Thursday, November 25, 2010

Litchfield, Waterbury and Glastonbury, Oh My!

Today our journey began in Litchfield, CT with a visit to the Litchfield Historical Society. Our journey once again took us through beautiful fall scenes one would imagine from postcards.  The historic town of Litchfield itself is quite charming and arriving early we were enticed by several of the shop windows. I didn't think we would get Julie out of the unique clothing shop we entered. If there had been more time in our schedule I think we would all have spent a great deal more time in several of the shops along this street. We peeked into a couple of antique shops, the kitchen shop, and the fabric and trim shop found us oohing and aahing and buying some lovely silks for finishing some of our small needlework pieces.   I think Beth is still kicking herself for not purchasing a small silk embroidery she spotted in one of the shops! 

We entered the Historical Society with a large group of children there for a school field trip. It is wonderful to see the schools exposing the children to hands-on museum activities. I had a hard time not following them, to see what their day held. In one of their rooms off the exhibit area, they had pulled out several of the needlework pieces from their collection for us to examine.  The Litchfield Female Academy was known for their beautiful silk embroideries, and it was nice to get our noses up close and personal to see the intricate stitches so fine in the beautiful varieties of silk threads they had to use.  We saw many beautiful uses of chenille threads that were couched knotted and laid, and gave such dimension to the pieces.   Painted features enhanced these pieces, and some had penciled-in details that almost looked like stitching itself.

The Radcliffe family sampler had this verse that I enjoyed.
What tho the canvas charm the eye
 Soon must these colours fade and die
But to the immortal mind must live 
And the dread wreck of time survive

Another verse we enjoyed was found on Caroline E. Collins needlework.
The flowers of the field that quickly fade away, 
May well to us instruction yield who die as soon as they. 

Then let us think on death, 
Though we are young and gay,
For God who gave our life and breath,
Can take them soon away.

The book from an exhibit of their needlework is still available in their gift shop if you do not own it. To Ornament Their Minds: Sarah Pierce's Litchfield Female Academy 1792-1833.  Many of the photos in this edition are in black and white, so it was so nice to see them in all their beauty.  

Although I didn't get a chance to see any of their quilt collection, I did find a book in their shop as well, Quilts and Quiltmakers Covering Connecticut. For those of you who play on both sides of the needle!

We finished our time in Litchfield with lunch at a lovely restaurant called @ the Corner. The food was so delicious and there were some unique offerings.  We heard there is a lovely bed and breakfast in town offering dinner options as well, but no time to investigate this. We were on to Mattatuck Museum!

As we mentioned in an earlier blog, the Mattatuck Museum has a wonderful website that you can interact with and see not only their collection, but many of the pieces from other Connecticut area museums and historical societies that loaned pieces for a past exhibit. You go to their website, then to collections and then to Sampler Data Base to locate these. They have done a nice job, giving you close ups to view as well and information, when they have it, about the pieces.   Again, there isn't anything better than seeing them in person to really see the details of the stitches and the colors, but when you live such distances as we do and want to study historical pieces, this is a wonderful tool to have and I know it is much appreciated by the needlework community to have the work that was put into making this possible done by them.  So do say thank you when you pass through their site!

Besides the sampler collection, this museum offers some nice hands-on opportunities for you to learn about the local area, the mills that were in the area and the industries they housed - the brass industry for one, which led to making buttons as well as other notions in brass.  It was hard for them to keep up with outside brass productions, however, and this died away eventually. You cannot believe the number and varied styles of buttons they have accumulated. If you had peeked at us that afternoon, you would also have found us making our own paper buttons on one of their children's exhibits.

One verse we enjoyed was
Shall letters made with needle and thread
And characters marked with green and red
Raise the ambition of little Miss
All that is done with neatness and taste
Honour shall forever on it rest.

And another stated
Contentment is the Best Fortune

We finished our visit and enjoyed a refreshing beverage in the center town park before heading back to hit the only needlework shop we had found for the area which was open late tonight! 

Thistle Needleworks, in Glastonbury, CT.  It's a large shop with both counted thread and needlepoint materials. They offer framing and classes as well. So of course it took some time to go through their offerings and make our purchases! 

We had really worked up an appetite by this time, so we headed out the door and to the restaurant right there in the parking lot, Piatti, where we filled our tummies and got back on the road for the quick journey back to the hotel. Another day filled with beautiful details of needlework to truly ornament our minds! 

We wish you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving no matter where you may live.  We have so much to be grateful for, and as we count our blessings, we count the many friends we have made through the internet and our conversations here.

Becky and Julie

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