Thursday, 31 May 2012

Digital Renaissance for Henry VIII Tapestries at Hampton Court

The textile conservationists at the Historic Royal Palaces have been working on a project with the University of Manchester for 7 years which has resulted in the virtual colour reconstruction of one of Henry VIII's tapestries at Hampton Court Palace. In order to do that some idea of the amount of fading of the original had to be calculated. To some extent this was achieved by reference to the unfaded reverse. The back has not been exposed to light in the same direct way for 500 years that has brought about the loss of colour to the front. Also the bright golds and silvers of the metallic threads woven in the tapestry have tarnished and blackened over time, further reducing the brilliance of the original. Now using digital technology the original colours are projected back on to the tapestry, so reconstructing how the tapestries would have appeared all those centuries ago. Funding for the project was provided by the Clothworkers' Foundation. To read more and for a pdf download of the project, just click here.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Exhibition of Needle Lace in Bologna 2 June 2012 - 10 June 2012 * Thinking of You in a Time of Earthquakes


It seems there is no end to the earth's tectonic plate movements - the terrible quakes in Christchurch, New Zealand, Japan and now the latest two around 20 miles north of Bologna which have caused devastation and loss of life. Our thoughts are with you.

Il Merletto di Bologna is a group of friends who share a passion for needlelace developed in their beautiful city of Bologna. Some were students of the last Bolognese lacemaker who belonged to the famous Aemilia Ars and they pass on their knowledge and their experience to new members, so that this great art can be kept alive. The purpose of Il Merletto di Bologna is to search for ancient drawings and to execute them in lace while also creating new designs which maintain the strong traditions of the Aemilia Ars."

And if you are in the area in early June you can go and see some of these wonderful works at an exhibition at the Oratorio dei Teatini on the Strada Maggiore in Bologna.

After the official opening on 2 June 2012 at 16.30 it will be open every day 3-10 June from 9.30-12.30 and 15.30-19.00. These are just a few samples of the exquisite work made by this wonderful group, to see more just click here.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Fluff-A-Torium Guerilla Knitters Muffle the Dorking Cockerel for the Queen's Jubilee

Needles(s) to say we are all very excited by the Jubilee Celebrations and the holiday next week. A guerilla knitting group has spun a yarn that will go down in Dorking folklore, after admitting its members were responsible for the Jubilee-inspired scarves and hats adorning the town's cockerel. Maybe a bit over excited, girls? No, that is simply not possible! These red, white and blue decorations appeared on the metal cockerel on the Deepdene roundabout over the weekend in a display of patriotism ahead of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations this weekend. Around 15 members of Knit 'n' Knatter, a group which meets five times a month in Dorking's West Street shop, The Fluff-A-Torium, had been busily preparing the scarves in secret. After a month's work, seven guerilla knitters crept onto the roundabout at 2am on Sunday (May 27) and tied the items to the cockerel's head and neck. Clare Davies, knitting and crocheting tutor at The Fluff-A-Torium confessed all: It was me and my Knit 'n' Knatter team. I just thought, why don't we do something a bit different. It took a lot of time and there was no red, white and blue wool left in Dorking when we'd finished, but it was great fun and really satisfying. Anymore patriotric needleworking guerillas out there wanting to confess? Just email me.

Monday, 28 May 2012

For a Cup of Tea and a Piece of Homemade PIe

Philippa from Norwich sent me this image to share with you with its interesting story. She says: We found this embroidery on a recent visit to Stonegrave church, Kirkbymoorside, North Yorkshire. The details read "This embroidery was made by an Italian prisoner of war at Gilling East during or just after World War II. He gave it to Mrs Mabel Harrison of the Post Office Stonegrave for giving him a cup of tea and a piece of home-made pie when he visited the post office." I do have to say that home baked Yorkshire pies are the best in the world.... but I don't think that was simply the point. What value can you put on human kindness after all - it is beyond any price. After Mrs Harrison's death, her son gave the work to the church. Thank you very much for sharing, Philippa. I hope while you were up there you found a nice cafe with some home baked Yorkshire apple pie... and some custard on top, perhaps?

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Free Jigsaw Download

It has been so beautiful and sunny all day today that I have taken time out to enjoy a day in the garden - I hope your day has been just as peaceful. I thought this might be a fun jigsaw for this week. Good luck and have fun. 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, 26 May 2012

Museum Collections Sampler Tea Towel and Tapestry Mugs


Having meditated upon the sorry state of some samplers yesterday, I did wonder how many ended up at the bottom of the cloth chain for use to dry dishes.
Fortunately, this fate did not await Ann Buckett's 1656 sampler which is in fine fettle in the Metropolitan Museum. But you can buy a pair of linen teatowels with her sampler design for £9.99. Just click here for more details.

Although these are called tapestry mugs, the designs are straight off stitched Stuart panels of the mid 1600s in the V&A. The design above is called the Pear Tree Mug and costs £10.99 and the one below is Castle Mug and is also £10.99. You can also buy both of them for £20.99. Just click here for more details.

Friday, 25 May 2012

A Sad Sad Situation

This sampler is described as a cushion-top sampler. This is a term that is quite new to me, but maybe you have heard of it before and I'd like to hear from you if you have. Within the pretty floral border is very special needlework describing the Principality of Wales. It was worked by Catherine Roberts and has a diameter of 14 inches. It is hard for me to look at this and not see a square format that has been cut down - perhaps to provide a decorative cushion at some later date. And if this is the case, then one needs to ask, though perhaps there is no-one left now to answer, was this a widespread fashion and how many samplers were so repurposed?
It is a salutory thought that for every sampler we see intact after decades, if not hundreds of years, there were many that just did not make it. It would seem that Sarah Bird's sampler of 1798, stitched when she was 11, is in a near terminal situation and may not last many more years without some very special intervention. At least we have images of these two. So every time we rejoice in a beautiful sampler, maybe we should spare a thought for the girls' samplers that didn't make it.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Embroidered Jackets in the Museum of London


I know some of you were over in the UK not so long ago, on the terrific Jacket Tour. You will, no doubt have enjoyed seeing these two examples in the Museum of London.

However, if you were unable to make the trip, then here is your chance to see them with close-up details of the stitching.

It is very difficult to have a clear preference, though I like the graphic effect of this simple barberry design.

Here you can see how the design works at the detail level.

Not only are there the jackets - there is also a skirt which I think is just fabulous.

Look at this - I would love to stitch one to wear - it doesn't look difficult to execute once drawn.  Below you can see a tout ensemble with jacket and skirt. Top see these images and many more details of the embroidery close up, just click here to visit the Museum of London.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Some Interesting Sampler Characters Turn Up In An Illustration Of Tristram Shandy

There is so much that is diverting in Tristram Shandy that it is a wonder Laurence Sterne ever manages to complete his history. What is fascinating me at the moment is this illustration in the book, entitled High Life at Noon. The artist is anonymous. Here we can see a bit of domestic shenanigans - the husband is apparently checking the maid's heartbeat while the wife is receiving proposals on both hands. Look at the caged parrot which features on many continental samplers - the bird is cawing the game away, telling us Caesar and Pompey were both of them horned (cuckolded). In the foreground is a crowned monkey also known to us from samplers - aping a savant by reading a treatise on The Winding Up of the Clock and facing the monkey is our beloved squirrel as recorded on samplers for almost 400 years!

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Dawn Lewis * Needlework Antiques * Samplers For Sale


I first met Dawn Lewis in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge some years ago. She had brought a group of sampler lovers over to the UK from the USA and they were having a tour of the sampler collection. She is a very calm and collected person, quietly spoken. A gentle-woman. It was a pleasure to meet her.

Dawn has a delightful collection of samplers for sale at her web-site Needlework Antiques and it is really a treat to go and look at her new offerings - this Spanish sampler with the giraffe above is fabulous!

And of course I love seeing Quaker samplers - I think this one may be from Ackworth School. Did you notice all the Quaker motifs on the top sampler, too?
And this sampler was worked by a girl called E Bird - need I say more? To see all Dawn's stunning samplers just click here.

You Me & Facebook and SANQ Draw Winner


I do apologise. Some of you must think I am very standoffish as you have requested to be my friend on Facebook. That is really lovely of you and I am so chuffed to be invited to be your friend. The problem is that my personal Facebook is where I sort out the family problems and ups and downs and generally check up to make sure they are all eating enough greens and remembering to return library books. This blog is really my page for friends - where I share my thoughts and you can always email me at any time by clicking on the flying angel.
And yes, there is a winner of the SANQ draw - it is Giovanna in Italy. There'll be more SANQs in the future - do look out for the Fall edition as there will be an article on The Micheál and Elizabeth Feller Needlework Collection.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Buttons Forever!

I love buttons! I'll say that again - I love buttons! Ever since I was small, buttons meant hours of happiness. One of the best and kindest people I know is also called Button.... Did you know that buttons were stitched on soldiers coat sleeves to stop them being used as nose-wipes? Ouch!
So here you can see a few precious samplers from the ten million button collection of Mr Button - alias Milanese Franco Jacassi. In the 1980s Franco bought up an old boutique showroom. It turned out to be a treasure trove. In the basement he found thousands of buttons - some from the 19th century. It became a craze for him.
He supplied buttons to the top end of the Italian and French couture houses. Though now he says because of the recession sales are not what they used to be. Not everyone is willing to spend £30,000 on 70 rare Italian hand made buttons that belonged to a 17th century aristocrat.
His wife tells him she is not interested in the collection. But his 5 year-old niece, Eva, adores them all. She takes her uncle's hand everytime she visits and demands a story for every button he shows her.
And here you can see a sampler made of buttons - maybe it is something you would like to try? The video below is a great insight into Mr Buttons collection - sorry about the trailer though, it seems to be a sign of the times!

Saturday, 19 May 2012

More Betty Ring Samplers For Sale Today at Noon Eastern Time

Special Announcement. Stephen and Carol Huber are to sell 30 samplers and pictorial embroideries from the Betty Ring collection that did not sell at auction in January, 2012. The sale will go online Saturday, May 19, 2012 at noon Eastern time - 5pm Greenwich Mean Time. Prices are greatly reduced - all are below the catalogue estimates with no buyers' premium. Click here to visit the Huber Website.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Another Wunderbar Mary Wigham from Barbara in Germany

Barbara in Germany sends hugs and pictures of her completed Mary Wigham - which is wunderbar! This is a very well travelled Mary - she has been stitched in 2009 in Sweden, last spring to Mallorca, summer 2011 in Sweden again and this spring in Gran Canaria. Barbara used Anchor Thread in 1206 and stitched 1 over 1 on 16 thread to 1 cm Weddigen Linen. Many Congratulations Barbara and hugs from all of us. To see Barbara's lovely blog, just click here.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

The Cutting Edge of Fashion

As if reading my thoughts on armour of Tuesday's post, I was notified today that a stunning new exhibition is opening at The Wallace Collection in London. The Wallace Collection is one of my favourite haunts - there is the most astonishing collection of Old Master Paintings there in a space that doesn't leave you feeling exhausted after a visit. It is also home to a major collection of armoury. One of my most abiding memories is dropping my coin filled purse while standing at the rear of an elaborately armoured horse. I was too terrified to pick up my purse and stood very much like a rabbit caught in the headlights as two curators made a dash to see what damage had been caused! Today marks the start of a new exhibition, The Noble Art of the Sword: Fashion and Fencing in Renaissance Europe bringing together the clothes and fashion that were sported together the deadly weapons that were wielded, in this exhibition the very best sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century swords. The exhibition continues until 16 September 2012 and admission is free. For more details click here.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Bukowski Market - Sweden and Finland

Heading North, here are some items from an on-line Swedish Auction House, Bukowski. You can bid on-line and ten Swedish Krona (SEK) is worth about £1. Do read the terms and conditions before you bid - because you will have to arrange pick up or handling of your item if you win the auction. But it is also nice to browse simply to see some Northern samplers and stitching. Here is a cross stitch sampler from 1831 measuring 24 cm x 50 cm. Currently the bid stands at 300SEK and there is an estimate of 1000SEK. The auction ends 18 May at 18:04 BST.
I think this etui is charming. The current bid is 600SEK with an estimate of 1500SEK. Auction ends 19 May at 16:46 BST.
It comes in an embellished box - there are 6 metal tools including the silver thimble.
And here is a delicate and very refined piece of silk embroidery from the 1800s measuring 21 cm x 20 cm. The auction for this item ends 20 May at 18:16 BST. The current bid is 300SEK and it has an estimate of 1500SEK. Click here to visit the auction.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Embroidered Steel - And A Little Something to Help with the Washing Up - No Not a Brillo Pad!

Armour was never something I would cross over the street to see - until I started to look more closely at embroidery - and then something went ping! You are probably familiar with this portrait of George Clifford - I know him better as husband to Lady Ann Clifford, a lady after Bess of Hardwick's heart, I would guess - but that's another story. What might not be so well known is that under that rather alluring embroidered robe, he is wearing a suit of the most amazing armour probably ever made. It is in todays' money, million pound armour!
And here is the very same armour - in the steel - and you can get up close and personal with it in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. It is fabulous. The decoration of this etched blue steel costume is pure embroidery in my eyes.
And just so you know I am not hallucinating after all these years on the embroidery trail - look at this decoration here.
And here, where a garter has been simulated. There is a coat of armour belonging to Henry VIII which is smothered in roses, fleur de lys and pomegranates.
And why pomegranates? Because they were the personal device of his first wife, Spanish Katherine of Aragon - and here you can see a depiction of their marriage with their emblems above.
Suits of armour in Henry VIII's time and of Elizabeth were made at the The Royal Almain Armoury at Greenwich by German and Flemish craftsmen. Recently a whole book of designs of armour made at the Royal Workshops was found in the V&A - it is called the Almain (or German) Album and it contains 30 stunning designs - to see them all click here.
And if you are having problems finding a washer-up - this manly protection might just do the trick to lure some warriors into the kitchen - but do remember to keep anything breakable out of reach....You can buy the apron direct from the Historic Royal Palaces website - just click here for more details.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Free Needleprint Draw - In Prayse of The Proper Stitcher - Darlene O'Steen

This may seem like old news to you, and I am sorry. Please bear with me as I have to wait a little longer while my Sampler and Antique Needlework flies across the pond to me. Mine has just touched down today. There is a very moving tribute to Darlene O'Steen in this edition to mark her retirement. This a huge thing for me, since Darlene has been - and will continue to be - one of the brightest and most admired stars in my firmament. It is because of her work that I have been inspired to study hard and more, to look closely and closer still, to understand and question insanely and to do as much as I can for the world of samplers. Though she may retire, her work will generate light for years and years to come. I cannot tell you how thrilled I was ten years ago, or more, to run down all her charted Needle's Prayse samplers from here in the UK. Her exquisitely designed and presented book, The Proper Stitch, is one of my treasured possessions. Thank you not only for the inspiration, Darlene, but for all the excitement and joy that goes with it. Darlene tells us that in 2007 she was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, and then, after a recurrence of breast cancer in 2011, she decided that God had another plan for herlife and that the time had come to retire from the Needle's Prayse.

You can read all about Darlene and much more inside the latest Sampler and Antique Needlework Quarterly. I have been a subscriber to SANQ for years and just love the articles and stitching projects. I have an extra copy as a give away to go into the free draw this week. Just click on the flying angel below to enter.