Monday 31 December 2012

Brightwells Auction * 9 January 2013

Here's looking to a bright year ahead! And Brightwells have some lovely things to look forward to at their auction on 9 January. This doll caught my eye first.

She is Lot 186 and is a Georgian carved and turned wooden English doll with original painted features and black glass eyes. Her turned body with straight legs is jointed at hips and she has brown leather arms. The black boots are original. The black painted pate is found on other woodens dating to the late 18 century and early 19 century. She is costumed in 18th century embroidered satin and is 14.5 inches tall. Estimate is £1,300 - £1,500.

There are a number of samplers in the sale and the one above is Lot 616. It is an 18th Century one with the text You whose fond wishes do to Heaven Aspire, etc. and Harriet Stuart. Her Work. It is framed and glazed and measures 15.5" x 19" and comes with an estimate of £280 - £300.
This sampler is Lot 617. Worked by Eliza Lewis when she was 14 in 1836 it, too, is framed and glazed and measures 17.5" x 21" and has an estimate of £180 - £220. For more details of these items and to see the whole auction, click here.

Sunday 30 December 2012

Return to Israel from Egypt

This charming sampler depicts the return of the Holy Family from Egypt - When herod Was dead The holy famil being Warned Of God returned Into the land of israel. Jesus is no longer the infant we remember from the nativity, he is now a sturdy toddler, and his mother, last seen on the donkey, still weak after given birth, is here in fullness of health, carrying fodder or fuel on her head. The stitcher of this charming work is anonymous, only the date 1862 is given.

Saturday 29 December 2012

Catherine's Landscape Mirror

Catherine from Virginia created this miniature landscape masterpiece. I am so impressed how she has conceived the design to include the metal of the compact's case. It beguiles the viewer with a number of interpretations - it could be a mirror in itself hidden by trees, or it could suggest the silver of a quite lake surrounded by wooded hills. She has created a number of distinct planes which give a very interesting dimensional quality to her work. So much thought has been given to the interpretation of foliage too. As a photographer, I was taught one should always have red in the frame - and here you can see how Catherine has lifted her tree to balance the suggestion of red flowers lower down and to the right. The trunks of the trees are detached and are delightfully mirrored. I think you will agree that Catherine is a very skilled practitioner of her art. 

Friday 28 December 2012

Rosella From Italy Created 5 Mirrors

If there had been a prize for the most industrious entrant, then Rosella from Italy would have been the winner by a huge margin. You saw two of her entries which were selected as finalists which is an astonishing achievement in its own right - what I and you didn't know is that Rosella actually produced 5 entries for the competition! But it was these two different takes on the theme that caught the judges' eyes. The entry above is a purse for a mirror and the one below is a more complex covered mirror, both worked in cross-stitch. Above we see a pretty woman's face as if reflected in a mirror, cleverly hinting at what can be found within the purse. Below the design is more formal, calling up memories of Florentine Renaissance motifs. Personally, I would love to see more work by Rosella.

Thursday 27 December 2012

Soaring Carols and Angles at Salisbury Cathedral - Christmas 2012

Richard and I love to visit cathedrals and Christmas is a lovely time to be there for the carol services sung by the wonderful choirs.

This year we visited Salisbury Cathedral which was splendidly lit by hundred and hundreds of twinkling tea lights and tall pillar candles. Angels high up in the nave greeted us with outstretched wings.

We joined the queue at around 6pm for the 7pm service so we could find a nice seat in the nave. You don't really have to queue if you don't mind where you sit. But the queue, inside in the beautiful cloister, was a happy place to be - possibly helped along by the mulled wine and mince pie stations!

Salisbury cathedral probably has the most beautiful spire I know and this was the view in the morning from our bedroom window - St Finbar's Room, in Sarum College where we bed and breakfasted the night.

We were snug up under the eaves where there are rooms called Quaker Room and Friends' Room, so I felt very much at home. There is a lift so no problem with suitcases. At night the whole cathedral close is locked in at 10.30pm until 7pm in the morning, so you really get a special feel of calm.

The en-suite rooms are simply but comfortably furnished and cosily warm even in the depths of winter - no TV but excellent wi-fi access if you really feel the need for some distractions. The common room for breakfast is a friendly place to meet people and enjoy a cooked or continental breakfast. The chefs will pretty much put together whatever you would like. For more details about staying at Sarum College, click here.

Wednesday 26 December 2012

The Stonington Collection of Samplers @ Auction * Christies New York * 25 January 2013

There are some wonderful samplers and embroideries up for auction in the New Year. The ones you see here are from a collection of 29 stitched pieces collected by Dolf Fuchs.

Dolf Fuchs was born in Basel, Switzerland in 1929 and emigrated to the USA in 1953 where he lived in Stonington, Connecticut. He worked as a textiles commodities entrepreneur and travelled widely buying silk, flax and wool for American textile manufacturers.

He had a passion for samplers and now it is for sale in the New Year.

Below you can see an astonishing piece of rare, mid 17th century stumpwork displaying a very interesting petit point cartouched vignette. Even more astonishing is the estimate of $3000 which is just a little more than a simple US sampler of 1820! For more details of this auction and to download your own catalogue, click here.

Tuesday 25 December 2012

A Blessed & Peaceful Christmas

This year I found a Coptic cross - it was placed next to a letter opener and some horse brasses in a thrift shop in Sherborne. Its history asked more veneration and I bought it and have it beside me where I work, a passing friend I met while travelling. It must have been forty years ago that I knew the children of the ambassador to Ethiopia and they would return with books and cloths as presents for me - not to mention tales that went on into the night. One treasure was a headscarf which depicted the nativity scene in picture book fashion, which I adored and cherished for twenty years until it disappeared one night at a party. And I could feel no rancour, only a sense of the continuation of things and the hope that the beauty might be transferred and would inspire someone else. One is never more than a custodian of things.
Recently I was researching Byzantine music and came across this extraordinary early piece for Christmas Day on You Tube. It is infinity in a series of sounds the beauty of which can never be grasped or owned, simply shared.

Monday 24 December 2012

Silent Night

Oh, goodness me, there is nothing like this song for bringing back the happiest of childhood Christmas memories. There was this wonderful calm that descended on Christmas Eve after a week or more (it seemed) of constant activity and flurry of dusters and brasso and baking so the whole house shone from top to bottom and was filled with delicious homely smells. The best crockery and glasses were brought out and set on the cloths which I had proudly embroidered with my sisters and mother. Then it was all ready and we gathered as a family to sit and smile and feel good about what we had done together. Now we could let be. And my mother would play this Kathleen Ferrier record and I knew for certain that angels were all around us. May the angels spread their wings around you tonight, wherever you are, and share their peace. My special love tonight goes to Rudolf and Gisela in Germany.

Sunday 23 December 2012

The Winner of the Marken Ornament Kit

A Very Merry Christmas to Maryjo from the US (I am waiting for her address right now) she is the winner of this week's festive give away. Thank you to everyone who entered the draw and sent me their kind wishes for Christmas - may your holiday be merry and bright and may your New Year be healthy, happy and have 30 hours in each day (at least!)

Saturday 22 December 2012

A Robin Rises From The Ashes

In 1400 the largest of all parish churches in England was St Michael's at Coventry. The church was visible for miles around on account of its 303 feet tall steeple. The glass for the enormous windows was paid for by merchants dealing in blue cloth and millinery and one of the glass portraits limned with brown-black oxide with silver stain washes for yellow hair sported a blue hat secured with a gold hat pin.

These images were attacked by the iconoclasts of the 1640s, though the pieces were later reassembled and replaced in the clerestory windows.

When war broke out in September 1939, this precious ancient glass was taken down from what had become the cathedral church of St Michael and put in storage for the duration. When on holiday in Mittenwald some years ago, I breakfasted with one of those Stuka bomber pilots who had blanket-bombed Coventry. He had been a kid of 19 at the time and admitted to being very afraid. The bombing of Coventry is well-documented and we know that little of the town remained, and in the charred masonary shards of the Cathedral no window bars remained for any glazing whatsoever.

The shell of the old St Michael's survives today, next to the famous new replacement cathedral completed in 1962. However, in a concrete storeroom underneath, forgotten, was the medieval glass, the leading holding the glass together fell apart, releasing over 5,000 fragments. Now this glass has been rediscovered and cleaned and these ancient faces and the robin can be seen for the first time in over 70 years at the Sir John Soane's Museum in London until 26 January 2013.

Friday 21 December 2012

Free Festive Chart

It has been a while since we have had a free chart download - I do apologise - whatever have we been doing? Not publishing books again, surely! Here is a little festive set of motifs culled from 17th century pattern papers for you. Just click on the image to enlarge or to save it to your computer. Have a wonderful Christmas!

Thursday 20 December 2012

New Sampler Book * Imitation & Improvement - The Norfolk Sampler Tradition * Joanne Martin Lukacher

I am so excited to tell you about a fabulous new sampler book which you can preorder right now for delivery sometime early next year. It is the long-awaited book on the Norfolk sampler tradition by Joanne Martin Lukacher.

Some time ago Joanne spotted a set of markers that recurred on a number of English samplers and having done considerable research, she was able to put them together as a set of samplers stitched over many years by the girls of Norfolk.

Since those initial discoveries and early research, Joanne has continued to find out more about the girls who stitched the sameplrs, their schools and teachers.

This fine, beautifully presented and expertly researched book is going to be an important addition to sampler and needlework studies and a must have for anyone interested in the background and history of school girl embroideries.

I believe the book has around 300 pages and many colour images - I'll update on this when I have more precise details.

The book is published by In The Company of Friends and you can click here to visit the website, browse the book and preorder your copy now.

Wednesday 19 December 2012

Giraffes on Samplers

I have always been intrigued by giraffes on samplers ever since I saw the first one. And of course I was surprised that this was not a one-off: that several other exemplars existed, too. And the reason is that the samplers are doing what they do so well, chronicling real events.

Recently, when I was in the Royal Pavilion in Brighton, I saw this caricature of the very same giraffe being ridden by George and his mistress of the time. It had been sent by Mehmet Ali, Pasha of Egypt to George IV in 1827 by way of a request for diplomatic favour in the middle east conflict of the time.

Here you can see a more sober depiction of the Giraffe as executed by Jacques Laurent Agasse which includes the two keepers Mehmet Ali Pasha sent to care for the giraffe. So, now, you can go back and say ha-ha! when you see the attendant with the giraffe in the top sampler.

More puzzling were these depictions of a giraffe worked by a Spanish stitcher.

However, all becomes a little more clear when it is revealed that Mehmet Ali sent out 2 other giraffes. One to Charles X of France and the other to the Holy Roman Emperor, Francis II, in Vienna. Below you can see the picture of giraffes in the Schoenbrunner Tierpark. Given the links between the Austrian and Spanish courts, the Spanish samplers are perhaps more easily explained.
Many thanks to Elga from South Africa who has just told me about this old Viennese chart which appears on page 140 of Raffaella Serena's book Animal Embroideries and Patterns. Click here for more details. Elga tells me that about 20 years ago at a game park she and her husband saw a giraffe couple at their mating dance close to their car.

Tuesday 18 December 2012

Help Please! Where Is The Dowell-Simpson Sampler?

I apologise for the poor quality of this image of the Mary Dowell Sampler often called the Dowell-Simpson sampler in recognition of one of its previous owners, Lady Simpson. This unique sampler is composed of four hundred individual pieces which together include almost a thousand design motifs is sewn into a continuous colorful strip twenty inches wide by forty-one feet long and was documented and charted by Sydell C. Byer and Marion F. Scoular in the mid 1970s. Marion Scoular would like to contact the present owner. Can anyone help, please? Thank you so much for your helpful emails. It appears the sampler is now with the Textile and Research Center at the Valentine Museum in Richmond, Virginia.

Monday 17 December 2012

Festive Give Away * Marken Ornament Kit * $30 Saving on Festive Marken Sampler Offer

Rather than a book this time I thought it would be nice to offer you a little kit so you can make an ornament using whitework techniques from the Isle of Marken. This kit comes with all you need to make the circular ornament and also has the chart for the Christmas tree one. The kit was put together by Margreet Beemsterboer who has embroidered pieces for the Dutch royal family - so your ornament will be in very good company! Margreet also designed our Sampler of Motifs from Marken.
The designs are all based on antique vernaaider linten - bands worn in the hair and stitched with patterns that had been handed down from mother to daughter through the generations.You can work the designs as simple bands or borders, or make up the entire sampler - it is stunning!
The chart normally sells for $20 but so you can enjoy a pleasant stitchalong in the New Year with your friends, you can now purchase 4 copies for $50 (a saving of $30) to include airmail postage to wherever you are in the world. The offer ends on 31 December 2012. Just click on the sampler if you would like this offer.

To enter the free draw for the Marken Ornament Kit give away - just click on the flying angel below. The winner will be announced next Sunday 23 December 2012.

Sunday 16 December 2012

Free Festive Jigsaw to Download

Fair Isle knitting is featuring large this year - not only for Christmas jumpers, scarves and gloves, but also for corporate advertising! This bespoke piece above was knitted by Beki Rymsza founder of Where's Me Jumper. Beki's company will knit your design for you to the required size. Just click on the link above for more details of how to obtain your own bespoke sweater - no sweat(shop).
To download the jigsaw - 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.