches deep (approx. 15cm x 11cm).
This is a lovely example from between 1750 - 1790. Envelope style it is made from stiffened, figured white silk embroidered on both sides with twined ribbons, flowers, butterfly, basket of flowers, flowering tree and bird. It too measures about 6 inches wide and 4 inches deep (approx. 16cm x 11cm).
Another later reticule from 1830 - 1845, this is embroidered on white moire silk with sprays of foliage and flowers and has some ribbon work detail. It is slightly bigger and measures about 8 inches wide and 8 inches deep (approx. 20cm x 19cm).
Finally from 1900-1930 is this white cotton drawstring bag embroidered on both surfaces with Indian style floral design in white silk. It measures about 6 inches wide and 5 inches deep (approx. 16cm x 18cm). To look for yourself, just click here.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Collect Those Stitching Memories Now Before It's Too Late - Even Flour Bags!

We were talking at the Textile Society AGM about the need to record or otherwise gather the stories of textile workers - stitchers, knitters, curators - whoever, before it is too late and their voices and experience lost. There was much discussion about the way this should be done: the correct way to elicit information and so on. Hopefully some course will be established to enable a more professional gathering. But as Richard says to me when I have the camera. Just take the shot! Then, if it hasn't moved, you can take time and get your perfect shot. And he is absolutely right. The number of times I have missed the moment completely because I was too hung up on getting the perfect shot. I say get the experiences down now - we can all do that with our mobile phones, pencils and paper - and we can work on refining them later, when we have learnt all the skills. History will not forgive us for being perfectly equipped after the moment is lost. And who in a grand prepared strategy of things would think to turn the topic to flour bags? Here is an example for you in the archives of the Highland Council. In the late 1970s, Mrs Rollo, an elderly resident of Friars Street, Inverness, shared her memories of old Inverness with a Mrs. Sneddon. Mrs. Rollo had lived as a child in Shore Street and moved to Friars Street in the early 1920s. She had five of a family; three boys and two girls. Her husband worked for the Highland Railway. In an audio extract, Mrs. Rollo remembers creating bed linen from flour bags. Click here to access the recording. Below is a transcript of the interview and above is a
photograph of Friars Street, where Mrs Rollo lived, with the steeple of the Old High Church in the background.

Interviewer: So, ye did some knitting but ye didn't really have much time but -
Mrs Rollo: No, no.
Interviewer: Well sewing?
Mrs Rollo: Oh aye. We'd make an mend - mend an patch everything.
Interviewer: Yes. An what about flour bags?
Mrs Rollo: Oh aye, flour bags. What did I do wi that?
Interviewer: Tel me where ye got them an what ye did wi them?
Mrs Rollo: Well, I got some from Mr. Anderson, the baker, an some from Mr. Grant in Eastgate. They had the meal store then.
Interviewer: An did ye have to buy them?
Mrs Rollo: Yes. I think we got them for sixpence each an they were good value, weren't they?
Interviewer: They were that.
Mrs Rollo: Compared to the day, the rubbish. An then if they were very, very highly coloured we would send them for the first cleaning, to the laundry, after we'd soaked them an got the worst of the flour out, we'd send - dry them off - an then send them to the laundry an they would bleach a lot o the colouring off. An then we would do the rest ourselves. So then we made them into cot sheets, or single-bed sheets, an pillow slips. That kept us going sewing.
Interviewer: It would have.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Lynne Roche's Christmas Book and New Dolls for 2012

I have just had a sneak preview of Lynne's new dolls for 2012 - and they are superb. This is Emilia with pale strawberry blond mohair wig and blue glass eyes. She is wearing a vintage 40’s fabric skirt, hand knitted jumper and embellished felt waistcoat. She holds her favourite bear, Toby, and is sitting on a wonderful hand-painted seat that has unique vintage fabric cushions. Emilia is a limited edition doll of just 10.
Here Emilia is dressed warmly for winter. She has a flannel skirt and blouse. Over this she wears a uniquely designed space-dyed felt coat and knitted pure silk mittens and scarf. She has a fair mohair wig and brown eyes and is one of 20 pieces.
Gertie in floral and Gertie in pink are smaller dolls, measuring just 11 inches.
And don't forget, now is the just time to buy Lynne's delightful tale of wonder at Christmas - just perfect for one of those littleys in your family.

Stop Press - Betty Ring's 2 Volume Girlhood Embroideries On-Line


Sothebys have now put the two volumes of Betty Ring's fabulous work Girlhood Embroideries on line for you to peruse.
Click here for Volume 1. And here for Volume 2.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Winter Hearts With Heart * Train a Businesswoman Gift Set - Sewing Kit

I suffer from itchy fingers, and pins and needles. When I am not busy on the book, I always want to stitch, but I dearly want my work to benefit someone who needs it. When I was young I stayed in a pensione on Thira - a wonderful Greek island - in the days when it was a 13 hour journey by ship from Piraeus, as was the supply of water which got towed in a huge plastic tank behind the boat, since there is no water, other than dew, on Thira. What impressed me, having been brought up in a Yorkshire family where I believed absolutely nothing went to waste, on Thira, examples of household economic practice went way off my meter. Crumbs were assiduously gathered from the table top each morning, but whereas Yorkshire crumbs were breakfast for the birds, the Thira crumbs were potted. After a couple of days I rehearsed enough courage (and Greek) to ask what would happen to the pot of crumbs. At the end of the week, my hostess replied, we shall have a nice bread-crumbed fowl escalope. Oh, I replied, so the breadcrumbs will be for free? No! they are paid already, was the rather terse reply. Then she went on, as if concerned that sounded a bit harsh, if I cannot keep or preserve food, there is always someone who needs it more than me, and I give it to them.
In these hard times, there is always someone whose need is greater than ours. So by giving this sewing kit to make lavender filled hearts or buying it for yourself, you will be helping a business woman in the Lulu Works Trust. The Lulu Works Trust is a small business that takes its name from a variety of shea nut which – with support from Oxfam (The Oxford Agency for Famine Relief) – is helping to change women's lives in South Sudan. Traditionally, used as food, lulu nuts also produce pure shea butter, and it's this that forms the basis of the Lulu's product range. And it's a range that is generating a growing income for women in the Mundri area of South Sudan. Today Lulu's range of products includes body butter, hair cream, mosquito repellent, lip balm, soap and cooking oil. For more details of this Oxfam project - and others too, just click here.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Scissor Arches at Wells Cathedral

When a group of the Best People came to join us at Symondsbury in 2008 for the launch of the Goodhart Samplers Book, I thought it would be a neat thing to visit Wells not just for the wonderful sampler collection in the museum there, but also to see the unique scissor arch in the cathedral and stay for the Christmas Carol Service. I have to say I had a lump in my throat throughout the service as I felt so blessed being surrounded by wonderful people and enjoying the most ethereally beautiful singing imaginable from some incredibly gifted young people. So now we make a point of returning every year to remember that special occasion.

This year the Carol Service is on 23 December and starts at 18.00 - but best be seated a half hour earlier as this is incredibly popular. Click here for more details.
We stay in the Ancient Gatehouse. The rooms overlook the cathedral close and this was the view from our pretty bedroom there. Ask for Room Number 3 if you are booking. Click here for more details.
This is one of my favourite areas of Wells, the Vicars' Close - it is like going back in time!
Just a couple of doors down from the Ancient Gatehouse is The Old Spot - one of my favourite dining places. Jay Rayner, top UK food critic describes it: At lunch, three courses are £15, with four choices at each course, rising in the evenings to £25 with six choices, both menus changing weekly. It was a short list, but challenging. I wanted to eat all of it, but in the end chose for my starter the pressed ham terrine with lentil vinaigrette over the gazpacho or brandade of salt cod, because a terrine is a good test of any kitchen. It was a solid chunk of sweet piggyness, the whole cut through by a tidy pile of the nutty lentils, mixed in with the spiky vinaigrette. Next to it were a couple of cornichons. And that was it. There was no need for anything else. For mains, a choice of tomato risotto, poached salted ox tongue, roast pollock or braised shoulder of lamb. The lamb had been taken off the bone, rolled and then caramelised to give crisp contrast to the softness of the meat within. Alongside was ratatouille, and it wasn't one of those tragic reinventions of the dish that too many kitchens attempt, chopping the vegetables to millimetre dice and straining the sauce until it is less a part of the dish than an echo of its ingredients. This was an in-yer-face ratatouille with chunky pieces of aubergine and a sauce that was the essence of a bucketful of tomatoes. After those two hefty dishes I probably should have had the summer fruit compote, but there was a St Emilion au chocolat on offer, which is a Hopkinson recipe from Roast Chicken, and should be ordered whenever possible: a slab of indecently rich and boozy dark chocolate mousse, over- and underlaid with crushed amaretti biscuits. It is, I think, what the word dessert was invented for. A great meal, then, at a sensible price. Click here for more details.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Cristina's Progress With Hannah Westcombe And Those Mysterious Upper-Case Ligatures Explained - Maybe!

It is good to see that Portuguese Head Girl, Cristina, is making progress with her Hannah Westcombe - one of the earliest text samplers at Ackworth School. For those of you who might not know, Cristina underwent serious heart surgery not so long ago, and now is making her recovery. She says: The doctors are still keeping me on sick leave, which is very good at this time of year, because cold and changing of weather brings me lots of pains in the bones of my chest: that’s one of the reasons I decided to go on a new project – it lifts me up. We all hope you continue to feel lifted up, Cristina and wish you all the best for the festive season. I see Cristina is just beginning the row of upper-case ligatures - those pairs of letters joined to each other. While the lower-case ligatures were commonly used around that time, for a limited period, to improve the aesthetic of the printed word, upper-case ligatures, apart from an odd Latin example were not commonly seen. So what, if anything was the purpose of stitching them? It was something of a mystery. Then we began to notice upper-case ligatures on Scottish samplers. Scottish samplers are to a large extent marked by rows of paired initials belonging to family members of the stitcher. While in many examples they are stitched separately, on some few samplers they are ligatured.

This illustration of the text on a Scottish horn book of 1784 is contemporary with Ackworth School text samplers and just a year later than Hannah Westcombe's sampler - here you can see the lower-case ligatures. So, one has to ponder if the influence for the ligatures - both upper- and lower-case is coming to Ackworth from across the border. And by across the border nothing particularly extreme is being posited. In fact, Carlisle just to the north of the Quaker strongholds of Cumbria and Westmorland regularly played hop-scotch across that shifting divide. Even today, whenever the weather is poor and visibility is low, I'll give up on a fell-walk in the Lake District to travel an hour north for comforting coffee and home-made toasted banana bread at John Watts Coffee Shop in Bank Street, Carlisle.
One of the earliest text samplers at Ackworth School. Limited edition printed chart comes with 5 mini text sampler projects and background history. Price includes postage.

Stop Press - Sotheby's Have Full Text of Betty Ring's American Needlework Treasures On-Line

You can now page through the entire book, thanks to Sothebys. Click here for the link.