Friday, March 31, 2006

Godey's Lady's Book: Hope Greenberg 

Godey's Lady's Book: Hope Greenberg presents highlights from volumes of this publication from 1855 through a858 as well as a link to the University of Vermont's electronic text copies of three full issues from 1855 as well as a partial issue from 1852.

Godey's came from that great groundswell of "Ladies Magazines" which helped to form that era's idea of womanhood amongst its middle class readers. They also provided a ready form of advertising for the companies that were beginning to mass market their threads, fabrics and patterns for needlework.

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Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Knally 

The Knally is my friend Jane Bennett's blog. Now isn't it a wonderful circumstance that I know someone who lives in the epicenter of Jane Austin country with the name Jane Bennett???

Jane is certainly not a "missish" sort of an Austin heroine though. She is a terribly bright and agile stitcher I met through the old and sadly gone CompuServe Fibercrafts Forum.

I'll never forget a magical night one Christmas season when I was Jane's guest at a carol service at Winchester Cathedral and sat right on the aisle when the Dean and Canons and a few dozen other priests and acolytes and choristers of the cathedral came processing into the candlelit cathedral. What a splendiferous array of vestments -- dripping with embroidery.

Jane also has taken on a labor of love for many years - she has indexed the entire set of issues of New Stitches.

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London Underground Fashion Victims - a photoset on Flickr 

London Underground Fashion Victims - a photoset on Flickr is Annie Mole's collection of photographic comment on Tube Travelers and their costumes. I took a quick look to make sure I wasn't there.

While you are at it, don't miss Annie's blog Going Underground -- always a good read for those who travel by tube and those who have never been underground in their life.

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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Progress Around Here 

Oh boy, have I been busy. Mystery project my dear readers. You will hear all in good time. Off to the paper wholesalers yesterday. It's a trip that has to be planned a bit here in Tennessee whereas in California it was just a nip down the street.

However we have found a distributor who carries our high consumer recycled linen finish paper we use to print on. Yes - print on. We print right here and assemble with our own loving hands and if you get a crumpled page it's because we (I) slipped up.

I am the cat feeder, the designer, the editor, the printer, the puncher, the binder, the wrapper, the shipper --- you get the picture.

When I sit here and type "we" it is a "we" in the royal sense. As with most small self-publishing designers it is the very unroyal "me" who gets all the jobs, both glorious and ignomious.

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Monday, March 27, 2006

African Textile Dealer 

Another good site which offers not only sales of textiles but also lots of useful and beautiful graphics.

Try Adire African Textiles for a look at Asafo appliqued flags, Taurag woven grass and leather mats and all sorts of other woven and dyed fabrics. The indigo examples alone are eye candy that puts me in sensory overload. I want one of each, thank you very much.

A real education in differences of textile art from tribal group to tribal group. I was familiar with some of the more publicized forms (i.e. Kente) but woefully ignorant of many of the motifs and uses of materials used by other groups.

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Sunday, March 26, 2006

Turkish Embroidery 

A straightforward little introduction to Turkish Embroidery. A few graphic examples comments on motifs, etc.

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Saturday, March 25, 2006

Guys Who Weave 

Thought all Navajo weavers were women? Think again and check out Weaving In The Margins.

A good article by Wesley Thomas, Ph.D. (an anthropologist, a Navajo and a weaver) and personal accounts by nine Navajo men who weave. I wish the site had more graphics of their work, but their personal accounts are well worth reading.

The story told by Ron Garnanez of his first experience of trying to use a drop spindle while on horseback herding his sheep is priceless. It evoked a mental image that made me laugh out loud.

Interesting link and yes the story from Garnanez made me spray coffee on the screen -

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Friday, March 24, 2006

A Textile Dealer as Educator 

I usually avoid dealers' sites as they don't have much in the way of decent graphics that will teach me something and the graphics are just of their current stock.

Marla Mallett Textiles has a delight of a site. Yes, she offers textiles for sale but her graphics are excellent. She also has excellent educational information on her site and keeps up graphics of textiles from her personal collections and the items that have already been sold.

Seeing her section on the modern weavers of Wissa Wassef is a delight to me as very little is written about this Egyptian project.

Ms. Mallett has also uploaded an excellent collection of ancient Coptic embroideries and tapestries. I am fascinated with the complexity and history of Egyptian textiles as they are an ancient, early pre-history textile rich culture that has then been influenced by various occupying and conquering cultures including Macedonians, Hellenes, Persians, French and British.

Do rummage through her section with photos of her personal lace collection and the miscellaneous textiles section that includes a very nice altar frontal for sale.

This is another one of those sites that can keep you busy for quite awhile. Eye candy for sure.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Oh No! There goes my money. 

Thought this year was going to be an improvement as to designing and teaching income - but it seems all of my profits will probably go to funding a couple of lawsuits against folks infringing on my intellectual property.

I don't like to scold about copyright issues on my blog, but after two conversations with my attorney today - the infringers have made me very cranky!!!

For a look at the problem faced by designers you can see my thoughts in a written/oral statement made to a House Judiciary Subcommittee a few years ago. The problem continues. Someone has recently uploaded scans of one of my most popular books to a public site and now I have to sue her. My attorney will attempt to recover the costs of the suit and damages from her, but it is never a slam dunk.

Likewise, I'm having to proceed against a designer who pinched a heap of my stuff without permission, put it into designs and is selling them. I'm pretty liberal about granting permission to designers to use my research and they typically are pretty generous in attributing their design inspirations to my books. If not, I have to pursue my rights - or stand in danger of losing those rights.

And y'all thought my costs for designing were just paper and ink and a little postage.

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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Disaster Time Again 

This time disaster has hit in Queensland. My memories of that Australian state are nothing but warm and full of beaches, sunshine and laughter. I can't forget the kind people I met there, the beautiful scenery and unique architecture.

Thankfully it seems the Great Barrier Reef was spared but there have to be stitchers and stitch shops that were affected.

Our usual policy applies. If any stitcher in the area owned one of our designs and lost it in the disaster, we replace it free of charge and at no shipping charge. Doesn't matter if they bought it from us, another online source, received it as a gift or bought it at their local shop. And no, we don't expect folks to have proof of purchase. This holds true for fires, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, etc.

Any shop with disaster damage is offered either replacement inventory or a credit to shop with us and replace inventory.

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Museum Rant 

Like James Delingpole, winner of the Charles Douglas-Home Memorial Trust Award, I am more than a little concerned at the turn our museums are taking in their quest to dumb down the museum experience to appeal to the uninterested, uneducated, immature visitor.

Now don't get me wrong - I believe museums should be accessible to everyone, preferably at no cost, that their collections and exhibits should have a mission of educating and enthusing visitors and people of all sorts should swarm to them in droves. That being said, I think museums should make all of us rise above ourselves, not sink to a dumbed down level of curatorial presentation.

One of my favorite museums of course is the Victoria & Albert in London. Many of their programs have improved their mission, but others IMHO have failed miserably. In the textile galleries there used to be quite a timeline of textiles exhibiting the development of design and techniques. It was well labeled and certainly easily understood by novices or someone who simply wandered into the gallery with no previous knowledge of textiles - BUT not so infantile that it insulted a viewer at the upper range of understanding of the concepts presented. GONE,GONERS, UP IN SMOKE MY DEARS - replaced by a mish mash of temporary stuff that seems to have no real purpose.

The Medieval Treasury is now being reinterpreted and installed a la British Galleries. Welcome to the Disneyland of galleries folks. The entertainment value is spoonfed to folks instead of asking them to look, think, study, go away and read, come back and look again.

The Design Gallery is GONE, POOF, TRASH. It was such a wonderful resource to show to students when asking them to think, look and learn values, techniques,cultural and social uses of design through the ages.

Please, leave a few galleries in the world where I can simply take in the objects myself and form my own opinions. One of my favorite activities is to visit the Devonshire Tapestries (crammed full of lovely medieval people) and make up conversations for the people crammed into their panoramas. Go along and try to understand how it would have been to wear those costumes, use those ritual objects, eat from that china, pose for that painting. Please go to a museum with a friend, a child, a lover and view their collections with your imagination as well as your eyes and ears.

And, if you love museums, take time to read this provocative essay.

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Monday, March 20, 2006

Yes, I Am Stitching 

Yes, I'm back in the routine of stitching again - but I'm working on a series of models of designs by another designer.

Because I don't go to consumer shows just now, I've decided to offer some lesser known (but brilliant)designers in my retail catalog.

Jennifer Tom of Compass Rose is a talented California designer who travels to London with us each fall and spends a good deal of time in the textile study rooms at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

She now has published a small number of her designs based on museum examples and they are very popular when we take them to consumer shows. Jennifer is a member of SCA and some of her designs are of particular interest to those who want pelican and laurel designs.

I've finished the first of the models from her Road to Samarkand designs. Two bands charted from medieval Islamic artifacts. I chose to stitch only the primary design stitches on perforated paper as a bookmark. Now I'm working on her chess board.

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Sunday, March 19, 2006

Support Your Local Museum 

Over the years I've found that virtually every museum in the world has some sort of textile in their collection. Don't think there is "nothing to see" if you live far from the madding crowd of the BIG city.

Lately I've turned up a few intriguing museums I'll be visiting one of these days.

Lowell, Massachusetts is well known as an early American center of textiles. Here lived the Mill Girls who kept the new spinning and weaving machines working and turning out the commercial fabrics now found sewn into vintage garments and quilts. Try a visit to the American Textile History Museum for a look at their collection documenting the American textile industry. You will find a modest number of graphics on their pages in the Collections section.

Or, try the Spurlock Museum at The University of Illinois, Urbana. Search their data base for "embroidery" and you will turn up images of amongst other lovely things; early Italian voided ground border; a collection of amazing European dolls dressed in traditional costumes embroidered with (for example Hardanger as well as other techniques); Armenian samplers and crazy quilts.

I yearn for the Ethographic Museum in Belgrade in order to inspect their large collection of embroidered towels as well as other treasures. Towels had a special significance in many Eastern European homes and were used to designate a home shrine or other important place in the home.

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Saturday, March 18, 2006

Guess Who? 

Guess who is blogging (and I missed it - shame on me). Paula Marmor of Blackwork Embroidery Archives fame. Catch her live journal Mole End.

Paula's site is a longtime favorite amongst blackworkers and her link to my sites sends many stitchers my way. Networking works.

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Friday, March 17, 2006

Embroidered Shamrocks 

A happy St. Patrick's Day to all my readers. The shamrock as a motif is rather elusive in ancient examples. The earliest example I've seen is in a spot motif sampler. The graphic is of a model done of this motif, rather brighter colors than the original.

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Thursday, March 16, 2006

Military Textiles/Embroidery 

One of my favorite places to see goldwork is in a military museum. The untiforms that have survived are often the dress/mess uniforms that are dripping with metal.

A Canadian blogger maintains two sites that have excellent examples of textiles and the military.

Michael A. Dorosh maintains sites having to do with his passion for all things military (in particular WWII) and has a great page about the history of tartans of the Canadian forces as well as photos of the various tartans.

He also maintains a page detailing German uniform and gear and the page on officer's caps and insignia which has fine examples of metal embroidery. WARNING. THE EMBROIDERY IN METAL IS EXCELLENT ON THESE EXAMPLES, BUT YOU MAY WANT TO PASS BY THIS LINK IF YOU FIND IT DIFFICULT TO VIEW NAZI SYMBOLS.

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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Embroidery in Pueblo Culture 

We often think of spinning and weaving skills when we think of Pueblo textile artists. There is however a distinct embroidery art form that has been practiced for many years amongst Pueblo cultures.

The School of American Research site offers an entire section on Pueblo embroidery - We Dance With Them.

You can meet contemporary needle artists, learn the history of Pueblo embroidery, download patterns for representative designs and learn some stitches unique to the textiles of the Pueblos.

Although I'm familiar with Colcha couching and several of the more mundane stitches used by these artists I had not seen or stitched Pueblo Stitch; a Pueblo variation of a Back Stitch; Acoma Countered Outline Stitch; Acoma Chain Stitch or Twined Stitch. The site gives diagrams for all of these stitches, so give them a try and add them to your stitch arsenal.

Several typical Pueblo pattern darning fillings are also charted.

This is one of those rich sites where one can lose onself for hours.

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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Great Libraries 

I was bitten by a bookworm at an early age and bicycled to a Carnegie Library in my birthtown of Downs, Kansas just as soon as I had my own bike.

After moving to Arizona, I was hampered by begging rides from mom until I had a learner's permit and could take the family Buick to our local libary. It was housed at that time in an old building that had been a mining company headquarters during the silvermining boom days in Globe, Arizona. Lots of lovely dark woodwork, massive cases, Mission era reading tables and arts and crafts style lamps. An extra plus - huge rocking chairs where one could curl up with a book and dangle your feet over a floor heating register on a cold day.

I started volunteering my services at the library at the age of 14 and became so handy at shelving books that I was offered an after school, weekend, vacation job at the grand sum of $1.00 per hour. This was a very good "kids pay" wage in those days (1950's) and besides I would have been there anyway. When the books were all shelved and the notices sent I had plenty of browsing time. I could read encyclopedias to my heart's content. I'd nearly worn out the one we had at home and having access to a Britannica was a real high. The library had just begun to offer 33 1/3 records for checking out. This gave me some of my first exposure to opera, concert music and big city jazz.

The next summer, the state gave small libraries grants and training to convert their collections from Dewey Decimal to Library of Congress catalogs. I learned a good deal about organization of information that summer and typed thousands of catalog cards on an old manual Remington. They made a special platen in those days with in inset bar so you could insert the top of an index card, twirl it in and never have to change your margins. That was our first small step into technology. Of course you could order preprinted card sets for virtually every book, but that wasn't in our budget. A little teenie slavey typing away on a typewriter was more our speed. The experience was improved because I had to pull every book I cataloged, check that it was physically there, its condition and then type the cards and pop them inside the front board for the "real librarian" to check.

An extra bonus was that several books were considered discards and once they had been pulled from the shelves I got to take them home if I wanted. A few of those books are in my collection to this date.

Now my favorites are the British Library and the National Art Library (V&A)which I'll review at some later date.

Librarians are unsung heros/heroines in my book. They make learning possible, especially for the independent scholar (yours truly).

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Monday, March 13, 2006

english cut: bespoke savile row tailors 

Although I don't "construct", I've enjoyed finding Thomas Mahon's blog english cut: bespoke savile row tailors.

As one comment noted - who would have thought of a blog about fine tailoring. Thomas exudes dedication to quality and careful detail and even shares a few tips with his readers. Savile Row is alive and well and the bespoke tailored garment's death is a tacky rumor or rumour.

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Sunday, March 12, 2006

Strange and Wonderful 

Want some wonderful alternative art and crafting charms, supplies, toys, etc. Go to Manto Fev: Home Page. I've had nothing but great service from Sara Hopp and she carries some ephemera and bits of stuff you won't find anywhere else - trust me.

When I have a little spare change, I'm going to have a Frieda pendant.

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The Library Orafa San Antonio Abate in San Giovanni Evangelista, Venice has at least a small collection of early pattern books and has put a few pages online. As usual with most libraries, they have a few original 16th/17th century books and more of the 19th century reprints.


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Saturday, March 11, 2006

Arts and Crafts Designs 

V & A | International Arts & Crafts | Design a Tile

I had a fun little break making my own arts and crafts tile.

The Victoria and Albert has heaps of new online interactive bits now, so go have a play.

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Thursday, March 09, 2006

Art vs. Craft 

This is an old old old old discussion. It is such an emotional trigger in the needlework world and such a subjective sort of set of judgments. What is art? What is craft? One man's trash is another man's treasure for sure. That is unless you are trying to explain that concept to a Chinese tourist guide. With no cultural tags to work with - Mr. Lee was clueless about the idea of value of objects (intrinsic and extrinsic value). He also didn't have any luck with - It's not over 'til the fat lady sings. One problem with Chinese values is to be set at the feet of the Cultural Revolution in my opinion. I found many Chinese uninterested in sites or items of historic value. If given a choice of vacation - they would prefer a visit to a place of scenic beauty, not a historic site. But then it works for them and their culture.

That said, many craftsfolk feel their work is art, few artists feel their work is craft. We have assigned a greater value to "fine art" (basically useless stuff to be looked at) rather than "decorative art" (basically pleasingly designed or decorated stuff that can be used for some practical purpose).

Now I'm being flip here. I appreciate painting, sculpture, etc. but I do feel that they have a huge craft/skills component with an added veneer of aesthetic values whereas decorative arts consist of craft/practical use/aesthetic values. Now there is "bad art" and "bad craft" (i.e. unskillfully executed). Now assigning "bad" designations to those arts and crafts that are merely not to my taste seems a bit excessive. Remember - one man's trash is another man's treasure.

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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Value of Women's Work 

A little off topic but then I've been thinking of the value of women's work in general lately.

Until my recent retirement I've worked in rather "pink collar" industries (nursing and legal).

Earlier in life I was a member of the American military (Army) when they still had a pink collar designation. WAC. Now except for a few MOS designations not open to women, they are pretty equal opportunity. Those forbidden MOS categories are also pretty moot considering that support groups are now on the front line in modern combat situations. Women's work is often designated lower in value when it comes to pay, prestige and benefits.

Being a non-insured person when it comes to health insurance (don't get me started on the problems faced by us uninsured folks) my only safety net is VA medical benefits. Having recently moved to TN and recently become poor enough for eligibility (having retired from gainful employment), I was over at my local VA health facility yesterday getting signed on for treatment here in TN. They are one of the centers that support a women's health unit. Long overdue in the system in my opinion and a needed recognition of the value of women in the military.

Now I spend my time in the world of embroidery - long considered women's work. Oh, with the exception of when it is considered "art" - then it is a proper pursuit for men.

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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Value of Samplers 

More thoughts on the issue of the value of embroidered samplers as discussed in yesterday's blog issue.

I'm not a sentimentalist and don't ascribe personalities to bits of embroidery per se as do some sampler fans I've met over the years. Having said that however, I do put them in a special category of embroidered textiles. They are the purest examples of personal statements by stitchers available to us. They have not been (to my knowledge) been produced in commercial workshops for purchase by consumers.

From early Mamaluk examples sample/sampler motifs, bands and other devices moved into 16th century modelbuchen and then have been copied, reinterpreted, reprinted and can be found stitched on samplers throughout the documentable history of embroidery.

Until the early-mid 19th century, stitchers relied on pattern books filled with bits and pieces of patterns to create their own samplers. With the advent of teaching embroidery at charity schools, religious and public schools samplers became embroideries often designed by an authority and replicated by those learning to stitch. Books were published with graphic charts of sampler designs and very explicit instructions for both pupils and teachers of needlearts. Emphasis was placed on conformity.

However, in the same timeframe, stitchers (mostly leisure class) were stitching whimsical collections of samplers again using graphs found in books and periodicals of their day.

By the early 20th century we began to see fabric prepared with stamped samplers (complete with mottos, motifs and borders) available on the open market. The stitcher normally chose the colors and stitched these in cross-stitch and back or stem stitch. The first sampler I ever stitched was one of these (1940's). These are the samplers used by Sollins in his exhibit.

Although sampler making continues to be original and unique in many instances, today we have moved back to the concept of commercially designed samplers which are replicated by stitchers. These replications form the greatest body of work in the world of sampler stitching today.

As to value? Does age matter? Often in the antiques market yes. Does skill in execution matter? Sometimes. Does scarcity matter? In placing a dollar value on the stitched sampler, usually. Do decorative/aesthetic values play a role? Yes, depending on the fashion of the moment.

I believe the main value of any sampler however to be its value in demonstrating a portion of (usually) women's history, history of embroidery, manufacturing history, goods distribution history, fashion history, material culture and of course personal history of the stitcher.

Should we save every sampler? In the best of worlds, yes. Should we save representative examples? Definitely.

I often give a home to orphaned samplers of little commercial value simply because I can't see them destroyed and use them in teaching settings.

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Monday, March 06, 2006

Deconstruction Gone Amok 

Sharon B has taken up again the issue of "deconstructed" textiles as an art expression.

This has given me pause and made me ruminate a bit not only on the textiles in question but several old refrains including "women's work", "art vs. craft", "art marketing 101" and several others I've not poked at for quite awhile.

As an intro to deconstruction in its pure form, Jerry's distillation is useful.

My launching point for rumination is an exhibit by "artist/craftsman" Stephen Sollins who puts forth "deconstructed" (frogged) commercially stamped motto samplers (characterized as low art) upon which he has superimposed his (high art) bean counting of the colors used in the original sampler.

It seems to me that the terms deconstruction, deconstructionist, deconstructionism have been bandied about quite freely in our post-modern world. A way of examining, juggling and playing with literary and philosophic writings has now moved into some strange territory -- not excluding the culinary arts.

In my rather pedestrian look at deconstructed heirarchies involved in Sollins work, he appears to be examining art as superior to craft (sadly the predominate order in our world today). It would have been far more interesting to me if he had reversed this order and examined the issue of craft as a greater value than art.

More ruminations on another day.

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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Good!! Just Good!!! 

Those who know me know of my interest in the teaching of plain sewing skills in the late 19th - early 20th century.

In my collection is a certificate awarded to Mary hearn by the London Institute For The Advancement of Plain Needlework in 1917.

Now poor Mary was awarded the standard of "Good" for her efforts. Does this mean she did a superb job, or is it damnation by faint praise. Hmmm, we'd have to see her seams and hems and tucks and buttonholes to know.

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Nametag Phobia 

I'm one of those obnoxious people who doesn't like to wear nametags at events. I know the reason for them but I Just don't like being labeled.

One exception!!! A nifty little nametage designed by, stitched by and gifted to me by my friend Catherine Kinsey. Who could resist a portrait nametag. There I am as usual -- portly, petite, white haired and with needle in hand.

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