Monday 31 January 2011

Putting a Value on a Needleworker

I was lamenting with my daughter over Christmas about the likely effects of cuts to Government spending. It is a tough call and certainly the next few years are going to be very hard for some people and organizations. Museums share county budgets which also have to fund services which are life critical such as care for the elderly, and it is not difficult to forcast where cuts will be made as push comes to shove. So, it somewhat brightened my day to see a high value nots from Iceland (worth just under £30 or about $45) which commemorates an embroiderer, her work, her teaching and her contribution to Icelandic culture. The reverse of the note shows her, pattern book in hand, directing stitchers working on an altar cloth - the design of which forms the patterned background.
The embroiderer is Ragnheiður Jónsdóttir and you can see more of her on the front of the note together with her husband, a bishop. The source for the image is a portrait made in 1636 in Copenhagen.

Sunday 30 January 2011

Inside an Amager Inn - Free Jigsaw Download

This is such a jolly scene and could be an inn anywhere - England, the Netherlands - people eating drinking and enjoying each other's company, as well as a little of the shared warmth. Here you can see the distinctive pointed caps of the women, made from chintzed indigo cloth which has been embroidered.  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 29 January 2011

Early Whitework Sampler for Auction

In Dreweatts Vintage Fashion and Textile Sale on 1 February 2011 there is what appears to be an early Lace Sampler, possibly 17th Century, measuring 14" x 8". Also included with this Lot 5 is a pair of decorated silk christening mittens in a small lacquer box, inscribed in ink 'Christening Mittens, Worn in Queen Eliz'ths Time'. Plus a pair of decorated silk 'Souvenir D`Amitie'. The esitmates for this lot are: £120 - £150. Just click here to see more.

Friday 28 January 2011

Buying Those Samplers at Auction

Every so often we feature samplers that are coming up for auction and I thought you would like to hear more about the buyer's experience. Jane was very taken by this lot of samplers which came up for auction in October at Stride and Son of Chichester. I'll let Jane tell her story. She says, I took a bit of a leap of faith as I liked the one on the left. It was a bit awkward for me to attend the auction even though I only live about 20 or so miles from the auction rooms and so I did an online bid. I didn’t hear anymore and thought that I had not won but a few days later I received an invoice stating that I had 7 days to pay and collect. I was going to wait until the Saturday morning to collect but I was so excited I took the time off work to go and collect them and I wasn’t disappointed. I spent about 2 hours studying them that first evening, and for about a week afterwards every time I looked at them I discovered something different about them. I still like my favourite one better, the work is so fine and it is in excellent condition. The one on the right is very coarse but it is still very interesting despite the fact that some of the threads are missing in places and also when it is placed next to the better one it serves to show the stark difference between the two types of sampler. The verse in the middle of the second sampler reads:
Low in the dust my parents lie
And no attentive ear is nigh
But thine to mark my woe
No hand to wipe away my tears
No gentle voice to hush my fears
Remains to me below
A present of respect from a friend
You’ll laugh at me but the first night I had them home, I thought to myself, I’ve watched too many horror films in my time so what if they are haunted (I live on my own). How daft was that. Anyone who could sew to that quality and spend that amount of time sewing as a thank you for a friend is welcome in my house anytime. I smile every time I look at them and wonder about the history. I believe they are Scottish but that is as much as I can find out. I would like to take the backs off to see if there is anything behind but I don’t want to spoil them so for now they will stay as they are.
I must say this experience has meant that I would be willing to do it again so much so I saw another sampler on your blog just before Christmas which was a blackwork one but I was unsuccessful that time. But I will keep looking and maybe I will be lucky again.
Jane askes if anyone has ever taken old samplers out of their frame? Would you recommend getting them reframed? Any suggestions would be appreciated.
Thank you for telling us of your experience, Jane. I am so pleased these special samplers have found a caring home with you.

Thursday 27 January 2011

There are Embroidered Cabinets and then there are Embroidered Cabinets

It is very easy to become blasé, or superior even, when one has the privilege to study Stuart embroidered boxes and caskets. However, nothing really prepared me for seeing something quite as wonderful as this cabinet in the Rockoxhuis, Antwerp, which has mounted on all its doors and drawers the most superb raised panels of animals and baskets of fruit. These cabinets were intended to house medals or coins - and I say cabinets (plural) because there are two further examples in Ghent. Click here for more information.

Wednesday 26 January 2011

Discover the Embroidered Treasures of The Vatican Rome Today

Take a fabulous trip to see the embroidered treasures in the Vatican today. No need for airline tickets! Just click here.

Tuesday 25 January 2011

Thimble Pie

When we were small, there was nothing more likely to set us squealing with laughter when we had had the temerity to answer my father back on any point, than the threat of do you want some chin pie? This meant he was going to rub the bristles of his unshaved face against our cheek. We loved it as much as tickles and would giggle and laugh until our eyes ran, our jaws seized, diaphragms hurt and we had to beg a pause to gulp for breath. In A Family Affair: My Bradford Childhood, 1900-11 a delightful memoir written by Kathleen Binns in the late eighties, Kathleen recalls a visit to her adored grandmother. Kathleen is not threatened with chin pie but thimble pie. This meant a swift chastising tap by a thimble covered finger. But why pie? By the way, this image is of a 19th century marine ivory thimble holder modelled as a miniature Swiss cottage.

Monday 24 January 2011

Send an Electronic Post Card from the Musée National du Moyen Âge - Paris

I can't wait to be back in Paris this year. As ever I shall make a pilgrimage to spend time contemplating the beauty of the medieval tapestries in the Musée National du Moyen Âge in the Hotel Cluny on the left bank a short walk from the crossing of the Boulevard Saint-Germain and the Boulevard Saint-Michel. If you are in Paris for the l'Aiguille en Fête, then do pop in. If that is not possible, well you can always send yourself or your friends lovely electronic post cards from the musem.
These are just snips from some the avilable post cards and you can find them by clicking here.
You can visit the museum collection on line by clicking here.
And - you can also go shopping on-line in the fabulous museum for some of the tapestry themed accessories such as this silk stole 35 euros.
Or this cushion cover 25 euros. Click here to visit the shop.

Sunday 23 January 2011

A Mermaid's Hand in The Ark

The John Tradescants, father and son, were well-known plant collectors in the late 1550s and early 1600s. I have a number of those lovely trailing pot plants called Tradescantia after these gentlemen. But I have another reason to be grateful to them because they founded what was to be England's first museum in Lambeth by the home of the Archbishop of Canterbury's Palace, south of the Thames. They called it the Ark. There they collected all manner of curiosities and allowed members of the public to visit. One of the items listed was: A Mermaid's Hand. I purposely don't put an exclamation mark after that, because, in all seriousness, mermaids were thought then to exist. So whenever I study early samplers or needlework pictures, I try to adopt the mindset of a believer in mermaids. If you are in London, do visit the Museum of the Garden by Lambeth Palace, it is a lovely museum and there you can see the Tradescants' tomb. And you may be interested to learn that Elias Ashmole, also buried there, bought the Tradescants' house and the contents of the Ark became the basis for his museum in Oxford - today called the Ashmolean. For more on this interesting subject you might like to read the fascinating book: The John Tradescants: Gardeners to the Rose and Lily Queen.

Saturday 22 January 2011

Charlene Mullen Blackwork Blackbird Pillow

It is very heartening to see designers who have a fresh new take on traditional patterns and techniques. I think Charlene Mullen's blackwork inspired Blackbird pillow is absolutely charming. To see more just click here.

Friday 21 January 2011

In Paris for l’Aiguille en Fête? Don't Miss Costume Exhibition at Le Musée du Quai Branly!

Thanks to Marie Louise for telling us about this wonderful exhibition of 150 costumes and accessories from the Near East on display at the Le Musée du Quai Branly.
If you are travelling to Paris for the annual l’Aiguille en Fête, then make the most of your time in the city and visit this exhibition which has been designed by Christian Lacroix - it looks fabulous!
The Museum is not far from the Eiffel Tower and the exhibition continues until 15 May 2011. The Museum is closed on Mondays. Click here for more details.

Thursday 20 January 2011

St Agnes Eve

Saint Agnes (St Ines) was a daughter of a Christian Roman noble born at the end of the 3rd century AD. She lived only until her early teens before she was martyred in the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, on 21 January 304. She became patron saint of young girls and chastity. Tonight, the eve before St Agnes' Day is the time of year when young women once believed they would gaze on the face of the one they would marry. Providing they followed certain rituals as retold here by John Keats:

They told her how, upon St. Agnes' Eve,
Young virgins might have visions of delight,
And soft adorings from their loves receive
Upon the honey'd middle of the night,
If ceremonies due they did aright;
As, supperless to bed they must retire,
And couch supine their beauties, lily white;
Nor look behind, nor sideways, but require
Of Heaven with upward eyes for all that they desire

The embroidered image of S Agnes in 14th or 15th century. Sweet dreams!

Wednesday 19 January 2011

Samplers On-Line from the Historic Museum of Rotterdam

I am particularly fond of samplers from Zeeland with their large decorative, gabled houses sitting fair and square centrally or centred on the lower edge. These lovely samplers are from a collection of over 40 that you can admire on line courtesy of the Museum of Rotterdam. This first sampler dated 1784 has quite a modest house but is surrounded by a wealth of symbolic motifs including top right the Maid of Freedom in her garden and lower left the paired rabbits in the blissful domesticity of their connubial hutch. And I am sure you will have already spotted the obliging whale disgorging Jonah in the lower right.
Now this is more what we call a Zeeland house! What I find interesting in this unfinished sampler is the way the addional motifs are being built up symmetrically, although the potted shrubs beneath the rather large birds are not identical.
And here is just a lovely pattern-darned sampler from 1802 displaying a number of twilled and damask weaves framing a central mini-sampler. You will be able to see the pattern-darning closer up when you visit the Museum collection on-line. Just click here and enter Merklap as the search term.

Tuesday 18 January 2011

Spitalfields Day Out with the Textile Society * 21 February 2011

The Textile Society is a great institution and I am proud to be a member. It was set up nearly 30 years ago as an educational charity with the objective of promoting the study of textile disciplines and celebrating the history and culture of textiles, both traditional and contemporary. This they do by organizing a number of events, some of them fund-raisers, in order to grant bursaries where they are needed most. In addition there is the Society's Journal, TEXT which is published annually and three Newsletters a year with up to date news, events and exhibitions. On Monday 21 February 2011 the Society is organizing a fascinating day out in London focussing on Spitalfields. At 12 noon - 12.45 there will be a visit to the Dennis Severs House in 18 Folgate Street, Spitalfields, London E1 6B - the former home of a family of Huguenot silk weavers named Jarvis. The charge for this is £5 for members. Then after lunch 3.00-4.30 there is a look behind the scenes in the reserve collection of the Museum of London to study woven silks from the 18th century with Beatrice Behlan, senior curator. The charge is £5 for the afternoon session. To find out how you can join the Textile Society, just click here.

Monday 17 January 2011

Samplers & More from Tennants Leyburn * 22 January 2011

Tennants have some interesting items in their upcoming sale on 22 January. If you are interested in any of the pieces, please remember you must register ahead of the sale to bid. The first picture is of Lot 1181 - An unframed Alphabet Sampler By Margaret Loftus aged 11, dated 1826 with baskets of flowers and lions, measuring 30 cms by 30 cms plus a small alphabet sampler worked in red cross stitch by S Featherstonhaugh on January 1835, which measures 13 cms by 14 cms plus an oval embroidered card with punched holes tied with pink ribbon cross stitched with `Court Plaister` to one side and `To Dear Papa` on the reverse, 9 cms by 6.5 cms. The estimates for this three item lot are: £100 - £150.
Lot 1198 above is very special. This sampler was worked by Jane Geddes in 1772. And is further inscribed 'Jane Geddes: Daughter to John & Ann Geddes' and 'her sampler: Taught by her mother Gibralter 22 September 1772'. It measures 45.5 cms by 45.5 cms. The British took over rule of Gibraltar in 1704 and presumably Jane's family was garrisoned there. I am sure further research would provide an interesting insight. The estimate for this unusual sampler is £800 - £1,200.
This third sampler is Lot 1196 and was worked by Martha Lello Aged 9 In 1808 at Aston School. Its verse: 'No burial did these pretty babes or any man receiv. till robin red-breast painfully did cover them with leaves'. It measures 35 cms by 45 cms and the estimate is: £150 - £250.
Lot 1047 looks a fun assortment. It includes two carved knitting sheaths; a mauchline ware needle holder; a tartan ware bodkin case; a gilt tooled leather needle case with space for a photograph; four 'Tour Eiffel' card thread holders; a treen miniature tape measure; and a mother-of-pearl needle case. The estimate is £80-120.
If you love knitting sheaths then Lot 1056 also has some rather nice 19th century brass mounted Gull Wing knitting sheaths plus another with a carved handle. The estimate here is: £80-120.
This final lot 1130 with an estimate of £200-£300 is an early 19th Century straw work letter case designed in an envelope style with a blue silk ground embroidered with straw work and silk threads, depicting foliate motifs, dogs, birds, coronet and two entwined love hearts. It measures 17.5 cms by 10 cms. This is reputedly made Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales (1796-1817), the only child of George Prince of Wales and Caroline Brunswick who unfortunately died at the young age of 21 during child birth. It was passed to the current vendor from a relation John Henry Nicholas Peel a former Managing Director of Brooke Bond Tea. Just click here to see the full catalogue. Happy Bidding!

Sunday 16 January 2011

Portrait of an Amager Woman - Free Jigsaw Download

Here you can see an Amager woman in all her embroidered splendour. Her cap is made from an indigo which has been chintzed by beating and applying heat. As you can see the cloth is embroidered with cut and drawn work in chevron bands. Her elaborate collar is the most amazing bundt work, rich and colourful with floral designs. 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 15 January 2011

A Too-Well Kept Secret Source of Needlework Books that Raises Money for Charity

I do find needlework books from many sources, but whenever I am travelling you will always find me hunting throught the bookshelves in Oxfam Charity Shops. They are a source of unexpected finds and treasures and the wonderful thing is that you know your money is going to help very poor people. If you are out and about in the UK, do ask on the High Street wherever you are for the nearest Oxfam Bookshop or Oxfam Shop and you will be in for a pleasant hour of browsing. If that is not possible for you then you can visit all the shops in one go on-line simply by clicking here. These are just some of the books I found this afternoon. Have Fun! Be Humankind!

Friday 14 January 2011

The Delights of Bunad

I love Norway - it is one of my favourite countries. I have travelled in overland stages north from Oslo through the Arctic Circle to the Lofoten Islands-twice in Midsummer-by bus and train, boat and foot, staying in turf-roofed huts along the way, walking in the hills whenever I could. It was magical and the memories are as clear and distinct now as the air was keen then. One delight was dipping into my copy of Bunad while travelling. This Norwegian Magazine celebrates Bunad - the distinctive, beautifully decorated and embroidered national dress of all the various regions. I was delighted to find out that I could subscribe when I returned home. They have a lovely web-site which also has a shop. At the moment you can find all these old-fashioned lovely fabrics to buy - they would make handsome additions to a Quilter's or Patchworker's stash. To see more just click here.

Thursday 13 January 2011

The Marker Bodice and Scottish Rail

The bodices or stays worn by the females of Marken (and small boys up to the age of 5) are a wonder of embroidery to behold. They are called Ryglyf. This bodice with 7 roses is traditional and would have been worn by a bride to be when going to church in the period between her formal betrothal and her wedding ceremony.
It is just unfortunate that my postcards come from an earlier black and white period since the colours of the bodices are very bright: reds, golds, greens, blues - but when was the Marker woman ever afraid of anything, least of all colour? Do look at the head dresses also in each of these images - a band of black embroidered vernaaide linten can just be spied beneath their batiste caps.
There is a semaphore of costume which you probably have to be a Marker native to interpret. It was habitual for the younger girls to have their bodices laced at the back, and they wore a decorative chintz bib over their front. When the girls were about 14 or so - courting age - the custom was to change the bodice around and have it laced from the front... When the girl is 16 or 17, the back of her hair is cut short, leaving just the long pipe curls on each side of her face. Her flowered cap is replaced by a white one. This beautiful girl may be a newly-wed.
It is very interesting that in John Jamieson's Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language dated 1818, he derives the Scottish word Rail - meaning a jacket - from the word Ryglyf. Now I know what I shall be doing in my spare moments - I shall work through this dictionary looking for other Scottish words derived from North Sea European countries!

The Sampler of Motifs from Marken charts 15 vernaaider linten bands - you can either work the sampler as a whole or take a pattern for just a band to decorate a pillow edge or napkin. It is now available at half price with purchase of the Amager Panel 1799 - and not only that, we include the airmail costs to wherever you live in the world. I hope that is a nice treat for you. Click here to see more or buy.

Wednesday 12 January 2011

The Merchant of Prato - Iris Origo: Marchesa of Val d'Orcia

I think it was in 1969 that I came across this book in one of my favourite book shops at the top of Kensington Church Street in London. I think the shop is probably long gone, but I have the book still and count it amongst my precious reads as I keep going back to it. The book is the life of a 14th century merchant banker, Francesco di Marco Datini, told pretty much in his own words from papers which miraculously survived the takeover of Prato by Florence, two sackings of Prato (at least) not to mention the chaos and turmoil of two later world wars. Prato was famous for its fine wool and textile industry and in this book you can read about all the machinations and worries of the trade at this time. Would cargoes arrive? Would they be seized by Barbary Pirates? What would be the effect of discontent in Avignon on trade - Datini had a branch of the business there. How much of his profits should be given to charity, to the municipality? What did his wife think of it all? Should he start to wind down his involvement in his later years so that he could better contemplate his Maker? Not only does the book get you so close to a living, breathing, calculating person of the time that you feel you could touch them, it is also an introduction to the intriguing woman, Iris Origo. Born in the UK, Iris came from a wealthy, Long Island family. She married into the Italian nobility and lived in the Val d'Orcia in Tuscany where she and her husband set about reviving the area. During World War II, as recounted War in the Val d'Orcia taken from her diaries, even while taken over by German soldiers, she and her husband continued to shelter fugitive prisoners of war and partisans. The Caroline Moorehead biography of Iris is one of the best books I have read.