Tuesday, July 19, 2011

J is for Jack-in-the-Box and Jacobean Couching Stitch

What do you think of when you think of the childhood toy, "Jack in The Box"?  Many think of the song "Pop Goes the Weasel", a popular tune the many of the jack in the box toys played as you cranked the handle waiting to see when that funny little clown would jump out of his box.  It doesn't seem all too frightening, unless you have a fear of clowns.  But do you know the origins of this childhood toy? 

Depending on the country, the story varies a bit in it's telling, but most involve a devil! In French the jack-in-the-box is called a "diable en boîte", which means "boxed devil".  One of the first jack-in-the-boxes was pictured holding a boot with a devil in it. Some believe that the name "Jack" was a reference to the devil, referred to as a jack - is this also where we get Jack-o-lantern?

There is a legend in England about 13th century English prelate Sir John Schorne who claimed to have captured the devil by trapping him a boot. This story may have contributed to the toy's invention as well, as illustrations were made of him holding a boot with the devil's head popping out of it. According to folklore, he once cast the devil into a boot to protect the village of North Marston in Buckinghamshire. This theory may explain why in French, a jack-in-the-box is called a "diable en boîte" (literally "boxed devil").  

Of course, wind-up toys had been evolving since early Grecian days and there was a revival of this earlier technology with clockmakers beginning in the 13th century. 

In 1570 a jack-in-the-box was a phrase given a name as a sharp or a cheat, who deceived tradesmen by substituting empty boxes for others full of money.  So you see, this smiling clown came by way of more frightening times.

The Jack-in-the-Box has been one of the most enduring toys throughout the centuries. There are many stories and theories circulating about its origins. One theory is that it was a toy that was popularized in the 15th and 16th centuries, based on the very popular Punch puppet featured in the Punch and Judy shows seen in public squares throughout England beginning in the Middle Ages. 

Early Jack-in-the Box toys resembled the jester Punch, with his white painted face. 

The first documentation of a Jack-in-the-Box toy was of one made in Germany in the early 16th century by a clockmaker as a gift for the son of a local prince. The wooden box had a handle on the side that when cranked, would play music until a jack, or devil on a spring was suddenly released. Word spread among the nobles and the demand for this toy was created.

Technology improved, and by the 1700s, the Jack-in-the-Box had become easier to produce, thus becoming a common toy for people of all ages. The Cockney tune known as Pop Goes the Weasel became a frequently used melody in the toy. The Jack-in-the-Box itself became a frequently used image in political cartoons, featuring the face of the latest politician to be lambasted.

In the 1930s, the Jack-in-the-Box toy began to be made out of tin, rather than wood. The exterior of the boxes were stamped with images from nursery rhymes and the "jack" was changed to one of the characters featured in the rhymes. The music was the tune traditionally sung along to the rhyme. A huge variety of Jack-in-the-Box characters continue to be made today and make a great toy for young children, due to the surprise factor associated with it. Of course, many people who are merely young at heart enjoy them, too.

Word Origin & History 

1570, originally a name for a sharp or cheat, "who deceived tradesmen by substituting empty boxes for others full of money" [Robert Nares, "A Glossary of Words, Phrases, Names, and Allusions," London, 1905]. As a type of toy, it is attested from 1702. 

Jacobean Couching Stitch

Jacobean Couching is a filling stitch that is made up of horizontal and vertical long stitches, which are couched at the intervals with a cross stitch. This stitch is especially effective done using two colors, one for the horizontal and vertical threads and another for the cross stitch that couches the intervals. You can also use beads for the couching stitch.

Jacobean embroidery uses many filling stitches to add depth and dimension to the popular plant life created during this time period of embroidery. Many refer to this work as crewel work when they see it.  It was popular in ecclesiastical works, creating bed hangings and furnishings.

The internet has many sources for learning the stitch and some history and examples of Jacobean embroidery.  You may wish to experiment with more of the filling stitches used in this type of embroidery as well.   Julie has used the Jacobean Couching Stitch to make the harlequin design on the front of the box that Jack sits in.

Jo has reported that she has spotted my "deliberate" error - and since I'm not smart enough to have put in a deliberate error, I feel I should point out to those of you who don't want a "jock" in the box, that I forgot the tail on the a... a simple fix for you!

As always, please click on the picture of the chart to go to our Freebies page, or  click on Freebies on the sidebar.  Once there, click on A Dark Alphabet.  You may have to refresh the page to see the latest chart.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I is for Inky Darkness - Two Sided Italian Cross Stitch and "assIsI" Embroidery

Fear of the Dark
What makes you afraid of the inky dark night?  So many tales of old tell us of the frights people have of the night and the dark.  Do you have a favorite from your childhood that made you shiver and shake? Share it with us in the comments, we can all have a shiver or two before we take to our beds tonight!

I did use to think the movie "The Birds" was the scariest thing there was and then I had the opportunity to watch it a few years ago with my daughter. She loves scary shows! I don't enjoy them and so leave them usually to her and her dad and brother.  But I thought I would show her mine from my youth.  Gosh, it's surprising how different that movie looks now at this age.  Those birds don't really appear all that real in many of the scenes now and when I was young I just thought they were so frightening!  I still don't like birds flying around me too closely.  Here is a web site I found that explains some of those fears we have about the inky dark of night.

Julie looked at lots of pictures of haunted houses before deciding which way to go with this week's letter.  

Stitches for Inky Darkness

We are giving you two stitch options for this chart. Two sided Italian cross stitch and Assisi embroidery.  Two sided Italian cross stitch may be difficult for those of you who are stitching over one. But will be a great effect for those stitching over two threads, and leaving the pattern showing in the negative space. For those stitching over one, we have given information on the AssIsI stitch.

Two Sided Italian Cross Stitch also known as Arrowhead Stitch

Once again my favorite guide and historical information on this stitch is from The Red Book of Sampler Stitches by Eileen Bennett.

This stitch is 2 threads wide by 2 threads high and can also be found by the alternate name of Arrowhead Cross.

The two-sided Italian Cross Stitch was rarely used on the American sampler, but was a favored stitch of the earlier 16th century Italian stitchers.  This stitch was also found on the Jane Bostocke sampler of 1598 England.

In 16th Century Italian needlework this stitch was used as a pulled thread stitch and could be seen as a background stitch to early Assisi work.

The two sided Italian cross stitch can also be a reversible stitch, looking alike on both sides of the linen fabric by altering the stitching sequence slightly.  You can see this sequence in Eileen's book if you prefer to do it in this manner.

Assisi is a counted thread embroidery stitch that is historically found in Italy and fills in the background of the piece to create the image in the areas left open of stitches.  I was lucky enough to visit Assisi, Italy a few years ago and saw several women working on their embroidery there in some of the shops where they sell their wares as well. I brought home a piece from one of the ladies I met in the shop and it has been a true treasure of mine. 

Here is a free pattern to try.

As always, click on the picture of the chart to go to the Freebies page on our website.  Another way to get there is to click on Freebies in the sidebar.  Once on the Freebies page, click on Dark Alphabet.

Jo has been faithfully stitching away - she is so fast, and has our heads spinning - look at how spectacular her alphabet looks!

Friday, July 1, 2011

H is for Headless Horseman and Herringbone-Filling Stitch!

Before we get into this week's chart and stitch, we would like to let you all know that we have slashed not only the head from this poor horseman, but the price of our wearable pins!  (Sorry - couldn't resist.)  We never have sales, and this isn't a sale, but a permanent drop in price.  The wearable pin was one of our very first products and since then, we've branched out to add so many more ideas.  We don't make many pins any more, and it occurred to us, as we were going over inventory, that the price of that item really wasn't in keeping with our newer pieces. We have tried hard to keep very affordable prices for all our items - after all, our company was born when we were despairing of being able to find any inexpensive needlework-related items in gift shops while we were on our travels.  You want to bring gifts back for your stitching friends, but of course, as you and I know all too well, we are happily encumbered with so very many friends that we can't spend too, too much on any one item!  Now this is getting to be a very long story, but the upshot is that we have cut in half the price of all our wearable pins - instead of $10.00, they now sell for $5.00 each!  (And for shop-owners, our wholesale prices have also dropped accordingly)  

Our next chart is H is for Headless Horseman.

The Headless Horseman Pursuing Ichabod Crane (1858) by John Quidor
The headless horseman has appeared in many forms of literature throughout history and throughout the world. Many countries have their own unique version of the headless horseman.  We find versions in Texas, Ireland, Germany, India.... the most known version is probably that of Ichabod Crane and the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, based on a German folktale, first written down by  Karl Musäus.  It later was used as the basis of a story by Washington Irving. 

Ichabod pursued by the Headless Horseman,"by F. O. C. Darley, 1849.

Some of the story of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow is based on true facts and one of the names that caught my attention was that of Van Tassel. Could this be a relation to our friend Ruth Van Tassel, who owns the wonderful antique shop in PA where we like to go and drool over her samplers?

The Sleepy Hollow Bridge Ichabod Crane didn't quite make it across.

The Texas version was created to stop stock theft on the ranches, he was called El Muerto, the Dead One.

In Barvaria, he patrols the forests. In India,  he is called Dund and his head is tied to his saddle. In Germany, he is a bad person who had been condemned and rides with his hell-hounds chasing innocent people.

In Ireland,  it is said that after sunset, on certain festivals and feast days, one of the most terrifying creatures in the spirit world, the Dullahan, can be seen riding a magnificent black stallion across the country side.  Wherever he stops, a mortal dies.  Clad in flowing black robes, the Dullahan has no head on his shoulders. He carries it with him in his hand, and because he is endowed with supernatural sight, he will hold the head up high. This allows him to see great distances, even on the darkest night.

But beware watching him pass by. You'll be punished by either having a bucket of blood thrown in your face or you might be struck blind in one eye. The biggest fear of all, however, is if he stops wherever you are and calls out your name. This will draw out your soul and you'll no longer be among the living.

Unlike the Banshee, which is known to warn of an imminent death in certain families, the Dullahan does not come to warn. He is a definite harbinger of someone's demise and there exists no defense against him - except perhaps, an object made of gold. For some reason, the Dullahan has an irrational fear of gold and even a tiny amount may be enough to frighten him off.

The Headless Horseman still rides today in Conner Prairie Indiana where at Halloween he will be your transportation through their Haunted Village.  Conner Prairie is a living history museum, one I still have to visit one day!

Now you know more than you ever wanted to about the headless horseman that roams the world! Julie has designed one that is sure to bring a smile, not a fright to your piece!

As usual - click on the picture of the chart to go to our Freebies page where you can download this and other free charts and tutorials, or click on "Freebies" in the side bar.
The chart features the Herringbone-Filling Stitch, which is unlike any other Herringbone stitches I've seen.  But it worked so well for the horse's mane, that we decided to go with it.  Unfortunately, we couldn't find out much about it, but here is a good diagram about halfway down the page.  You will see that I have used only two "bones" on each stitch, instead of the three shown, but it gives you a little taste of the stitch.  Enjoy your "h" stitching!

NOTE!!!!  While working on "I is for..." I noticed that two of the color symbols had been left off the H chart.  I have now fixed the chart and so please take a moment to download it again.  So sorry for the inconvenience!


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