In my part of the world we say you are a fool if your passion for a pursuit overcomes all practical sense. I am a stitching fool, and I stitch foolishness.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Total Lack of Progress Report

Several months ago I announced that I had a list of projects that could just possibly be completed by the end of October.

It's the end of October.

Happy Halloween, by the way.

I digress.

Which is apparently what I've been doing instead of working on my list.

I have completed two of them, St. Margaret's Star and the Dresden Lace correspondence course from EGA.  The rest of them are pretty much in the same state they were in at the last progress report.

However, I have also finished ten Christmas ornaments (and eight are finish-finished) and a small spot sampler.  As soon as I locate the camera cord, I'll show them to you.

And I've added several new projects to the list: there are the two sampler classes from Winterthur, Thistlewood from Jackie duPlessis via Shining Needle, and This One's for Betty from Betsy Morgan via the Swan Sampler Guild.  And I've pulled Martha Edlin out and have been working on her again. Actually, Martha has received a LOT of attention lately and I am very, very happy with her at the moment.

I've also gone to visit The Flash a couple of times, spent a girls' week-end with Baby Girl, and travelled to Winterthur.  AND  I've started the dreaded cleaning to the molecular level required for the holidays.

Maybe I should try a slightly shorter list the next time I try this.  Which won't be until after the holidays since I don't need another list to deal with this time of the year.


I need to go lie down with a cool compress.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Winterthur, Day Two

Day Two of Winterthur followed the same schedule, with lectures in the morning and afternoon sessions in other areas of the museum.

Our first speaker was Karen Hearn, who is the curator of 16th and 17th century British Art at the Tate Britain in London.  She talked about the appearance of textiles in portraits of the time and reminded us that the detail in the portraits likely showed an impression of embroidery, but did not show the reality that we as embroiderers would want.  And she led us through slide after slide of beautiful portraits, showing us how they may have been altered over time by well-meaning conservation efforts or deliberate changes.  (And there were wonderful portraits of ladies wearing embroidered jackets--whether the detail could tell us about the embroidery or not--they were luscious!)

She was followed by Bill Barnes, the owner of Golden Threads.  This is the lovely man who provides us with exquisite gold threads and wires for our embroidery.  His passion for his craft was clear, and the attention to detail that results in the beautiful gold and silver threads we use apparent.  The most fascinating thing was that gold wire and thread manufacture had remained the same from Tudor days to 1962, when a new process changed the way the gold threads were manufactured.   Even at that, he can still manufacture the threads that Elizabeth I would have known.  Wow.  Simply, wow.

After a break, we listened to a lecture by Nicole Belolan about the Berlin work charts owned by Ann Warder, who lived in the 19th century. Ann Warder collected and shared charts for Berlin work with her friends and family members, maintaining close relationships with them as a result despite her own physical infirmities and illness.

Last was Dr. Lynn Hulse's review of the revival of Jacobean style crewel work in the late 1800's, largely as a reaction to what was viewed as the poor taste of those who stitched a great deal of Berlin work!  Much of her talk focused on the work of Lady Julia Carew who stitched enormous panels with which she decorated both her Irish country estate and her Belgrave Square home.  She also covered settees and chairs with crewel embroidery--but, then, it came out that she embroidered a minimum of seven hours a day.  Hmmmmm . . .a staff to handle the dusting, dishwashing, cooking, and laundry and seven hours a day to stitch.  I do believe we could all be that productive over 30-40 years of embroidery.

After lunch, we scattered to our afternoon sessions.  I took Joanne Harvey's Sarah Collins sampler reproduction and had the joy of seeing Joanne's slides on 17th century American samplers.  Loara Standish was featured, of course, and accompanied by Mary Hollingsworth and Elizabeth Cotton and Mary Atwood.  And the sampler, which is on display with the Plimoth jacket, was also reproduced from the colors on the back, and is another lovely, vivid sampler.

It was another wonderful day at Winterthur.  I wish every week-end could be spent that way.

(And it was very reassuring to be reminded that the stitchers who came before us had UFO's and collected patterns and charts for projects that may or may not have been stitched!)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Winterthur, Day One

If there were ever a place that knows how to entice and enchant needlework addicts and history nerds, it is Winterthur.

There were around 250 of us, and it was delightful to see so many people familiar from other times and places.  The staff were always pleasant and very accommodating, welcoming us to "their" home.

And then there were the morning lectures.  What an impressive line-up of speakers!

Tricia Nguyen led off, guiding us through the making of the Plimoth jacket.  I stitched on it and have been addictively following the blog posts, so it isn't like I didn't know what was going on--but it was wonderful to relive the experience.  And even better, the things we've learned from the making of the jacket, and the materials that are now available to us as a result of the needs of the project, will enrich us as needleworkers for years.

Tricia was followed by Jill Hall, who first conceived of the project. She talked about how clothing reflected the status and lifestyle of the person who wore it during the 17th century.  One of the things I learned from her talk was the fear people of that time had of cold, which explains one reason that they were constantly and almost completely covered by clothing.  And. . .hmmmm . . .cleanliness was determined by wearing clean linens (shifts and so forth) between one's body and one's outer clothing--so if you were out and physically active, you didn't come in and bathe--you changed your linen.  I am glad The Big Kid was not aware of this during his early teens.

After a morning break (scones and muffins and mini-strudels, oh my!--yes, they spoiled us with wonderful food) we had a fascinating lecture by Susan Schoelwer, who wrote the book on the Connecticut needlework exhibit last year and is now the curator at Mount Vernon.  She traced some of the patterns that appeared in English needlework of the 17th century into the 18th century in Connecticut.  The same swirling pattern that appeared on the embroidered jackets in 17th century England appeared in bed rugs in Connecticut, for example.

And then, the morning ended with a lecture by Pam Parmal, one of the curators at the MFA in Boston.  She talked about the embroidered accessories stitched and worn by Boston schoolgirls in 18th century Boston.  We saw beautiful examples of embroidered aprons and stomachers.

After lunch, we broke into smaller interest groups.  I found at the last Winterthur symposium that I need some activity in the afternoon, so I took a class each afternoon this year.  The first day was Margriet Hogue's reproduction of Hephzabah Baker.  Now, if you saw a picture on Winterthur's site, you would think it was very dark and kind of dull-colored.  The colors on the reproduction were based on the back of the sampler.  Oh, MY!!!  Suddenly we had a quite vivid sampler rather than a dull and drab one.

And we got lucky.  It so happens that Linda Eaton was teaching a class on her favorite pieces from the Winterthur textile collection right next door.  And during our break, she pulled the original sampler so we could see it and compare.  And while we were closely examining the original, she also gave us the condensed version of her class--so we got to see some lovely pieces that are not ordinarily on display.

The day was capped off by a reception (spoiled again) and then we left for the day, tired but thrilled with all we had learned.  And there was more to come . . .

Monday, October 24, 2011

Winterthur, the prequel

Dearly Beloved and I drove back home from Winterthur's "With Cunning Needle" exhibit and symposium yesterday and I'm still trying to take it all in--and there's a lot to take in.  I'm going to divide this up into three parts because it's going to be horrendously long anyway.

There are no pictures.  I am a nimrod. I forgot the camera.

We divided the trip into two parts so we would have time to actually tour the museum and buy books at the gift shop (they have a phenomenal collection of books on decorative arts and American history, BTW).  We arrived fairly early on Thursday, the day before the symposium started so we decided to have lunch at the Garden Cafe to fortify ourselves before the tour.  As we were eating, Tricia Wilson Nguyen arrived and joined us.

And this is where I got into trouble.

Because Tricia had some of the goodies that will be offered as part of her Online University class on caskets, specifically 17th century embroidered caskets.  And she shared.  And I, who had pretty much decided I was going to take the class anyway, was absolutely, totally gobsmacked.  It is going to be ever so much more wonderful than I had thought. Even Dearly Beloved, who is pretty blase about all this stuff, having lived with me and my stash for years, was impressed.

(So, as soon as I got back to the hotel, I  fired up the computer and reserved my spot.  A note:  it is tacky to talk about money, but I'm going to anyway.  This is, at first glance, a little pricey.  However, the payments are spread out over 18 months--an easy payment plan, if you will--the materials are of premium quality, and you're not going to have this type of opportunity come along very often.  I used to go to EGA's and ANG's national seminars--the price of the casket class is less than I usually spent on hotel and food, much less considering the cost of transportation, the incidentals that come with traveling, and the seminar costs themselves.  I decided it's well worth the investment. )

So, after pulling myself together from the glory that will be the casket class, we meandered to the main museum to see the exhibit.  The Plimoth Jacket is the centerpiece and it, too, is glorious.  The presentation, the accompanying slide show, the whole look of the exhibit itself showcases the skills and talents of the people involved. And, yes, I was one of the embroiderers.  I have a few buds and leaves stitched on one of the sleeves.  I was in the guinea pig group--we were the first to work on it and gave the committee who dreamed it up an idea of how the work was going to go.

There are other pieces in the exhibit showcasing a wide variety of embroidered objects and placing them in the context of their times.  There is a gem of an exhibit catalog available.

We also took the basic tour of the house, viewing many of the rooms Mr. Dupont created from his vast collections of furnishings and other early American decorative arts.  The man loved his china and there are cases of beautiful pieces throughout the areas we toured--a man after my own heart. Some of the rooms were set up to display his collections but most of them were used by the family, and, despite the scale of the rooms, you got a feeling that this was a well-loved and thoroughly used home with cozy spots created throughout.  This is a gem of a museum, and is on my list of places to visit again.  And again.

So, after the tour, we supported the local economy a bit, then went out for an early dinner in preparation for Day One of the symposium.  And that will be the next thrilling installment.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Enabling . . .

Enabling again--of course, I need partners in crime!

Sherri Jones of Patricks Woods has a website:, of course.  And she is announcing that she will be teaching a really lovely little purse and smalls through Shining Needle next spring.  I wonder if one could pre-register . . .this class is a must-have.

And Gay Ann Rogers' eWeek began today.  This is the one week in the year when she throws the doors open and sells both brand-new designs and favorites from her years of teaching for EGA, ANG, Callaway, and elsewhere.  There is something for everyone, including me.  And I need to place my order before it all vanishes until next year.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Alexander the Great is Three

Alexander the Great is three today.

Endlessly inquisitive, in constant motion, a very busy little person.
Actually, he's not so little.  He's the size of most five-year-olds.
And that is the Abominable on his hoodie.
There are days when it suits him.

But then, there is nothing sweeter than a hug from the most special little person in the world.

Monday, October 3, 2011

OOOPS!! (I am NOT having a good night)

I have had a Monday all day.

I'll take that back.  Work went well.  I accomplished what I wanted to do today, and that was good.

Then I came home.

And that was good, when it started out.  Dearly Beloved and I had an enjoyable discussion of our day, he cooked dinner (and that was very good), and I  got ready to finish up some things I needed to do.

One of those things was to bake some cheese muffins to take as refreshments to sampler guild.  I got the batter done this morning before work so all I had to do was fill the muffin tins and bake.  Got that done.

Then while they were baking, I decided to put together the needlekeep and scissors fob I made this week-end.  Situated myself at the kitchen table (ever since our last oven shorted out and caught on fire, I do not leave the room if something is cooking or baking).  Had my needlework lined up in front of me.  Had threads, needles, fiberfill, Skirtex, pins--everything I needed.  Also had my glass of Pepsi at hand for caffeine.

You know how they say to avoid having any liquid anywhere when you're stitching.  They are right.

I picked up my glass and it slipped out of my hands and sloshed everywhere.  Everywhere.  I mean EVERYWHERE!!!!

The deep green and red silk on the needlebook and pinkeep ran.  So I leaped up from the table and sprang to the sink to run cool water through.

Oh, who am I kidding.  I am a large and lovely lady with an arthritic hip and bad knees.  Leaping and springing are no longer in my repertoire.  I lurched up and tottered to the sink, where I rinsed and rinsed and rinsed again.

It did not help.  Frustrating, because the other times I've had dyes run, rinsing got the excess out.  Not this time.  Where the red and green dye met and mingled, the linen is now a color not found in nature.  And the pomegranates have pink halos.  And the leaves have green halos.  I don't think I could give these away.

And while I was attempting the rescue, the cheese muffins burned.

I'm going to bed.