Saturday 31 March 2012

Tait & Style Orkney

I love finding out about handicrafters and small business selling handicrafts. One of my favourites is in Kirkwall, Orkney's ancient capital, and is called Tait & Style, which I think must be a pun on Tate and Lyle - the purveyors of Britain's answer to Maple and Agave Syrups - Treacle!
There is a strong tradition of hand and machine knitting on Orkney, and Ingrid Tait also works closely with Shetland knitters – Fair Isle is just to the north, then Shetland (and then the North Pole!) Ingrid Tait draws on a wide range of techniques: hand and machine knitting, crochet, felting, fabric-fusion, embroidery… And she also produces a wide range of designs, from rich, comforting, textural woollies, to quirky graphic designs – both elegant and humorous. Ingrid grew up in Orkney, and after studying in Glasgow, Middlesex and at the Royal College of Art, knew she wanted to return.
Click here for more details.

Friday 30 March 2012

Ursulines de Québec Textile Collection

We were having a great debate the other day - mostly about the issue of what universities are for. Should they be directed by society and its needs - goal oriented - or should they be institutions to preserve and cultivate learning and for its own sake. You should have been here! At some point, it was said that it was a bit rich for the universities to believe they were the only sacred arks of culture. And we went on to create a whole list of culture repositories - which included, yes, the internet!
But we also forget when we talk about museums, that there are many more collections that are in places not labelled MUSEUM on the door. There are schools, businesses and banks - in the UK the Railway and Post Office pension funds had some astonishing art collections, local and national trusts, literary and philosophical societies, historical societies, guilds.... the list goes on. And of course, churches. In the UK we lost early on, during the reformation, the wealth of textiles created by convents. But convents continue to exist around the world, and continue to safeguard their textiles. Like the Ursulines in Québec. And here you can see some of those wonderful convent school needleworks.
You can visit from 1 May to 30 September from 10.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. and from 1 October to 30 April from 1.00 p.m. to 5.00 p.m. Closed on Mondays, Good Friday and Labour Day. Admission is $8 with reductions for students (even elderly students!). Click here for more details.

Thursday 29 March 2012

Lady Evelyn's Needlework Collection at Blair Castle, Scotland

You would never guess, looking at the Blair Castle website that there was a treasure trove of embroidery to be discovered there. The collection is known as Lady Evelyn's Needlework Collection and you can see more of it in the catalogue by Mary-Dick Digges at al - click here for more information.
Lady Evelyn Stewart Murray was born 17 March 1868, her father was 7th Duke of Atholl. However most of her adult life was spent at Malines, and it was here that she began her collection of exhibition quality needlework, particularly lace. She was an embroideress in her own right and coat of arms above, which was drawn by a professional designer, engaged her labour for 7 years. This incredibly fine piece is worked on glass cambric. There is a charge to see the collection at Blair Castle, but it is certainly well worth it.

Wednesday 28 March 2012

Yale University Art Gallery Sampler Collection On-Line

We don't normally think of universities as sources for samplers - but here we are at Yale and they have 13 samplers on line including this lovely darned pattern sampler from Westtown School by Sarah Pugh dated 1813.
Another fabulous item is this German sampler of 1771, rich in biblical motifs and decorated alphabets
The sampler above is a US sampler stitched by Elizabeth Jahrams in 1827.
And there is even one from the UK - by Frances Darlington, thought to be stitched around 1800. To see the entire collection just click here.

Tuesday 27 March 2012

Pastrana Tapestries at Meadows Museum, Southern Methodist University, Texas until 13 May 2012

This fabulous set set of four recently restored 15th-century tapestries, known as the Pastrana tapestries (they have been in Pastrana in the Spanish province of Guadalajara since the 17th century) were woven in the Tournai workshops in Belgium in the late 1400s, and are among the finest surviving Gothic tapestries in existence. Prized for their technical execution, the sumptuous materials employed in their creation, and their monumental scale (reaching to 36 feet in length and 13 feet in height), the Pastrana tapestries are above all rare in terms of subject matter. While most tapestries of the period featured biblical or mythological subjects, the Pastrana tapestries are some of the few extant examples that depict contemporaneous events – the conquest of the North African cities of Asilah and Tangier by Afonso V (1432-81), King of Portugal. Recently, the Fundación Carlos de Amberes supported the two-year restoration of the tapestries at the Royal Manufacturers De Wit in Belgium, which has returned the four woven tableaux to their original splendor.
Click here for more details.

Monday 26 March 2012

Spring 1955 Issue of Embroidery * Give Away Free Draw

It would be selfish to keep this treasure to myself - so we shall have a draw for it. It is a vintage Embroidery Journal produced by the Embroiderers' Guild and it features an article on the Guild's needlework collection, such as the beautiful coif you can see here.
Just click on any of the images for a larger picture.
One total revelation is to be found in the list of patrons and officers of the guild - it reads like Debretts! There are princesses, duchesses, viscountesses, knights, baronesses, earls, honourables, countesses and many wives of knights. The chairman (sic) for the North West Branch is Rache Kay-Shuttleworth. Who is the patron of your guild?
To enter the draw, just click on the flying angel below. We'll announce a winner next Monday 2 April.

Sunday 25 March 2012

Gathering the Threads * Your Early Stitching Memories

We have created a new blog for you to record your early stitching memories. The aim is to build up an archive for everyone to see of stitching experiences from our early lifetime, before they are lost. Sometimes thinking about these early experiences brings about recovered memories of what older relatives used to stitch or talk about on the subject of stitching and it would be good to include these also. So the key points to include are: where you were, what year (ish), how old you were and your first name or (alias if you prefer.) Even the briefest memory adds colour and depth to the whole. And it may be that as you remember, you are able to then update your entry with a more complete memory. The blog is called Gathering Threads - just click here to visit. This is for you!

Saturday 24 March 2012

Hull Museum Sampler Collection On-Line

Hull Museum has a large sampler collection and now has images of 33 of these on-line for you to enjoy. Just click on any of these images to visit for yourself. The annunciation sampler with royal crest (above) by Rhode Atkinson, which she stitched in 1786 when she was just 13 years old, is simply sensational. Her Holbein embellished alphabet may signal Scottish connections, but I have been unable to trace her - maybe someone else will find her on records somewhere.
There is no mistaking the stepped lozenge design, the fabulous free-form crewel flowers and the daintily cartouched stepping deer. In spite of her Scottish sounding surname, Ellenor Ramsay's sampler certainly comes from Norfolk. Which all goes to show how far these samplers travel, though the distance from Norfolk ports to Hull would have been easy to accomplish.
This kneeling slave sampler is typical of the Abolitionist movement and is dated around 1836. They are very special samplers and show that women with their needles were not just toying about, but were actively part of a movement that changed the world for good.
This panel of the mid 1600s could well have been the lid of a casket. Again, was it never made up, or was it scavenged for decoration later?

Friday 23 March 2012

Great Tapestry of Scotland - First Stitch Completed

The presiding officer of the Scottish parliament has sewn the first stitch in what is hoped will be the longest embroidered tapestry in the world.

Tricia Marwick, the presiding officer of the Scottish parliament, made the first stitch in the Great Tapestry of Scotland. This is to be one of the biggest community arts projects in the world and will measure more than 141 metres in length when completed - that is over twice the length of the Bayeaux Tapestry! Hundreds of volunteers will be involved stitching 150 key moments in Scottish history. culture, science and politics. And I am delighted to say that it was the brainchild of one of my favourite authors - Alexander McCall Smith.

Thursday 22 March 2012

Samplers from Down Under - The Kiwi Connection

It is easy to overlook the fact that samplers do exist beyond Europe and the USA. Because samplers probably constituted a large proportion of the family archives, and because they were easy and light to transport, they followed families around the world as they went in search of better living, greater religious freedoms, and even escape or transportation. The short clip here takes us through some wonderful details of New Zealand (thank you Vivien!) samplers and discusses the occurrence of sampler initials worked in black thread to indicate deceased family members. So pour a cup of tea, click the box and enjoy!

Wednesday 21 March 2012

Platt Hall Museum of Costume On-Line

Set in its listed Georgian manor house at Rusholme, nothing could be better than visiting this spectacular museum in person. Do go if you get the chance. Here is a linen jacket embroidered with scrolling vine patterns dating from the very early 17th century.
If that is totally impossibly, you can at least enjoy some of the exhibits on-line.
The Gallery of Costume houses one of the most important costume collections in Britain, second only to the V&A in London. It contains over 20,000 fashion items from the 17th century to the present day.
As well as the more usual items of high fashion, it has an interesting collection of historical work clothes such as smocks and clogs – pieces like this get such hard wear that they don’t always survive long enough to get into museum collections.
There is also an excellent collection of 20th-century couture. Click here to visit.

Tuesday 20 March 2012

Early French Sampler 1734 to be Auctioned at Gorringes * 21/22 March 2012

Gorringes of Lewes will be auctioning lot 92 on 21/22 March. It is an early 18th century French needlework sampler, by Ann Labourdette, 1734, worked with the Lords' Prayer in French. It measures 17.5 x 9.5ins (approx 44cm x 24cm). It has an estimate of £150 - £200. You can register to bid on-line at this auction. Click here for more details.
Also for auction on 21/22 March at Cheffins in Cambridge, UK, is Sarah Webster's gorgeous sampler of 1800. Lot 931 It measures 41 x 33cm (16 x 33in) and is in a bird`s eye maple frame. Its estimate is £300 - £400. Click here for more details. Below you can see a bit better the lovely work here.

Monday 19 March 2012

Needleprint Draw - The Winner of Scottish Genealogy

There is a fascinating draw next week - but I mustn't spoil the surprise.
First, many, many thanks you kindest of hearts for sending donations to the charity Riding for the Disabled. Kirsty was a bit saddle-sore last night - but thrilled to have raised over £300 with all your help. It is so lovely that young people with all their studies and activities and parties take time to care about others.
And talking about people who care, I thought you might like to see Prince Constantijn of the Netherlands rolling up his sleeves and doing his bit as he helps clean the museum De Heksenwaag in Oudewater, The Netherlands, as part of the national volunteer initiative, which aims to illustrate the importance of volunteering to society and to contribute to the positive image of voluntary work. Oh and I almost forgot with all this chatter.. The winner of this week's draw is .... ta-da .... Lynda from Oregon City.

Sunday 18 March 2012

Free Jigsaw Download

I really love the storytelling format of these Norwegian carpets. This one is in the Kunstindustrimuseet in Oslo - go see! Norway is such a fabulous place to visit and it gets better every year.
I hope you enjoy your free jigsaw download today. Good luck and have fun. 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 .The software is by David Gray designer of Jigsaws Galore - the powerful jigsaw player and creator for Windows.

Saturday 17 March 2012

Unlocking Your Museum - Rogers Historical Museum Quilts * Arkansas

There is no doubt at all about the cultural wealth safeguarded by museums, by our own city museums. One such special museum is Rogers Historical Museum in Arkansas, which has some rather splendid and very interesting quilts for you to see. The detailed block above is from one of the quilts named the Whig Rose. (Accession 2006.76.1 Donors: Joe Milan and Elsie Steele.) Whigs in the UK were a political party supporting the accession of William and Mary in what is known as the Glorious Revolution of 1688. They are not to be confused with the Whig party in the USA. The quilt patterns of the Whig Rose and Democrat Rose are associated with the political contests between the two parties, which began in 1828 when the Democrat party was formed. This rose design is a variation of the Rose of Sharon.
It all began with a shopping trip to an antique store - how many excellent stories begin this way? In 2003 Sue Caraway purchased 15 friendship quilt blocks at a California antique store. Intrigued with the names embroidered across the center of each colorful block, she began trying to unravel their history. She found one of the names, Polena Holland, in the Social Security Death Index at; a few hours later Mrs. Caraway had tied Holland and six other names with Benton County. She posted her results on the website’s newsletter under the title of “Quilting Together a Story.” Soon more information began to flow in. She was informed that Della Crone and her cousin Polena were the grandaughters of James Albert Crone and Nancy Lydia Watts. The Crones moved with their young children from Georgia to Arkansas in 1870; Nancy died along the way and was buried in Alabama. Polena married Barry Louis Holland in 1908. Talitah “Jimmie” Crone was Polena’s mother. From Elaine Dake she learned that the folks named on the quilt blocks all lived in the Maysville area, in the western part of Benton County near the border with Oklahoma. Della Crone lived about a quarter of a mile from the Baptist church and went there every Sunday morning to light the fire in the woodstove. Such is the richness of the pieces of Life's Quilt when they are brought together this way - courtesy of your own museum. Do what you can to support them, won't you? For more information on Rogers Historical Museum click here.

Friday 16 March 2012

York Museum Textile Collection and Textile Tour Guide On-Line

York Museum has a number of lovely textiles on-line for you to enjoy. The item above is no longer an embroidered casket, just a panel remaining from one. Which makes one wonder if, like the framed panels at Mompesson House in the cathedral close at Salisbury, it was ever made up - or if it was taken part, or fell apart and was enjoyed later as an item in its own right. The figure playing the lyre could either be a depiction of King David (in manuscripts he is depicted with a beard and clothed), or of Orpheus (usually bare top half) - but in any case the subject seems to be King Charles in masquerade!
This late 16th or early 17th century coif would have been worn by women indoors, or outdoors under a hat. Many coifs were embroidered at home and this one has a simple design, but the materials used are very luxurious and include metal threads and sequins called spangles.
I couldn't resist this item - a late 19th century child's home-made toy of The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe. It is an old dance shoe filled with tiny dolls, which were commercially made, held by a home-made mother doll.
Because, when x-rayed it shows that the main support of the mother doll is a chicken's wish-bone! To see the items yourself, click here. For the Textile Collection Guide download, click here.

Thursday 15 March 2012

Not Strictly For the Birds and Some Books On The Go

In between the work on Volume II of the Micheal and Elizabeth Feller Collection (which has four times as many items as we have had in a book before!), answering around 200 emails a day (I am sorry you sometimes don't have the fast response I would love to give you), I do sometimes find time to poke my nose in a book. Currently I have 4 on the go - a bit like needlework projects. I am really enjoying Pamela Horn's book on The Victorian and Edwardian Schoolchild which is a very valuable insight into the thinking behind curricula for girls and boys. And much more about the lives of children. Some facts that amazed me: in 1870, 1 out of 3 of the population of England and Wales was under 14 years old; a half of all deaths were in children aged under 5. And the old photographs remind us that it wasn't just girls that had to stick to their knitting and stitching. Here you can see some boys from Liverpool (around 1914) being taught how to stitch so they could repair thir clothes. Note that one of the boys has no shoes or socks.
And from the same era, some little boys learning to knit - and it looks like it is engaging them.
It is an excellent book and I do commend it.
This book was a gift and I am really enjoying reading about the detective work that started with the hunch that this fabulous image was not the work of a 19th century German romantic plagiarist as it was once judged. That hunch led to the work being re-evaluated as almost certainly by Leonardi Da Vinci, and almost certainly, again, as being a portrait of one of the Sforza princesses from 15th century Milan, which possible started off life as the frontespiece to poem celebrating her betrothal. A thrilling read.
I am struggling a bit with this book - there are interesting facts tumbled about in here, which is largely what keeps me dipping back. However, the writing lacks the clarity I would have appreciated. But I mention it, since it is an insight into an important century in London't history and may interest other tenacious readers.
This book about Scapa Flow in the Orkneys, which is the war time harbour of the British Fleet, is wonderful - because it is very much a well-linked series of individual testimonies, and powerfully makes the case that the telling of individual stories add light and depth and movement to a colossal picture. And it makes me think we should do something about putting together testimonies and remembrances of stitching - I think we could set up a dedicated blog to just that - what do you think? We could call it A Gathering of Threads - or something like that?