Monday, December 19, 2011

Skeletons, Spanish Stitch and a Giveaway!


Ah, yes, at this joyous time of year, of course, our thoughts turn to... skeletons!?!   Our Dark Alphabet is coming along and we couldn't resist sending one more letter before the end of the year!  
Calavera means skull in Spanish and by extension, skeleton.  The Day of the Dead is celebrated in Mexico, Spain, Brazil and several other countries.  The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died.  Altars are built to honor those who have passed. Many go to the cemeteries and take special food and gifts to show respect and honor to those relatives who have passed away.  The traditions of the celebrations vary by town and country and many include festivities such as parties and dancing. 
The Grim Reaper is one of the most well known skeletons in stories passed down through the ages.  In English, Death is often given the name Grim Reaper and, from the 15th century onward, came to be shown as a skeletal figure carrying a large scythe and clothed in a black cloak with a hood.

Of course we have movies to scare us that star the Grim Reaper and songs sung about the Grim Reaper. All of this plays into the fright we have come Halloween and skeletons ruling the night.

Even though many medical practitioners did not puzzle over the skeleton to the same degree that they did with other parts of the body, they all recognized their cultural as well as scientific importance.  By the end of the sixteenth century, skeletons had become the quintessential image of anatomy.  But they also continued to be an image of death, in the form of a grim reaper brought to life by the skill of the anatomist. 

Skeletons have even found a place in the Japanese Manga comics via a Batman Script

It was thought that if buried with a stone in the mouth of the person who was feared, it would keep them from coming back as a zombie.  A skeleton disturbing the peace of the current world.




Spanish Stitch

Spanish Stitch can also be called the Plait Stitch and often misnamed the Herringbone.  But some think Holbein when they hear Spanish stitch, which can also be called double running stitch. So which one do you think of when you hear Spanish Stitch? 

For our example today and in this chart we are using the Spanish Stitch that can be called Plait stitch as well.  This densely formed stitch has a braided raised appearance. It was a common stitch found on many early American samplers.

This stitch is popular in canvas work and there it is used with a thicker thread to create a dense filled and raised stitch. It can be used for outlines or for filling in large areas and backgrounds.  The horizontal rows are worked from left to right over two horizontal threads.  

You can see examples of this stitch in Eileen Bennett's book, the Red Book of Sampler Stitches and in Jan Eaton's, The Complete Stitch Encyclopedia as well as here. (scroll down to Plait Stitch).

Julie used the Spanish Stitch on the tombstone in her design.  As always, click on the picture of the chart to go to our Freebie page on our website, or click on Freebies on the side panel.  Enjoy your stitching!


We are coming quickly to the end of the year. How does the time fly by so quickly? I hope you have all finished putting the last stitches in your new holiday ornaments and gifts that you have been stitching for friends and family. Some of mine didn't quite make it but will hopefully be ready for next year. I have a head start now.



We thank you all for coming along with us on our journey here on the blog and supporting us in the fun we have creating our unique gifts for all of you.  We hope you all have a wonderful holiday season with hopefully some time to start that new project on New Years day! I know many like to begin a special project on the first of January. 
Scissors have many superstitions surrounding them. Don't use your scissors on New Years Day or you will cut your good fortune in half!  So when you start that new project on New Years Day, don't cut your threads!!!! We want to help to make the New Year start a bit brighter by offering a drawing for a set of our new Mademoiselles Peacock Accoutrements.  Just make a comment on this post by the 31st of  December and on January 1st we will draw the lucky winner.  

 


Remember it's not too late to sign up for "Tokens Of Friendship", you have until January 15th to get your subscription in to become one of the lucky ones to have a unique surprise only available to members, sent to them four times a year.  See the web site for details on how to join in the fun.



Monday, December 12, 2011

Philadelphia!


Photo by Barbara Rombold-Gillies

Day three of our adventure took us back into Philadelphia. Today our group expanded to include three friends from Canada who had arrived for the event at Winterthur as well.   Our first stop was at the Philadelphia Museum of Art  , The Dorrance H. Hamilton Center for Costume and Textiles at the Perelman Building where their study rooms are.  

Photo by Barbara Rombold-Gillies
Kristina Haugland met us with several items she had pulled from their collection. We had made several requests for pieces that our group knew they would like to see and she pulled a few she felt we would enjoy as well.  


The Philadelphia Art Museum has over 500 samplers in all and this does not include the silk pictures, small accessory items such as wallet, and other sewing trinkets or caskets.

I must say that I took very little notes here! Hopefully the photos will do it all justice. Needless to say we were all like kids in the best candy store in town. Keeping our hands behind our backs, we tried to keep from reaching out and touching and trying not to drool on any of the exquisite pieces.  We wish we could show you our photos but of course, the museum was very gracious in allowing us to take photographs, but stipulated that they could be for our personal study purposes only.  I like to think that the venues we visit are happy to see us come and take our photos for our studies, and I know they appreciate it when we follow the rules they set out.  

It is hard to pick a favorite, but seeing the casket up close and personal and having Kristina open many of the special drawers and hidey holes right in front of us was pretty exciting.  There were two purses that I enjoyed as well and the 18th c. Italian purse one had a great double ruching around the edge that made for a great presentation of the piece.

Those were Becky's favorites - Julie had long been hoping to see some of the samplers from the Whitman collection that are now part of the museum's huge number of sampler holdings.  Seeing Mary Wiggin's sampler in person was wonderful - she completely stitched the background on her sampler - in black!  A lot of the rest of the stitching is in pink, which makes for a very striking statement!  Another absolute beauty is Elizabeth Burton!  This is a Juda Hayle sampler - and to my mind, the most beautiful one out there!  I remember first seeing a reproduction of this sampler in a needlework store.  It was spectacular!  You can still see (and purchase) this chart at The Essamplaire in Canada, which you can reach from your seat in front of the computer via the online store.  The link on Juda Hayle's name takes you to the Scarlet Letter's site where there is a description of the Juda Hayle school, and some other reproductions featured.

We both loved a truly wonderful piece of Hollie Point and Reticellia work so fine it is hard to imagine accomplishing the work.

Photo by Barbara Rombold-Gillies
If you go to the Perleman, notice the beautiful motifs around the door.  Many you might see on a sampler. A lady from the museum told us that they all had meanings to the insurance company that originally owned the building. But of course the pen was put away at that time and do you think I can remember them! 


Photo by Barbara Rombold-Gillies
Even though we can't show you our photos of the collection pieces we saw, you can search the collections on line and find many of the pieces in their collections there.  Each of the links in our description takes you to the search results page for that item on the Philadelphia Museum of Art's website


Photo by Barbara Rombold-Gillies
We then worked our way into town and stopped for a bite of lunch. The day had turned to a beautiful Fall day, with bright skies and lovely for walking. So we left the cars parked and worked our way down the road towards our destination.  There were many interesting shops along the way that caught our attention. We tried desperately to talk Lynne into a special pair of shoes! 

M. Finkel & Daughter was our next stop.  Amy Finkel welcomed all those attending the Winterthur Symposium to an open house at her shop.  Amy is one of the premier sampler dealers in the United States.  
Photo by Barbara Rombold-Gillies
Her shop is always full of wonderful examples of American, English and Continental samplers.  Amy researches her pieces when possible to find the provenance of the pieces and any information that is of interest about the maker and her family. You can visit many of her current selections on line at their web site.   Amy also produces a wonderful catalog called "Samplings" that you can subscribe to and is very useful as a study tool.  

Off we went back to Delaware, we were like kids at Christmastime our heads full of needlework and waiting for the morning when Winterthur's Symposium would begin!   Most of the outdoor pictures on our trip were taken by our friend Barbara Rombold-Gillies.  Julie's camera was always set for close-ups of needlework, so she left it to others to capture the city and excitement around us.  Barbara did a great job!  Her photography is always great and she features a lot of it on her blog, 1thread.  You should check it out!

Even while we're still appreciating the fun we had on our last trip, the opportunity for a very exciting trip hit our blog readers this morning!  Jacqueline Holdsworth of Needleprint is working on a new event in conjunction with an exhibit of the Feller Collection at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.  Mary Brooks is to be the guest curator.  Aaaaaahhhhh!  The planning on this is so early the dates haven't been set yet, but I've already been scoping out airfare prices to England.  Julie was so lucky to be part of the first Ackworth gathering that Jacqueline arranged.  This time, we're both determined to make the trip!  Watch Jacqueline's blog for updates, and click on her flying angel to email her to let her know you'd like to be notified when registration opens! 

Remember there is still time to shop our web site for those last minute stocking stuffers and gifts! We have a lovely new set of  "Mademoiselle's Peacock Accoutrements" perfect for your favorite stitching friend or yourself.  Shipping is by priority mail, so you can still receive it in time for Christmas.  For a gift that lasts all year long, give our "Tokens of Friendship"!  Lovely surprise gifts arrive in the mail four times a year, all wrapped and tied with a bow! These gifts will only be available to those who are participants in the "Tokens of Friendship" program.  Let us be your secret Santa and we will send your friend or loved one a message of your choosing to help keep the mystery alive! 
We hope you are all enjoying this holiday season with your family and friends. Julie and I are looking forward to our annual holiday tea celebration of another year together "In The Company of Friends" and seeing many of our friends at gatherings as well. We thank you all for sharing with us here on the blog and on our web site.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Christmas is Still Coming!





Julie and I would like to wish you all a very "Happy Holiday" season with your family and friends! We thank you all so very much once again this year for your continued support of our business. We enjoy so much what we do, but that joy wouldn't be half as much fun if we didn't have all of you to share our creations with. So first and foremost thank you.  We hope you are all looking forward to the New Year and all it has to hold.


Last time, we talked a bit about What's New over at our sales website.  You responded, and the boxes are sold out!  Thank you to everyone for your support - we will be working on a new boxed set early in the new year.  If your heart is absolutely set on a boxed set, fear not - there will be more soon, and we are so excited about the new design we have in mind!  We will also do a bit larger run of them, as we think they'll be very popular!



Our Tokens of Friendship program is also proving quite popular - you don't want to miss out - you have until January 15th to sign up - don't be late!

The last three new gift items that want to join your other favorite stitching tools are part of "Mademoiselle's Peacock Accoutrements"  all adorned with beautiful cranberry ribbons that add a festive touch and a wonderful peacock motif. 

We have a "Shoe"  with thimble heel, and beautiful crystal head pins and needles ready to help you stitch a special gift. 



We have a "Glove" that holds the scissors you need to clip the threads of those special gifts you are stitching madly



and we have a "Pocket" with a set of peacock pins, peacock counter and needles ready to take with you on your journey.  

All of these are wonderful little gifts to pop into the mail or wrap up for your stitching friends, or slip under the tree for yourself!


We can still ship items to get to you in time for Christmas giving, so hurry on over and see What's New at In the Company of Friends!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Christmas is Coming!

Yes, Christmas is coming and naturally, our first thoughts turn to a sky filled with menacing birds?????  Ah - R is for Raven - but more of that later!




First Julie and I would like to wish you all a very "Happy Holiday" season with your family and friends! We thank you all so very much once again this year for your continued support of our business. We enjoy so much what we do, but that joy wouldn't be half as much fun if we didn't have all of you to share our creations with. So first and foremost thank you.  We hope you are all looking forward to the New Year and all it has to hold.

We have been like little elves working in the workroom to finish up several special items perfect for the gift giving holidays and they are ready to share with you!  I am so excited, I don't know where to start, if you don't want to listen to me go on and on, just head over to the web-site and go directly to our What's New page and you will see right away what we have been working on.

First for our box lovers, we have another limited edition toy box full of all the little needlework accessories we enjoy creating. This box is called "Honeysuckle Cottage" and is in beautiful shades of deep dusty rose.  There are Peacocks poking out all over this season, you will see more in our other selections as well.  This box contains a beautiful hand painted ivory ruler, so we are sorry, but it can only be delivered to addresses in the United States.  There are four mini charts in a tiny book, a needle book with decorated pins, a thread palette with coordinating threads, a peacock pin-keep, shell waxer and more you must see to enjoy fully.   Remember each box is unique in that they are faux grain painted, so each is a individual creation.  This is a limited edition and when they are gone, they're gone!  Update:  They're gone!  Thank you to everyone for your support - we will be working on a new boxed set early in the new year.




A Token of Friendship: A tribute of friendship; something by which the friendship of another person is to be kept in mind; a memento; a souvenir.

Treat yourself or surprise a friend.  Better yet, ask Santa to give you a year's worth of surprises with our new program "Tokens of Friendship". In the past, many stitched gifts were exchanged as tokens of friendship.  We find needle-books, pin-balls, wallets, pin-keeps, lovely scissors holders and more that were given to commemorate a friendship in some way, and we love these heartfelt little mementos.

Our year-long program will bring a beautiful wrapped token to your door or the door of a friend you might want to gift with a subscription.  The token will only be available to those who are subscribed to the "Tokens of Friendship" program. These unique special tokens will not be available for sale on our web site or anywhere else. The designs will be created just for those lucky enough to be in the limited edition subscription program.

What a wonderful way to bring happiness for a whole year to yourself or someone special to you.  We are ready and willing to help bring surprises and keep secrets!

The last three new gift items that want to join your other favorite stitching tools are part of "Mademoiselle's Peacock Accoutrements"  all adorned with beautiful cranberry ribbons that add a festive touch and a wonderful peacock motif. 

We have a "Shoe"  with thimble heel, and beautiful crystal head pins and needles ready to help you stitch a special gift. 



We have a "Glove" that holds the scissors you need to clip the threads of those special gifts you are stitching madly



and we have a "Pocket" with a set of peacock pins, peacock counter and needles ready to take with you on your journey.  

All of these are wonderful little gifts to pop into the mail or wrap up for your stitching friends, or slip under the tree for yourself!

It's been some time since we have added a letter to our dark alphabet and we don't like to disappoint our friends, so here we are with another deeply disturbing installment!

R is for Raven and Rice Stitch

If men had wings and bore black feathers,
few of them would be clever enough to be crows.
- Rev. Henry Ward Beecher



Every country seems to have folklore regarding the raven. Below are just a few to give you an idea of the varied stories that surround this distinct bird.

Native American

Black, to Native Americans, is a color of magical power, and only to be feared if misused.  The Raven symbolizes the void - the mystery of that which is not yet formed.  Ravens are symbolic of the Black Hole in Space, which draws in all energy toward itself and releases it in new forms.  The iridescent blue and green that can be seen in the glossy black feathers of the raven represents the constant change of forms and shapes that emerge from the vast blackness of the void.  In Native American tradition, Raven is the guardian of both ceremonial magic and healing circles. She is also the patron of smoke signals.

Raven at the Headwaters of Nass hat,Seattle Art Museum, attributed toKadyisdu.axch', Tlingit, Kiks.√°di clan, active late 18th - early 19th century. There are human figures crouching within Raven's ears.

Australian

In Aborigine mythology, the Raven tried to steal fire from the seven sisters (the Pleides), and was charred black in the unsuccessful attempt.


Hebrew/Christian

In the Hebrew/Christian tradition ravens were considered unclean, representing impurity, mortification, destruction, deceit, and desolation.  Ravens were cursed by Noah for not returning to the ark with news of the flood receding. Yet, conversely, the Bible also says that ravens were the protectors of the prophets; they fed Elijah and Paul the Hermit in the wilderness.  Also, ravens helped St. Cuthbert and St. Bernard.  In contradictory Christian traditions, ravens represent the solitude of the holy hermits, yet also the souls of wicked priests and witches.

Northern Europe

The pagan Danes and Vikings used the raven banner on their ships, in Odin's honor.  These flags, usually sewn by the daughters of great warriors and kings, were tokens of luck on their voyages.  Houses where ravens nested were also thought to be lucky.




In England, tombstones are sometimes called "ravenstones".


In Cornwall, as in England, King Arthur is said to live on in the form of a raven, and it is unlucky to shoot one.

This site goes on to tell of raven magic and more symbolism.  They also share many poems and verses regarding the raven and this site also shares many stories of lore and symbolism from various countries as well as several images of these stories.



And of course we have Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven". Here is one site that helps us decode that famous poem.  " Nevermore," Mournful and never-ending remembrance.


The Rice Stitch

Other names that you might find the rice stitch masquerading under are the cross corners cross stitch and William and Mary Stitch. 

The rice stitch came to America from England and was a common stitch in the 16th century. One of the well known teachers, Mary (Polly) Balch who taught in Providence Rhode Island, perpetuated the use of the Rice Stitch on samplers. 

Many times this stitch was used in borders and incorporated two colors, one for the cross and one for the legs completing the stitch..  You can see more history and diagrams of the Rice Stitch and variations in Eileen Bennett's book, the Red Book of Sampler Stitches.  Inaminuteago.com has a nice description and diagram, as does KreinikBag Lady inStitches has a blog post with a very fine example of Rice Stitch used in a contemporary sampler.

Julie used the rice stitch over two to form the hillock the raven stands on.  If you are stitching your project over one, complete the rice stitches over two and adjust the number to suit.  There is enough empty space on the design to compensate for any changes in size of the hillock.

Have fun and enjoy this festive time of year! 

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