Friday 31 January 2014

Eileen Soper's Little Stitcher

Eileen Soper was born 1905, the daughter of an illustrator, George Soper. Along with her elder sister Eva, she attended Olive Downing’s School in Knebworth and Hitchin Girls’ School. At the time of her father’s death, in 1942, she was worked primarily as an illustrator, notably with the children's author, Enid Blyton. Eileen illustrated the entire series of Famous Five adventures and a vast range of other books. In addition she authored and illustrated 23 books of her own that displayed her growing talent for wildlife illustration. She was a founder member of the Society of Wildlife Artists in 1964 and was elected to the membership of the Royal Society of Miniature Painters in 1972. Then rather like a character from Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping she let much of the rare flora planted by her father return to a state of wildness and even allowed the animals of the garden into the house. She shared this singular location with only one other human, her somewhat shadowy sister Eva. Eileen died in 1990, Eva outlived her by only six months. The estate and copyright of George and Eileen Soper are now in the care of the Chris Beetles Gallery.

Thursday 30 January 2014

3 Vintage Embroiderers' Guild Journals 1955/1956 * $45 Including Shipping

Here are some images from a vintage collection of Embroidery - the journals of the Embroiderers' Guild. The journals are rare and precious documents of embroidery and date back to the 1950s. Each is rich with needlework research and practical projects of the past and include regular articles by such luminaries as Rachel Kay-Shuttleworth. Shipping costs lately seem to keep doubling every time I blink, so please be aware that $45 does include shipment to your door. Each journal has around 30 pages of A4 that are absolutely fascinating. I shall be selling 16 sets of 3 journals. Here you can see a few examples of what to expect taken from just some of the pages of these journals. This set comprises Summer 1955, Spring 1956 and Autumn 1956. I am sorry this set is sold now but if you would be happy to have any set of 3 in case just say in your email - or if you would like more than 1 set.



Wednesday 29 January 2014

Your 21st Century Sampler Competition - The Royal School of Needlework

To coincide with the Samplers exhibition in the Royal School of Needlework’s Studio the RSN are running a Sampler Design Competition which is open to everyone! The challenge is to design a 21st Century Sampler. There are no limits as to what elements the sampler may or may not contain. Maximum size for the design is 45cm square, but it can be smaller than this and any shape. The winner will get the opportunity to make up their sampler design for the RSN (with some help if required) so that it becomes part of the RSN’s Collection for years to come. Ask your friends and family to get involved, tell your local embroidery and craft groups. Why not get inspiration by visiting the Samplers exhibition which is on from now until 22 July. The tours are held during one week of every month: Open Tours allow individuals and small groups to form a larger collective tour group or, if your group is more than six people, you can visit on a Group Tour. To book click here. The deadline for competition entry is 20 June and your contact is Click here to download the Terms and Conditions and here to download your Entry Form. So, as you’re driving along, bussing it, training it, sitting at your desk, lecturing… get inspired by your 21st century life and surroundings to design (not stitch) your very own sampler which, if you win, will go down in RSN history!

Tuesday 28 January 2014

For the Love of Small Shops

Cultural diversity is a corner worth fighting. Thank goodness we are all different and in one small place, at least, small shops continue to flourish. This is not heaven, it is Malta - seemingly caught in a 60s time-warp of less-is-more and politeness-is-all. In fact only the Japanese, to my knowledge, are on the same par for gentility as the Maltese.

Escaping the floods, power outages and broadband disruption after Christmas until last week, we took ourselves off to Malta for the annual Baroque Musical Festival and alfresco breakfasts on our apartment's terrace.

Shops in the old town of Valetta are sometimes no more than shoulder-width - but what a punch they pack in terms of stock! Each one is a Tardis which expands fractally upon entry.

So, if you are feeling a bit blue about the demise of haberdasheries and fabric stores where you live, feel blue no more - walk around the old streets in Valetta and its suburbs to lift your spirits!

Monday 27 January 2014

Give Away Draw Winner - Costume and Textile Association Journal

And the winner of the Costume and Textile Association Journal is Laura from the UK. I want to say a big thank you to Philippa Sims of Norwich Museums for making this journal available and for this very interesting article on the Lorina Bulwer sampler - click here for your download. You might like to wish Philippa all the best for her special birthday (ending in a 0). Happy Birthday Philippa!

Sunday 26 January 2014

Siege of Tunis Tapestry - Free Jigsaw Download

There is a fabulous series of 16th century Brussels tapestries in the Alcazar in Seville depicting the life of the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, and his Conquest of Tunis in 1535. As you can see I really enjoyed the historical detail. The detail above shows us Santiago - famous for its pilgrimage shrine to St James known as Matamoro - or slayer of the Moors, such were those distant bloodthirsty values.

On the detail above you can see Barcelona and below, the huge fleets of galleons, crewed by slaves, and galleons standing outside the port of Nice, France. (I should explain that the maps are shown upside down to our way of mapping and that is why the sea appears to be on the east of Barcelona and not the west!) I really love portolan charts that show the sea routes criss-crossing each other and their colourful compass roses. It is this last image that is your jigsaw this week. I hope you enjoy it.
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 25 January 2014

Catherine's Completed Sampler From The Micheál & Elizabeth Feller Collection Volume II

Inside the jacket of the second volume of The Micheál & Elizabeth Feller Collection are two sampler charts and the image you see above is a working of one of those samplers. It is just so beautiful and it is even more special because it was stitched by the person who was responsible in many ways for launching me on this journey with you. Catherine is French but came to live in Cambridge where I was then living and we got to know each other. I was so inspired by her fine stitching of samplers that I started to look out more examples for her in the UK - and the rest, as they say, is history. Catherine has long since moved back to France, but we see each other once a year or so - with the added bonus that I get to see her latest creations. So, I thought you might like to share this.

The chart for the sampler is graphed over 2, but as you might see, Catherine has worked it over 1 on linen that is 16 threads/cm - about 40 threads per inch. You can browse the The Micheál & Elizabeth Feller Collection Volume II by clicking here.

Friday 24 January 2014

Knopferlwelt - Button World

I confess that I love Austrian Magazines. They are beautifully produced, have wonderful wholesome recipes and great home-made craft ideas also. Whenever I am in Vienna, I buy up an armful to last me until my next shopping spree. I have been meaning to share this article on hand made buttons for a while - now seems like an excellent time when it is lovely to sit by the fire and work small pretty, colourful things with young relations.

Reading magazines from outside your own country helps you get a better perspective on things. For instance, I had always assumed that Dorset buttons came from and originated in - well, Dorset, of course. Wrong. It seems that lacing rings to make buttons is much more widespread than simply than just a small county in a small country in the middle of the Atlantic.

I think these are so pretty, they just have to be worked en masse - perhaps framed together would be a lovely idea.

Or, as here, perhaps mounted on a silk ribbon to make a special pendant. Below you can see the magazine containing this article. Click here to discover more about Servus magazine.

Thursday 23 January 2014

Stitching Softies

I can't remember anyone saying tattoos were for softies but I am seeing tattoos everywhere these days - and not just on the nether parts of Cheryl Cole. In fact, girls and tattoos are such an item that it occurred to me that there may be some of you simply pining (and pinning) for your own tattoed sailor girls and other dolls - not forgetting whales, of course.

So here you are - a crafting magazine devoted wholly to the making of soft, stuffed items.... just click here for details of how to subscribe.

Wednesday 22 January 2014

14th Century Wedding Gift Purse * Hamburge Kunst & Gewerbe Museum

This delightful, small purse measuring just 3" x 6" (8cm x 14.5cm) and portraying a courtly love scene was worked by an unknown French stitcher around 1340. A wedding gift; it shows a couple in an intimate scene. The young girl and the young man are in the flower of their youth. Their clothes are girded for the dance, and the girl is leading the young man by the tip of his hood. In her other hand she holds, beckoningly, a wreath as a sign of her virginity. Also finely embroidered, the reverse of the bag depicts the arrival of the cavalier. The special delicacy of execution, the magic of the representation and the excellent state of preservation make this bag a jewel among the embroideries of that period.

Tuesday 21 January 2014

Liberty Sewing School * Course Dates February - June 2014

If you are planning a trip to London, then why not book yourself in for a short course at Liberty's famous sewing school? There are evening and day courses covering a range of skills and it is just wonderful to be behind the scenes in this world famous shop in Regent Street. Thursday evening courses run from 5pm and 7.70pm and costs just £30 - including wine and nibbles! Saturday day courses run from 10.30am - 4.30pm, include morning coffee, afternoon tea, 20% reduction in Café Liberty and cost £50. Click here to see the courses on offer and how to book.

Monday 20 January 2014

Free Give Away * Journal of the Costume & Textile Association 2013

Goodness we haven't had a give away this year! So, I thought we had better have a good one.

The give away this week is for the 2013 Journal of the C&TA which amongst its slim pages has items of interest to all needleworkers. You can see some of the pages here.

If you would like to enter the draw, then simply click on the flying angel below to enter and I'll announce a winner next week, 27 January 2014. Good Luck!

Sunday 19 January 2014

Amsterdam Museum Samplers On-Line

Visitors to Amsterdam are spoilt for choice when it comes to museums, so it is not surprising that they tend to overlook the Amsterdam Museum relating to life in the city which is at Kalverstraat 92 on the major walking route from the Station to the centre of town, just beyond the Damrak.

But, if you can't make the journey there, there is also their on-line collections for you to enjoy. There are 67 samplers listed, some interesting orphanage examples amongst them, though not all with images. To visit, click here and enter Merklap in the seach box.

Saturday 18 January 2014

The Golden Needle Sewing School * The Subversive Stitch In Our Times

In her book, The Sewing Circles of Herat, Christina Lamb tells us about the women writeres and poets of Herat who were faced with an intractable problem when the Taliban arrived: How were they still going to be able to meet up and write? Herat was probably the most oppressed of places under the Taliban because it was the most cultured city and mainly Shi'a, and the Taliban hated the Shi'a and they hated culture. So these women were desperate to find a way to carry on their writing, and the only thing they could think of that was allowed under the Taliban was to sew. So this was how the Golden Needle Sewing School came into being. There the women would meet three times a week for lessons. For five years, in secret from the Taliban morality police and at the risk of death, the women at the Golden Needle Sewing School took part in a brave schooling effort and studied banned foreign literature. Christina tells us: They would arrive in their burqas with their bags full of material and scissors. Underneath they would have notebooks and pens. And once they got inside, they would actually be talking about Shakespeare and James Joyce, Dostoyevsky and their own writing. It was a tremendous risk they were taking. If they had been caught, they would have been, at the very least, imprisoned and tortured. Maybe hanged. Subversive stitching indeed.

Friday 17 January 2014

Frayed : Textiles On The Edge * Time & Tide Museum, Great Yarmouth UK * Until 2 March 2014

At the heart of this exhibition are some very poignant pieces. The first is the well known sampler by Elizabeth Parker from the V&A Museum, London, upon which she stitched an extraordinary confession. The V&A tell us: She describes what she sees as her own weaknesses and sins, and the trials she had to face from employers who treated her 'with cruelty too horrible to mention', in this deeply personal confession of her temptation to suicide. As the text continues her desperation increases, '..which way can I turn oh whither must I flee to find the Lord wretch wretch that I am …what will become of me ah me what will become of me'.

Another piece was stitched by Lorina Bulwer during the time she was interned in the lunatic wing of the Great Yarmouth Workhouse between 1901-1905. Her stitched Howl or Scream is an invective that is over 3 metres long and may not be complete. Her testimony is composed of patched pieces of cloth, acquired opportunistically upon which she stitched her personal miseries.

Another item is the extraordinary counterpane and bed hangings worked by Anna Margaretta Brereton while in deep mourning for the loss of her two children in 1801. Ruth Battersby Tooke, Curator of Costume and Textiles at Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Services says: The interpretation of the issues of mental health, grief and post-traumatic stress disorder will also be articulated using the works of contemporary artists such as Tracey Emin. This will enable these issues to be explored in a historical context, while demonstrating that textile arts are still a means of personal testimony and therapy for people affected by mental illness and grief. For more details about opening times of the exhibition, click here.