Monday 31 May 2010

Amor Omnia Vincit - Free Download

This week I have been studying old emblem and impressa books which were used as teaching aids for children. Teaching five hundred years ago had more to do with nurturing wisdom, a knowledge of 'right' and philosophical wit and enquiry than calculating how many men it would take to dig a hole. A picture would be chosen with a Latin or Greek motto and the theme would be given to the children to develop in verse. Mottoes such as this - Amor omnia vincit - Love overcomes all - were also accompaniments to banquets and feasts - the mottoes would be read out to entertain people while eating and drinking in much the same way as we read out jokes from Christmas crackers  or predictions found in Chinese cookies these days. (The motto from Bradford's coat of arms makes a play upon this theme and true to its protestant industrial ethos we have Labor omnia vincit - Work overcomes all!) These little cherubs make frequent appearances on old samplers - usually in pairs supporting a garland or crown so I thought we should have one here. Just click on the image for a working size pattern. Hope you love it.

Sunday 30 May 2010

Memorial Day - The End of War is Peace

This week we have been watching fishing boats making the trip across the channel in commemoration of the evacuation of troops cornered and stranded on the beaches and harbour at Dunkirk in 1940. All who leave what they love best and spend their lives in war do so in the belief and hope of restoring peace for others, and that is why we remember them and struggle to find ways to peace not requiring such heavy sacrifice. Here are some tokens to loved ones made and given in World War I, to remind those distant that they are never out of one's heart. The hearts you see here are not infinite - they measure about 20cm and there are about 35 for auction with an estimate of £40-£60 each at Adam Partridge Auctioneers in Congleton Cheshire on 3 June 2010.

Friday 28 May 2010

The Needlework at Traquair House and Giveaways

As part of my tour in Scotland at Easter, I was able to pop in to Traquair House. But not through the Bear Gates which since 1744 have been firmly closed until the day when a Stuart monarch will reign again - which may be not be that far off, since the princes William and Harry, through their Spencer descent claim Stuart heritage. It is fitting that Mary Queen of Scots (with her baby James, later to become King James VI of Scotland and I of England) walked the halls of this lovely place amidst the treasure trove of embroideries - petit point slips which, later as a prisoner, she herself would while away the time stitching while dreaming and scheming. Some of the pieces resemble entire herbals, so densely are they populated with every imaginable flower and fruit, all cheek by jowl, some their outlines interlocking, so that one can only wonder if they were ever meant to be separated and applied individually as embellishments to furnishings as Margaret Swain tells us they were. And if they were meant to be separated, then why weren't they? Or could they have been compulsive encyclopaedic works? Some are unfinished, showing clearly that they were pre-prepared with outlines in black cross-stitch. Is it possible that some early band samplers were similarly pre-prepared? There is still so much yet to learn and it is only by looking at the stitches with a close and attentive eye that these pieces may reveal more of their story. I have a lovely sheet of wrapping paper and Margaret Swain's little book on the The Needlework at Traquair to give to anyone interested in these works who cannot visit personally. Please let me know how I should do this to be as fair as possible.

Thursday 27 May 2010

Quaker Bright!

A dear friend emailed me today and happened to mention in passing how bright she thought the pinks were for Sarah Harris' sampler. It is true - and you can probably see yourself from the pictures that this is not a subdued palette. But it has me asking myself, why is it that we seem to expect samplers to be mellow in colour and also harmonious in the selection of colour? Sometimes when I am able to inspect the reverses of old samplers, I am literally groping for sun glasses, the colours are so bright and, one might almost say, dissonant. On some samplers, particular those of Friesland, it appears as though colour threads were just picked at random with no thought for the overall design. And I had the same feeling when looking closely at Sarah Harris, there too it seemed as though threads had been pulled with apparent serendipity. On this Quaker sampler we have both sides of the coin together - bright clashing pinks and reds with more muted and serene olives and greys offering areas for the eyes' repose. It is much brighter than we would expect a Quaker to be. So perhaps we need to revise our expectations and start thinking Quaker-bright! And how about a Trifle from Sheffield? Perhaps there is someone from from Sheffield who knows of a Quaker school in their city - we would love to hear.

Wednesday 26 May 2010

Time to Start Saving Pennies Again - Another Stunning Auction at Christie's - 10 & 11 June 2010

One of the world's most wonderful collections of early needlework - the Longridge Collection - will appear at auction early next month, so start saving those pennies now! The collection belonged to Syd Levethan and Longridge was the name of the street in which he lived.
This amazing Charles II needlework casket worked in coloured silks on an ivory silk ground depicts the story of Joseph. On the front his brothers being thrown into a castle and the back shows Joseph being thrown into the well and sold into slavery. The side panel portrays Pharoah's dream. The inside is lined in salmon pink silk and marbled paper, with a print of a country scene signed Aubrey Exe'd; and contains four glass bottles. There are also compartments for letters and ink wells. And then it gets really exciting because when the upper compartments are removed there is a bottom compartment lined with pink, padded silk and an associated purse worked with roses in green and pink silks, embroidered 'IEAN MORRIS 1660'; with a matching needlework pen or knife case, two silk-wrapped goose quill pens and a bookmark of pink, yellow and blue silk. Fabulous? Or fabulous! The overall size is 5.5 x 14 x 10 in. (14 x 35 x 25.4 cm.) and the estimate just £150,000 - £300,000.

Probably more interesting to my forensic eye are the three worked panels for a casket which were never made up. Depicting the story of Rebecca (at the well) and Elizier they show how the constituent elements, including inner panels of caskets were stitched together in pieces, before being finally separated to make up the casket. The estimate is a more affordable £20,000-£30,000....... Dimensions are top: 11.8 x 9.6 in. (30 x 24.5 cm.); side panel: 11.6 x 9.6 in. (29.5 x 24.5 cm.); side panel: 10.4 x 11.8 in. (26.5 x 30 cm.). I am just showing the side panels here. To see the top panel and other pieces of this magnificent collection, just click here.

Tuesday 25 May 2010

Embroiderers' Guild North East Region Needleprint Prizewinners

There were some really wonderful entries in the North East Region's Sampler and Home is Where The Heart Is competitions on Saturday, that it was such hard work selecting the winners. So hard in fact that I asked if special prizes could be awarded to these two entries. My wish was granted and both stitchers received a copy of Needleprint's Goodhart Samplers. I was so impressed by this carefully worked darning sampler with its delightful pattern darned border and lovely colour palette. I am sure you would have awarded it a prize also.
And certainly I felt my heart was with this North country shepherd with his flock and dog on the moorlands depicted in a variety of detached and raised work stitch techniques. Well done everybody!

Sarah Harris Now Available for MacStitch

Steve Rousseau has worked wonders again and now users of MacStitch can have the Sarah Harris chart in pdf format, together with the eBook of motifs plus a fully editable version in MacStitch format. Just click here for more details about how to purchase.

Monday 24 May 2010

Kerry Taylor Auction - 8 June 2010

Well, here in a more readable form is the phantom post you saw yesterday. I had worked on it in advance in case I didn't get home in time to post - but then forgot completely all about it after my 12 hour journey home on the hottest day of the year so far. I think I shall start a campaign for tap water at motor-way service stations - there is no water to be had for less than nearly £2 for a naughty small bottle - a tough time for me and a nightmare for families.
Kerry's auction on 8 June will include the Emmanuel's archive of sketches and couture articles made for the late Diana, Princess of Wales and it is well worth perusing the items on sale to see these. For now I have selected these purses which are Lots 6-8.
Lot 6 at the back of the photo on the left is a fine French tapestry purse from the early 17th century, the chestnut brown silk ground is woven with silver and gold cherubs, birds and leafy branches. it is closed with drawstrings having fabulous, large embroidered tassels. The estimate is £600-£900. At the front of the picture in the centre is a woven tapestry gaming purse, also French from the early 17th century. Its brown silk ground is woven with silver and gold winged hearts, banners, sunburst, cherubs and latin legends, and it has an estimate of £400-£600. Finally at the rear and to the right is an embroidered purse with chinoiserie figures, French, but this time from the early 18th century. On this panel you can see a wonderful oriental astronomer with a telescope! The estimate is £500-£800.

And even though I am really weary and maybe a little grumpy today, I cannot help smiling at this exquisite lady's embroidered cap of ivory silk made circa 1770, with its trellis of false quilting centred by floral slips. Estimate is £400-£600.
I hope these lovely items lift your hearts also.

Sunday 23 May 2010

A German Mary Wigham Finish from Sandy

It has been a little white since we have been able to celebrate a newly finished Mary Wigham and so I was delighted to hear that Sandy in Germany has finished hers. And I hope that those amongst you who have not quite finished yours will take heart from Sandy that it wasn't a race, but a project to enjoy. Simply savour what you are working on with all your heart and mind. Of course there are lots and lots of other projects wanting your attention, and there always will be - you are passionate stitchers after all - how could it be any other way for you!

Saturday 22 May 2010

Textile Riches from the Rijksmuseum & Fabulous Website

You will be enjoying exploring the Rijkmuseum's wonderful website for hours - it is so beautiful. Here are just two of the wonderful items you will encounter. The first is a wonderful lace collar. Look at the repertoire of needle lace displayed in the drawn thread 'dice' - all are different.

I shall be heading home from the North of England tomorrow - it has been a wonderful day with the North Eastern Regional Day of the Embroiderers' Guild. I had the difficult job of judging a sampler competition. Of course I wanted to give prizes to everyone because the work was so beautiful.

Friday 21 May 2010

Early Embroidered Shoes from Clarks Shoe Museum

Thanks to Linda Stevens at C & J Clarks Shoe Museum in Street, we can see more early embroidered shoes, this time from the 1760s. This ruby satin buckle shoe, although suffering from the toll of time, is one of my favourites for the simple fact that its wearing tells us much of its inner fabric which otherwise, perhaps, we would not seek to question. We can see the high count of the neutral satin warp bursting free of its abraded ruby weft like a cascade of tumbled hair and one is astonished at what must have been the sheer density of the weave. The shinly gold or silver metal braids have tarnished and corroded showing their secretly encased silk shafts. And in some places we can just see a residue of metal encasing the silk that held the once bright spangles in place.

Here you can see the full shoe in all its glory.

By contrast this black satin shoe seems a world and time away from the first example, though created only 5 years earlier.

Here we can see here a completely different embroidery technique - simple sprays of flowers worked in long and short stitch with split stitch stems adorn this black satin shoe. The shoes show just a little abrading near the sole, and in this case the black satin weft has a matched black warp and the neutral coloured fabric revealed is a lining. I wonder if these shoes ever danced, for surely the wearer could have been no wall-flower.

Thursday 20 May 2010

£20 Million Revamp for Museum of London - A Mantua Made for Three?

Next week following three years' extensive and costly revamp of the Museum of London, five new galleries will be unveiled. More than 7,000 objects, spanning the 344 years since the Great Fire in 1666, will go on show alongside interactive exhibits and film, in order to transport visitors through London’s tumultuous history, rich with drama, triumph and near disaster. Amongst the exhibits you will be able to see the Fanshawe Dress of 1752 - a Spitalfields silk court mantua. Named after its wearer, Anne Fanshawe the daughter of a wealthy merchant and Master of the Brewers' Company who was also Lord Mayor from 1752-1753, the dress was tailored from cloth which would have been 6 months in the weaving with its intricate design of barley and hops - a hommage to her father's trade.

Newly recreated for the opening are Georgian and Victorian pleasure gardens peopled with mannequins in original costumes.

Wednesday 19 May 2010

Kathy's Raised Work Reigns Supreme

I am very grateful to MJ for telling me about this wonderful item which won first place in the Crazy Quilter's International Yahoo Group purse contest for 2010. I am just so pleased to see that stitchers of today are still flying high the banner for dimensional embroidery and raised work. I have spent the last four years examining the sisters of this piece which were stitched nearly 400 years ago and this piece sits happily amongst them.
Kathy, the creator and executor of this stunning work of tells us that, My mom was so proud! She saw the hours and hours of short-long thread work I put into the sleeves and coat. The hundreds of French knots and the bullions in the hair. The beads were a different story altogether...and are too numerous to count. Each was securely stitched because I plan on using this tote! It has already make a couple of trips to town with me!Many Congratulations, Kathy, long may you continue to inspire us! To read more just click here.

Tuesday 18 May 2010

Makkin Wires for Quaker Pinballs

Some of you may be contemplating knitting pinballs from your Sarah Harris eBook, rather than stitching them. I found no fine knitting needles at Ackworth School that might have been used for knitting the fine silk pinballs the girls made. Today there are knitting needles of fine gauge made for knitting miniature items which people use for knitting the pinballs. So are these like the ones the girls used? Hard to say, but we do know that knitting needles like the ones pictured above were being used for fine knitting at the time. These steel knitting needles were being used as early as 1800, and by the 1840s some knitters were using brass needles. Brass, unlike steel, does not rust. These needles belonged to Miss Elsie Thomson of Sandwick, Shetland and in her time they were called 'makkin (making) wires'.
As anyone who has used 'makkin wires' to knit a pinball can tell you, the ends are sharp. Ouch! Sometimes knitters stop the end of the wire with a bead, or with the handle from an art paint brush. In Shetland these decorated knitting sheaths were once used by knitters. Made by seamen in their spare time, they were a product of their rope splicing skills. The narrow end of the knitting sheath was tucked into the right side of the knitter's skirt or apron, and the knitting needle was inserted into the open end among the quills. This freed up the knitter's right hand, and enabled them to knit much faster. Sometimes sheaths were made from a bundle of straw bound with twine and were called wisps - wisp being the word for loose straw.
Leather knitting belts replaced the sheaths in the 20th century. Shetland Museum has a fantastic archive of knitting - to visit just click here.

Name That Whitework Band

Just for a change, here is a whitework band for you to name. To see all the bands so far just click here.

Monday 17 May 2010

There Be (81) Dragons in Guildford Cathedral.

And in more respects than one. On Saturday we attended a fundraiser for Multiple Sclerosis at Guildford Cathedral and were confronted by 80 dragons (before we lost count!) of the Pontarddulais Male Choir. If you have never heard a Welsh Male Voice Choir live then you have yet to experience a true wall of sound. I wish I could find a track of their Welsh Anthem for you, but there is another Welsh piece on the music box for you to enjoy. Guildford Cathedral is also hosting a wonderful needlework exhibition by the Wey Valley Workshop, which accounts for the 81st dragon. Small but Beautifully Formed is the title of the Wey Valley Workshop exhibition which will be in the Cathedral from 11 May – 4 June 2010. Wey Valley is a group of renowned stitched textile artists from the south of England, and was founded in the early 1980’s by Vicky Lugg and several other City & Guilds tutors. It consists of colleagues and fellow mixed media artists & embroiderers. Several of the members have collected over the year some wonderful embroidery from all over the world. If you are in the neighborhood do pop in to see their work. I am coveting a biscornu evening bag.....

Our $8 downloads should be $10 but I am not telling my accountant if you don't

Ssssh - someone kindly drew my attention to an anomaly in our pricing - our $8 downloads should be $10. But I am not breathing a word to the accountant - stitchers need every break they can get.

Sunday 16 May 2010

The Winners of Textile and Embroidered Bindings Are:

Thank you so much for sharing your stitching wishes with me - they sound a lot like mine and it is good to be amongst kindred spirits. My wish would be to give everyone a copy of this lovely book - I am sorry for the disappointment I have caused so I am going to offer up my copy also - now there can be two winners - and they are: Jan Blevins and Lady Hawthorne. If you two could hit the flying angel and email me your address then I'll have your books in the air to you tomorrow - Icelandic volcano willing!

Free Jigsaw Download of Ackworth School

For those of you who might wonder what Ackworth School looked like around the time when the Ackworth girls were stitching samplers, here is a view of the school from circa 1830. The school today is pretty much as it was then. New buildings have been added but they do not detract from the wonderful old colonnades of the old school which you can see here, linking the main building to its two wings. Ackworth is famous for its liquorice fields near the meadow where the people are walking. The penny per week allowance the scholars received was called 'Spice Money'. Even when I was young, a visiting kindly relative on departing might find me a penny in her purse 'for some spice'. And indeed, one of the items from the sweet counter in the little grocer's shop which could be bought was a stick of liquorice root. This was not the black (or other coloured) soft chewing liquorice which we buy today, but a chewy, stringy, dried, shrivelled twig which would outlast the desire to chew it! I hope you enjoy the jigsaw. 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 15 May 2010

Making Pinwheels with Sarah Harris - Free Instructions Download

The probable purpose of the Sarah Harris sampler was to create a repertoire of motifs for pinwheels. Perhaps you would like to create some Sarah Harris pinwheels for yourself. Here we have mocked up what one of the medallions would have looked like as a pinwheel. Although they were intended to be knitted, you can just as well make them from stitched excerpts on linen. There are 22 patterns for pinwheels in the Sarah Harris Motifs eBook. And you can download a free excerpt of instructions telling you how to make a pinwheel from Erica Uten's Tokens of Love by clicking here.

Friday 14 May 2010

A Lovely Day at the Oxford Bodleian & A Free Give Away

It was one of those magical days today - dear friends had arranged for me to have a very special private guided tour of the Bodleian Library in Oxford. It goes without saying that I have a great love for books and to see some of the very first books placed on shelves as they were meant to be with the binding to the wall and the page edges facing outwards in library halls with the most amazingly decorated ceilings was a spell-binding experience for me. We also toured the underground stacks and saw the ever-moving delivery system that guided the books from the stacks to their requisite destinations and readers above. The cherry on the icing on the cake was a visit to the Conservation Department to see work in progress on velvet bound volumes belonging to the time of Henry VIII. This is extraordinary work requiring the liaison between many talented people with understandings of books, paper, hide, cloth and metal. One thing I saw which might be useful to us all was the use of subtely coloured silk to back linen. It was astonishing to see how the linen came alive - it no longer looked flat - and I thought if new samplers worked on linen could be backed with silk in a similar way how much richer, more varied and more interesting the unfilled areas would appear. Maybe you can experiment with some scraps at home? And because I have had such a wonderful day, how can I not share it with you, particularly since I was kindly given two copies of the Bodleian Library's Textile and Embroidered Bindings? So there is a copy for one of you - just post a comment to say what your stitching dream would be and we'll put the comments in a hat and choose someone to whom we'll send this book.

Thursday 13 May 2010

Embroidered by George Eliot & Warwickshire Samplers On-Line

One of my favourite authors is George Eliot alias Mary Ann Evans (1819-1880). And I suppose if I had to confess one book near to my heart it is the story of the weaver Silas Marner whose love of gold is one day redeemingly replaced by love for humankind when an orphaned child arrives on his doorstep. He named the child Eppie and a niece of ours is called after her. This cloth with its spinner, jolly French piper and dancing group (can you hear the sound of their clogs pounding the earth?) in the collection of Nuneaton Museum (Warwickshire) is believed to have been stitched by Mary Ann and her school friends. Warwickshire Museums also have a small sampler collection to explore - just click here.

A Bright Day at Brightwells * Leominister * 19 May 2010

Leominster (pronounced Lemster) in Herefordshire on what I would call the Welsh Marches is home to some spectacular black and white timbered architecture and is well worth a visit if you are in the area. Another reason for going to Leominster is to visit Brightwells the local auction house which has regular textile sales. The next sale is 19 May and you can just click here to see the catalogue which has a number of needlework items and some samplers for sale.

Lot 659 is this ebony needlework casket lined with blue silk and has mother of pearl spools, mother of pearl needlecase, five winders, two finger guards and partly worked items in base. The estimate is £80 - £120.

No-one shall provoke me with impunity is what Jane Alston Smith Tranent stitched on her sampler which sounds like fighting talk to me....
Stitched in silk and chenille this unfaded sampler with a half-timbered cottage, bears the thistle of Scotland and rose of England and was prabably stitched in 1884. It is Lot 707 in the sale and has an estimate of £150 - £200.

Our Sarah Harris has me bumping into heraldic lions and unicorns all this week! Here is a 17th century velvet purse with a gold embroidered coat of arms to each side. Originally a draw string it has original beaded tasseled drawstring and its estimate is £300 - £400 and is Lot 699.