Monday, November 17, 2014

Posey Casket Toy- Winterthur workshop

So far, I have finished a strawberry (with tiny bullion knot seeds) and a daisy-type flower.  I am already getting ideas for how I want to use this technique in my own work in the future.  I absolutely LOVE how sculptural it is!  I also am dying to try out some lily-of-the-valley blossoms, though I know this does not surprise anyone!  

In our workshop Ms. Nguyen, showed us some examples of different casket toys that she has seen in private and museum collections.  One of the strawberries shown had seeds in bullion knots (all others were seed stitch) and everyone was remarking how difficult that would be.  I had to give it a shot!  It was not easy for certain, but I loved the challenge of it! 

I found it difficult for a couple different reasons:
- Using the Soie Ovale thread which is a filament silk (no twist) made it a little tricky, especially with my needle-hole-ridden finger tips which want to catch the silk. 
- The size of the strawberry also caused it to be a bit fiddly.  The strawberry is only 3/4" in length, so trying to hold it and get the correct tension on the bullion knot proved challenging.
- It was also my first attempt of doing bullion knots on an object.  It just feels different than having a flat surface stretched on a frame.  

Overall, I'm pretty happy with them.  Some of the bullion knot seeds turned out better than others.  I have a couple that the tension went a bit too bubbly.  I love the effect of the bullion knots for the seeds though!  They add a bit of texture and color.  I am thinking of maybe trying the next strawberry with metallic bullion knot seeds.  I think it would be interesting to see how the metallic looks and reacts on such a small scale. 

Winterthur Needlework Conference

A few weeks ago, I had the wonderful experience of attending the Diligent Needle: Instrument of Profit, Pleasure, and Ornament Needlework Conference at Winterthur in Delaware.  HERE is a link to the exhibition that was the catalyst of this conference. 

It was my first time at Winterthur and my first time at a needlework conference.  It was so much fun!!! And, I already hope that I can go to the next one!  I have to admit that I was super excited about going (you can ask any one of my students!).  I found through my graduate degree that my making and my historical research go hand and hand.  The making informs the research and the research informs the making.  If I try to only focus on one for too long, it starts to feel anemic to me.  I love the stories that stitching encompasses.  I love learning about the politics, the people, the economics that effected the development of a technique.  But, I am a maker at heart, and I cannot stop at only reading about how others used the technique.  I want to try it out for myself too!
Here are a list of the lectures:
Rescuing Domestic Crafts from the Condescension of Posterity
by Amanda Vickery, Historian, Writer,and Broadcaster, Professor in Early Modern History, Queen Mary, University of London

The Workers Behind the Work: 17th-Century Caskets and the People Who Made Them
by Tricia Wilson Nguyen, Owner of Thistle Threads, Arlington, Massachusetts

The Mystery of Rebecca Dickinson: A Puzzle at the Intersection of Gownmaking, Crewel Embroidery, and the Biographical Imagination
by Marla Miller, Professor and Director of Public History Program, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Threads of Time: The Needlework Samplers of Aging Women, 1820–60
by Aimee Newell, Director of Collections, Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Lexington, Massachusetts

Geography in Silk and Wool: Embroidered Maps and Globes
by Judith Tyner, Professor Emerita of Geography, California State University, Long Beach

Records of Purpose and Pleasure: Quilts and Needlework from the Early South
by Kimberly Smith Ivey, Curator of Textiles and Historic Interiors, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

The Duke of Westminster’s “Umpire-in-Chief ”: Gertrude Jekyll and the Embroidered Furnishings for Eaton Hall, Cheshire
by Lynn Hulse, Textile Historian, London

“…To Give It Room Enough to Grow”: Erica Wilson’s Career as Twentieth-Century Needlework Entrepreneur
by Anne Hilker Sack, Ph.D. Candidate, Bard Graduate Center, New York

To complement the lectures, we were able to choose from a number of different workshop and tours.  I chose the Needlework of Winterthur tour, the Behind the Scenes of the Downton Abbey tour, and the Posey Casket Toy workshop as I wanted to do a hands-on workshop.   The Needlework tour was an excellent opportunity to see numerous pieces of embroidery housed in the Winterthur collection.  We were able to see many examples of samplers, crewelwork, silk shading, mourning embroidery, and quilting.  Being an avid Downton Abbey fan, I loved seeing the costumes!  It was great hearing the behind-the-scenes of creating the exhibition and learning about all the steps needed for a successful exhibition.  Here are a few photos of my favorites from the different exhibitions.

This was my favorite piece from the Diligent Needle exhibition:
I loved the subtle use of blue with the black. 

From "Costumes of Downton Abbey":
Detail of Lady Edith's wedding dress

Lady Edith's wedding dress

Evening gown worn by Lady Mary

Pieces from the Winterthur Collection:

Detail from previous embroidery. 

Detail from the previous embroidery.  I loved the depiction of the dress and use of spangles!

Pin cushion

I have followed Tricia Nguyen and Thistle Threads for quite some time and her research into 17th Century stumpwork (my next favorite topic after metal embroidery!), so I was extremely excited to meet her and have the opportunity to take a workshop with her.  During the workshop, she showed us a number of photos of historic casket toys including numerous flowers, a snake, and a dog.  Here is the link to the workshop description on her blog and below is her photo of the final piece.
A Posey Casket Toy by: Tricia Nguyen of Thistle Threads
I actually did the Posey Casket Toy twice, which ended up being a great opportunity as I was able to see additional photos and ask more questions.  It was wonderful to meet so many stitching enthusiasts!   I am already looking forward to the next conference in 2016!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Beehive: it's finished!

Here are a couple photos of the final beehive.  My idea was to keep the actual beehive fairly traditional in technique and only use gold with matching thread.  For the stand and post, I wanted to use more creative techniques with the metal threads and add some color.  

Friday, September 19, 2014

Beehive- padding

This is my weekend project.  I completed the padding tonight so I can focus on the metals this weekend!  

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Color Experiments

I know it has been a while.  School started and I am just now getting to post this.

Color experiments- these samples are some experiments I have been working on looking at color relationships and color theory applied specifically in goldwork embroidery.  I thought I would start with the obvious color relationship- gold and it's complement of purple- for these first experiments.  I'm trying different stitch patterns in either purple gradients (working from dark to light purple) with gold or a complement gradient (working from purple to gold).

 flat cut work with gilt smooth purl and 3 different purples 

french knots with stretched gilt smooth purl and 3 different purples 

 french knots with gilt smooth purl working towards dark purple with stretched purl to non-stretched purl

s-ing rows side by side gilt and purple smooth purl 
 purple cross stitches to crossing bullion knots to smooth purl crosses with purple (still in progress)

Thursday, August 14, 2014


As I have stitched in classes and with friends, a reoccurring topic of conversation is what to call it when you are taking stitches out.  This sometimes painful act can be depressing, defeating, angering, etc.  It makes you want to have a verb that sounds a little more optimistic so that you still feel like you're making some progress.  We have all done it-probably more than we would ever like to admit.  I know for certain that I have taken more stitches out in my lifetime than I have left.  Usually, though, it does end up better after you get past the initial sting of having to take what you have just stitched out.  This summer in Durham, we referred to it as "reverse stitching".  

A few weeks ago, my husband came home from work and asked me if I knew what "frogging" was.  I thought and thought.  Nope, no idea!  He then explained that he had been listening to NPR and they interviewed a knitter.  She said that she used the term "frogging" for when you are taking stitches out because you "rip it, rip it, rip it out".  I fell in love with this saying instantly and now will be calling it that if for no reason to give myself a little chuckle as I am "frogging".  

Have any of you used the term "frogging"?

Here are a couple of my recent experiences frogging.  I have to admit as much as I do not enjoy taking stitches out, I love the photos of the loose ends going every direction! 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Dandelion of a Thousand Wishes

My son loves dandelions.  If he sees one in the grass, he picks it and gives it to me.  Making wishes on them is even more fun.  Seeing their seeds fly through the air sets him into reels of laughter and makes my day.  While I was in Durham working on my RSN Goldwork, as I trimmed the ends the Japanese and Rococco threads after I plunged them, the piles of fluffy golden bits reminded me of his dandelions and giggles.  I always save my scraps when doing goldwork, partly because they are expensive and precious materials and partly because that was one thing I remember Tracy saying at my first workshop with her "Save everything, you never know what you might could use them for"--and so I have.  

So, I am starting a new series.  A series of goldwork weeds and wildflowers--outsider flowers using what some may call an outsider art of creative embroidery.  I want them to feel fairly traditional in composition but completely nontraditional in detail and execution.  

For the dandelion, I am using an Aida Rustico 18 count cotton ground fabric.  I thought the rough fabric would be a nice complement to the goldwork, and I loved the slight slub and oatmealy color of it.  All the metal threads I am using are saved ends or "weeds".  Some are tarnished.  Some have barely any metal still wrapped around the fiber core.  All of them are in this pile because they are some kind of damaged or leftover good.  I have decided to embrace these flaws for all the design excitement they could be.  I have to admit, I'm having a lot of fun with this!  I hope you enjoy it too!

 Left Dandelion:  Loose ends with a varigated cotton DMC, stretched smooth purl, and stretched pearl purl. 

 Outside stems:  Stretched silk wrapped purl stitched down with metallic thread.
Inside stem:  Stretched smooth purl cutwork with varigated thread worked over string padding.

 Before her haircut. . . 

 Blossoms finished with a haircut.  

 Dandelion bud:  Bullion knots, stretched smooth purl, and chipping

 Just a bit more to finish . . .

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

UK 2014 Trip: St. George's Chapel at Windsor

A couple of my favorite books on goldwork are Mary Brown's Goldwork Embroidery:  Designs and Projects  and Jane Lemon's Metal Thread Embroidery  At the beginning of Brown's book, it has an excellent summary of the history and development of goldwork embroidery In the very back of Lemon's book, she has a list of the different locations of important embroidery pieces and collections.  I consulted this back section in Lemon's book to see where some of the pieces were located that I had studied and requested an appointment at St. George's Chapel at Windsor to see a set of panels created by Beryl Dean and other vestments and alter frontals in their collection.  (Please see correction note at bottom.)

Maria, one of the Senior Sacristans at St. George's, kindly showed me around and talked to me about the history of the pieces and the Chapel in general.  It was fascinating!  I absolutely LOVE looking at the beautiful details, craft, and imagery that was used in these pieces.  I was able to see 5 alter frontals and 6 sets of copes in addition to coordinating veils and vestment accessories.  The sets of copes included a set of white copes, the Coronation Jubilee Copes, a set of Blue copes used for Advent and Lent, a set of black copes used for funerals and Requiem masses, a set of green copes used for Eucharist Sundays, and the red set worn for the Order of the Garter service.  Maria was wonderful at showing me the different details on the copes that delineated the dean, canons, and minor canons vestments.

Each set had a special detail that I found especially exciting.  The intersections on the cutwork and the turns in the couching were so beautiful on the Jubilee copes.  Having just finished my RSN Certificate Goldwork Module, the intersections and how they were treated were of special and timely interest to me.   My favorite set were the blue copes used for Advent and Lent that had been created by Liz Thompson, a wife of a former canon, and Wendy Pearson.  To recognize a donation from the Australian Friends of St. George's that partly funded the copes, the motif of the "wattle" was incorporated into the design.  Utilizing cut felt leaves with french knot buds in a heavier thread (appeared cotton?) with goldwork embroidery, the embellishment was such a lovely mix of formal and informal, traditional and non-traditional. 

Here are just a couple images from my visit, shared here with kind permission of St. George's Chapel at Windsor:

The Beryl Dean panels did not disappoint either.  Having only seen them in print before my trip, I was not anticipating how large they were.  They are stored in a cabinet at the back of the Chapel as you walk from the worship area to the gift store/exit.  One is on view at any one time.  I love Dean's depiction of each person's face.  The oversized eyes and color shading in the stitches is very beautiful.

 These are some details of Mary and a Wiseman from the Adoration of the Magi panel (link for a very nice write up on St. George's Chapel website on this panel). 

Correction Notice:  The list of places to visit embroidery is actually in Jane Lemon's Metal Thread Embroidery book (another favorite of mine), not in Mary Brown's book.  Brown's book does have the wonderful history of goldwork at the beginning.  I apologize for the mistake and have corrected the information in my post above.  If you are interested in goldwork embroidery, these 2 books are both on my must have list. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

UK 2014 Trip: Jean Paul Gaultier at the Barbican

I ended my trip with a few days in London.  The final couple posts on my trip will spotlight a few of the exhibitions I saw in London.

The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk at the Barbican.  In one very short reaction-- if you are in London, this is a MUST SEE!!!!!  I have always loved the fashion of Jean Paul Gaultier.  His work is a phenomenal mix of fantasy, artistic expression, and incredible craft.  To complement the Gaultier pieces is an equally excellent presentation and exhibition styling.  They encouraged you to take photographs.  The app for your phone was excellent and provided further videos, images, and interviews for each section.  I spent over 3 hours in this exhibition taking it all in, sketching, and photographing details.  And just to warn you, there are two floors of the exhibition.  I almost missed the 2nd floor until I passed a small sign on my way out!

Since I had dubbed this my "Summer of Goldwork", I thought I would show some of the beautiful examples of goldwork from this exhibition.  You can also see the official photo gallery of the exhibition here.

 I know this piece is not goldwork, however the beading is so incredible that I could not resist adding it in here.  It is a full length gown and the entire front is beaded to look like this animal skin!

The origami folding, tucking, and pleating on this piece was so beautiful.  It's hard to see in these photos but there is also a gradation of color in the materials too that is so soft and perfectly complements the harder edge of the folds.