Sunday, 31 March 2013

A Happy Hopeful Easter * Easter Decorations For Your Bicycle & Horse!

It used to be the case that we had to wait for May Day to decorate our bicycles - but do you know what? - It has been such a long grey, miserable winter that I definitely think it is time to spring some spring-like bunting right this minute! I saw this wonderful bicycle outside a shop on a recent freezing cold day in Cockermouth - just the day before the 14 foot snow drifts - and in a town which has come close to ruin recently on account of appalling floods - and fell upon its hopeful colour and delight with as much gladness as Wordsworth must have felt upon seeing his golden daffodils. It strikes me that the simplest, home-made gestures have the power to change - to bring a smile to a stranger's face - to renew hope where hope might be lacking and to bring comfort in the cold. I hope your hope finds its own spring of renewal today. Just this week I saw these incredible textile horses by Nick Cave at Grand Central Station. What does your horse look like?

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Workt by Hand: Hidden Labor and Historical Quilts * Brooklyn Museum, New York * Until 15 September 2013



March 15–September 15, 2013 This exhibition curated by Catherine Morris and located in the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, 4th Floor, of the Brooklyn Museum showcases approximately thirty-five American and European quilt masterpieces from the Brooklyn Museum’s renowned decorative arts collection. Spanning two centuries of quilt making, the exhibition features superlative examples of the most iconic quilt designs and techniques, including the "Barn Raising" or "Log Cabin" style, the "Garden Basket" style, "Double Wedding Band" designs, the "Rose of Sharon" pattern, and the Amish "Sunshine and Shadow" style, as well as a variety of album quilts.

This cutting from the Pensacola Journal of 24 February 1907 is a wonderful document telling us that Girls of Today Eschew Qilting Box - Old-Fashioned Blocks Are Still in Vogue - and that home made quilting represents labour valued at $675 million!

The exhibition considers how issues common to the craft and handmade nature of quilting practices, such as anonymity, authorship, and collectivity, have affected the interpretation and reception of quilts. It also examines the historical designation of quilts as crafts rather than art objects and the shift in the late twentieth century, under the influence of modernism, toward a formalist appreciation of quilts as works of abstract art. This shift, and its implications for the way quilts have been seen and understood, will be explored by the quilts being presented both vertically—as they are now frequently shown in museums and galleries—and horizontally, as though on the beds for which they were originally designed. For more details, click here.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Samplers On-Line @ Brooklyn Museum, New York


Brooklyn Museum in New York has its sampler collection on-line for you to view. There are 28 pieces in the collection, though not all have an image. I was particularly taken by this simple cloth which reminds me of a good friend. It was worked by Harriet Judson in Hillsdale in 1807. I wonder if some of those letter forms aren't Irish in descent. 

The cloth above is lovely and I can't help thinking that its all-over designs aren't earlier that the 19th century label it has been given. The provenance is American, but the pattern sources are European.
Last but certainly not least is Eliza Swinborn's Ackworth School sampler of 1803. Eliza was a scholar at Ackworth School from 1802-1805 and travelled to Ackworth from Bromley in Kent. To see more of Brooklyn Museum samplers, click here.

Happy Easter From Rosella in Italy & Jacqueline By the Fire in Surrey


Thank you so much for all your very special Easter Greetings and cards. After having my boiled egg for lunch (with Marmite soldiers), I settled down by our log fire to read some of Lincoln's speeches - yes, dear readers, I saw the film the other week! When it was time for tea, I checked my mail and found this delightful stitched egg created by Rosella in Italy and felt it had to be shared with you all. Many thanks for all the interest and kind comments you bring to the Needleprint Blog.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Jackie du Plessis Classes * London * 20-22 September 2013 in London

It's wonderful to hear that favourite US needlework tutor Jackie du Plessis will be returning to the UK for a second visit this coming September. She will be teaching 3 projects. The one above is titled Pinks for Pearls and will be taught on Friday 20 September.

Saturday 21 September will be a full day with pre-work involved as you can see from the images above and below that this is a multi-part piece. The project is called A Gift.
The project below, Lily of the Valley, is to be taught on the last day, 22 September. All the courses are organized by Hanging By A Thread and have very limited spaces and early booking is highly recommended to avoid disappointment. Click here for details of all the courses and for instruction of how to secure your place.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Four Cardinal Virtues : Prudence & The Snake

The portraits and dresses of Queen Elizabeth I are a maze of symbolism and symbolic motifs, many of which would lead us a merry dance into blind alleys. The important thing is that they do demonstrate that symbolism was all important, and that embroidery employed a silent language which, like ancient oracles, could be interpreted with a certain amount of intended ambiguity. We have looked before at the serpent which can signify wisdom on one hand or deception on the other. In the Rainbow portrait by Isaac Oliver of 1600 seen above in a copy made by Henry Bone in 1815 (for auction at Bonhams San Francisco 18 March 2013 estimate $6,000-$9,000), there is no doubt at all that we are intended to see the serpent on Elizabeth's sleeve. It could be a symbol of wisdom..... or it could be her birth sign. Elizabeth was born on 7 September 1533 which makes her, like me, a Virgo. Recent historical research has sought to part the curtains on Princess Elizabeth's early bedroom life and it appears that claims to her virginity are in serious doubt.
So here is another possible contender for the symbolism of the serpent. The Stuart embroidered panel above shows Orpheus playing his lyre in the centre field. At each corner a woman holds devices symbolizing the 4 cardinal virtues. Working clockwise from top left these are depicted as Temperance, Justice, Prudence and Fortitude. As you can see Prudence holds a serpent signifying self control and the the ability to judge between actions appropriate to the situation presenting itself at any given time. From what we know of Elizabeth, this signification must be the strongest candidate explanation for her conscious association with a serpent.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Charlotte Eagar Sewing for £50 a Week & That £240,000 Dress


In our post on 12 March 2013 we showed images of dresses belonging to the late Diana, Princess of Wales which were to be auctioned by Kerry Taylor. This dress, designed by Victor Edelstein and worn by Diana when she danced with John Travolta realized a sensational £240,000 figure. For me the story of the making of the dress which I read in the Weekend Financial Times today is more valuable by far. In 1985 Charlotte Eagar worked as an apprentice to Edelstein in his atelier in South Kensington, London. It was a large airy room in which 20 women stitched. As a mere junior, Charlotte was not allowed near a sewing machine, instead she spent hours hand stitching the red velvet swirls on the buckram bodice. The dress would have cost around £3,500. To read Charlotte's article in full click here.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Auction News

Hutchinson-Scott of Bedale North Yorkshire will beauctioning this sampler, Lot 240, on 13 April 2013. It is described as a good George III oval Needlework sampler by Christian Shittler and is dated May 21 1819. It is finely embroidered in coloured silks on linen with an entwined floral border, trees, flower tub and central perched bird motif to the top enclosing a verse titled To My ever Honoured Parents. In a verre églomisé frame it measures 14" by 13" and has an estimate of: £400 - £600. For more details, click here.
For lovers of Adam and Eve samplers is Lot 794 with Skinner Inc. of Boston for auction on 6 April 2013. It is a framed English Schoolgirl sampler worked by Harriot Hammond in the tenth year of her age and dated June the 5th 1811. It is in an ebonized wood frame and measures 16.5" x 12.5" and comes with an estimate of: $400 - $600. For more details of this sampler, click here.
Another A&E, this time Lot 138 at Gorringes, Lewes for auction on 27 March 2013. This is described as a Victorian needlework sampler, named and dated Rebecca Elizabeth ... 1831. It measures 16.52 x 16.5" and has an estimate of £150 - £200. For more details, click here.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Princess Charlotte - Free Jigsaw Download

I thought this portrait of Princess Charlotte with her beautiful cashmere shawl was too wonderful not to enjoy as a jigsaw - I hope you think so, too. To download the jigsaw - 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, 23 March 2013

Groningen Samplers @ Historisch Museum de Bevelanden Until 7 April 2013


Groninger samplers from the collection of Hennie and Sjoerd Stevan of the Museum for Needle Art in Winschoten are now on display at the museum which is located at Goes in the Netherlands - about 50 miles NW of Antwerp and 50 miles SW of Rotterdam. These samplers are characterized by 3 marks over the letter G - the so-called crowned G. In the region of Oldambt, Groningen and the border area lying next to Germany, these cloths were often entirely marked with black or dark brown silk embroidery.

Hennie and Sjoerd Stevan have collected needlework and samplers mainly from the province of Groningen for many years now and are the experts on their special history. For more details about the museum and this exhibition, click here.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Musée des Tapisseries Aix-en-Provence -


I had a wonderful surprise in Aix-en-Provence this year. Every year, religiously, I have wandered up from the Saturday market about noon to visit the Bishop's Palace, to see if by some great miracle the Musée des Tapisseries would be open - and every year it has been closed. This year was definitely going to be the year I didn't even bother looking. But I had heard that something was happening in the Town Hall and went off to see - forgetting that the Town Hall was virtually across the way from the Musée des Tapisseries.

And would you credit it? This year it was open! And I had such delight climbing the stairs to the great halls to look at these magnificent tapestries - there is an exquisite set from Beauvais and their colour is so incredibly fresh it rather stops the heart to see. All this and it was free admission! It was one of those Finian's Rainbow moments - I hope 2013 will bring you some such special experience. Never give up hope. And should you be planning to visit this museum, do enquire ahead - it may not always be open! Here are the contact details for you.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Delft Squirrel and Free Ackworth Squirrel Download

The other day when clearing down the logs from the wood shed I found a lovely mound of winter nuts that had been hoarded there by a squirrel. While many people hereabouts don't like squirrels because they feast on the seeds put out for the birds, I am rather fond of watching them. And having seen them repeated so often on samplers, I feel we have a long relationship now. Their images on samplers date back to the mid 17th century and probably before. So, you can imagine my pleasure at seeing this squirrel from the 18th century. She is about 7.5 inches tall and was made in Delft, a charming town in the Netherlands. There is a mark IG 4 in iron-red which identifies her as the work of Johannes Gaal who died July 1725. He was admitted to the Guild of St. Luke as a plateelschilder (a faience painter) on Nov 22, 1707. This picture is from Collection Aronson Antiquairs Amsterdam. The squirrel is from the collection of Ivan B. Hart who was born in Winschoten, the Netherlands, and later moved his company to Boston in 1938 then branched out to Australia and Argentina. So lots of squirreled connections there! And here is another one. Simply click on the squirrel below for a larger image. This is one of 100 Quaker motifs that you will find in The Ackworth School Pattern Book which is available as a download - click on the browse button to see more.
Here you can see our squirrel - perhaps not too clearly - to the left of the tree trunk on an 18th century palimpore.
And just in case you feel tempted to reach for the shotgun the next time you see a squirrel enjoying dinner at the bird table - maybe this image will make you think twice.
Now out of print, the Ackworth School Pattern Book containing over 100 charted Quaker motifs is available as a PDF download.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Hello Fans * The Fan Museum, Greenwich, London

While you are in London, never miss a visit to Greenwich - there is so much to do and see there. One of the less well-known attractions for some strange reason, is the Fan Museum housed in a beautiful pair of listed Georgian buildings built in 1721 at 10-12 Crooms Hill.

Opened in 1991 the museum holds an internationally significant collection of fans, fan leaves and associated material which numbers over 4000 objects. A programme of temporary exhibitions - changing about every four months - offers a chance to view a selection of the world's rarest and most exquisite fans dating from the 11th century to the present day.
There is a rather nice Orangery where you can book afternoon tea and a fantastic museum shop with a good range of books. Click here for more details of the museum. Click here to visit The Fan Museum Bookshop.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Steiff Elephant Pincushions


Most of us by now are familiar with the precious Steiff teddy bears - the ones with the button in the ear - that fetch huge amounts these days at auction. But it wasn't until recently that I found out more about their very special creator, Margarete Steiff. Born in Giengen near Ulm in Germany in 1847 Margarete was the third of four children. Her father was a master builder, Friedrich Steiff, her mother Maria Margarete. When she was 2 Margrete's legs were paralysed with polio and her right arm was also affected. Margarete fought to lead a normal life. She was taken to school in a handcart by her siblings and neighbouring children. A woman living near the school carried her up into the classroom every day. In spite of the pain in her right hand, Margarete also took sewing lessons, initially against her father's wishes. At 17, she finally completed her training as a seamstress. In 1862 Margarete's elder sisters - Marie and Pauline - opened a dressmaker's shop in which Margarete worked part-time. When Marie and Pauline left their home town some 8 years later, Margarete continued on her ownin a small dressmaking workshop set up by her father. From her first earnings, Margarete bought a sewing machine of her own. Because the flywheel on the right-hand side was difficult for Margarete to operate, she had the ingenious idea of simply turning the machine around! When she was 30, Margrete opened a ready-to-wear felt clothing business to sell clothing and household articles she made herself. Before long, she was able to take on several seamstresses. Then 2 years later came the breakthrough - Margete saw a pattern for a small fabric elephant in a magazine and besed on that design she sewed a pincushion in the form of a small elephant - which you can see above. This little elephant was so popular that she made felt toys for children also. Before 1904 these elephants had no rings in their ears and so they are relatively easy to date. After the elephants came the teddy bears - and the rest as they say is a delightful history! Below you can see a modern special edition version of the elephant pin-cushion.

Monday, 18 March 2013

William Larkin's Beautiful Jackets


William Larkin is not a name that registers immediately as that of a famous painter - there are many who are much better known to us. But he was one of the most faithful of portraitists in the time of James I of England. Born in England sometime in the early 1580's, his life was relatively short - he died before he was 40 in 1619. But I simply love the way he adores embroidery and lace! As you can see those early Stuart dresses were a little risky. There is a story that in 1860 Ismail Pasha of Egypt had the experience of a court lady curtseying rather low before him and falling out of her corsage - to whom he said: Mais, madame, il ne faut pas perdre ces belles chose-là, comme ci, comme ça, etcetera.

But I digress - just look at this detail of the jacket with its gold work, braid stitch tendrils and bright coloured, satin stitched flowers, all sprinkled around with paillettes. And the lace of the cuff is pretty spectacular too, isn't it?
Here is another detail of the embroidery on her arm.
And then we look down and see that the design of her skirt is totally amazing - those sea creatures swimming around, creating ripples are totally fabulous in every sense of the word.

This portrait by Larkin is in Kenwood House London. Painted around 1615 it is of Lady Dorothy Cary. It would seem she is embroidered and laced to within an inch of life. I find the designs here of the jacket, skirt and cloak to be utterly magnificent

Here you can see a little more of the design - and note those extravagantly expensive double lace cuffs.
Above is another fabulously revealing jacket by Larkin - this time belonging to, it is thought, Lady Thornhagh and below is the Jacobean beauty, Elizabeth Honeywood - but note the sea-change in design on her jacket and skirt. This picture was once in the collection of Sir Elton John.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Free Jigsaw Download - The Rainbow Portrait * Bonhams Auction * San Francisco * 18 March 2013

The last jigsaw of Queen Elizabeth was so popular with you that I thought you might like another. This portrait is called The Rainbow Portrait on account of the rainbow held in Elizabeth's right hand. Above are the words None Sine Sole Iris (No Rainbow unless there is sun). This is a copy of the original done by Isaac Oliver and was painted by Henry Bone in 1815 and will be for auction at Bonhams San Francisco on 18 March 2013. The estimate is $6,000 - $9,000.To download the jigsaw - 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, 16 March 2013

Putting the Jigsaw Pieces Together * Scottish Samplers in New Zealand



In summer of last year we posted an article about this sampler by Mary Meikle that is now in the collection of the Wyndham and District Historical Museum in New Zealand. Stitched in 1836, probably in Lanarkshire Scotland, it journeyed along with its family to the other end of the earth. Typically Scottish is marked with a singular version of Solomon's Temple at the base. And this is how blogging and sharing information across the world all begins to get a little bit exciting.
Quite by accident, I found that someone had picked up on this post and used it to illustrate a sampler in their own collection. By the way, while I am on the subject, I am not at all precious about our images being put to good use for research or educational purposes - that is the real purpose of the Needleprint blog. (The only occasion when I am not happy is when our images are taken and used for commercial gain in any way.) Back to our story! Another New Zealander, Donald, writes: I am indeed fortunate to have inherited a large 18 inch square embroidered sampler worked in 1833. His sampler which you can see above is in good condition for its age, being worked on a backing of typically coarse weave linen which has darkened slightly with age. Being framed behind thin glass in a very old polished wood frame will at least will have kept dust and grime to a minimum. For at least the last 90 years it has always been hung in dark hall-ways well away from direct sunlight. Ownership of this sampler has always been retained by family descendants. Recent research on the history and format of samplers now firmly points to it being worked by Miss Helen Dougal, then aged about 16 years, and residing at Marshill Farm, Draffan [Drafan] in Lesmahagow Parish, Lanarkshire, Scotland. The names of her parents, Thomas Dougal and Mary Dykes, appear along the top of the sampler. Helen has also made a point of highlighting her own name in full but only the initials of her six siblings, all being born between 1817 and 1831. The initials of her Father and his own siblings born between 1781 and 1798 have also been included. Marrying Thomas Watson of 'Muirhead' Farm, Dalserf Parish in 1843, Helen Dougal died in May 1882 while in a state of "melancholia" after the death of her husband in October 1881. Both were interred in Dalserf Parish Churchyard. Unfortunately there is no known photo of Helen. The sampler was then brought out to New Zealand in 1886 by Helen's daughter, Miss Helen Watson. It has subsequently passed to me, being a Great Great Great Nephew of Helen Dougal. This sampler is primarily in a traditional two-tone green, white and gold colour scheme. A skillfully executed decorative border surrounds the work. Notably visible among the many motifs are the large Scotch thistle signifying Scottish ancestry, two doves perched on a heart over the words "Amor" signifying love, and a number of birds and animals. In the centre are the words of the almost obligatory 'moral verse', in this case : "Be virtuous while thou art young so shall thine age be honoured" This verse is attributed to Robert Dodsley in his 1750 work "The Economy of Human Life", being frequently reprinted in subsequent years including in "Elegant Extracts in Prose : Selected for the Improvement of Young Persons" published in 1816 which ran to at least 10 reprints. Rather than including the conventional elements of a sampler such as the alphabet and number sequences, this particular sampler has helpfully been designed as a genealogical family tree. But additionally, some interesting motifs also appear which have a recognised and deeper meaning. Intriguingly there is also the riddle of "Solomon's Temple". While many samplers include a typical representation of a school house or even of the family home, this sampler specifically includes the words "Solomons Temple" and an image of the 'temple'. This small architectural feature on a sampler is often referred to as "Solomon's Porch". Very similar images are found on samplers of the period and it is generally believed that this was a representation of part of Solomon's Temple which appeared in The King James version of the Bible published by John Field in 1660. Models of the Temple were even made and toured for display. But one factor seems to focus on the year of 1847, and that was the date predicted for the second coming of the Messiah. Therefore the Temple as a symbol of the Christian faith was topical and very much to the fore. We know that Helen Dougal was a Religious and pious woman, I hold three volumes of the sermons of the Rev. Charles H. Spurgeon which were in her possession. This leaves me wondering if both Mary Meikle, who worked this sampler in 1836 and Helen Dougal who worked her sampler in 1833, both lived in Lesmashagow Parish, possibly having the same needlework teacher, or if they worked from a similar pattern book. While still individual works they are quite alike. Even the temple, doves on a heart, flower and Scotch thistle are the same. Mary Meikle, like Helen, has also made a point of highlighting her name in full. I am not an expert on needlework but would welcome any comments on aspects I may have overlooked. Perhaps you have another piece of the jigsaw or additional information that can help?