No embroidery but lots of creativity!

Although the blog has been quiet for a week of more, I have been working. Really, I have!

First up is a group of samples I’ve done for my City and Guilds Level 2 course. Below is a sampler I did to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of line stitches. The brief is to create two samplers using a set of line stitches; one to be traditional and one contemporary. The first contemporary one I did wasn’t really very contemporary – it didn’t push the boundaries far enough. Among the suggestions from my wonderful tutors, Julia and Tracy, were to use non-traditional materials and to play with the scale of the piece. The sampler you see below is made using paper products and the finished piece is 24 inches/60 cm long. Each line of stitch has a brown paper label hanging from the edge of the sampler. It was fun working with these materials and on this scale – it’s different from the traditional work I prefer to do!

Fraying and Fringing was a unit I just completed. The piece I’m most proud of is the one that fills the criteria of creating an innovative fringe. I used cork fabric and Oliver Twists synthetic threads for the fringe. They unravel beautifully! I can imagine doing something more with this idea for a larger project in the course.

One set of samples I’d been putting off were those involving the use of both bond-a-web (fusible interfacing) and silicon backed baking paper. I just couldn’t get my head around how it would all work. I wrote to a student who is doing C&G Level 3 and she gave me some guidance. When I finally got the courage to try it, I discovered that I really like this technique and will definitely be using it again!

The first piece is a “considered” composition – landscape type thing. The second is a completion of words from a German book I had as a child, string – to represent the line when writing, buttons for the punctuation and pencil shavings. All of this has been fused to grey fabric which is printed with German words.

Finished landscape


Finished with net

Of course, I’ve been mulling over the planned Trevelyon’s Pocketbook. I did some coloured drawings, decided on a colour pallet and ordered threads. I’ve decided to make mine using Au ver a Soie D’Alger. The thread is beautiful but, gosh, I’d forgotten how expensive it is! The thread you see in the photo came to €58/$69/£51. Of course, I’ll not use much on this project so will have loads left over. But you know what? I rarely use left over threads from one project in another project. Do you?

The pocketbook will be worked on ivory silk which I still need to order so the thread in the photo is on a page from my sketch book. The gold thread is a twisted thread but I’m not sure I’m going to use that one. Steve and I are hoping to visit Benton and Johnson when we’re in the UK at the end of October where I might find something I like better.

You might be wondering why I haven’t written about doing any actual embroidery. I know I’m wondering why I haven’t done more embroidery! To be honest, there has been so much paperwork to do to organise Steve’s green card for our return to the USA that it’s taken all my time for the last two weeks outside of what I must do for my C&G course. However, I’m making myself a promise right now – I am going to go embroider as soon as this is finished!

By the way, shortly after I posted about the footstool from the Crewelwork Company not being in their line, I was on the web site (beautiful things!! Really…I wish I could have them all! but especially the Glasgow Bedspread…now that would keep me busy forever!) and the footstool is still offered. It’s now called the Long Pillowe. I love how it’s finished! The fringe is stunning!

Next time I should have embroidery to show you and maybe even the pattern on the silk for Trevelyon’s Pocketbook. Here’s hoping!

Last minute update – The Crewelwork Company is offering a FREE Jacobean Sampler when you buy any Level 3 Kit. Simply order a Level 3 kit (scroll down to “Level 3” on the “Kits” tab and choose your kit) and they will add in a Sampler to your order. Offer valid until 30 Sept 2017. This would be a great gift for a friend or family member who has always wanted to try crewelwork!



An imposter in my collection!

I’ve been collecting samplers for just over a year and half. The first sampler I purchased at an auction house, I mistakenly identified as German (as it was listed as German at the auction house where I purchased it) and, being a novice collector, I accepted their description as true. Thankfully Amy Mitten wrote me an email and straightened me out -it is in fact a Dutch sampler – known not as a Stickmustertuch but a Merklap.

Since then I’ve purchased two more through online auctions – one really is German and the other is from Wales. I go through phases where I want to buy a sampler, look, but don’t really find something that catches my eye and is within my budget. However, early last spring I was looking at a German auction site and came across a set of three stickmustertücher offered together. Two of them were of no interest to me whatsoever but the third really caught my eye. I put in a last minute bid and I won the lot for only € 25. My husband and I drove into the middle of Berlin to pick up my lot. The gentleman in the auction house took me up three flights of stairs, describing how long the auction house had been in existence, what they specialised in and all manner of information.

As we came closer to the lot I could see one of the less desirable pieces leaning on the shelf and underneath it the one sampler that I really was excited to have won. When I got right up next to it, however, my heart plummeted as I saw that I’d bid on an art print of a sampler. However, my spirits quickly lifted as I reasoned that it was pretty, it looked “real” from only 3 feet away, would happily grace the walls of my studio and made for a great story!

I brought all three pieces home, gave away the two that I really didn’t want and put on display the art print. Every time I walk into the room and see it, I am taken aback at how realistic it looks! I felt a bit foolish, but live and learn, right?

Then, about a month ago, I was pursuing ISSUU and came across the entire collection of sampler catalogues issued by the firm M. Finkel and Daughter. These are free on ISSUU and contain a wealth of free information and fabulous photographs of samplers for sale. All of them are out of my price range but the catalogues are an excellent resource. I was curious about this firm, in particular Amy Finkel, so I did what every good 21st century scholar does and looked her up on the internet.

Imagine my delight when I found this article about how she had also been fooled into thinking an art print of a sampler was the real thing. In fact, not only was she fooled, the experts at Sotheby’s were fooled!

To quote from her article ” I made arrangements to view the sampler prior to the public opening of the auction preview, precisely to examine it closely and to get my ducks in a row for the sale. I took a train to New York a few days after the New Year holiday and then a taxi to Sotheby’s. My unhappy assessment and disappointment upon seeing it in person was immediate – it was a framed page of the poster art book! Much smaller than the actual sampler, it measured 9 inches square (the catalogue included this measurement in their description but I assumed that this was a typo). The fact that it was a print not a sampler had somehow escaped the Sotheby staff. I broke the news to them and they saw the problem immediately; they removed the “sampler” from the upcoming sale. In fact, before my train returned to Philadelphia, Sotheby’s pulled this lot from their online version of the auction’s catalogue.”

Now my art print sampler has an even better story and I love it even more! Sometimes life does give you lemons and then makes lemonade for you!

A new Trevelyon project – and a special offer!

Any of you who have been reading my blog for a long time will know that I love the designs of a man named Thomas Trevelyon. He compiled what’s called his Miscellany  in 1608.  His miscellany contains handwritten notes and drawings (many hand-colored) on historical, religious, social and practical topics. If you want more information, go to this link to see digital images of the pages of his book.

Years ago I wrote to the Folger Library asking permission to use one of the designs to create my Trevelyon’s Cap. They gave me permission to use it for myself and for teaching. Now I’m going to be using another design, which I’ve modified, to make a miniature letter case.

Letter cases were prevalent during 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. One of the largest online collections to study is at the Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York City. Below is a photo of one with colours I particularly like: rusty reds, greens, deep teal with ivory and gold. I haven’t decided which colour of silk I’ll use as the embroidery fabric. I have decided I’ll have a bit of goldwork on the case.

Letter case from the collection of the Cooper Hewitt Museum.

The Tassen Museum in Amsterdam also has a collection of letter cases. Here is an explanation of how they were used from the web site of the Tassen Museum, Amsterdam. “From the 17th century, letter cases were used for keeping valued (love) letters, securities and bills of exchange. These letter cases showed great variation: materials such as leather, silk, glass beads and straw were used and many were embroidered with silk or metal thread and decorated with petals and foil. Letter cases were often presented as gifts at engagements and weddings or as keepsakes. The imagery and patterns on letter cases often referred to love and constancy: cupids, flaming hearts, Venus – the goddess of love – and anchors.”

I think mine will contain a love letter…certainly not a bill of exchange!


Above is a photograph of the printed pattern from Trevelyon’s book. I’ve reduced it in size so the size of the letter case is in proportion to the size of the cap. Most caps were between 25 and 28 cm wide according to measurement I’ve found on multiple museum sites. Most letter cases are between 13.5 and 19 cm in width. The letter case is roughly 75% as wide at the caps.

Letter case from the collection of the Cooper Hewitt Museum.

The colours on the case, above, also appeal to me, although they are lighter in tone than the first one I showed you. And then there’s my favourite and it comes from the Bayerische Museum in Munich.

These colours are not dissimilar to the ones used in the cap and, if I wanted to display the two objects side by side, this colour combination would look very pretty with the cap.

These are the kinds of decision I love to ponder! And any suggestions you have I will gladly listen to!

Now, for something completely different…

If you read other embroidery or needlework blogs, you’ll have undoubtedly heard about a give-away that Mark Harris of Mythic Crafts is running this weekend. I would be remiss if I didn’t share it here to support this relatively new and already highly valued member of the greater embroidery community.

Below is his email to me announcing the give-a-way. And here is a link to his web site where you can look at everything he has on offer.

I’m going to be running a promotion on Friday which your readers might be interested in. I’ve been playing with different strength magnets in my needle minders, and opinions seem to differ greatly from everyone who has tried them, so I’d like to get more data (engineers love data!) Therefore, on Friday the 8th of Sept I’ll be giving everyone who orders (regardless of order value!) 3 free needle minders ($60 value). This will give them a needle minder in each strength, and I’m hoping they’ll let me know which strength they prefer for the style of embroidery they are working on.
This should allow me to offer the different strengths of needle minder on the website along with a chart for which works best for each stitching style (assuming one strength is greatly preferred over others.)
I’m happy for them to request specific needle minder styles in their order comments, otherwise, I’ll just throw in a random selection of the styles I like the most (including unreleased ones!)
If a person hangs around on a page for a bit, they’ll get a popup where they can claim a 10% off coupon for subscribing to my (non spammy) mailing list, or liking my page on facebook. I have no problems with people grabbing the 10% off and the free needle minders at the same time.