Sunday 28 February 2010

Louisa Pesel - Shell Shocked Soldiers - Bradford Cathedral

Louisa Pesel is a special hero of mine. Many years ago I fell in love with her notebooks and her meticulously hand drawn charted designs of antique needlework. She was saying, 'Just look at this, isn't this design wonderful?' Having travelled to many countries in the near East, she wanted all the world to see what she, by her good fortune, had seen. I think it is so important to keep alight the torch she lit. The more so, perhaps, since she was an old girl of my school in Bradford. How strange to think that the school founded in 1875 and something of a scandal since it proposed to teach girls mathematics and classics instead of the usual domestic arts, should have been, in its turn, slightly astonished to turn out a scholar with a passion for design and needlework.

Having first been a designer at the Royal Hellenic School of Needlework and Laces in Athens, she became its director until she returned home in 1907. During the war she was instrumental in founding the Khaki Handicrafts Club to aid soldiers suffering from shell-shock. They worked to her design this altar superfrontal, in cross stitch on linen. The design is culled from Louisa's study of Greek Island patterns. When complete it was used for the soldiers' services at the Abram Peel Hospital, opened in 1915 as a special neurological hospital. In 1920 Louisa Pesel became the first president of the Embroiderers' Guild. Though her later life was spent in Winchester, her heart must have remained in the North - her extensive collection of needlework examples acquired while travelling, was left to the Clothworkers and is now in the University of Leeds International Text Archive. To see this altar frontal visit Bradford Cathedral before March 6th. More from Bradford tomorrow.

The London Foundling Hospital - Christie's Auction 9 March 2010 - London

It is very exciting to see a sampler of the Foundling Hospital of 1763 as interpreted in 1825 by 10 year old Sarah Ann Quartermain. Below is a bird's eye view of the Foundling Hospital painted about 1753 for comparison. I wonder if the brown hatted figures in the sampler grounds represent the girls who wore a distinctive brown uniform. The sale of this sampler will take place in London at Christie's on 9th March. If you would like to know more about, or visit the Foundling Hospital Museum click here. If you missed the free download about the Foundling Hospital click here for your copy.

Saturday 27 February 2010

A German Mary Wigham

And now a beautiful German finish from Angela in Thuringen for us to admire - well done Angela! I am delighted to see so many finishes - I wonder who will be next to finish?

Until 6th March - Ecclesiastical Embroidery - Bradford Cathedral

I was in Bradford yesterday, visiting my home-town cathedral, where I was married and where there is now a superb exhibition of ecclesiastical embroidery. If you are near the area, don't wait to visit - the exhibition ends on 6th March. Visiting times are between 9am to 16.30pm. I hope to be able to upload soon some pictures for those who cannot visit personally.

Friday 26 February 2010

Free Download - Mary Wigham Needle Bag

Stopping off at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris on my way to the USA, I amused myself by finding small presents to hand out when I met new friends. These turned out to be neat little card bags containing a pair of chocolates from Le Fauchon which I suspected, once the chocolates were enjoyed, would be recycled to make a needle or pin bag. So, I thought you might like the fun of crafting a similar card bag, based upon the Mary Wigham sampler, to be filled with needles, pins - or even - chocolates. Click here for a two page download, with instructions. Try the instruction page first as a practice before you launch into the real thing. But, if you do make a mistake, there is no real problem, is there? You can simply print off another bag.

Thursday 25 February 2010

Textile Society Fairs 2010 - Manchester and London

Wonderful news - there are to be 2 Textile Society Fairs this Year! If you have not yet attended one of these yearly events, then you just don't know what you have been missing. Traders from across the country and from Europe will be offering for sale a vast array of textiles, vintage fashion, costumes, accessories, books and associated ephemera. 60 stands piled high with textiles and garments from all over the world from 17th century to the 1970’s, plus conservators and second-hand booksellers. If that is not enough, there is a free Societies and Guilds show with full programme of lectures and demonstrations.
The first fair will be on Sunday 7 March 2010 between 10.00am and 4.30pm at the Armitage Centre, Fallowfield, Manchester, M14 6HE
And the second on Sunday 26 September 2010 between 10.30am and 4.30pm at Kensington Town Hall, Kensington, London. Make a note of the events in your diary now.

Wednesday 24 February 2010

A Confession - I Have Been Away for 3 Weeks!

I know some of you think that I work all time - and I do when I am here in the UK. Then every so often I take a holiday when I do no real work at all. Maybe climb a mountain or fly a kite, visit museums and a few favourite shops. I have to confess that I have just returned from 3 weeks in France. It has been lovely! The sky was cobalt, the sea turquoise and when it snowed, it snowed white pom-poms.
One of my favourite places is Tarascon on the Rhone, opposite its twin, Beaucaire, the highest navigable point of the Rhone and site of an important mediaeval international market place. It is also home to Souleiado, makers of the colourful printed cloths we associate with Provence, and their museum which is rich in costume and furnishing history.

Cotton from India printed with woodblocks similar to these was imported via Marseille in the 17th century and was shipped up to Beaucaire. These fabulous fabrics, still called Indiennes today, were so popular for dresses and furnishings, that production grew up around Tarascon. However, the French crown seeing that the new fashion prejudiced crown sponsored textile manufacturing, banned their production. The interdiction was largely flouted and manufacture moved out of France to the then independent state of Alsace, to Mulhouse on the Rhine. The Souleiado Museum in Tarascon has around 20,000 antique wood blocks in its collection.
Before roller presses, the fabrics were printed by hand.

One of the features of the museum is the dye-house, which still houses the original dye recipes for all the fabrics produced.

This is just so you can see how blue the sky was by Alphonse Daudet's Moulin just south of Tarascon.

Tuesday 23 February 2010

Mary Wigham's Wardrobe

Mary Wigham now has a wardrobe for all those little stitching necessities. The wardrobe has been designed by Judy Odell and will feature in a special private on-line class. The cost of the class which has limited numbers is $55. Of that fee $5 goes direct to Ackworth School.

The cost of the class includes the stitch design and finishing class which will be released in monthly sections. Judy has a very limited kit available which includes the stitching linen, decorative fabric and silk satin ribbon.
For more details and to sign up for the class click here to visit Judy Odell.

Monday 22 February 2010

Tea for Two?

Julie and Becky of A Company of Friends are addicted to tea parties and when I saw these dresses coming up for auction by Karen Augusta, I knew they would be just perfect for their next extravaganza when Julie is over her bout of flu. (Get well soon, Julie.) The tea dresses - how wonderful to dress for tea! - are of ecru lace and sprigged embroidered muslin.
Here you can see the filet lace entre deux which at one point has been smothered in a cascade of embroidered blooms.
I am glad that Thé Dansants are on the up, the Hotel Scribe in Nice holds them weekly. There was a special café in Cambridge - now Waterstone's Bookstore - which held Thé Dansants. If you are in Waterstone's in Cambridge, go up to the top floor and jump up and down, the floor is still sprung from the time in the war when it was called 'The Dorothy'. It is still remembered with much affection by sprightly silver ladies. Our daughter-in-law with her company, Cat That Got The Cream, arranges traditional tea parties for christenings, baby-showers, and hen-parties using vintage cutlery and crockery.

Girls hanging out - but in what style. These lace summer blouses are exquisite.

What really caught my eye are the wonderful, finely crocheted Irish flowers which give this blouse its wonderful texture and opulence - just how long would it have taken to crochet those flowers? And who would have made them? You have until March 24th to save your pennies to go shopping at Karen Augusta's auction.

Sunday 21 February 2010

Il Burato - Free Jigsaw to Download

Here is a new jigsaw for you to download. This is an illustration from one of the earliest Italian pattern books, dated around 1527. It is called Il Burato by Alessandro Paganino. 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 20 February 2010

Jen Takes Mary Wigham Back to Ackworth School

It is wonderful to see a UK finish of Mary Wigham - and all the more so because Jen took her completed Mary back to Ackworth School for this very special photoshoot.

Well done, Jen!

New Vierlander Motif Library I

Ever since my eyes swam madly through the densely patterned German Vierlander samplers which originate from around the marshy flood plains of the Elbe river, I have been hooked. For the last 7-8 years I have been compiling a 'dictionary' of motifs from the Vierlander repertoire, hoping to connect them with motifs from other distinct groups. It is interesting to compare their symmetry and positioning on samplers with Quaker motifs. However, no link has yet been found to establish any relationship between the two groups. There are Vierlander samplers that remain partially completed and on those samplers the motifs are only half stitched, rather like some Ackworth motifs, however, there is always space allocated next to the Vierlander half-motifs to accommodate a completed motif. Like some Ackworth and Groninger samplers, the Vierlander samplers display a large proportion of monochrome examples. Usually worked in thread dyed black with high ferruginous content, the black has often aged by rusting to dark brown - or in some cases - the threads have corroded and disappeared completely. The first set of motifs is now available as a PDF and JGG download - just click here to browse or buy.

Friday 19 February 2010

New Free Quaker Stitchalong Coming Soon

Thanks to Carrow House Museum, Norwich, who own and care for this special Quaker sampler, and Philippa Sims the volunteer curator, we can look forward to another SAL coming soon. As before, with Mary Wigham, you will be able to download the chart for free - I simply ask that you make a donation to Carrow House Museum - a donation PayPal button will take your donation direct to the museum.

Just click here to purchase a special download of this Tree of Life chart.
Philippa has also charted two more samplers from Carrow House which are available as downloads for purchase. Each chart costs £7. Simply click on the sampler image to see more, and if you would like, purchase. All the money you spend goes to Carrow House Museum.

Just click here to purchase the Jessy Lambert chart download

Thursday 18 February 2010

17th Century Silk Knit Work Hats

It is nothing short of a miracle that something from the 17th century should survive for our gaze today. Textiles are the most fragile objects, having a multiplicity of other uses by humans and worms that one can only marvel that they survive at all. The knitted silk pinballs at Ackworth School are a special case in point. But these are workmen's hats, and one can only wonder if they were ever worn for work, or if, perhaps as sweetheart presents, they were kept safe as precious memories. This deep azure blue knitted hat is from Sardinia which at the time of its making was under Spanish Hapsburg rule.
This figured green hat with tied bouquets of roses and other blooms, recalling sampler motifs, has its provenance in Sicily, also under Spanish rule at that time. People believe that intarsia knitting had its origins in Spain, but the skill could have been transferred to Spain from silk producing Sicily.

Excellence in fine drawn wire technology underpins fine needlework and knitting. It is known that in Priam's and Hector's Troy (circa 1250 BCE) the skills and technology of producing fine metal filigrane and cloisonné jewelry were available, and in the 11th century AD, if not before, fine wire needles were being produced in North Africa. Consider the possibilities of technology spin-offs from the production of high demand filigree jewelry and damascene sword blades, both of which were transferred to Spain under Moorish rule. Just how long would it have taken to kit this hat in silk?
Jaunty tassels are a feature of all the hats, some of them are exceptionally long and I expect they would be banned under health and safety regulations today. Perhaps size counted for something in the 17th century. This pink extravaganza is also from Sardinia.

Look at the lovely coral and ribbon designs on these hats - wouldn't it be wonderful if we had someone who could knit these for us? All we can say of these is that they are from Italy. All the images are courtesy of Augusta Auctions. The next auction is 24 March 2010 in New York City.

Wednesday 17 February 2010

All Buttoned Up - 17th Century-wise

We spent some time in Hascombe before Christmas trying our hand at making a Dorset button - but a small one, about 1cm across, and stitched in coloured silk. We found that apart from making a button, we also had a lovely embellishment for decorating other stitched items. These wonderful 17th century buttons are just as easy to make - with a bit of patience - all you need are some wooden beads, silk thread and a needle. If you can find any hemispherical beads, so much the better. First, you will need to cover the bead by taking a thread through the hole, round over the outside and back through the hole, working all round the bead. Then the sky is your limit. You can use these foundation threads to form the basis for a woven pattern, or to secure further stitched embellishments. There are some drawings at the end of the post to give you a clearer picture. In this button, pairs of contrasting threads have been woven together.
Here you can see fairly clearly the foundation thread and the decoration which is a series of further rounds going through the cetral hole, but this time worked with picots.
Here, I think a fine braid has been made and applied.
And if you look at the same button side-ways on, you can see it is a full sphere which has been applied to the garment by making a shank. This shank has been replaced over time - it would have been smart and black like the rest of the button. But you know how people can be in such a rush to stitch buttons back on and never use the same thread!

Tuesday 16 February 2010

Tambour Work before Europe

Whenever one thinks of tambour work, one conjures up exquisite 18th century stitchers like Madame de Pompadour, fashionably dressed, working point de Beauvais at their frames, twisting their neat hooks to show off elegantly turned wrists while creating the finest of chain stitch. However, tambour work has its origins further east. It reportedly arrived in France in the 1720s from China.
And it has a long history on the Indian subcontinent, from there it was transported by the various European East India Trading companies to Europe via the fabulously new embroidered muslins of India and the Arabian Gulf. You only have to visit the Asian Textile Gallery at the Victoria and Albert Museum to see the scale of some of these embroideries - the hours of work and life consumed made feasible only by cheap labour. Here you can see that there is no bar to age or sex in the profession and instead of the work being stretched and laced on a rectangular frame or held within a circular frame, it is laced on a large circular frame which gives it even more of the drum quality from which it takes its name - tambour.

Monday 15 February 2010

A Swaledale Quaker and a Book of Wisdom from Tibet

It is such a pity that Eliza didn't finish stitching her name, for she has left such a charming sampler for us to enjoy. And you can visit it when next you are in the Swaledale Museum at Reeth. How do we know that it is a Quaker sampler? We can never be absolutely certain, particularly since we are lacking a name. From the title Sincerity it seems we are looking at a Quaker, but it is when we go to the source of the quotation that we can be 90% sure that Eliza or her teacher was a Quaker. The quotation is a translation from a book of esoteric wisdom which was uncovered in Tibet in the mid 18th century and seems to have become a favoured text of the Society of Friends - another quotation based on this text appears on an Ackworth School Sampler. To read more about the interesting origins of this quotation click here.

Sunday 14 February 2010

Where My Heart Is

My heart is ever with my family, friends and home, but if I were to send a secret Valentine today it would be to the moorlands and coast of North Yorkshire. To walk the Jurassic cliffs above the Alum coast between Ravenscar and Sandsend; poking about in Boggle Hole and Robin Hood's Bay for jet on the beach; spying from afar the huge ruins of Whitby Abbey where 1500 years ago, led by the Abbess Hilda, a common dating for the feast of Easter was agreed; warming up with scalding cod and chips in the Magpie by the Fish Market in Whitby; or a brew of Resolution Tea and buttered Yorkshire Brack at Elizabeth Botham's in the high town; humming along to 'Oh You New York Girls Can't You Dance the Polka?' played by the squeeze-box man in the old town, browsing in the local history book store, before taking to the high scars again, that is my love. And when the wind from the east cuts clean as a cheesewire or the rain flings stinging hot needles at your face, then it is up to Raven Hall at Ravenscar for a glass of Taddy ale by an open fire and maybe later some roast beef, horseradish and Yorkshire pudding in the restaurant overlooking a coast so grand, a single gaze can never be wide enough. The next time you visit Whitby Museum to see the samplers, spend a few days, whatever the weather, and take a little time to explore - your heart will find a special home.

Saturday 13 February 2010

Mary Wigham by Hiyo-san

Hiyo-san stitched her Mary Wigham on 40 count Vintage Exemplar Lakeside Linen, with Needlepoint Silks and Gloriana. She personalised her sampler by adding very small motifs and words - can you spot them? Hiyo-san says she found it difficult to imagine and decide on colors as she stitched. But then this is such a large sampler with many variables in the threads and motifs, that I am not surprised by anyone struggling to imagine completed variations. Did anyone find it easy?