Tuesday 31 January 2012

Shibden Hall * Halifax * UK

Talking of Halifax - just a mile from the city centre and at the bottom of the street where my sister lives is Shibden Hall. Built in 1420, just 5 years after the Battle of Agincourt, it is one of the oldest halls in England.
Because it is so close to our second home and because since I was small, Shibden Hall was almost a playground for me, I forget to tell people all about it.
It is a wonderfully atmospheric place, with original heraldic stained glass in the windows and, concealed beneath the panelling, the originall Elizabethan painted plaster - you will have to ask a guide to unlock the paneeling to show you, but they will be happy to do so.
In the early 1800s, the building was much remodelled by Anne Lister - considered a somewhat scandalous woman for her time. Anne was a landowner, industrialist, traveller and prolific diarist who shared her life with her female lover at Shibden Hall in Halifax. Inheriting the historic hall from her uncle in 1826, Anne Lister lived there until her death in 1840. She left behind diaries containing the most intimate details about her personal life, some of it written in a code which has only been broken in recent years.
Upstairs in the red room is a wonderful early 17th century four-poster bed which sadly has very sad coverings and deserves some wonderful stitching if anyone has a needle going spare.
To visit Shibden Hall web-site, click here.

Monday 30 January 2012

Wells Post Card Give Away

When I was in Wells, before Christmas, I popped into the museum in the Cathedral Close and bought a handful of sampler postcards to share. There are 6 in this giveaway. 3 cards of the sampler above.
One card of this stitched map.
And 2 cards featuring this charming darning sampler.
Just click on the flying angel below to enter and I'll announce the winner next week on 6 February 2012.

Good luck!

Sunday 29 January 2012

Brightwells Auction House for Textile Sales * Leominster * UK

With the sad news that Bonhams has withdrawn from selling textiles, let me introduce you to Brightwells of Leominster who have 3 or 4 textile sales a year with some special samplers turning up there, too. Click here to visit their site.
You can also shoe-horn in a number of sampler viewings since you can look back over auction sales for the last 4 years - just click here for that link. When you click a catalogue, scroll down on the next screen until you can see Textiles - then click throught the indicated pages.
I rather like some of the very old dolls that turn up there - particularly pedlar dolls.

But I have never seen a pedlar Ted with trays of haberdashery before! I think perhaps we should have a competition soon for a pedlar Ted - keep watching....

Saturday 28 January 2012

Meetings With Remarkable Women - Dr Ina le Roux

Carolyn Foley writes: I would like to tell you about Dr Ina le Roux and the wonderful work she has done for Vena women in South Africa. This entry from the Community Project website says it better than I can. The Tambani Community Project ( is based in the towns of Fholovhodwe and Muswodi-Tshisimani, which are in close proximity of each other. These towns are situated in the Limpopo Valley, approximately 50 km south-east from Musina, and approximately 750 km north-east from Potchefstroom. The founder and head director of the project is Dr. Ina le Roux of Johannesburg. She is a retired lecturer of Afrikaans and Dutch whose Ph.D in religious science dealt with the worldview presented in the song-stories (ngano) of Venda women.
The dire financial and social plight of these rural women’s realities captivated Ina and motivated her to launch an embroidery project that currently helps to support about 65 women and their families. Ina makes sketches on fabric of scences from the stories that she has recorded and the members of the project then embroider these scenes. The pieces of fabric are applied to items such as handbags and wall hangings, and marketed together with the specific stories. Money generated from selling the articles is used to further fund the project.
With each embroidery I have purchased I receive a copy of the story they illustrate and a photo with a little piece about the embroiderer. These women are inspirational. Embroidery does make a difference! Just click here to see more of this inspirational project yourself.

Friday 27 January 2012

Abbey House Museum Samplers On-Line

Families of samplers are fascinating - though they can be frustrating sometimes! These three graces which you can see in the Abbey House Museum, Leed, on line collection are worked in polychrome wools on a tabby cloth. The first sampler in the set (above) was stitched by Hannah Brook in 1775. It is unfortunate that Hannah Brook is a very common name and difficult to pin down, though it must be suspected, given the materials of the sampler, that she lived not too far from Leeds.
The second sampler is also dated 1775. This time it is one worked by Ann Brook - again another common name. Were these two girls sisters? Or cousins? It is hard to say. I am not sure if I had two daughters whether I would name them Ann and Hannah, for all the confusion that could arise when calling their names.

The third sampler by Martha is more closely related to Ann's than to Hannah's - so were Martha and Ann sisters? If only the name Martha Brook did not appear in such a legion around this date, then we might be able to make some headway with this puzzle. But do go and visit the Abbey House Collection on-line. Simply click this link.

Thursday 26 January 2012

Expressions of Innocence and Eloquence * Selections from the Jane Katcher Collection of Americana

I just groan whenever I see beautiful, inspiring books and I expect you can here me groaning right now, wherever you are. These superlative books feature American folk portraits and carvings, quilts and needlework, weathervanes and whirligigs, family records and calligraphy, ceramics, furniture, baskets, and toys, as well as such unexpected items as valentines, friendship albums, and keepsakes woven from the hair of loved ones.
A distinguished group of scholars discuss these objects within the context of historical, economic, and social issues as well as aesthetics. There are also explorations of craft methods and artistic strategies practiced by the artists and artisans represented in the collection. Separate essays on the Shaker and the Pennsylvania-German communities concentrate on the unique features of their material cultures and their religious and social orientations.
Click here for more details.

Wednesday 25 January 2012

A Primer of Venetian Burano Lace

I have so enjoyed reading this little book - it was packed full of things that I didn't know, and it was a fabulous read. It is softback and only 50 pages, but it packs a punch information-wise - the perfect primer, in fact.
I do recommend it if you would like to find out more about the history of Venetian lace production and changing fashions. Just click here for more details about the book.

Tuesday 24 January 2012

Halifax Minster Tapestries

Minster is simply another word for large church or cathedral and implies that at some stage a monastery was attached. What is amazing to me, is the connection between two of my favourite places at opposite ends, almost, of England. The early church at Halifax was built and endowed by the monks of Lewes in Sussex! The wonderful tapestries you can find there depict, rather like the Quaker Tapestries, the colourful and sometimes violent history of this church. They were worked by 18 local stitchers (all over 40 they will hasten to add) originally to furnish the stone seats in the south porch. The women worked on the tapestries between 2005 and 2007. At some later stage it was decided to display the finished work on the wall and the tapestries were blessed at a special service in October 2009. In the first panel above you can see the varied sky line of present-day Halifax.
Very interesting that this incorporates my husband's name down the right hand side of the panel. But no, the R Holdsworth referrred to here is the Revd. Robert Holdsworth who was murdered in 1556, caught up in the feud between the local Savile and Tempest families, during the 5th sacking of the vicarage!
In 1645 the dreaded Scottish troops entered Halifax. Though Halifax was a Puritan stronghold in the north during the Civil Wars, they may have been guilty of some back-sliding in later years, since here you can see the Scottish soldiers tipping holy water out of the font onto the floor.

Monday 23 January 2012

Gail Wilson's Doll Kits

Diane emailed me to tell me about Gail Wilson's Dolls and having seen them, I thought no-one should miss out! Reading from her web-site, Gail says she began making dolls in 1974 in a one-room house with no electricity and plumbing and has been making them full-time ever since. The thing that kept Gail's work within the theme of dolls is her love for Early American antiques and the many wonderful dolls who live in museums and books. Gail sells kits for making her dolls and to explore her lovely offerings, just click here.

The Landmark Collection of Betty Ring Exceeds Expectations – 22 January 2012

Stop Press
In addition to the record-setting result for the Mary Antrim sampler, Sunday’s auction dedicated to the celebrated collection of Betty Ring was highlighted by several pieces that greatly exceeded pre-sale expectations: a Fine and Rare Needlework Sampler, Susannah Saunders, Sarah Stivours School, Salem, Massachusetts, Dated 1766 nearly quadrupled its high estimate of $80,000 in achieving $314,500; a Fine and Rare Needlework Sampler, Betsy Gail, Marblehead, Massachusetts, circa 1790 brought $170,500 above a high estimate of $60,000; and a Rare Needlework Sampler, Sarah Cooper, attributed to Ann Marsh’s School, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Dated 1792 sold for $170,500 above a high estimate of $80,000.

Sunday 22 January 2012

More Bugz - Free Jigsaw Download

Well, goodness me - I think you like butterflies and insects almost as much as stitching! So, one more beautiful bugz jigsaw for you to download. I hope you enjoy your free jigsaw download today. 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 21 January 2012

Exeter Royal Albert Memorial Museum On-Line Collection

The latest in the list of museums offering on-line collections is the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter, UK. There are only a small number of samplers. Above is one worked between 1680 - 1710.
This one by Anna Maria Smales worked in St David, Exeter, Devon lists the names of children born to Thomas and Ann Smales England, Europe between 1808 and 1828 and also a corresponding list of their deaths, and that of Thomas aged 43.
This interesting cloth of 1470-1510 was originally a vestment worn by priests. It was saved during the Reformation in Exeter by changing its use to a coffin cover. It is made from silk, linen and canvas, embroidered with silver-gilt threads and silk, in green, yellow, red, blue and black. I think we can have no idea of the amount of fine embroidery lost during the reformation hopefully, we continue to make up for it! To search the database for yourself, simply click here.

Friday 20 January 2012

Great Ayton Friends School

Great Ayton, a charming North Yorkshire village in the shadow of Roseberry Topping (which is not a pudding but a beacon hill) and boasting a Post Office run by Worthy Pearson, preserves still the old school house where Captain Cook was a scholar in his youth. And sometimes while searching out this small building, the large handsome buildings on the triangle by the stream are completely overlooked. And that is a grave pity, since here was Great Ayton Friends' School from 1841-1997. Founded by Thomas Richardson, born in Darlington, the school inherited a fine kinship of the Quaker Pease, Backhouse, Mouncey and Gurney families.
Above is Anna Pease, just one of the many Pease women who would exert their influence on the school and its teaching methods. To quote from a journal at the school: Of those Friends who interested themselves in the purely domestic concerns of the school, and the girls generally, I may mention Anna Pease, of Feethams, Sophia Pease, Eliza Barclay, Anne Richardson, of Newcastle, &c.
The first of these frequently visited the school and remained a few days, or a week occasionally. This loveable and admirable woman was an earnest educationist. She had at Feethams a large infant school, and also a school for girls under her own management, and had been in early life associated with her uncle, William Allen, in his educational undertakings. Botany, and natural science were favourite pursuits with her, in which she took great pleasure. Plain needlework has always been an art carefully cultivated in most of the Friends’ Public Schools. At the time I am writing about, linen buttons had not been introduced, and it just occurs to my mind how she showed the girls to make them neatly. Thread buttons were then in use, a ring was, as it seems now to me, curiously covered with threads all meeting in the centre. A small square of fine linen was cut out a little larger than the button itself. Then placing it in the square, with a needle and thread the opposite sides of the straight edges were drawn together, then the corners, and with another, or without another stitch a nice durable button was formed. Sophia Pease was another kind and deeply interested friend of the school. In connection with her, I may say that quills only were used for pens a few years before this time. Steel pens were now, however, beginning to come into use. I suppose it must have been discussed in committee as to their being intro­duced instead of the quill. Permission, however, was granted that the steel might supersede the quill, but it was desired that each scholar before leaving school should be taught the art of making a pen out of a quill. How carefully this request was attended to I have no recollection, only I presume when the necessity ceased to make these as well as to mend, the implement required to perform the operation would be found either out of order or wanting altogether. To continue reading, just click here.

Thursday 19 January 2012

Bristol Museums & Art Galleries 17th Century Embroideries On-Line

One of the gems in the Bristol City Museums and Art Galleries Collection is this wooden casket covered in linen and silk and raised work. It has secret internal compartments, too. On the front, which you can see here, is depicted the Judgment of Solomon; on the top, the anointing of Saul; and on the left side, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The remaining two panels depict couples in 17th century dress. The interior of the casket is fitted with drawers and a lift-out tray all lined with pink silk and velvet, and contains an ink well and scent bottles. This casket shows some of the techniques used to achieve the 3-dimensional effect. Faces and small flowers and animals are embroidered directly onto the silk or linen but clothes and some flowers are worked seperately either on linen or in detached needlepoint stitches, and appliqued on, thus allowing cloaks and leaves to stand free. The lion on the top and pillar on the front are appliqued over padding to give the characteristic raised effect. Sometimes the embroidery was worked over wooden moulds to achieve much the same appearance. Leaves and hair are worked in silk-wrapped coiled metal. The disparity in scale between humans or animals and insects is typical of this type of work. The embroidery is executed in satin, tent, chain, laid-and-couched, detatched buttonhole stitches; edged with silver braid. To visit yourself, click here.
Also on line is this linen bag from 1600. Heavily embellished with canvas work embroidery using silks and metal thread (gold strips wrapped around brown/yellow silk thread) it is lined with silk (relined in modern silk). Each face is divided into quarters which bear heraldic emblems, enclosed by scrolled border formed of applied metal plaited cord laid over embroidered flowers and fruit sprigs to form a scrolling pattern. Perhaps there is an expert of heraldry that can identify this for us, please? PS. Philippa from Norwich writes: I see from the museum information that it is stitched on both sides - so I wonder if it was for civic or ceremonial use especially as on the blue field is a possible tower or castle - which Bristol does have on its arms. On the red field the gold chevron is between CLARIONS - not as in the museum's description. Thank you, Philippa.

Wednesday 18 January 2012

Wooden Books * Weaving

I first came across Wooden Books - which are not wooden at all - in the shop in the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. As a maker of books, I fell in love with the format of this series. The books are small enough to pop into a handbag and have about 60 beautifully printed and tactile pages.
This weaving book is a great favourite of mine- particlarly the texture of the illustrations which are on every facing page.
There are a number of interesting books in this series - click here if you would like to see more.

Tuesday 17 January 2012

Oakland Museum of California * Collection On-Line * The Quilter's Alternative Anthem.

There are some interesting items in Oakland Museum of California. Though having just one sampler - there is a wonderful costume collection. The sampler, shown above, is dated August 28 1843 and was stitched by Elizabeth McCormic who employed a variety of stitches in her sampler. Note the houses and garden gates on the top and bottom borders of her piece. The sampler is now mounted on cotton ecology cloth. It is the gift of Mrs Jessie A Trouth.

But simply wonderful is this crazy quilt of 1875-1880, the gift of Phyllis Faber,
which incorporates a ribbon printed with an alternative Stars and Stripes anthem: Altogether now!
Oh, say, can you see by the dawn's early light
What you failed to perceive at the twi-light's last gleaming;
A cranky concern that through the long night
O'er the bed where you slept was so saucily streaming;
The silk patches so fair,
Round, three-cornered and square,
Give proof that the lunatic bed-quilt is there.
Oh, the crazy-quilt mania triumphantly raves,
And maid, wife and widow are bound as its slaves.
On that quilt dimly seen as you rouse from your sleep
Your long-missing necktie in silence re-poses,
And the filoselle insects that over it creep
A piece of your vest half concealed half discloses.
There is Kensington stitch
In designs that are rich,
Snowflake, arasene, point russe and all stitch.
Oh, the crazy quilt mania, how long will it rave?
And how long will fair woman be held as its slave?
And where is the wife who so vauntingly swore
That nothing on earth her affections could smother?
She crept from your side at the chiming of four
And is down in the parlor at work on another.
Your breakfasts are spoiled
And your dinners half boiled,
And your efforts to get a square supper are foiled
By the crazy quilt mania that fiendishly raves,
And to which all the women are absolute slaves.
And thus it has been since the panic be-gan;
In many loved homes it has wrought desolation,
And cursed is the power by many a man
That has brought him close to the verge of starvation.
But make it she must,
And she'll do it or bust,
Beg, swap and buy pieces or get them on trust.
Oh, the crazy quilt mania, may it soon cease to rave
In the land of the free and the home of the brave

Monday 16 January 2012

Knit Your Own Olympics - and Ticket!

Oh, here we go again ... on your marks ... ready ... get set ... KNIT! What more is there to say in this year of Olympic fever? This new book by Carol Medrum promises a knitted ticket, which I can only hope really works otherwise there might be some ugly scenes with balls of wool being pelted - which might just be mistaken for a new Olympic event. Come to think of it, why haven't they admitted wool-ball throwing as an event, yet?

Sunday 15 January 2012

Swedish Samplers On-Line

The Digitaltmuseum has 72 Swedish samplers on line now.
Here are just  a couple of examples to whet your appetite - to see more click here.
I was very interested to see these 16th century stitched panels with subjects so closely resembling the stitched Stuart panels seen in England. Above is Abraham's Sacrifice.
And above here is Abraham Entertaining The Angels.
And finally I had to show you this embroidered panel which is an absolute delight and a great favourite of mine.