Wednesday 31 July 2013

Interesting Norwich and South African Samplers For Auction

Dickins Auctioneers have this interesting atypical Norfolk School sampler for auction on 2nd August. It is Lot 2 and is a silk sampler signed: Jane Meal 1821 with NORWICH worked in the final row of text below.  The texts and alphabets are surrounded by a lush floral border characteristic of this school. It measures into the frame 15 inches x 11 3/4 inches and comes with an estimate of £80 - £120. Click here for more details. Click here to learn more about the Norfolk School samplers.

Provenance Auctions of Cape Town, South Africa have three samplers for auction today. I do hope there is someone there who is doing for South African sampler research what the wonderful Vivien Caughley is doing for New Zealand samplers - I think there is much to learn about samplers taken out to South Africa and samplers made there by colonialists from Britain and the Netherlands. The first Lot 200 shown here is a George III sampler by Martha Green dated 1798. It measures 52cm x 29cm and has an estimate of 1,800 - 2,200 ZAR (about £120 - £150).

Lot 201 is also a George III sampler and is by Ruth Eddington and dated 1800. It measures 42cm x 20cm and has an estimate of 1,000 - 1,500 ZAR (about £66 - £100).

Lot 202 is a Victorian sampler by Eliza Chambers, dated 1840. It measures 26cm x 31cm and has an estimate of 800 - 1,200 ZAR (about £50 - £80). For more details about these three South African samplers, click here.

Tuesday 30 July 2013

Two Goodluck Samplers @ Reeman Dansie Auction * 30 July 2013

Two George III needlework samplers, possibly by sisters Elizabeth & Frances Goodluck are for auction at Reeman Dansie this week. Both samplers display a lovely free floral border. Frances' sampler is dated 1796 and Elizabeth states she was 9 when she worked hers. There are candidate Goodluck families in Andover, Hampshire and St James, Westminster - however, I cannot trace Frances - maybe there is someon who can help? The Lot 505 and comes with an estimate for both of £150 - £200. Be aware that though the overall condition of both is good, they have minor holes and discolouration. Click here for more details.

Monday 29 July 2013

Free Giveaway Draw Winner - First Day Cover Stamps - British Textiles

And the winner is LeMoyne in Washington!

Sunday 28 July 2013

Meeting Myself Coming Back - John-Paul Flintoff : Sew Your Own.

A long time ago - perhaps sometime in 2009 - I had an email from a gentleman asking me if I could send him a copy of the Goodhart Samplers to benefit a charity called Kids Company. Since I am great fan of the work of Kids Company, I was happy to let him have the copy he requested. And then I heard nothing more, as sometimes happens. Then out of the blue, a friend called to ask if I had seen this reference to me in a book. What book? I had no idea. And here it is - in a book written by John-Paul Flintoff - the man who had begged the Goodhart Samplers. Life has many such surprising and happy moments when you meet yourself coming back. Hiya Jean-Paul!

Saturday 27 July 2013

The Apocalypse Tapestry of Angers & The Mystery of the Forgotten Murex Dye

This could have been a post about how not to treat a tapestry. Commissioned in 1373 by Louis I of Anjou, this staggering masterpiece is the longest wall hanging ever to be woven in Europe with a length of 140 metres (about 460 feet) and surface of 850 square metres (over 9,000 square feet).

Now there are only 104 metres remaining. The tapestry was bequeathed to Angers Cathedral where it was displayed for liturgical celebrations, though its huge size proved problematic. It was shortened to fit the walls and pieces were trimmed here and there. But the worst enemy was that of The Enlightenment, the paradigm of thought responsible amongst other vandalisms for the replacement of many precious medieval stained glass windows with plain glass - including Notre Dame de Paris. The age of reason and clarity loathed the Middle Ages and all the superstition with which it was attributed. In 1782, the tapestry was put up for sale at a virtually give away price - only to find no takers. It was then consigned to a depository of old discarded religious works.

It was a small step from that low position to being seen as a source for cloth which could be cut off for rubbing down horses, shoes or flooring! In 1848 when it was rediscovered in a pitiful state, it was decided to clean it by dunking it in the river which resulted in much colour loss to the front. And then it was put on display in front of windows. It was lucky in 1980 that someone thought to take the tapestry away from contact with the wall and while examined by professionals, it was found that the back was intact and beautifully coloured still. It was discovered that this was a true double-sided work with the back just as beautifully finished as the front with no hanging threads
When a register of dyes was compiled for the tapestry, it was found that four panels were apparently dyed with purples from Murex Brandaris and Murex Trunculus. This led the researcher to conclude that these 4 panels had been either restored or faked sometime during the 16th - 18th century, since the craft of using these dyes had been forgotten for a thousand years. However, Dr Kurt Heinisch, in an unpublished manuscript confirmed that the Angers tapestry weavers could have obtained these dyes from Sicily in the 14th century. In fact, the Jews and Muslims of Tunis, Algeria and Morocco continued to produce the dyes during the 'forgotten purple dye period' and the dyes could have reached Europe via itinerant Sephardic Jewish merchants to Europe. The tapestry is on show at Angers Castle - for more details of how to visit, click here.

Friday 26 July 2013

A Royal Arrival * Historical Royal Baby Clothes Exhibition @ Museum of London * Until October 2013

If you are going to be in London this summer, don't miss out this special exhibition commemorating the arrival of our new Prince George Alexander Louis, son of William and Catherine. See a cap worn by Charles I, a fine cotton vest and lace mitten worn by George III, a nursing apron thought to be worn by Queen Victoria and a selection of shoes and tiny booties worn by Queen Victoria’s children Princess Beatrice, Princess Alice and Prince Leopold.

The slipper below, beautifully embroidered with little rosebuds, was actually made by Queen Victoria herself for her daughter Princess Alice. Click here for more details of the exhibition.
This video will show you some of the lovely embroidered items if you cannot visit the exhibition yourself.

Thursday 25 July 2013

The Impruneta Cushion - Earliest Patchwork? * Il Museo del Tesoro della Basilica di Santa Maria a Impruneta

Impruneta lies almost 10 kilometres to the south of Florence and yet visitors rarely go there. Which is a pity because it is a treasure of a place - even if you go just to see this wonderful patchwork cushion. This hand-made cushion dates from the 15th century. In fact it may be dated to before 1477, the year of the death of Bishop Antonio di Bellincione (born 1439). Having been buried with the bishop, it came to light again after Allied bombing in 1944 during World War II - the bombing seriously damaged the Basilica and also shifted the cover of the sarcophagus of the bishop. The bishop’s head rested on the cushion, which was carried out in patchwork by sewing together several small pieces of material in various shapes, types and colours to create several geometric compositions. The front has a design created with eight-pointed stars inscribed in circles and arranged around a central star.
Above you can see a typical memorial of the period which shows similar cushioning also displaying a mosaic-like pattern. The reverse of the cushion is created with a network of small different coloured rhombi placed in concentric frames.
An inscription indicates that the bishop's niece, Deianira, was responsible for organizing the funeral arrangements and so she might have made or commissioned the cushion. However, it is thought that judging from the materials used and the ornamental designs, it seems to have been influenced by crafted products fairly common to the time and linked to Hispanic-Moorish textile products and traditional Cosmati mosaics - an example of which you can see above found on the Cosmati Pavement in Westminster Abbey, London. For more details about visiting Impruneta and the cushion, click here.

Wednesday 24 July 2013

Tennants Auction 26 July 2013

This astonishing late 19th century red and white striped Bible Quilt is covered with embroidered animals and religious verse. It is possibly by John and William Carriss and it is June 15th 1892. It measures 220cm by 250cm (a good double bed size).

The Church played an important role within family life in the 19th century and Bible Quilts were designed in two formats, either using this embroidered technique or patchworking with pre-printed panels of religious text. Unfortunately very little history is known of this quilt, apart from that it probably came from part of the family who were based in the Hull area.
Item Lot Number: 1044 Estimate: £400-600. For more details click here.

Also for auction is Lot Number: 1242 which is described as an 18th Century Sweet Purse embroidered with exotic birds amongst flowers with silk tape ties, in an gilt oval frame and measures 28cm by 39cm. Sweet Purses were filled with aromatic herbs, and handkerchiefs were then placed inside, so they could rid themselves of any undesirable odours. The estimate for this item is £200-300 and for more details click here.

Tuesday 23 July 2013

Happy Birthday Julia Line

There are many talented designers of needlework and Julia Line of Long Dog Samplers is up there in the top ranks of the most creative in the total, all-round sense of the word. She has vision, she has humour, she is brave and fearless in her fears, she has a special eye for detail and an ear for song and poetry. Here is the Birthday Poem she wrote for herself:
When I am an old long dog woman
I shall wear tartan and agates
and an old hat with a feather that I
bought at a jumble sale

And I shall spend my meagre pension
on port wine and pig's ears
and sit in the shed where I keep the ferrets
just to watch their kits at play

And I will once more slip out in the middle
of a winter's night with my two old dogs
across a moon-struck meadow
to watch them course just one last hare

And when people call I will appear to listen
and mutter all the wrong noises at all the wrong times
I will serve rabbit pie to vegetarians
remove ticks in public
and continue to spit

I will drive my old van and wear dog's hairs
on my clothes as if they were jewels
and I will be an embarassement to all
who have not found the peace of being free
to call long dogs their truest friends

Friends who wait at the midnight hour
with tails a wag and eager eyes
for the kind of woman I will be when I am old.

Julia Line
To visit Julia's fabulous blog and wish her Happy Birthday - just click here

Monday 22 July 2013

Free Giveaway Draw - First Day Cover Stamps - British Textiles

In Britain, when the Royal Mail issues new or commemorative stamps, there is always a rush to get hold of a first day cover - an envelope with the whole set of new stamps post-marked with the day of issue. This is a highly collectable set of British Textiles stamps, issued on 23 July 1982, in mint condition. The special envelope features the William Morris Strawberry Thief. To enter this draw simply click on the flying angel below and I'll announce a winner next week, 29 July2013. Good Luck!

Sunday 21 July 2013

Ars Aemilia Lace Design - Free Jigsaw Download

From your reactions, it seems you enjoyed the Ars Aemilia lace designs from the Museo Storico della Tappezzeria at the Villa Spada in Bologna. So here is another lovely design also by Guido Fiorini (1879-1960). 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.

Saturday 20 July 2013

Janet Bolton @ West Dean College * Hand Stitched Fabric Pictures * 13-16 September 2013

The well-loved Janet Bolton is back at West Dean College near Chichester, UK in September with a long-weekend course. Having participated in her classes I can certainly recommend this course. Janet is a great source of inspiration and warmth and practical teaching.

The course runs at the wonderful West Dean College (near Chichester, UK) for the weekend 13 - 16 September 2013. The fee is £286 with 5% reduction for on-line bookings. Click here for more details and to book.

Friday 19 July 2013

Liberty Style - AEmelia Ars

Increased industrialization and the realization that factory output would displace not only people but also tradition skills became a growing concern for many in the 19th century. There was the sense of a great impending loss of fine craftsmanship and Culture. This was not the singular preserve of William Morris and John Ruskin in England - but spread wherever mechanization appeared to be supplanting the judicious hand. In England lace-making was continually being revived at places such as Honiton and Coniston.
In Italy, the Bolognese founded Ars Aemilia (Emilio-Romagna is the region centred upon Bologna) in 1898. It was a society to promote decorative arts - not just lace-making - under the leadership of the architect Alfonso Rubbiani and Count Francesco Cavazza. In 1899 the lace and embroidery sector was inaugurated by the Countess Cavazza which would sell works through a co-operative shop.
Its main purpose, like other such revivalist lace-making projects, was to provide a subsidiary income for out-of-work women - women who had brought into the family a much needed secondary income, particularly for families who were occupied with seasonal agrarian work.
Hand in hand with this went Rubbiani's movement to return to and recreate the medievalism that had been lost in the Age of the Enlightenment - like the Arts and Crafts, Puginism and Art Nouveau movements in other parts of Europe. In fact, so strongly linked with these movements was Rubbiani's Ars Aemilia, that it was called Stile Liberty after the famous London shop Libertys which specialized in selling arts and crafts items.

In the Palazzo Pepoli in Bologna is a wonderful display and video guide to the Ars Aemilia movement - which flourishes to this day. Click here for more details.

Thursday 18 July 2013

Amager Inspired By The East Indies?

In 2009 I pondered if the inspiration for the distinctive style and design of Amager works could possibly have been inspired by Chinese works having seen similar types in Blue and White, The Cotton Embroideries of Rural China by Muriel Baker and Margaret Lunt. Amager is a Danish island a bus ride away from Copenhagen. Until very recently it was a self contained, self regulating Dutch enclave which had been plucked by the King of Denmark out of the Netherlands in the 1520s and dropped down on fertile ground in order to stock the court pantry with good green vegetables as only the Dutch know how. They have such a totally fascinating history - they maintained their customs, their speech, their dress and embroidery over the centuries. When I visited Amager, I was totally struck by their wonderful indigo blue embroideries teeming with mermaids, lions, horses and angels. What most impresses me is the superb gestalt of their designs in which all these apparently chaotic motifs are positioned, not at random, but in such a studied way with respect to their neighbouring motifs that the overall composition comes together in a beautiful close harmony. This effect is enhanced by the internal patterns that powder the large motifs. It is incredibly distinctive, and although I have seen some of their motifs elsewhere - for example, the paired angels appear on Vierlander samplers - I have not seen that particular approach to design anywhere else.

I discovered that there was a Danish East India Company with warehouses on Amager which traded with South East Asia - and now having seen the Lampung Ship Cloths and this new exemplar from those cloths - the question has to be asked if the designs are from the East Indies and have spread in both directions? The Needleprint Amager Panel 1797 Chart contains more history.

Wednesday 17 July 2013

Eastward Or Westward Bound Dutch Ships?

Of all the motifs on samplers, one of my all-time favourites has to be the ships that are found on some Dutch samplers like the one above which is pictured in Albarta Meulenbelt-Nieuwburg's Embroidery Motifs from Old Dutch Samplers. The Dutch like the British are a great sea-faring nation with a great history of seamanship behind them. And colonialism....

While searching for images of something completely different, by chance I came across these fabulous textiles images. All the cloths are undated and originate from Lampung - on the southern tip of Sumatra, in Indonesia. The area was part of the Banten Sultanate until it was annexed by the Dutch in 1752 and then became known as Residentie Lampoengse Districten in the Dutch East Indies.

Lampung cloths such as these date back to the 18th century (around the time of Dutch annexation) and are called ship cloths. The ship motif represents the transition from one realm of life to the next, for instances from boyhood to manhood or from being single to married and also represents the final transition to the afterlife. Production of these cloths came to an abrupt end with the catastrophic eruption of Krakatoa in 1883. These cloths are greatly prized by collectors now. So, the question has to be asked, were the ship motifs inspired by the sight of arriving Dutch navies and did their motifs on the prized cloths then travel back to the Netherlands and were they copied by Dutch stitchers on the samplers? Are there Lampung ship cloths (sometimes called palepai, tatebin and tampan) in the Netherlands? Does anyone have any more information?

Tuesday 16 July 2013

Textile History at The Museo Storico della Tappezzeria *Villa Spada * Bologna

From the old centre of Bologna it is an easy bus ride to the Villa Spada which lies just beyond the town walls. There you will enjoy a rare treat. An entire museum devoted to textiles and possibly all to yourself. The exhibitions are exquisite, if a little eccentrically, though beautifully displayed. Such treasures - the piece above is a hand embroidered table-runner with urns of carnations and lilies. Dated - guess.... Would you believe this piece was from the end of the 7th or beginning of the 8th century?

This piece above is lampas on a red silk ground brocaded with gold and dates from the 1200s.

I was particulary attracted to the se woven items that are sprinkled with small floral repeats - the motifs reminded me of those in early embroidery pattern books.

The one above and below are both 16th century and you can perhaps imagine how an embroidress, having seen one of these woven cloths, might think to herself that with some thread and a needle she could make something aspirational, resembling these pieces. I am sure we have all thought when we have seen an extraordinarily expensive designer item of clothing - I could cheat that with something that looks just as good!

The week we were in Bologna we read of the death of the designer Ottavio Missoni who created such wonderful garments based on flame-stitch or Bargello embroideries. Looking at this piece, then, was particularly poignant as it reminded me so much of his designs.

This piece was stitched by hand in silk - but there is not date given for it. Leave the Via Spada and look across the road for the beginning of the colonnades that take you up 3.5 metres all the way to the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca on a hill overlooking the city. The walk is covered all the way with these wonderful portici. St Luke was reputed to have sketched the face of the Virgin Mary - and it is this image that is said to be in the Sanctuary. The image is brought out and taken down to the town once a year during a splendid festival.