Monday 31 August 2009

Basket Part 7 - the Base

Click here for the final download print item of your Basket Project. If you have been waiting to print all the downloads in one go, now is the time. This is the base and you simply print it out on thin card, or on paper and glue to thin card, and edge all the sides with bias tape.
Vaida creates a lovely finish for her basket prints by using a special craquelure lacquer, one for the base coat, and the second for top coat. She then takes some acrylic paint in contrasting colour and pats it into the cracks, so they become more visible. Next week we shall have a download for all the finishing.

if you have just found this project - don't worry - you can catch up with previous instalments by visiting the Needleprint Projects Blog.

Sunday 30 August 2009

Almost there!

This sampler is just a few hours away from completion and already I am wondering what sort of frame Katia will choose for her Mary Wigham in France.
Here you can see from a detail, the subtle variations in the shades of blue that Katia has chosen for her palette.

Saturday 29 August 2009

A Glowing Finish for Mary

There are so many different Marys - and as many different ways to frame them also. In France, Zaza's dramatic frame perfectly complements her stunning colour palette. I shouldn't be astonished - but I am, at how well Mary's original design can be expressed in so many completely different variations, pastels, monochromes, vibrant shades, soft shades - surely this says something of the strength and timeless quality of the original Quaker designs. It seems to me that everyone who finishes will have created a treasure to last from generation to generation.

Hooray for Erica

It is wonderful to see Erica Uten's talents on the front page of Piecework. For some of you who are new to Needleprint, Erica created a wonderful pattern book of Quaker pinballs and also the designs for the Quaker Post. She will shortly be starting work on a new Needleprint project - a lovely stamp album, featuring stamps of the sampler world. Erica's specialty is fine counted work and so it was a little surprise for her when I turned to her in desperation to see if she could help us recreate the miniature pinballs from Ackworth. Erica is never daunted and said she would try, although she had never done anything like this before in her life. Her first effort on minute pins was fabulous - but a little large. Her next effort was fantastic and I remember asking her to just knit 24 half that size and we would be away...... Reader, she did it!

Friday 28 August 2009

An Italian Mary Wigham goes Dutch

I have just spent an hour describing how Infinity charting can save time and tears when it comes to recolouring your projects. Next week there will be a free Infinity version of Mary Wigham available for you, so you can try for yourselves. Here you can see how boldly and brilliantly Head Girl in Italy, Giovanna, has departed from the original colour scheme, and that is no easy task. Giovanna says: 'my progress on this sampler is very slow, but I love it very much and cherish every scrap of time I can dedicate to it.'

And it is not surprising progress is slow when she has been taking a holiday in a rented cottage close to Lauwersoog in the north of the Netherlands - this looks the perfect place for watching life drift by

Jacketless? Wear a Sampler!

It obvious that jackets require considerable work, not to mention a degree of tailoring expertise. (Perhaps someone is keeping count of how many stitcher hours went into recreating the Plimoth Plantation Jacket? It would be interesting to know.) For most of us, making our own jacket might possibly be a project too far. However, do not abandon all hope of wearing your work. Look at these marvellous dress yokes from the Netherlands - you could stitch something like these next week.....The first two images are from the excellent Verheggen-Penders Collection based in Dieteren in the Netherlands which is now available as a CD collection. Dated 1790 with the double initials IR on the front and IAR on the reverse, it shares many attributes with a sampler of the same period, including recording the date. The yoke is has a sprigged border within which is a very formal and symmetrical composition with a dominant vase and flower arrangement as its central feature.

The second example (3rd image) is from the Netherlands Open Air Museum in Arnhem. This yoke is a later example, dated 1825, and has many beautiful motifs. You can see the reverse reflected in a mirror in the exhibition stand, and perhaps you can just make out the wonderful ship position up at shoulder level. The museum at Arnhem is full of wonderful treasure and you will need a whole day (at least!) to enjoy its treasures.

There is a wall in the museum where collectors can post details of items wanted for their collections - Erica Uten, Liliane Grauls, Mariette Verheggen and I posted for millionaires......not for ouselves, of course, oh no, no, no, but to support excellent museum collections and exhibitions everywhere. It was a sad day indeed to discover that due to economic circumstances the wonderful exhibition planned for the Plimoth Jacket had to be cancelled, and that is just one instance of how marginal the survival of some museums, particularly lesser well-known ones, has become. What can you do to support your local museum?

Thursday 27 August 2009

Someone asked - Did people really wear those jackets?

I have just returned from Maidstone Museum where thanks to their dynamic curator, Fiona Woolley, Mary Brooks gave a fascinating talk on 17th century embroideries and reaised work - and what lies hidden inside them. There was also time to really take in the beautiful Maidstone Jacket which is simply quite beautiful. And it is simply more astonishing to realise that at some point in the past it would have clothed a living breathing person. What would she have been doing while wearing it....collecting flowers in the garden, dancing, stitching....? Someone asked me when they saw it - did people really wear those jackets? And the answer is yes. And they still do.

This is Laura Mellin of who is not only wearing a jacket based upon the Maidstone Jacket and a wonderful coif - but she made both herself, and here she is putting in hours on the Plimoth Plantation Jacket also. How fantstic is that? I predict that 2010 will definitely be the year of Amazing Jackets!

Wednesday 26 August 2009

Seventeenth Century English Purses

There is a wonderful story I heard about the Tassenmuseum in the Netherlands when it was just a small, provincial collection set up and curated by amateurs in the best sense of that word - lovers. They were uncertain of the collection's future and, of course, money was always an issue. So, one day, so the story goes, the daughter of the owner put a notice on the door. The notice said, 'Museum Wanted'. And like a fairy story, it just so happened that someone stopped by, and that someone was rich and had a house on the Herrengracht, one of the main canals in central Amsterdam - and the house has now become the Museum for Bags. I suppose the moral is, never give up - you never know what is just around the corner.
So, thanks to the kindness of the Tassenmuseum, here are two wonderful seventeeth century purses.

The first is beaded and inscribed Remember The Pore 1630. It is certainly an alms purse. (That strange word alms is a shortened form of the Greek eleēmosýnē meaning compassion.) Maundy money was given out by kings, and the newly restored King Charles II would have handed out bags of money to selected poor people in 1660, though Maundy Money, special struck coins, were not minted until 1662.

The second bag is a sweetbag for sweet smelling herbs and spices to provide a pinch of olofactory respite from the general miasma.

It is worked in petit point and you can see from the detail how the gold and silver used on the bag was laid around an inner core of silk, which is now visible that the metal has been worn and lost.

It is so easy to be totally engrossed with the bag that one forgets to inspect the wonderful craftwork of the tassels. Here you can see them in detail. A visit to the Tassenmuseum is a must whenever you are in Amsterdam.
There is a wonderful web-site which you can enjoy in English, French and German as well as Dutch - click here to visit.

Tuesday 25 August 2009

Mary Wigham - Share your Passion

Be it in a cable car, cocktail bar, a coffee house, custom house, your house, my house, in bed, in a nook (forget the book!), in the garden, Covent Garden, over the garden fence, with neighbours, with friends, with yet to be friends, don't forget to share the passion...with bears? Who cares? We all care. Stitching lives because we love it. Love on!

With many thanks to Jane and all her friends.

Judith Hayle Composition Infinity Chart Now Available

Samplers are like jig-saw pieces now, scattered to the four winds. One of the objectives I had set my heart on when setting up Needleprint was to create greater access to sampler collections, so that together you and I might be able to start putting some of the pieces back together again to get a better picture of sampler making and the sampler makers. It is very exciting that this is now beginning to be realised and we have already identified many small groups of samplers which belong together.
It was my great pleasure to work with Edwina Ehrman of the Victoria and Albert Museum to publish the fruits of her research into the Judith (or Judah) Hayle group of samplers. This is such an exciting piece of research which brings together the samplers worked by 15 girls under the tuition of two dames, Judith Hayle and her daughter Rebecca Thomson, during the period 1691-1711. That so many samplers survived from this period is astonishing in itself, that Edwina was able by painstaking research to piece together the lives of the girls and the teachers is an extraordinary feat. In the sampler image you can see a fragment of Elizabeth Meadows sampler from the Museum of London. Look at the base and you will see the distinctive 'Judith Hayle Cartouches' - the one on the left hand side has Elizabeth's initials and on the right can be see IH for Judith Hayle.

At the time of publication, we did consider including a chart with the book and discovered, because all the samplers had been reproduced already, that would not be possible. However, we did create a composition chart which encapsulated the essence of the Judith Hayle samplers, but it was left on the cutting room floor since there was no space in the book to print it. Now thanks to the Infinity Charting Project, we can make this chart available as an Infinity download to add to your collection for £3/$5. You will be able to edit it, change initials - perhaps to your own - and recolour it, as well as being able to calculate the materials you need for your own specification of fabric and thread.

If you haven't already obtained the Judith Hayle Sampler book by Edwina Ehrman, then you can purchase the chart and book together (with postage included for the book) for £20/$40. Just click here for more details of both offers.
For more details about Infinity charting see

Monday 24 August 2009

Lillie Liu's Mary Wigham

The Age of Enlightenment as the later half of the 17th century and most of the 18th century is termed, is a period of history that interests me greatly because it was a time when accepted wisdom, inherited thinking and states of being were questioned, challenged and discussed freely. In England, particularly Birmingham, in the mid to late 1700s Dissenters took a lead in developing scientific and philosophical exploration and the name of Joseph Priestley immediately springs to mind. Unitarian Minister, scientific explorer and inventor, friend and correspondent of Benjamin Franklin and Antoine Lavoisier, lifelong friend of Darwin, Wedgewood, Watt and Wilkinson - to name just a few of his associates, Priestley was also a theosophist of sorts. This rich and fertile atmosphere permeated even the thick walls of Ackworth School. One of the texts on the Ackworth School Samplers is extracted from a book of esoteric wisdom. So Mary Wigham would not have felt out of place here in the company of Lillie Liu.
To say thank you to all who have participated in this wonderful SAL, we shall be releasing next week a Mary Wigham Infinity chart free to everyone. I hear that those who are working with the Infinity charts, which are in both Windows and Mac formats, are having a fabulous time. Look out for more details soon.

Basket Project Part 6 - Final Sides

Here is the last pair of sides for your project - next week you will make the base and the week after is the thrilling time when it all comes together!
Simply print out, age if you wish, fix to thin card (or print out on thin card), then edge around the sides and base with bias binding leaving the top unfinished. The two pieces are edged individually and are not joined in any way. You can glue, slip stitch or back stitch the bias tape, then just put on one side ready for the next instalment.
Click here for your download.

If you have just come across this project, don't worry, you can always catch up with previous Needleprint projects in your own time at

Sunday 23 August 2009

A Dutch Orphanage Sampler from a private collection

In The Goodhart Samplers, I commented on an English darning sampler, that such samplers seem to spring up fully formed at the end of the 18th century and vanish almost as abruptly by the middle of the 19th century - though on the continent they enjoyed a longer history, particularly in the Netherlands. It is a well-known fact that darning samplers in the Netherlands were worked earlier and continued in this elaborate form much later than in England. This particularly special example, belonging to friends, was worked by F Cornelissen in 1887 at the Diaconie Orphanage. In Amsterdam there were two major orphanages, the Burger (Civic) Orphanage and the Orphanage of the Nederduits Hervormde Diaconie - the Dutch Reformed Church. Orphanages taught handwork in the 19th century so that the girls could become versatile in knitting, embroidery, marking, sewing, darning and so on, in order that they would be able to support themselves when they left the orphanage, and would not starve nor have to turn to prostitution. Cloths from these institutions were well-worked with particular care. This lovely sampler has four cross-shaped darns and four star-shaped darns, interspersed with many initials. In the Civic Orphanage, the initials were stitched in a variety of colours, whereas on the Diaconie samplers a specific shade of red was employed. (Source: M G A Schipper van Lottum, Merk- en Stoplappen 1980, p 35.)

The darning sampler almost certainly began with the four bars around the centre block, darned in two different pattern weaves. It is probably that this work was followed by the star-shaped darns which have all their points worked in the same weave and their centre panels in different twills. The cross-shaped darns require more advanced skills - the one on the top right has a checked pattern with six colours and employs a Panama weave. Returning to the centre panel, the perched bird on the branch and the sprigs in the corners were embroidered with double-sided cross-stitch, with 11 stitches to the centimetre, or approximately 26 stitches per inch.
All the large initials embroidered in Algerian Eye belong to the orphanage teachers. The senior teachers were called moeder (mother), and that is why some initials begin with M. These samplers were made by girls aged between 14-16. If they completed their cloths well, then the girls would be allowed to accept work from outside.

Saturday 22 August 2009

Mary Wigham UK

How wonderful to see the progress of a UK Mary Wigham. Another stunner in the making by Jen F.

My Mother and the Varangian Guards

The Varangian Guards were sometimes referred to as Beserkers and so you might wonder what they had to do with a gentle and excellent needlewoman from Yorkshire. The most obvious link is that they both laid claim to Scandinavian descent, my mother through her red-haired (Rus/Viking) relatives in Ireland, and the Varangians whose name was synonymous with Swedes until the late 16th century. The Varangians were Scandinavian mercenaries usually employed as bodyguards in the Byzantine Empire, in Constantinople and, perversely, in the 11th century they fought the Norman (Norseman) Monarchy which had captured the Island of Sicily in the Mediterranean. Both Constantinople and Sicily were centres of silk-weaving which produced fantastic damascene silk court and sacred robes. (Damascene weaving allows for the carrying of weft across a number of warp threads, the effect of which is to create a pattern which reflects light and glitters against the more matt background of a twill weave.) It is no surprise that the Varangians did a bit of sacking and pillaging in the course of their careers and some of these precious silks were taken back North. Not having the technology or the crafting skill at the time, workers in Scandinavia found that it was possible to emulate similar effects by 'darning' a pattern upon a plain linen ground. Opus Teutonicum - white on white pattern darned embroidery - is probably a descendent of this technique and it was certainly carried to Thule (Iceland). Here you can see an Icelandic altar front which is pattern darned - though the darning is nothing to do with mending; it is like a fly caught in Baltic amber, a memory of the desire for patterned damascene silk. My mother? I nearly forgot; she belonged to a group of textile workers called Burlers and Menders who were in great demand to 'fix' bolts of cloth which came off the loom with numerous knots and snags and had to be repaired by carefully mending warp and woof to match the weave of the cloth. Darning in other words, but with a great knowledge of all the various weaves. Demand for this skill dates back to the introduction of the New Draperies in the late middle-ages. Before their arrival from the Low Countries, woollen textiles were felted and showed no weaving pattern. If you were a young girl in the textile centres of Norfolk or Yorkshire, this was a way of earning a crust, either working in a factory, or as an outworker if you also had children to care for. It is worthwhile to bear in mind the distinction between 'pattern-darning' which is a form of textile creation and 'darning' as a means of mending - it is so easy to confuse them - like my mother with the Varangian Guards.

Thank you Ine from the Netherlands for telling us that stitching diagrams exist for this altar piece just click here.

Friday 21 August 2009

The Maidstone Jacket - 27th August 2009

We love early embroidered jackets and on Thursday 27th August (next Thursday)there will be the chance to see the beautiful Maidstone Jacket with its wonderful all over design of red peascods at an evening workshop at Maidstone Museum, Kent between 16.30 and 20.30. The speaker will be Mary Brooks author of English Embroidery and she will be talking on early embroidery. This will be followed by a hands-on workshop. Just 3 places remaining. You can book your place by calling Samantha Edwards on 01622 602838.

A Shorthand Sampler

Last week we were a bit amazed to discover the Ackworth girls had been learning shorthand as early as 1844, just 3 years after it was introduced by Joseph Pitman. So I thought you would like to see Margaret Griffith's sampler of 1834. This is the only sampler to my knowledge with a shorthand extract. I am told that when it came up for auction at Kerry Taylor it caused no little consternation amongst bidders since it was thought the date was too early for it to be accompanying a shorthand extract of two biblical verses. (The biblical verses are John 6 verse 27 and 2nd Corinthians verse 10.) But is this Pitman or some other notation?

Thursday 20 August 2009

Tiptoeing around the edges?

It is lovely to see Enila's sampler making good progress. But as it is detective day today, I am intrigued that she has completed all the edge medallions in advance of the rest of the sampler. And Enila is not alone, other stitchers have gone down this route also. Of course, you can complete the sampler in any order you wish, but the predispositions of seasoned stitchers to adopt one approach or another could provide valuable insight into the order in which the original samplers were worked. Does completing the perimeter help you space/locate the other motifs more easily? Or is it a case of defining the sampler's bounds? Or something entirely different?

Another Sampler Mystery

I hope you have your detective deerstalkers on today because there is another mystery we hope you can solve. Here you can see excerpts from Italian samplers. You are looking at the end of an alphabet - Z which is followed by an ampersand and three more characters - but what are they and why are they there, does anyone have an idea, can anyone take a guess? The only small guess I can make is that the character which looks like R resembles the R you sometimes used to see on prescriptions. Over to you, sampler-sleuths.

Wednesday 19 August 2009

Another unique Mary Wigham nears completion

Another unique beauty in the making. Almost there, Katia, keep stitching - I can hardly wait to see this French Rhapsody in Blue completed. Just a few more days, I'm sure, and Katia's Mary Wigham will be ready for framing also.

Book Bound

When I invited Leon Conrad, the specialist on English Blackwork, to speak at Ackworth2008 on embroidered bookbindings, I had no idea at all of the maelstrom of ideas and beauty I was letting myself and, more importantly, the attending Friends of Ackworth School Samplers, in for. After spending nearly three years pondering the early Stuart Goodhart Samplers with Dorothy Phelan, I suddenly thought I saw on the dazzling embroidered bookbindings the objective for some of the sampler motifs. And so it was that I acquired a copy of English Embroidered Bookbindings by Cyril Davenport, published in 1899.

Many of these books are tiny by our standards - about 5 inches by 7 inches at most - and many would have been protected by a similarly embroidered bag, which today might be confused with a bag for 'Sweets'. What actually helped to protect these books is the couched metal thread which has acted as a bumper against Life's knocks and bangs. Embroidered surfaces are more resilient than is generally imagined, it is often wear and tear on unembellished ground fabric which is the source of most damage.

This Miroir or Glasse of the Synneful Soul possesses probably one of the most famous embroidered bookbindings. Wrought by Princess Elizabeth, later Queen Elizabeth I, for her step-mother Katherine Parr, the embroidered front cover incorporates Katherine's initials within interlaced gold and silver braid. In each corner is a heartsease (viola), a favourite flower of Elizabeth's. The whole is worked upon a surface of blue tapestry stitch, previously thought to have been a woven ground.

The embroidered binding above covers Christian Prayers published in London in 1581. It has the same design back and front an arrangement of flowers in an urn all outlined in silver cord or thread. It is very interesting that there is not one but five pairs of the same initials - E S - embellished upon it. Mmmmmm -could that have been Elizabeth of Shrewsbury, our own Bess of Hardwick whose embroideries we visited at Hardwick Hall on our outing from Ackworth? Certainly this lady displayed a trait for making the most of her initials, raising them high in stone all around the parapet of her grand house for all to see.

The good news for you, if you don't have access to the Cyril Davenport book is that you can read it on line by clicking here - how wonderful is that?

Many thanks to Pat Judson for telling us we can also download this book as a PDF for free from Prject Gutenberg, just click here.

Tuesday 18 August 2009

Look who else framed Mary Wigham

Congratulations on finishing your Mary Wigham, Nami-san! How beautifully Mary sits in your pride of place in Japan.
And look at this, Nami-san has included such precious sentiments: Imagine Peace - and - Be Green. If the Ackworth Girls were stitching today, I feel these would be exactly the causes they would be championing. So, a Mary Wigham truly for our time.

Yesterday's Tradition - Today's Passion

Nothing delights me more than beautiful needlework books and I have a truly inspiring French book in my collection to share with you, though I expect some of you will have it already amongst your treasured possessions also. If you don't have a copy, then click here to reach Amazon France to purchase a copy. Nathalie Bresson's La Broderie au Point de Croix comes with a tour of cross stitch history followed by an amazing catalogue of works from France's best designers - and, yes! there is a men's corner too. (A corner? I hope that is not the naughty corner!) Many of you will already know some of the designeres such as Regine Desforges and Sylvie Castellano, but others are less well known outside of France and their work is stunning.

Look at this antique linen chemise entitled A Smile for Mr Mustapha. It is covered entirely in cross stitch by actress and stitcher Michèle Glezier. What is there not to be passionate about in this piece. It is mirobolant! It was given its title, because in order to work the all over design the chemise was unpicked and once finished had to be stitched together again and the person who did that was Mr Mustapha. Asked how much she owed him for the work, Michele was told - a smile.

This second piece is an evocative installation by Marie-France Dubromel entitled Stories Lived. Yvonne Verdier creates invented lives - and on a blouse belonging to one of her creations, Marie Paressant, worn during her pregnancy, Yvonne has embroidered white on white: Little angel, little nothing who is growing, are you growing well? Never forget simple joys.

The final item was a group effort stitched by 22 members of the Club Yvelines - to a design by Christian Lacroix. Now is this enough inspiration and passion for one day? A life time, at least, I hope. Aux aiguilles
! Stitch away!