Thursday 30 September 2010

Far Flung Jig Saw Pieces

This sampler in Salisbury Museum which we looked at the other day excited Pam in the USA. She wrote: Hi, I know of two other election samplers that record that famous election between Benett and Astley in 1819. One is here in the states at the museum in Nebraska. It came with the son and daughter of the girl who stitched it. It is very elaborate - it has a Greek key border around it and has a thistle in the top right corner and a pot of flowers in the left top corner. The sampler is stitched on very fine cloth in shades of gold and has black lettering. The stitching is a copy of the final board sheet printed in the paper recording the election results. The other sampler is in Trowbridge England at the museum! So here we have one of those examples of a sampler which appears to be a one-off, marking a special occasion, but which turns out to be part of a group. So now we know at least 3 girls stitched this sampler. How many more could there have been? And why? What exact significance did this document have that it was copied by perhaps an entire class of girls? Again we see that samplers are precious jig-saw pieces which have been scattered to the four winds, but there is hope now of bringing them back together in the virtual world to piece together the pictures once missing.

Wednesday 29 September 2010

A Mameluke Sampler at Christies - the Caucasian Circle of Motifs

There is a theory that some early sampler motifs arrived in England from North Africa via Sicily and mainland Spain. One of the largest North African empires was the Caliphate centred on Cairo in Egypt. This is a Mameluke sampler that will be auctioned at Christies on 8 October in London. It is dated between 10 - 13 century and belongs to a period when the Caliphate in Egypt depended on imported slaves traded by the Turkish. Mameluke simply means 'owned'. What is interesting is that many slaves, particularly women, were abducted from the Black Sea, Danube Basin, and Sea of Azov areas of Greater Europe - Circassian women from the North West Caucasus were the most prized. So, they would have brought their traditional needlework repertoire with them and this repertoire would have percolated into the culture to which they had been forced. Local fashion in their new land would have demanded the women also learn new motifs and the two cultures, so meeting, would have become combined over time to create new needlework designs and motifs. But it is worth remembering that when these motifs were transferred north to England, they entailed a circle of threads leading back to the mountains of the Caucasus and perhaps even to those early prehistoric needlework cultures of the Altai in Southern Siberia.
While this sampler looks like a band sampler, if you turn it on its side you can see that a liitle more is happening here than mere recording of border designs. Here you can see a tunic front with a decorated central placket and designs along the shoulders. Was this a trial run for making a tunic front? Or was it intended as a tunic front which either failed or was rejected, and was later used for other stitching - or something else?

How the Sampler Post and Other Downloads Work

Just a short note since I have had a couple of emails today asking me how the downloads work. From those who use them the answer is: They couldn't be simpler or easier!Once you make your payment via Paypal you shouldn't have more than 24 hours to wait - in practise it is usually less than an hour, sometimes minutes. After payment you will get 2 messages. The first is an automatic notification that you have access to our secure download facility - this comes with a special password and a link you click on to take you to our secure site. You enter your secret password and your email address and then you are given a screen where you can see your personal folders ready for collection. Simply click on the folders there and, when asked, choose the option to save your file and then tell the software where you would like the file saved on your machine. It is really exactly the same as doing a free download, except you need a password for access. The second message you receive is a message from someone here in the studio, acknowledging your order. Once you have that, then your download is available and if you can't see the automatic link which very rarely likes to hide in a Spam folder or take a walk across the Milky Way, then you reply to the acknowledgement and say you haven't got your link. That sets the alarm bells ringing for all hands on deck here and in a trice we set up a special link for you and provide close assistance until you have your download. There is always someone here in waking hours to help you with any query or concern about your purchase and guide you if you need help.

Tuesday 28 September 2010

Erica Uten's Sampler Post is Ready

A few years ago Erica Uten came up with the brilliant idea of Quaker Post for mail art and these were so popular we asked Erica if she would design a new set of stamps, this time featuring samplers from a number of different countries. And here they all are - 35 neat stamps from Amager, France, England, Scotland, Groningen, Vierlanden, Marken and more Quaker stamps - plus a gorgeous stitched album to collect them all in.

This download comprises full charts for all the stamps and the album plus making up instructions, colour pictures - and those wonderful bonus editable files you tell me you love so much so that if you have our Infinity Starter Kit you can enjoy customising and composing your own album and stamp collection to your heart's content. Just click here to browse or buy Sampler Post.

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Monday 27 September 2010

More Good Things Must Come to an End - The Judith Hayle Samplers

It was such a great pleasure to work with Edwina Ehrman of the V&A Museum in the London on this special book, I was knocked over by the wealth of information she had researched not only on Judith Hayle and her daughter Rebecca Thomson, but also all the girls who produced a sampler under the tutelage of both teachers from the end of the 17th century onwards. This beautiful book records all their samplers as well as their lives.

We published the book at the end of 2007 and now we are down to our last 100 or so copies. You can either purchase your copy from Needleprint for $40 to include airmail to wherever you live, or you can buy a copy from Amazon US for $170. Our experience is that all Needleprint books and charts we have published have increased in value well beyond inflation and in terms of investment are out performing blue chip shares! Just click here to browse this charming and information packed book.
If you would like to buy more than 10 copies for a guild or group of stitching friends, then please email me for a special rate. We now have just 5 packs of the 5 Chart Sampler Offer remaining.

Sunday 26 September 2010

Downton Lace and the Joys of Salisbury Museum

Salisbury is one of those special places - set against a battleship blue or grey sky that slim, subtle grey spire of the cathedral draws one to it with as much wonder as a compass rose on an antique portalan chart. This weekend I walked round the autumnal cathedral close and rediscovered again the unique space of that ancient place of worship which now has William Pye's spectacular infinity font reflecting in its obsidian clarity the vaulting and stained windows above. A symbol of continual renewal and cleansing it brims with flawless hope.
But after you have visited there, do cross the close to the museum and discover some of the wonderful textile delights there. There is a wonderful archive of Downton lace together with tools, images and pricked patterns on display. There is a wonderful Stuart mirror, see above, and samplers.

This sampler records the election results of 1819. For details and to see more of the museum collection, simply click here.

Saturday 25 September 2010

Taking Samplers at Face Value...Should We?

Bloggger has today changed how they upload files and I am having such great difficulties uploading the detail image of this sampler I really want to show you. I'll try again tomorrow. Here at last! However, the devil in the detail is the leaf and stalk which you can see almost at the bottom centre of this sampler. I was looking at this closely today with the expert stitchers of the North Dorset Embroiderers' Guild in order to have a more qualified interpretation of the stitching. Unlike the precise stitching exhibited for the most part on this somewhat chaotic sampler in The Goodhart Collection, the leaf and stalk of this motif are rather crudely cross-stitched. It is no boast at all to say I could have done better myself. This is just one example of a growing number that we have examined now in close up digital detail that throws up such anomolies and I am beginning to believe, in view of the evidence, that a number of samplers and antique stitched items which initially may have been left or passed down in an unfinished state, have been opportunistically augmented by later generations of stitchers.  I now have my eye on the Jane Bostocke sampler - particulary some of the figurative motifs which appear above the the text dedication. Maybe the time has come to question whether we should take all the stitching on a sampler at face value?

Friday 24 September 2010

Mary Jenkins' New Quilt Blog on the Block

I really love quilts and quilting and in one of my parallel lives I spend all day know what I mean about parallel lives, I know, you told me how you would find the Needleprint Blog more interesting and useful if, as well as charts and jigsaws, we would also have free Time downloads! (I'm working on that.) Where was I? Yes, in a parallel life, quilting. So, you can imagine my delight when one of my favourite quilter-authors, Mary Jenkins, told me she now had a blog. I looked, loved and, and of course, couldn't wait to share with you. Just click here to Mary's delightful Little Welsh Quilts and Other Traditions blog.

Thursday 23 September 2010

Save Over £200 - The Delights of Digital

I know the debate about digital versus a lovely, real, tactile, paper-book-in-your-hand continues. Just last week I was looking to see what was new in some of the little cutting-edge design stores in Brighton and found a table full of Selvedge magazines. For about the third time this year, I found myself gathering up armfuls of this wonderful, bi-monthly, dedicated-textile magazine ready to go to the till - even at nearly £10 a copy, I was ready to take the pain in my purse. But then the still, small voice that gets to me everytime I approach a cash till with magazines or books, asked yet again, And when you have read them, where will they go? Will you be able to remember where all the good, inspiring articles are in them - and quickly - or will you have to trawl through them all for that one special article? I have a studio full of books and magazines, partly indexed and cross-referenced, but frankly without taking on extra staff, I know this indexing is a battle waiting to be lost. And, back there in Brighton, I knew, deep in my heart, that if I wanted so many magazines, it really did make sense to wait and take out a subscription when I got home. And that is what I did. But joy of joy! I could take out a digital subscription for a reduced rate of £25 for 6 issues - and not only that, I had access to 23 back copies also! W-w-w-wow. Child in a sweetie shop, is what you would have thought if you'd seen me then. I can save pages as jpegs to special folders so I can find what inspired me again and quickly - no scissors, no wondering if I'm cutting up something important on the other side. I have to say, if you are curious about the delights of digital, there is no better way of finding out - at the end of the year I shall have enjoyed 29 Selvedge Magazines for just £25 - and that is more than an armful, by anyone's reckoning.

Wednesday 22 September 2010

Manchester Art Gallery On-Line Sampler and Jacket Collection

For those of you who are not able to join the fabulous Jacket Tour of the UK, Manchester Art Gallery has some rather lovely examples you can enjoy looking at on-line - and some samplers for good measure, too. This spendid example is from 1661. It has the well known extract ending with Learning is most excellent and you can see from here the reversal of stitched s. It is thought to have been stitched by Mary Tradenham who later married the second baronet Filmer, which gives some idea of her status. There is also a whitework sampler in the collection stitched by Mary.

This superb jacket of 1610-1620 stitched on linen and edged with metallic Van Dyck lace is simply stunning with its scrolling vine design.
This black work jacket intrigues me - there is much here that recalls Persian Resht designs, not least the working of alternating designs on the diagonals. Dated 1600-1625 the period matches a great interest in Persian culture - the Persians were considered European allies against Turkish expansionism. I wonder....
Not strictly a jacket, but a rather beautiful bodice for domestic wear which I covet greatly, I just know I would look good and graceful in it. It is dated to between 1625 and 1640. If you would like to explore the Manchester Art Gallery Collections, just click here.

Tuesday 21 September 2010

School Name Tapes, Stuke Bombers and Quakers

My school had a later start for the autumn term than others - and no matter that we enjoyed an extended two month summer holiday, it was always on the day before the new school year that I began the rather tedious (and rushed) job of stitching name tapes on my uniform, though the tapes had been in the workbox all summer. This is how I remember Cash name tapes. That and trawling through lost property baskets hunting for the misplaced gameshirt or sock - yes, each last and lost sock had to have its own name tape! There was a short time when we had a male teacher for music in school - just a term. One of his responsibilities was to play the piano for daily assembly when the whole school of girls and female teachers trooped into the hall. One day there was quite a pained sound coming from the piano and just as we had all arrived, he jumped up from his piano stool and in a fit of rage opened the top of the pianoand pulled out - girls' underwear. We didn't see much of him after that.....and we never knew to whom the underwear belonged as it had no name tapes. You would have thought someone would have missed them though, wouldn't you?

So what has that to do with Stuke bombers. Well, just one Stuke bomber pilot who we met one year while mountain climbing near Mittenwald. He was an old, ill man who we had heard coughing the whole night through where we were staying, and in the morning we could see he wasn't well at all. Though we always chatted with everyone at breakfast in a mixture of German and English, he never spoke a word to us - until the morning we were due to leave. Then he told us in broken breath that he had piloted a Stuke in that terrible raid which reduced the city of Coventry to rubble overnight in the war. He ended by saying he was 18 at the time and very frightened.
And Quakers? John and Joseph Cash, were born to a wealthy Quaker merchant in Coventry and joined the manufacture of silk ribbons for which the city was famous. Over 45% of the people, many descended from refugee Huguenots, earned their living in some form of ribbon making in the 1840s. The Cash brothers were enlightened manufacturers and had a system which allowed people to weave in their own homes while harnessing power and technology to speed their work - they built Topshops for people to live in the lower stories and weave in their lofts, where gears driven by local steam power ran through the whole terrace to drive the looms. By the 1860s the industry had crashed and many became paupers. However, the manufacturers worked hard to create other niches - they wove commemorative ribbons, bookmarks, pictures and personalised name tapes and still a little of that industry survives today.

Maybe if I had known all this, I might have set to my name tape stitching with a little more gusto....and if I had known that our music teacher had been a pupil of Messaien, how I would so not have giggled, and had we known about the frightened young boys in bomber planes, who knows?

Monday 20 September 2010

Free Download - First Day Cover from Erica Uten's Sampler Post

To complement your Quaker Post stamps sets, here is a free First Day Cover from the soon to be released Sampler Post also designed by Erica Uten. This lovely set of world wide stamps includes an album and 35 delightful stamps from samplers around the world and should be ready for you to download by the weekend. You can either create a whole album - or you can make fabulous First Day Cover sets as mini-projects to set in a frame. And think what pretty pin-cushions you could make from them also! The world, as they say, is your oyster. And look out for neat little stitched pattern albums of European motifs - coming from Needleprint! For your free First Day Cover Download just click here.

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Sunday 19 September 2010

Free Jigsaw Download - Sarah Spence's Virtue from Ackworth

A special treat as we come to the end of the Sarah Spence 1806 printed medallion samplers - here is the text sampler which she also stitched while at Ackworth School. This together with her medallion sampler had been passed down through her family for 200 years before the owners felt there was no one to whom it could be passed on, and so it was returned to Ackworth School. I hope you enjoy this free 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 18 September 2010

All Good Things Must Come to an End

We have been stocktaking our remaining printed items today - it feels a little like the end of an era seeing the diminishing numbers of charts and card sets. We have just 0 sets of our 5 chart offer left. These are available for the price of 3 charts and come airmail free to your address wherever you are in the world. The charts included in the set are the lovely Quakers from Ackworth, Sarah Spence, Rebecca Jeffcoat, Hannah Westcombe and Mary Peacock plus the fabulous Rebecca Blake from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Join up with your friends and have a Quaker chart party to share the savings amongst yourselves. Just click here to browse or secure your copy before they all go. We shall still have some Mary Peacock and Rebecca Blake left to sell as singles, though.

Friday 17 September 2010

It's Great to be Young

This was the title of the film in which Dorothy starred in 1956 and tomorrow, our Dorothy Bromiley Phelan will be 80 years young. Thank you for all the special birthday messages you sent for her - they have been packaged up and sent special delivery for her to enjoy tomorrow. And any messages that missed this post will also be forwarded to her, to append to the many already sent.
Dorothy once told me that she almost bowled over Gary Cooper running along a corridor.....(and he was the man I always wanted to marry!) Did he say anything? I gasped. Yes, she said. What? I panted. He said, Well hello little limey. And the little limey is the girl in the middle of this Life Magazine cover.
So time to name the winner of this special draw - tantantara! Linda Connors. If Linda will email me with her address then we'll make sure the book of Connecticut Needlework will arrive on her doorstep as soon as it is published. Thank you to everyone who participated.

Thursday 16 September 2010

Just 12 hours Remaining for the Connecticut Sampler Book Giveaway

Just a few more hours left for you to enter this very special giveaway of the new book: Connecticut Needlework authored by Susan P. Schoelwer, former curator at the Connecticut Historical Society. This book subtitled: Women, Art, and Family, 1740-1840 looks at all the needle arts created in this 100 year period. There are more than 100 examples illustrated, some never seen before, and photographs include details of designs, stitches, reverse sides and sketches. All you need to do to enter is be a Needleprint blog customer  and to send a birthday message of thanks to Dorothy Bromiley Phelan who will be 80 on Saturday. I thought it would be lovely to celebrate her birthday by telling her how much her contribution to needlework history means to us. So, send me your message of thanks for Dorothy and we'll have them all printed out together nicely and sent to her in time for her special birthday.  Closing date is end of Thursday 16th September (Pacific Time). Your message will be put into a draw and the winner will receive a copy of this special book sent directly to their door. (Publication date is October). Simply click here to leave your special message for Dorothy or leave a message on this post.

A Mystery Solved! * Wrought with the Needle Exhibition * Witney Antiques * 18 - 31 October 2010

Well, we were all wondering whatever happened to the fabulous jacket panel sold at Christies - and now we know - mystery solved! What is more you can go and see this panel with your very own eyes at Witney Antiques during their exhibition, Wrought with the Needle, which runs at the shop in Witney, Oxfordshire between 18-31 October 2010.
And... you can also see that extremely desirable late 17th century double casket. The oak carrying box which has a top-opening lid and fall front has protected the inner silk embroidered casket from the effect of travels and time and kept the needlework in lovely condition.
It is astonishing how these extraordinary needlework pieces have survived 4 centuries looking so bright, just as if they had been frozen in time. The item above is an Elizabethan book or folio cover.
I love these baskets - and this one even has an inscription worked in beads: Mary Baker Her Basket 1670. Whether this was worked by Mary or was a gift for Mary we can't be sure. The giving of such exquisite and 'curious' presents was an important part of social life - wouldn't it have been wonderful to have received such a gift?

Wednesday 15 September 2010

Threads of Feeling * London Foundling Museum * 14 October 2010 - 6 March 2011

As many of you already know, the building which became Ackworth was originally designed and built to be an outpost of the London Foundling Hospital. When funds dried up, the institution there was closed and the building remained empty for 6 years before being bought by the Society of Friends for what would later become Ackworth School. You can read more details in a free Needleprint download. The London Foundling Hospital sheltered many hundreds of children who were often reluctantly left to its care by desperate and destitute mothers. The mothers left some token in case, in better times, they were able to return and reclaim their child. This token was the only means of identifying the relationship between a mother and her child and all the tokens have been kept to this day by the Foundling Museum. Some of these tokens were strips of fabric, some like the one in the middle shown below were a scrap of sampler. Now is your chance to see for yourself these textile tokens - so fragile they are not normally on exhibit. Be moved. See The London Foundling Museum Website for more details.

Tuesday 14 September 2010

More Samplers from the Auction Rooms

How can samplers be like London buses? Well, for a while you wait and wait and there is nothing, then three turn up together. Or maybe more, like this week. The first is an unusual silkwork sampler by Sarah Gartrell,1840, depicting four foreign and finely dressed figures, ethnically costumed, each holding a parasol. The figures are symmetrically arranged either side of two verses alluding to the brevity of human existence It measures 43 x 33.5cm (about 17 x 13 inches) and is lot No 547 at Sworders of Stansted Mountfitchet, UK. Estimate is £1,200-£1,500.

This charming quartet of samplers is for sale through Christies, UK on 21st September. The verse on the sampler on the bottom left is interesting - it reads: Industry taught in early days / Not only gives the Teacher praise: / But gives us pleasure when we view, the work that innocence can do. / Go on dear Child learn to excel, / Improve in Work and Reading well, / For Books and Work do both contend, / To make the Housewife and the Friend. What insight into the prevailing thoughts of the time that is. The estimate for all 4 is £600 - £800. See Christies for more details.

An Englishman's home is his castle - usually metaphorically but from Cheffins in Cambridge on 23 September is Lot No 693 - ‘Mary Stevens August 8th 1844’, her needlework sampler worked with a twin towered castle above birds, plants, red squirrel, cow and stag within a vine border measures 36x 30cm (14 x 11.75inches) and has an estimate of £150 to £250.

Also from Christies
is this unique historic view of Sheffield Infirmary - now transformed into executive apartments. It is lot 277 for sale on 21 September and measures 60 x 71 cm (23.5 x 28 inches).

And finally from Silverwoods of Lancashire is this Victorian large needlework sampler by Ann Ainsworth, 1863, with a church which appears to be a real and possibly traceable, surrounded by cherubs and pots of flowers. It measures 67cm by 77.5cm (26 x 31 inches.) and has an estimate of £30 to £50. It is lot number 318 for auction on 30 September. I hope Sarah Jane Whithed enjoyed her presant.....