Saturday, March 31, 2007

Mountmellick, the Other Whitework 

We often are fascinated by whitework designs and styles of embroidery. Dresden embroidery and Broderie Anglaise quickly come to mind when we think of whitework but Mountmellick embroidery has a language of its own.

It evolved, as did many types of embroidery, as a means of making a bit of income in impoverished areas. Mountmelick is a small community once known for its woolen mills, for its ties to Quaker history and for its embroidery. Mountmelick has kindly provided a nice amount of space on its website to the history of Mountmellick embroidery, the revival of interest in this style of stitching, information on learning the technique and some nice photos of examples.

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Hi Linn,

I also have lots of great information about Mountmellick on my website that you or your readers may be interested in.


Yvette Stanton
Author of "Mountmellick Embroidery: Inspired by Nature"
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Friday, March 30, 2007

Not Your Grannie's DMC 

A designers' group has been discussing names of DMC floss colors. DMC now does not name colors but does give space on their site to what they have determined are "common use" color names. Design software uses color names and it seems they do not always agree.

I never pay attention to color names. When I choose DMC for a design I go to the floss box and color pick, then I stitch a bit and usually change my mind. When I'm finished, I put the color numbers into a chart, but I don't publish names of colors.

Now in the early days, DMC did name colors. The early Therese de Dillmont Encyclopedia offers numbers and names. And some of those names were rather romantic. One is not PC by our standards today.

In those days, they produced three versions of black which is an interesting thought. At that time DMC listed amongst its colors Black fastdye #310; Greenish black #473 and Jet black #681. Some of the moreromantic color names were Campanula blue, Tender blue, Brown of deadleaves, Havana brown, Beetle green, Green of duck's plumage, Hay grey,Mourning grey, Dawn red, Bishop's violet, Wine-lees violet, etc.

Today's DMC USA site offers all sorts of stuff. They include free charts if you sign up for their club. These are attractive designs that would fill the bill for gifts, household items, etc. They range from the complex to the simple. Worthwhile checking out.

They have instructions for all sorts of needlearts and an interesting Mentor Program. If you sign up for their Mentor Program, they will mail you four small kits and instructional materials to teach embroidery to a beginner. This would be a good incentive to bring a friend, a child, a co-worker into the wonderful world of needlecraft. I think we would do more of this sort of thing if we had everything prepared for us. DMC seems to have done this.

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Be Sure to Revisit 

I sometimes forget to revisit great sites to see how much greater they are with new technology, new content, new whizbangs.

MarthaJeanne and I have been e-mailing about an early monastic embroiderer and she sent me to Anna Wanner's site. I hadn't been there in a while and found some new bits and bobs. Especially handy for some of us is a page by Ruth Groenwoldt identifying some stitches and their names in multiple languages.

Then take a look at CIETA's site (English version available) if you are interested in early textiles and embroidery.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Go Forth and Clean Out Your Attics 

During a recent spring cleaning at Sudeley Castle a rather vintage christening gown was found. Seems it was worn by Elizabeth I at her christening. Very nice find considering how few clothing items we have from that period.

So, folks my plea to you is --- Go forth and clean out your attics. You never know what you may find.

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I do so want to see a *large* picture of that!
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Monday, March 26, 2007

Bye, Bye, ReBlog 

I've given up on ReBlog. They are borked for about a week they predict. Not good enough for me.

So I've changed over to Blogger commenting after archiving the older comments.


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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Threads, Glorious Threads 

I've been a little quiet these past few days because I've been shuffling papers around here (ugh). But I finally got down to something nice -- a bag with the new Dinky Dyes silks Jo gave me in Nashville.

John at Rainbow Gallery has accused me of using only black silks but when I break into colors they are often Jo's glorious threads. I particularly like them for their "handle". They feel more like vintage silks than any other thread on the market today, and of course the colors.

I don't solicit freebies from manufacturers as a rule because I only endorse or sell what I personally use, but a few folks give me samples to try. Jo has always been very generous in that department and I often use her silks.

Her new colors are stunning. They remind me of my favorite coral reef island off Australia, Heron Island. Hmmm, I may need to stitch up a Heron Island embroidery.

While in Nashville Jo and I also picked the Dinky Dyes for the limited edition reproduction sampler I'll be teaching at Rockome in June. More on how to try to reproduce a sampler another day.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Color Tutorial 

Worqx is a nice fresh site about color. I particularly like the look beyond the rather mundane color wheel (not that it isn't important). The tutorial takes you into the realm of how we perceive color. What tricky things are our eyes.

A good bibliography and a nice little tutorial.


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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Patented Needlework Technique 

Well, there's something to learn everyday. When flipping through Google's new interface with patent applications, I found some machines and some machine methods but also a hand technique

I don't think I'll be trying it soon, but it looks pretty interesting.

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Samplers -- Again, Again 

Samplers are often an undercurrent to our modern stitching or our study of stitching history as pointed out by Sharon B.

Sometimes today we don't realize that we are stitching samplers as we try out this and that. We are just not so formal about it. I have bits of all sorts of fabric around with samples stitched on them. I'm comfortable with the notion that a sampler is a collection of varying motifs, fibers or techniques stitched on a ground.

As to the notion that samplers taught reading skills, hmmm I rather think back to my first sampler and draw on the psychology of mom and child. Many samplers were stitched pre-TV. I know mine was. Children had not only to be educated but entertained and kept out of mischief.

When stitching, an alphabet letter is such a nice "lesson". It can use bits of left over thread, it can be done quickly and there is a sense of accomplishment after completing just one letter. Perfect combination for a fidgetty child exercise. I can remember "just stitch one letter." After each letter or two a child could often pick a new color as well. What an incentive.

One of the main reasons I admire samplers is their individuality. Until this century when we began slavishly copying old samplers, they were usually different in some respect. Samplers are the one bit of embroidery that has never been shunted into professional workshops or sweatshops.

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Shamrocks & Samplers 

A very happy St. Patrick's day to all who enter here.

And for the occasion, a little gift to you. This is a graph of the earliest shamrock design I've yet to find stitched on a sampler. It is on an early 17th century English sampler held by the V&A.

The shamrock often symbolized The Holy Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Ghost).


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Friday, March 16, 2007

Image of the Day 

The National Gallery has an interesting bit on the sitter for one of my favorite portraits. They explore the life and career of Madame Pompadour inspired by her portrait working at a tambour frame. She obviously is using a tambour hook, but one usually associates this technique with the use of large hoops not a rectangular frame.


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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Have I Lost My Mind? 

I think maybe so. I have finally decided to put my library catalog on Library Thing. I had looked at it some months ago, but just couldn't deal with it at the time.

I use a pretty extensive and customizeable catalog program and have been happy with it, but I thought it would be nice to be able just to point to my catalog on LT when I get questions about books.

I was able to port a few things over from Book Organizer, but silly me, I typed all the ISBN's with spaces in them and LT didn't recognize those records when it searched my DB.

I can put them up side-by-side however and cut and paste the ISBN or all the info if necessary. I have heaps of books without ISBNs or they may have ISBNs but don't show up on the radar of any collection. So that means a lot of manual entries.

I've managed to get through the A's and with the few I imported from Book Organizer, I'm up to 82 entries. I'm just entering the needlework and the art books. Heaven help us if we ever decide to do the history and other non-fiction or the fiction.

My catalog is under skinnersisters if anyone wants to see my creeping progress.


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Image for the Day 

The Branko belt demonstrates the same sort of use of metal and silk that can be found in European sweet bags. It sports a rather cheeky looking Wyvern as well as other symbolic figures. To see the original, visit the British Museum

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Jane Lemon -- Artist and Teacher 

A recent telphone conversation with my friend Robin about an upcoming seminar and a query on a designers group about needlework teachers have led me to focus on an experience with a truly great artist and teacher of needlework, Jane Lemon.

For years, stitchers in the UK have been able to attend lectures and workshops given by Jane Lemon at branch, regional and national gatherings of the Embroiderers' Guild as well as local college settings such as Missenden. This extraordinary artist has now virtually retired and limits herself to a few lectures. She now seems to focus her lectures on her beloved Sarum Group, their history and their many accomplishments.

Although I was traveling to England regularly to do research, in the early 90's I made a special trip to Durham where the AGM (Annual General Meeting) of the Embroiderers' Guild was scheduled. Hands on workshops at the AGM are scheduled prior to the main meeting days and I was enticed by promise of a special visit to the Cathedral led by the Cathedral Embroidery Guild to see their needlework collection -- including the Cuthbert Embroideries. I registered for two classes. First was a goldwork class with Tracy Franklin. I had done some extended goldwork workshops at the RSN (Royal School of Needlework) when Tracy had been in her apprenticeship years there and enjoyed her as a teacher.

The main attraction of this trip was, however, the opportunity to attend a workshop with Jane Lemon. I was a beginning-intermediate goldworker who had poured over Jane’s book Metal Thread Embroidery and the chapter by her in the Search Press book Gold & Silver Embroidery. It took years for me to own a copy of her book Embroidered Boxes which has now been republished.

Jane had plotted out a lovely little project inspired by marbled paper patterns. The most important experience however was simply being in the presence of a great artist/teacher and walking away in sensory overload. She is, of course, brilliant in technical needlework skills and renowned for her design accomplishments, but she has the greater attributes of being approachable, sharing, keenly interested in others and rates my highest accolade "A Decent Human Being."

Do my students today get a strong dose of Fibonacci sequence, design notebook nudges and various other tips and tricks of working with metal threads? Then they have Jane Lemon to thank.

She demonstrated the importance of design notebooks by bringing to class two of her notebooks so we could see the design process from commission, to inspiration, to design, to execution and installation. Another notebook was simply crammed with decades of collecting peacock motifs. Everything from magazine images to sketches of examples seen on her travels.

All this nostalgia has led me to ponder on the points I think make a good teacher and especially a good teacher of needlework. First I think one needs a deep and thorough understanding of the needlework technique one is teaching as well as a passionate belief in its importance. Not just the mechanical rendition of the technique, but also its relationship to other textiles, other techniques and general placement in social, economic and political history. It is this confidence in one’s ability that allows for generosity of spirit in sharing knowledge with students and the ability to define and share with students those things one does not yet know. Through sharing meals and workshops and casual conversations with Ms. Lemon that weekend, I was inspired, enriched and taught technical skills.

She has in recent years received an well-deserved MBE but I’m sure it hasn’t made her any more (or less) just plain NICE. And if you ever get a chance to see her sitting at a worktable fondling, manipulating, taming and transforming an assortment of gilded kid, purls, and other assorted metal bits, I assure you it will exceed the fascination of watching a close-up magician at their art.

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Monday, March 12, 2007

But I Would Know 

I'm almost done ripping out a gazillion rows of the body of a sweater. I took it to Nashville with me and knit away while I was chatting with people and didn't pay very much attention to what I was doing. I've knit this pattern far too many times.

Got it back out yesterday and found I had really badly placed a buttonhole on this cardigan. Now the folks in Mongolia where it is going probably wouldn't notice or care that they got a bright red warm sweater with a messed up buttonhole -- but I would always know it was wrong.

Sometimes you can fudge on needlework, sometimes you can change a design or a pattern midstream and incorporate a mistake without a resultant mess but sometimes you just gotta rip it out and do it right. Because I'm knitting it for someone I don't know but who really needs it, it needs to be my best work, not my worst.


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Sunday, March 11, 2007

A Good Idea? 

In her blog Abby’s Yarns! Abby Franquemont has set herself a goal of making March a "finishathon". Should I think about dashing about for a set period of time and try to finish up a bunch of stuff?

It might be a good idea, but it might just be VERY depressing.

Abby has some gorgeous yarns on her blog that concentrates on knitting, spinning and other good stuff. I especially like her lace knitting (one of my favorites).

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Friday, March 09, 2007

Linn, The Merely Mundane 

In the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) all my friends who "dress up funny" have very romantic names. Long before we were creating second lives on the web, some folks in Berkeley created a parallel universe or "known world" that encompassed culture and life before 1600ish. They made up persona/avatars and walked the walk, talked the talk and took their show on the road. Their persona are not trapped in some computer ether though, they are out there fighting, stitching, cooking, brewing, smithing and every other darned thing you can think of. They do this inside, outside, on weekends and for weeks at a time.

This is not Ren Faire folks - this is serious stuff and the citizens of the various SCA kingdoms work very hard to "get it right." One of the arts they "get right" is needlework and costuming. I've had the privilege of teaching, chatting with, corresponding with, knowing a good many SCA folk and my life has been richer for the experience.

At events, a member with skills teaches those with lesser skills. I'm not cut out to attend events although I've been a welcomed guest at one. I'm not really into throwing myself into the roleplaying part of the experience. As a non-member, non-person, I'm technically one of the great unwashed, the mundane.

However, I've been invited to teach SCA members at non-SCA events. And what a wonderful experience. These are students who are so intense, so knowledgeable, so determined to excell that I walk away humbled every time.

As a teacher, I've taught in the Kingdoms of An Tir. Caid, Calontir and The West. I know I now live in Tennessee, but I also live in the Kingdom of Meridies.

I've been privileged to know some SCA'ers who are no longer with us including Chottie Alderson and Gytha North. I'd long admired Chottie for her skills and publications on canvaswork and Gytha I met when she ordered some books from me. I remain awed that mine was one of the few blogs listed in her blogroll. These were beautiful, assertive women who were better for being a part of the SCA and certainly made their respective kingdoms a better place for their being there.

I read SCA needleworkers' blogs on a regular basis, including Racaire (who flatters me by including my blog amongst the SCA blogs - I have her fooled, don't I?); Robin/Sabrina (a dear friend); Kim Salazar/Ianthe d'Averoigne (the renowned author of The New Carolignian Modelbuch and a colleague in the fight against needlework design piracy); and Laren whom I've only met online.

I've also had the privilege of knowing many supportive spouses who make it possible for me to teach in far flung kingdoms. One of my personal favorites is Will Ringer, Robin's Gentle Giant who totes bundles and boxes, raises tables, fetches chairs, puts out food, cools drinks, feeds me dinners, explains fighting and fighting equipment. He was recently interviewed at an event. Wish they had included a photo of him - he's both handsome and formidable.

I have many other SCA friends/acquaintenances who don't have blogs or websites but send the e-mails flying my way. They KNOW who they are and how much I appreciate them.

If you have the slightest inclination to enter another world and have that feeling you were born in the wrong era - visit one of the kingdom sites, look for newcomer information and do take part in a local event. You will be welcomed. If someone wants to know how you found them - tell them Linn, The Merely Mundane sent you!!!

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Very nice essay!

Susan/ Jerusha
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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Brave New World or How We Learn 

I'm always amazed at how folks approach or run from new ideas. Thanks to Jerry for passing along this YouTube link.

Take a little look at how a poor old stick in the mud Medieval Monk copes with new technology and then read Jerry's blog for some comments on how we take to new knowledge.

What has this got to do with needlework you say? How many times have we just done things the safe way? Used the stitches we know? Decided there was a "right way" to do needlework and continued doing it forever and ever and ever and ever that way?

This is a good day to do something different! Give it a try, you might like it.


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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Don't Forget the Met 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has a complex site that includes the Cloisters (tapestry fame) and the Ratti Collection (for textiles of all sorts). They have decent graphics online in the collections section and just now have some Coptic bits, a nice English raised embroidery jacket, some Opus Anglicanum - you get my drift.

Decent ability to zoom.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

What Have I Been Doing??? 

Working jolly hard, thank you very much. I stopped the world and put the National Counted Cross Stitch Show NCCSS 2007 online so folks could read about all the events, classes, etc. and tell their closest 100 friends and guild buddies to get registered and come to Rockome in June.

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Sunday, March 04, 2007

YouTube - Embroidery patterns 

YouTube - Embroidery patterns could use a bit of lighting and focus refinement - but hey go have a look at Susan's French Knot tutorial.

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Friday, March 02, 2007

Rockome - NCCSS 2007 

The National Counted Cross Stitch Show is back after a 2 year absence which occurred when Rockome Gardens were sold and the new owners were not interested in sponsoring the show. So save June 15-24 for a visit to Arcola, Illinois.

The show is once more offering a judged competition for stitchers, a marketplace and needlework classes as well as entertaining country evenings.

I'll have a booth in the exhibit hall as well as teaching classes and co-sponsoring a country evening.

On June 15, I'll be teaching a reproduction sampler. I'll have the original in class along with all the family memorabelia I bought with the sampler. The class kit is one of a limited 250 and will include Dublin linen, a silks pack by Dinky Dyes and copies of all of the bits and pieces of ephemera tucked into Sally Watson's Book of Common Prayer.

Rockome Gardens seems not to be dedicating an extensive website presence to the stitching show as the previous owners, the Yoders, used to provide - so I will soon have information about my classes on my website as well as a schedule of the classes and country evenings offered.

On June 18th I will be teaching a full day class Exploring Or Nue. Lots of digital slides about the history of this technique and its place in the aesthetic of its time. We will practice different methods of producing the dimensional appearing designs found in Or Nue by couching gilt passing thread using silk gauze as a ground fabric. Then we will apply those methods to create a small blossom.

On June 19th I will be teaching a full day class Beginning Goldwork. We will explore the basics of embroidering with metal "threads" and the kit includes several types of gilt threads and ground fabric for creating a sampler. Students will leave confident in chipwork, three types of couching, padding up with felt and string and laying purls.

When you are tired of stitching or shopping join us at A Teddy Bear Picnic on the evening of June 23. As well as booking the event, you will need to bring along your favorite doll, teddy or cuddly toy to gain admission. Special contests and prizes, lots of door prizes, and a teddy bear sampler kit to take home -- Dinner is included.

For a showbook or other inquiries: National Counted Cross Stitch Show, c/o Rockome Gardens, 125 N CR 425 E, Arcola, IL 61910

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