Thursday, March 31, 2011

Road Trip!

. . . well. . .actually. . . plane trip. . .but it just doesn't have the same ring.  Regardless, I am home again after a wonderful week in London!  (Yes, I know, lucky me!)

We had beautiful spring weather. . .with all sorts of flowers out that we won't see for weeks yet here at home. . . and DH and I had a great time taking walking tours, browsing through museums, and generally soaking up the atmosphere.

Amid all this, I did manage to squeeze in some needlework-related sightseeing. . . most specifically, a visit to Fenton House in the Hampstead section of London.  We paired this with a walking tour of this charming part of London -- which we had never visited before!  Fenton House is a 17th century house -- which when built must have been WAY out in the country.  And what a pretty, pretty house it is!  I would move in tomorrow.

The house is known for two collections:  a collection of period harpsichords (all beautiful!) and a collection of several dozen 17th century needlework pieces.   So DH was again on his own as I stuck my nose as close as I could get to to the needlework. . .for what must have seemed like hours to him. 

The collection consists of both stumpwork and canvas work pieces.  I was most interested in the stumpwork -- not because I don't like the canvas work, but I am pretty clear on how those pieces were executed, while the exact "how to's" of the stumpwork remains rather mysterious.  Happily, I was allowed to take photos. . .but not with flash. . .and apparently when I turn the flash off, my auto focus goes off too. . . so my photos are really a mixed bag.

Here are some of the highlights.  First, a lovely panel that looks like it was originally meant to be sections for casket. 

There were lots of really neat animals in this piece -- including unicorn, snail, rabbit, fox, dolphin (or maybe whale), birds, butterflies, and several dogs. . .and yes, a lion too.  Getting good photos of many of these was difficult.  Below is my best shot of the lion (he's towards the upper left hand corner in the piece).

I was much more successful with the fox and the dog, located at either side of the main medallion and much easier to shoot.  I also don't remember seeing closely similar animals in other pieces, and I think they're both really beautifully stitched.  I especially like the textured effect on the chest of the dog.


I also spent a lot of time examining a splendid casket. . . gorgeous, but difficult to photograph without major reflection off the glass cabinet.

I really was taken by some unusual birds on this piece.  Don't you love the shading on the owl?

Some of the most intriguing looking panels were hung above one of the harpsichords. . . where they were close to impossible to examine -- unless I stood on the harpsichord, of course.   I was especially intrigued by the second panel, which appears to be worked on a darker ground of some sort.  Even with opera glasses and my camera's best telephoto setting, I wasn't able to see exactly what the ground fabric was. . . or whether the darker color is really stitching or needlelace over a more traditional light ground. 

So....I would have liked to look much closer and see more.  But it was a wonderful afternoon!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Bit of Stitching - My Lion Takes Shape

Between wasting countless hours viewing needlework on line and struggling to write coherent instructions for upcoming local EGA programs, stitching has been slow lately.  But I have finally reached a milestone on my stumpwork lion.

Historically lots of different techniques were used for creating these lions.  The one designer Tricia Nguyen chose for this lion was a body of silk gimp in brown and tan lion-like colors, which is couched down with matching filament silk.  An exciting aspect of the project was the opportunity to work with silk gimp. . . which was made for Tricia for this (and other) projects.

As usual, I got myself in trouble by making "just a few little changes" to the piece as originally envisioned.  Here's the lovely lion Tricia stitched.

Well, I decided I wanted my lion to be a bit tawnier -- not so much dark brown.  Not too hard to accomplish.  But I went a little further.  Using some historic pieces as models, I also (foolhardily?) decided to change the pattern of the couching. . ."just a little," of course. . . but it ended up requiring a fair amount of fiddling.  But finally the body is finished!  Ta dah!!

The next step will be to work on the face and mane.  There are LOTS of options to consider here. . . so yes, it may all take quite a while.  For inspiration, I have been browsing some photos of real live lions. . .as well as Margaret's completed lion (from the same class) plus all my photos of lions from last fall's needlework tour.  Hopefully, the PERFECT approach will hit me soon.

In the meantime, how's this for inspiration?  Isn't he splendid?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

1694 Sampler -- Correction and Some Interesting Details

Sorry no pictures to share here.  But I do have several pieces of info. . . embarrassing and interesting.

First the embarrassing part.  I'm afraid staring at similar samplers is beginning to befuddle my brain.  I mistakenly said that the 1694 Mary Thomas Alias Teethwell sampler was auctioned as a partial sampler. . .which this is not the case.  It was auctioned as Mary's silkwork sampler! 

I want to stress that it was not my intent to denigrate this sampler in any way.  I have been staring at multiple samplers (including hours and hours looking at the reproduction I'm stitching) where the lady and trees band is one part of a much larger work. . . so in my mind, this is a 'part.'  I also personally think (no expertise. . .just MHO) that the 1694 sampler is certainly 17th century. . . at which time samplers were almost always long and thin. . . not more or less square.  So I'm afraid my brain made a couple of unfounded logical leaps.  I hope my lack of accuracy has not unduly upset anyone or sent them off on the wrong track on their own research.  I repeat -- I am NOT an expert.

Now on to more interesting info.  The owner of Mary's 1694 sampler has shared her up close observations in response to some of my "I wonder if" questions.  In reference to the alphabets and crowns sections, she reports that "the fine red silk stitching matches exactly with the above red silk there is no difference whatsoever" and that if anything the color of the date is a bit more faded than than higher up on the alphabet.  Thank you so much for sending this information along! 

I feel like a real detective here assembling clues.  But I'll be darned if I know what they mean.  But I am enjoying spinning scenarios in my mind. . . and although NOT a researcher, I'm enjoying just a little thrill of learning a little new fact about this historical puzzle.  In my mind, the owner's observations would tend to argue in favor of a unified sampler by a single hand stitched in 1694. . . which would mean the pattern from Jane's sampler is being used virtually unchanged for over 20 years.  How exactly did that happen?  (Yes, I have some wild ideas. . .but no, it's probably better I just keep them to myself.)

But wait!  There's more.  As Sampler Stitcher has reported, Jacqueline of Needleprint, wrote her about yet ANOTHER lady and trees band, which is part of a VERY DIFFERENT 17th century sampler.  You can see a picture in the Goodhart Sampler book, pages 104-105. 

Although I own this book and have spent a lot of time paging through it, I never noticed this band.  And I think I know why.  What really strikes me about the lady and trees band in the three "completed" band versions (Jane Turner, Richmond sampler, and Mary Thomas) is the splendidly vivid colors.  Only after drinking in the riot of colors did I carefully examine the pattern.  And the band in the Goodhart sampler is much more faded. . . so I clearly just paged right by it.  But it is clearly the SAME band. . . with the lady presented full face.

I am pretty sure I also can identify another band from Jane Turner in this Goodhart sampler.  I think the third band from the top is an upside down slight variation (elongated center stem allowing the diagonal bands on either side to extend much farther towards the corner) of this band from Jane's sampler (photo below is my stitched version). 

However, the rest of the p. 104 Goodhart sampler is very different than Jane Turner and sister samplers. . . or at least so it seems, since this sampler is only part of the original (cut off just above the lady and trees band).  So for sure that lady and trees band had a life of its own and was popular enough to be stitched in almost identical form into this very different sampler. 

Interesting, huh?