Sunday 31 October 2010

Samplers Winner

Thank you very much for all your kind and sympathetic messages - I am up and about and walking today, though I do resemble Julie Waters in that hilarious 'Two Soups' sketch - which if you have forgotten or don't know, can be found on YouTube:
So, a little later and a bit shakier than anticipated, I can announce that the winner of the Samplers book giveaway is Ruta from Lithuania. Congratulations, Ruta! Please send me your address so I can airmail the book to you. When I am feeling a bit more on top of things, I will share all the information you sent with you.
At the beginning of this book is an illustration from the German picture book - Curioser Spiegel which shows a number of girls undergoing instruction in needlework. Here we can plainly see the girl stitching bands on her sampler at a 90 degree orientation to her body that I have mentioned previously, but this is one of the better illustrations.

And here, if the girls were singing, would be a lovely representation of Shakespeare's Helena and Hermia from A Midsummer Night's Dream : How often, Hermia, have we two, sitting on one cushion, both singing one song, with our needles working the same flower, both on the same sampler wrought?

Just one last word about needlework in hospitals - there is a great falling off in this skill - I was glued back together!

Saturday 30 October 2010

Special 2 Night Stay at The Royal Surrey and Home a Few Stones Lighter - with Apologies

Posting the last blog was a bit of a pain - and the pain got so bad my husband called up an ambulance and I spent the night in the Emergency Room of the Royal Surrey Hospital. The following morning I was whisked away - or should I say, my gall bladder was whisked away with a quite a few stones. (And I always thought Gall Bladder was a ball game played by Asterix and Obelisk.) Anyway, Through the Keyhole took on a new meaning. Thanks to this incredible procedure, all the wonderful care I received at The Royal Surry and the indefatigable love of my husband, I am now home. It may take me a day to catch up. My apologies for missing a blog.

Thursday 28 October 2010

What's New in the Auction Rooms?

Lot No 1225

I rather took a shine to Mary Lee's sampler of 1810 which she worked aged 13. It has all the rigorous symmetry in the top half which might make for a tedious design, but the lower part of the sampler over does itself in redemption. I particularly like the house and the horse or sheep backed against green. The verse is from Psalm 125. Not to be confused with its lot number - 1225 and is for auction with  Golding Young & Co.
at the Grantham Auction Rooms
 on 3 November.

Lot No 569 at Stride and Son of Chichester for auction on 29 October is two samplers and it is the sampler on the right hand side as you look at it that has caught my eye. It has a lovely arcading border at the top and a nice pair of thistles at the bottom. I have tried, not very successfully, to enhance the image for you.

Wednesday 27 October 2010

Keeping Tabs on Exhibitions - Russia in Calico - Museum of Printed Textiles Mulhouse

You might have noticed that we changed around the blog a little and now have a set of tabs just beneath our main banner - can you see them? There are now separate pages for Exhibitions, Courses, Collections, Downloads, Offers and more. Take a moment to take a look and find out what is going on. I know the stitching workshop in Mulhouse booked up very quickly, but don't worry, there is still an excuse to visit the wonderful museum there and do some Festive Shopping.
Between 11 November 2010 and 27 March 2011 there is a super exhibition of printed textiles from Russia. With more than 500 items, the exhibition traces the history of Russian printed textiles between the 17 - 20 centuries. Click here for the Press Release (in French).

Tuesday 26 October 2010

Special Festive Offers

Ready or not we are approaching the Holiday Season, so with that in mind we have bundled two Festive Offerings for you. You might like to remember that we can send any of our printed products direct to a friend with your good wishes on a special gift card. The first offer is the Ackworth School Memory Book and a set of 8 fine quality Ackworth School greetings cards, blank for your special festive messages. There are 2 each of 4 different card designs and they come complete with envelopes for sending. These items are limited edition and only limited stocks remain now. Sorry Greetings Cards are all sold.
The second Festive Offer is The Perpetually Engaging Diary and a set of 8 Ackworth School greetings cards. Sorry Greetings Cards are all sold.

Monday 25 October 2010

Jane Franklin, Tasmania and John's Piano - and Toast and Vinegar in a Sock

Thank you for all your emails telling me about your local museums - it is going to be a very exciting draw on Saturday. Some of you may have read Claire's comment about her local museum - The Tasmania Museum & Art Gallery in Hobart. It is too interesting to miss - so please do visit. I was especially taken by this basket, stitched as a gift to Lady Jane Franklin, who the more I read about, and find artifacts such as these related to her, the more she grows in my admiration - I would dearly love to have met her. Thank you to Claire again for giving us this link to Jane's biography. She first came across my radar some years ago when I was looking at early trade and attempts at the North West Passage. Jane was the second wife of Sir John Franklin and when he went missing on one of his expeditions to find the North West Passage, she refused for years to give up hope. She fund-raised and lobbied for rescue attempts on his behalf. In Cambridge, I used to live a short walk away from the Scott Polar Institute, and from time to time I would pop in to visit. One of the pieces there I loved the most was John Franklin's piano which he packed on board for on one of his expeditions (and which unlike him did return safely). He took this piano to bolster moral amongst his men in the deep cold and bleak days. As my granny would say: there is no-one so down as a good sing-song around a piano cannot cure. I suppose I should also mention that her cure for colds was vinegar on toast inside a sock tied around your neck - the smell of which is something best left undescribed. But, to be fair, it did cure colds - after the first sock of vinegar and toast, you certainly never, ever complained of a cold again, at least not to her.

Sunday 24 October 2010

Free Jigsaw Download

Just to keep in with yesterday's theme, here is a jigsaw of the Needleprint Free Giveaway. Your answers so far to the 4 questions are very, very interesting - thank you. Remember, you have all week until next Saturday to find out about your local museum. 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 23 October 2010

Needleprint Giveaway - Anyone Can Enter

It has been a little while since we had a free draw when anyone could enter - so here we are. The giveaway (which includes airmail postage to wherever you live) is the seminal book Samplers by Donald King of the V&A in London. And it is the First Edition of 1960. It includes 89 good b&w images of samplers in the V&A collection and every sampler lover should have a copy.
So anyone can enter. Simply email me the answers to these 4 questions by next Saturday:
1. The name of your nearest museum with textiles.
2. Does this museum charge an admission fee?
3. Who owns the textiles in the museum?
4. Who pays for the museum's textile conservation?

Friday 22 October 2010

Agnete Wuldern Madsen - Can Anyone Help?

We really enjoy helping you with your stitching queries - we try our best here and often we can track down what you are looking for. But this request from Debbie has us stumped. Debbie sent a page from Woman's Day dated November 1962. (Sadly, I can't say this was before my time - I think we had glasses like these at home!) But what is more important than those glasses is that fabulous table cloth by Danish designer Agnete Wuldern  - later to become Agnete Wuldern Madsen.
Although we have tracked down books of Drawn Thread work by Agnete, we could find no other reference to help Debbie find this pattern which she would like to work. And I am rather thinking it might be something I would stitch when I have finished all my WIPs. Above, you can see the full design. If you can help in anyway we would be very grateful.
On the same page as the tablecloth are designs by another famous Danish designer - Gerda Bengtsson. Click here to download the page.

Thursday 21 October 2010

Lobscouse for Mary Wigham

Another thing you were keen for on your wish list was more insight into the girls' lives at Ackworth School. Apart from sleep and stitching, food had to figure - but not large, or at least never large enough for healthy young appetites. Talking to a Friend who was at Ackworth just after WWII when food was still on rationing, she described the thin stews that left the stomach growling. Hunger was a constant companion. Perhaps sampler-stitching took one's mind away from hunger - I have yet to try it. In 1790 food was not as short as it would get towards the end of the 18th century and into the beginning of the 19th with supplies being hindered by European blockades in the wars with France. But still the meals would have been frugal, and a meal with meat was a rare treat. One of the school meals mentioned in the Ackworth archive is Lobscouse, which sounds more like a nasty skin disease, than something with an appetising taste. However, that may be a personal prejudice, since my roots are in Yorkshire, and Scouse is from the other side of the Pennines - Lancashire. Scouser is the name given to people from Liverpool - the Beatles were Scousers - and their particular manner of speech is called Scouse. You may enjoy as a group or guild getting together for a Lobscouse day - with stitching, of course. So here is a recipe for Lobscouse that will feed 12 - the total cooking time is about 2.5 hours.
You will need 3 pounds of stewing beef - skirt or brisket is best, if not then just stewing steak or a mixture of all three will do. Don't cube it or chop it up small at this stage. To flavour the stew, you will need some aromatic vegetables - 2 large onions, a pound of carrots, a swede or turnip or 3 or 4 parsnips, a couple of bay leaves, salt and pepper and - to fill the stomach - 3 pounds of large potatoes. In a large pan, cover the beef with water and add the bay leaves, then bring to the boil and set it to simmer for around 2 hours until the meat is tender. While the meat is simmering, chop up all the vegetables into thumbnail sized cubes - if you are using parsnips, cut those a little larger as they cook faster than the other vegetables. When the meat is tender, dice that also, skim off any fat and return the meat to the pan with the chopped vegetables. Simmer for another 20 minutes until the potatoes start to melt, then correct seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve your Lobscouse piping hot in bowls. In true Quaker fashion, spend a minute in silence together before tucking in.

Wednesday 20 October 2010

Auction Roundup - Scottish Houses and A Turin Shroud

It is a little while since I have had the opportunity to look at what is happening out and about in the auction houses. This week I found two samplers displaying my favourite subject - Scottish houses, with an added surprise being an early embroidered representation of the Turin Shroud. But first this lovely sampler of 1831 worked by 11 year old Agnes Johnston which has all the markers of a Scottish sampler. Unmissable are the paired large thistles to either side of the text, and above them paired intials in the distinctive, hairy, style - outlined in Holbein stitch or what the Italians so aptly call punto scritto. The other markers are a rose border in its twisted arcade and the rather strange urn of five flowers which you can see in the centre below the house gate. And some peacocks for good luck! This sampler is lot 211 for auction at Lyon and Turnbull, Edinburgh on 23 October 2010. Estimate is £300 - £500.

On the other side of Scotland, in Glasgow, McTear's have Lily Gardner's 1837 woolwork sampler for auction. Again notice the rose border in twisted arcades and the urn of flowers. This sampler is lot 541 with an estimate of £200- £250 and the sale date is 23 October 2010.
For those of you who live on the other side of The Pond is this interesting 18th century Italian embroidered piece showing a bishop and two assistants holding the Turin Shroud. Their faces and the shroud are depicted in watercolours. I tried to see if there were any particulary important events related to the Shroud at this time, but there was nothing that really stood out, maybe with more time it will be possible to discover if this is a special, commemorative piece. The auction is in Iowa, at Jackson's International of Cedar Falls, and this is lot 1016 with an estimate of £250 -£450. The sale date is 26 October 2010.

Tuesday 19 October 2010

New Needleprint Giftshop

One of the items on your wish list, when we asked, was a more organised catalogue from which you could make purchases. Well, it is has taken us a little time to do this as you can imagine, but now we are there and we shall continue to improve upon it. You can simply scroll through the pages presented to you, or look down the Quick Find Product index to home in on exactly the item you want. There are also tabbed categories across the top of the page where you can browse, for example, just Downloads, or just Quaker Charts. Also in the tabbed pages are contact information and some notes on purchasing to help you with any queries. Do let me know if you can think of anything else to help you.
So welcome to the new store. 5 lucky purchasers from the new store in October will receive a special Needleprint gift.

Monday 18 October 2010

Three Centuries of European Samplers - New Book

By Irina Hundt, this lovely new book on samplers is co-authored by one of my favourite people, Lorraine Mootz, who is well loved and respected by sampler enthusiasts on both sides of the Atlantic. The book has 190 pages and discusses 40 samplers from the 17th-19th centuries - and there are charts for 16 of them. It is bilingual in German and English. Christmas just came early, didn't it? To order from Amazon just click here.

Sunday 17 October 2010

On-line Ukranian Embroidery from Cleveland

We were talking the other day about Black Sea influences on Mameluke embroideries and one of the main areas bordering the sea is what is known today as the Ukraine. There were many Ukranian girls in my school in the North of England and in addition to regular school of 5 days a week, they also attended Ukranian school on Saturdays where they were taught their native language, songs, and embroidery. Once a year they gave a concert of national songs and dances and I was totally captivated by the vibrant, bold colours of their dress which set alight even the coldest, foggiest, northern winter's day. This first example is of some beautiful whitework from the shoulders and upper sleeves of a woman's blouse.
And again a sleeve and shoulder inset but worked in dense polychrome silk. I know just how long it would take me to stitch one of those repeat motifs - an entire day! The Cleveland Ukranian Archive has many more lovely examples for you to admire - just click here to visit.

Saturday 16 October 2010

The Perpetually Engaging Diary for Your Friends

Do tell us if you would like your items sent direct to a friend - we have lovely greetings cards to enclose with your gift, and you can add any message you like. You have told us how much you like this service as it saves on additional postage costs at your end.
Our Perpetually Engaging Diary is a gorgeous gift for a friend, it is good for any year and has 25 wonderful images from the fabulous Micheál and Elizabeth Feller Needlework Collection plus charts for 12 mini samplers, one for each month. There is a framed place in the diary for you to tie in your samplers so that your diary becomes a perpetual album to treasure and show to admirers.
You can buy a single copy of the diary for $38, or two copies for $70 or one diary plus an Ackworth School Memory Book for $55 all prices include airmail postage to a single destination wherever you are in the world.

Friday 15 October 2010

Scottish Coal, Dutch Tiles and Strange Sampler Qs

The next time you are in Edinburgh, cross the famous Forth Bridge and turn left along the coast for a few miles until you arrive at pretty Culross (ask for Cooros). Here it was at the end of the 16th century and the beginning of the 17th that Sir George Bruce began mining coal seams running deep under the Firth of Forth. The coal was easily distributed by ship along coastal areas - and it was also taken across to the Netherlands. The ships discharged the coal and took ballast on board for the return journey - Dutch roof tiles.
These bright tiles are an astonishing sight in the area and are a visible sign of early trade between the Scots and Dutch. It is probable that once across the heaving North Sea and within the sheltered waters of the Wadden Sea, even colliers' tubs could have coasted at ease up along the Frisian coast, past the Ems estuary in Germany to Hamburg and beyond to Esbjerg in Denmark. Is this the route of those curious, bewiskered alphabets, common to Scotland, Friesland and North Germany? And don't forget Ireland and the Scottish influence there. The question is were these alphabets coming from Scotland or being taken to Scotland along the trade routes? Once Ireland comes into the equation, the tendency is to hypothesise that the place of origin is Scotland.....but the questioning continues.

Thursday 14 October 2010

Passionate About Pattern - The Anokhi Hand Printing Museum

I have always been passionate about pattern, whether deciphering numeric or linguistic sequences as a child, reverse engineering 48 bit machine code as a student, choosing clothes or designing stitching projects as an adult. There was an Anokhi shop right next to Auntie's Teashop in Cambridge and I used to spend much of my time there - when not in museums! The whole shop was so sumptious with pattern it used to make my heart race. Now it is good to learn that there is an Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing in Amber. Situated in a beautifully restored 16th century mansion recognised by UNESCO for its inspired use of indigenous skills and materials, the museum includes collections and changing exhibitions & displays borrowed from the museum archives and donors. Additionally, the museum has several forums for interaction and in-depth learning, including demonstrations and workshops. I am going just as soon as I can!

Wednesday 13 October 2010

You Can Never Have Too Many Stitched Pillows

Well, it certainly seems that Queen Elizabeth I couldn't! How many cushions can you see in this illustration? I think I can see 5, but possibly there are more - just check with the lower detail image and let me know what you think. Often when we see very elaborate and precious cushions having some raised work (not stump work) and edged with metallic lace, one's first thought is that could not possibly be a cushion for sitting upon.  There were certainly cushions for sitting and kneeling upon, though did Her Majesty ever sit or kneel wearing that  robe? But many of the very decorative, stitched cushions would have been worked to provide a dignified rest for a book of prayers or meditations, often having decorative, stitched bindings themselves.

Tuesday 12 October 2010

A Belated Happy Wool Week - Rochdale's Knitty Gritty

Of course, I should have wished you Happy Wool Week yesterday - particularly since I was out inspecting Herdwick sheep on the Lakeland fells. I hear there is such a thing as yarn bombing - the equivalent of grafitti in woolwork - which is carried out by Deadly Knitshade and Knitmare Before Christmas... so if you run into a telephone box with a knitted cosy, you will now know whodunnit! If you live near Rochdale and are looking for a friendly knitting group, then you need go no further than the award winning Touchstones Art Centre in Rochdale. There you will find a soul group to hunker munker with and get down to the old knitty gritty with your own projects - the group meets on the last Tuesday of every month from 2pm - 3.30pm and the next date for your diary is 26th October. Membership is free!

Monday 11 October 2010

Stay & Stitch * Holly Stumpwork at Great Missenden Abbey * 30 October - 1 November

Lovely Missenden Abbey is set in a picturesque fold of the Chiltern Hills, just an easy train ride from London, and you can stay there and stitch some festive stumpwork holly with Kitty Aldridge from the Royal School of Needlework from 30 October - 1 November, fully residential in a single room with en-suite facilites for £248

Sunday 10 October 2010

Free Jigsaw Download

I love looking through my old Ackermans magazines whenever I have a moment - which is not as often as I would like - where is that free download of Time I keep promising us all! However, today I did have that moment to look through some of the muslin patterns in one of the magazines and thought this one would be a nice subject for a jigsaw - though with a little challenge as it is also a Spot the Difference puzzle - can you see them? 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 9 October 2010

Embroidered Bags for Precious Books

Researchers of antique needlework are often keen to see examplars of a certain item outside their country or period of current study, simply to understand, if possible, by analogy, the process and context in which comparable items are created. Having studied a number of 16th century bags and purses which are often described as being for money or sweets (herbs) we need to remember that such bags were important too for protecting the precious stitched bindings of books of prayer or meditations. So Lot No 647 for auction at Eastbourne Auction Rooms on 21 & 22 October 2010 (Estimates: £40 - £60) provides us with a more contemporary insight, having both bag and book. Dating from the around the close of the 19th century this Lebanese, leather-bound, Christian Book of Prayer is accompanied by its Ottoman-style, embroidered cloth bag which has given it protection over the years. Now that books are relatively cheap and numerous, we would probably never trouble to stitch a bag for our current read. However, publishers of expensive, specialist books continue the tradition to some extent by providing special boxes or hard cases to protect their books for ranging on open shelves.

Friday 8 October 2010

Museums and a Haslemere Museum Update

It is not an easy time for museums in the present climate, many do not have sufficient volunteers to help and money is always a problem. If you have a local museum, do find out, if you are able, what help you can give them. I know that owing to staffing shortages and the change of volunteers that work with any museum is sometimes a very slow process - so I do appreciate your patience for our Museum projects which cannot be effected as fast as our own internal projects. Nevetheless, we are committed to working with and helping museums wherever we can. I know that Haslemere Educational Museum ran out of stock quickly of their wonderful James Wilson's sampler, but I am told that it is now back in stock and they hopefully now have a working PayPal link. Just click here to send your request for a copy.

Thursday 7 October 2010

Samplers - The Long and the Short of Them

I have been examining early samplers in close-up detail, together with early illustrations of stitchers, for quite a while now, and the evidence is now building for the stitching of samplers not from the top, not from the bottom, but from the side. And that would mean that when stitching a band the stitcher would not be working across the band from left to right (or right to left), but rather would be working up the band, away from her body. The illustration here from Rosina Furst's pattern book, though not of a sampler stitcher, will give you some idea of how the stitcher was oriented with respect to her work. This could explain why some samplers appear to be worked both from the top and bottom, having bands, particularly alphabets and signatures, oriented in opposing directions. It could also explain the reversals of Ns and Ss on some samplers since the direction of working the letter would be rotated through 90 degrees to the normal reading and writing angle. (Though confusion in the orientation of these letters is also found in carving.) There are also samplers with some interesting and 90 degree rotated infills at the edges of bands. Viewing work at this strange (to us) 90 degree rotation would not have been all that strange to a stitcher in the 17th century, since the subjects of tapestries were woven at a 90 degree rotation to the weaver. This is not to say that some samplers may have been stitched in hand or attached to cushion in the way we have previously envisioned, but it is far more probable that the work was set up in a frame and worked in the way shown in this illustration

Wednesday 6 October 2010

Fabulous DMC Workshop * Mulhouse * 26 - 28 November * No better place for a spot of Christmas Shopping *NOW FULL UP* NEW WORSHOP BEING PLANNED*

I remember some magical Christmas Shopping in the medieval Rheinish towns of Mulhouse, Strasbourg, Colmar - Le Petit Chose in the avenue d'Altkirk, Brunstatt is a place where sitchers believe they have found true heaven. And now you can combine all that with a fabulous stitching workshop given at the DMC Print Museum in Mulhouse by none other than Ollivier Henry, the beauty of whose marvellous reconstructed court costumes brought me to my knees at one Aiguilles en Fete. Go, go, GO! If you register before 15th October the prices is just 550 euros instead of 750 euros. (Oh what you could do with those 200 euros in Le Petit Chose or the DMC Museum shop!)

OK. Take a breath. The theme of the workshops is 18th century gardens and Ollivier will take you through all the stitches you need. You will get to visit the museum and archives not usually open to the public. Residence is in local 3 star hotels. Two nights' accommodation and all meals are included, with pick up from the railway station in Mulhouse. Payment is via Banker's Cheque or draft and you can download a registration form by clicking here. If you are not a French reader, don't worry - we'll set up a French co-ordination service for you if you need it.

Tuesday 5 October 2010

Souvenir de Ma Jeunesse

These long albums of schoolgirl stitching exercises called rather romantically Souvenir de Ma Jeunesse in French, or more practically Pronkerolle in Dutch are something of a rarity in the the UK, where these exercises would have been fixed into something more book-like resembling a school book or album. The one we see here, however, does not have the neat coherence of some of the Souvenirs de Ma Jeunesse and is a more haphazard display. Nonetheless, visible are darning exercises, patching, knitting and a colourful sampler. Bonhams, Oxford where this item is to be auctioned tomorrow (Lot 374 Estimate £100-£120) does not mention a country of origin.

The following pair of samplers for auction at Bonhams, Bury St Edmunds on 28 October (Lot 614 Estimate £300-£500) stitched by Freeman girls some 43 years apart suggests the earlier sampler was passed down through two generations of the female line - from great aunt to great niece. It is also a nice early record of a pre-board female school in Haverhill, Suffolk, teaching free form stitching rather like the Norwich schools. Mary was born about 1765 and would have been around 19 when she stitched this sampler, the later age being in line with some of the older students of Judith Hayle.
Sophia Freeman, though she stitches some pretty free rosebuds, has produced a much simpler sampler. Sophia was born about 3 miles away from Haverhill in Shudy Camps on 23 Feb 1817 to Henry Freeman and his wife Charlotte.