Thursday, March 31, 2011

Cross Stitch a Coven

A dark Cave. In the middle, a Caldron boiling. Thunder.
Enter the three Witches.
 Thrice the brinded cat hath mew'd.
Thrice and once, the hedge-pig whin'd.
 Harpier cries:—'tis time! 'tis time! 
Round about the caldron go; 
    In the poison'd entrails throw.— 
    Toad, that under cold stone, 
    Days and nights has thirty-one; 
    Swelter'd venom sleeping got, 
    Boil thou first i' the charmed pot! 
        Double, double toil and trouble; 
    Fire burn, and caldron bubble.
William Shakespeare - Macbeth 

The next letter in the dark alphabet Julie has designed for us is “C” for Coven and Cross Stitch.  Below are some short descriptions of both for you to enjoy.

An assembly of witches, usually 13
A family or group of people with similar interests.

Thesaurus entry:  Coven (n) – an assembly of witches; usually 13 witches
Assembly – a group of persons who are gathered together for a common purpose
Witch – a being (usually female) imagined to have special powers derived from the devil.

And yes, there are still covens practicing today. An online search showed several active groups. As in other belief systems, there are a variety of directions a coven can take depending on the direction the high priestess or priest takes the group.  So I guess if you are interested, shop around and find the one that is right for you and make sure you are ready for a commitment.  I found one site that goes over what questions you should ask and what you should look for if you are interested in finding a coven right for you… there should be no requirement of sexual rituals. Whoa, glad for that!

Internet Resources on Covens: Here are a few of the links, there are many if you Google coven for further information or research.

Cross Stitch:

Cross Stitch is my absolute favorite of all the counted thread stitches. It’s relaxing in the repetition and rhythm that you develop as you stitch it.  But how do you stitch your cross stitch and what name do you call it by? This stitch by far is the easiest and has the most varied directions of all of the stitches commonly used.

Did you learn to cross stitch in the continental method, the Danish method, the English method…..

Do you make half of a cross all the way across a row before coming back and completing it in the other direction or do you complete each stitch as you go?  And make sure your top crosses completing the stitch are all going in the same direction!
Do you cross stitch over two, possibly three or of course for those with good eye-sight over one!

Do you call it Cross Stitch, Berlin, Gros Point, Point de Croix, Point de Marque or Sampler Stitch?  We also have the Marking Stitch or Reversible Cross Stitch, which also can be found to be called Brave Bred, Double Sided Cross, Point de Croix Sans Evers, Sampler Stitch and Two-sided Cross Stitch.

And then there are variations of the stitch, ¼ Cross Stitch, ½ Cross Stitch, Long-Armed Cross Stitch, Upright Cross Stitch, Diagonal Cross Stitch,  Double Cross Stitch, even the Montenegrin Cross Stitch, and the Plaited cross stitch to name a few.

Do you start in the middle and work your way out? Do you start at the top left and work your way across? Do you start at the bottom left and work your way up? Do you start on the right?

Cross Stitch is predominantly used in many countries to adorn their native costumes, home furnishings and church vestments.  It is the first stitch many young girls learned as they were taught to embroider and mark their home linens and clothing at an early age and then this stitch led them into their first sampler-making. 

Instructions for cross stitching were not only given in school, but by 1882 they had moved into print in Caulfeild and Saward’s Dictionarty of Needlework, in which a paragraph is devoted to the subject. As you can see if you enjoy Cross Stitch as a counted thread stitch there is a vast history available to learn more information on this simple stitch and the life it has had throughout history.

Book Resources:

Internet Resources:

How to Do Cross Stitch:

There are many more sources - these are just a few to get you started.


Click on the picture to take you to the Dark Alphabet page.

As a side note - I intend to stitch my alphabet on a dark grey linen, but if you are stitching on something lighter, you might want to "fill in" the sky with a midnight blue shade, as we all know that "when witches go riding" it's dark outside!

Click on "Freebies" on the sidebar to take you to other freebies we've offered.

The contest is over - thank you so much to everyone who made a comment - we love to hear from you!  We'll announce the winners next time!
And here's a notice we received - we put it on the calendar, but it's worth a special mention.
Embroiderer's Guild of America presents the International Embroidery Conference:  Embroidery of the Americas and the Influence of Colonization

September 8-10, 2011 at the Naples Grande Beach Resort, Naples, Florida

Registration Information and details at;  you do not have to be a member of EGA to attend.

See you next time!


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Stitch By Many Names

Flame Stitch, or is it Bargello, Cushion, Florentine, Hungarian Point, Irish or Tapestry? What name do you prefer for this popular straight stitch used throughout history and through many cultures?  The thread colors are the stars of this stitch, producing the pattern as it is stitched. 

Called flame stitch in the 16th century, it was used on many of the men's pocketbooks that we find examples of today. It is also on band samplers where a variety of stitches are shown.  Irish stitch was by far the most used canvas work stitch used during the 17th and 18th centuries if we can judge by the written documentation and examples that have been found.   It's popularity lay in the rapid progress for stitching and covering an area over 3 or  4 threads of the canvas versus one.  

In the 18th century it appeared on samplers reflecting the popularity of embroidered upholstery for chairs and furnishings. In the 19th century, it was a common stitch worked on canvas and considered to be one of the four main stitches of colonial American embroidery (the other three being cross, Queen and tent stitches).  In the 20th century the term flame stitch began being used, probably for the design it created appearing flame like. There is a note in one book that it was after the 1880's that it began to be known as Bargello, Florentine or Hungarian Stitch, as a Hungarian Princess is one of the people credited with the invention of this technique. The bride of a Medici, she brought this work with her to Florence in the 15th century and employed it to cover chairs now in the old Bargello Palace in Florence

This stitch was favored by the early Pennsylvania Dutch and German settlers in America,  and we find many examples on pocketbooks, needle cases, pincushions and Bible covers.  This stitch was also seen on many Scottish and Mexican samplers. So who used it first? Who learned from whom? Was this passed around through trade routes and travel?

These stitches give you strong geometrical designs, varied by the length of the stitch and the number of stitches in the repeat.  The Hungarian Point differs by the use of long and short stitches to create the design, where in Florentine you use the same length of stitch throughout, changing the design by the placement of the stitch, moving it up or down to create the flame, diamond or other geometrical pattern.

I have found different sources that say one name was used in one century and another saying that name wasn't used until a different century....on several of these variations in names used for this stitch. I have found that most of the earlier sources first called it Irish stitch. But I think what matters the most is to recognize that it was a stitch used throughout our history in many variations of name and style but with the same overall effect.  So now you can watch for this stitch and see how many examples you can find where it was used and you can choose the name you prefer to call it by. Here we like Flame stitch, it just goes so well with our primitive alphabet that Julie has designed.

You can find this stitch diagramed in many of your favorite stitch dictionaries and also in several of the books listed below as well as on line. It is a fun stitch to do and to create designs with, choosing your favorite colors for dramatic effects.  Find a piece of graph paper, box of colored pencils and have some fun creating a "Flame stitch" of your very own.

Book Sources: (This is only a few, many more are available)

This book helps you design your own patterns in Florentine Embroidery as well as giving you many design variations to use.

Internet Sources:


B is for...... Brimstone!  

Here is Part Two of the Dark Alphabet, featuring a section of flame stitch!  For those who are disappointed that Beelzebub didn't make his appearance here, take heart - the gentleman is known by many different names - we can't do a dark alphabet without him, and he will show up soon, I'm sure...

We have 150 followers!  We are so very grateful for our followers - you help to make the blog a fun and interesting site...  To say thanks, we're doing a giveaway - we have a Gallery Guide for the exhibit:  Middle Tennessee Samplers - "This My Name Shall Ever Have", at the James K. Polk Presidential Hall in Columbia, TN.  The exhibit opened on December 17 and runs until April 10, 2011.   But, we have not just one gallery guide to give away - we have 15!  That's one for every 10 followers!  To win a copy of this terrific guide, leave a comment on the blog.  (Hint - from the number of comments we've had on other posts, you have a VERY GOOD CHANCE of winning if you leave a post.)  And thank you, from the bottom of our hearts!


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Primitive Feeling

Lisa Roswell of The Primitive Needle was a delightful person - even though I never actually met her, I corresponded with her on several occasions and she was always friendly and gracious.  I loved following her blog, and was proud to count her among our followers here at A Note of Friendship.  Her sudden death was such a shock to everyone who knew her.   So many people had just seen her at Market where she'd unveiled her newest designs.  Like her other pieces, they were lively, quirky and quintessentially "Lisa"!  Her voice and her art will be sorely missed.

I have been toying with a quirky idea of my own for some time - a Dark Alphabet - one strongly influenced by the Hallowe'en trend we've seen over the last few years.  So here is my first letter in the Dark Alphabet series - a series dedicated to the memory of Lisa Roswell.

A is for Apple

To download a free copy of this chart click here.  After a new posting comes along, you will be able to find this chart under "Freebies" and as new letters are added, we will keep the listing up to date.

As you can see by the fact that we don't have a proper picture, I haven't stitched this yet, but I have decided to do it on Lakeside Linens' Vintage Tarnished Silver on 28 count.  I'm doing all the letters  together on one piece, for a spooktacular Hallowe'en Alphabet, and I think that linen will be perfect.  I've suggested DMC colors for you, but I urge you choose your own and really personalize this piece.  I'll be stitching with variegated silks, I think - I always love the truly antique look that gives...

I hope you like the Dark Alphabet.  Now, what shall we do for B - Beelzebub?  Brimstone?  Hmmmmm

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Jane Austen was here... and so was I!

Do you love Jane Austen?  Me too - and while Pride and Prejudice is wonderful in all ways, I also love Persuasion - not least because it is set, in part, in Bath - a town Jane Austen knew very well from living there.  I love her descriptions of the society there.  In the late 1990's my husband and I traveled through England and part of Scotland, and we loved Bath.  The way they have preserved the Roman Baths as well as the Georgian and Regency rooms and buildings is wonderful.  If you can't travel there today, you can, at least, take a tour.  (This is really nifty).

Click on the Pump Room Tour and you will see the Pump Room itself, with red arrows to click to see the other rooms, the baths - even the King's private lounge and bath!  Make sure you have Flash installed and enjoy the tours!

Have fun!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Hampton Court

I know I haven't posted as much as I should - and feel doubly "guilty" by using some of the posts that I put on my travel blog a few years ago, but since that trip was all about samplers, I figured it would be alright. But before I do, I want to let you know that we have only one Blueberry Hill Boxed Set left!  We made a lot of those, and they seemed to be around for a long time, but this is your last chance, hahaha.   

One of the highlights of our trip was Hampton Court.  Unfortunately, I do not have permission to show any pictures of the samplers I saw there, but I can tell you about it and show some pictures of Hampton Court as we saw it.  It was a beautiful spot!

Oh, what a wonderful day we've had at Hampton Court Palace! Up early and off for the tube and a little figuring to see which train to get and where. Take the District Line to Wimbledon where you change to the train for Hampton Court, don't you know. As we waited in Wimbledon for the train (due in two minutes), another train came along and a woman beside us jumped on it and yelled to us "if you want Hampton Court, you'd best get on this train, NOW!" Well, I don't normally take strangers yelling at me too seriously, but she seemed so earnest and otherwise normal, so we were all worried.

Then it became clear that, in fact, dozens of trains had been cancelled that morning, and we might very well not get our train, but in another minute, here it was, it stopped and we all got on, so it was all right. We might have gotten the last train! But we were just where and when we needed to be, so it was all right.

The palace is just a five minute walk from the train station, and we  

strolled in about 11 a.m. I had my appointment with the Embroiderer's Guild at 2, so we had time to look at some of the exhibits. There were at least five million school children there, so we usually looked to see what didn't seem to be teeming with them to decide what to do. First, we walked through the apartments of William III - very interesting - they've been kept up and furnished just as he had them, and you could almost feel how intimidating the rooms would have been for those kept waiting in hopes of seeing the king. 

After a lovely stroll through the Orangery and a look out at the newly refurbished (since our last visit in 1994, anyway) private garden, we thought we'd best get some lunch. 

Down this hallway, through that archway, you come to the only heated room in the palace - the coffee shop! It was so nice and warm in there, we dawdled as we placed our order and then moved into the lunch room which was, again, unheated, to eat our grilled sandwiches. Then, I left Vern in the beautiful chapel (with many gorgeous kneelers that had been embroidered by the Embroiderer's Guild) to contemplate what he may, while I went off to my appointment. I had about 15 minutes, so took a quick tour through the Tudor Kitchens first - and enjoyed that thoroughly. I'm sure my sandwich was handled a bit more properly, hahaha.

I had hoped to see the Royal School of Needlework, which is also here in Hampton Court, but they didn't have any appointments for open study days while we were here, so the Embroiderer's Guild it is!  This is my one chance and I'm going to make the most of it!
At two o'clock, I was being ushered into a private study room with eight samplers laid out for my perusal. There were four whitework samplers and four were either polychrome or had both poly and monochrome sections. All were 17th Century Band samplers - I had asked for those and orphan samplers, but they don't have any in their collection, so I 'made do', hahaha. They were exquisite! I was given a listing of all pertinent information (but they forgot that Americans like to know the names of the makers) on each sampler, and was allowed to take lots of pictures for my own study! So while I can't show them on the internet, I will definitely be able to relive this lovely afternoon spent in the company of a group of young girls from the 1600's! The work on each was absolutely amazing - beautiful, detailed motifs and bands on the finest of linens. The whitework was unimaginable - even with a magnifying glass I couldn't make out how they were done. I saw the backs of them, too - and most were completely reversible - and so neat and tidy, they certainly shamed me!

All too soon, I had to say goodbye to them and went off to join Vern again in the Chapel. We went upstairs then, to see King Henry VIII's rooms (what's left of them - they were mostly destroyed by William III), and then the Queen's Apartments (William III's wife). By the time we came out, it was getting dark and they were closing up the palace.

A short walk back to the train station, and we had about a half-hour to wait for the train back to London - which then went very quickly - we were home in less than an hour. And so tired after all that time. While you're in the palace, it's really not "indoors" - nothing is heated and you need your coat, believe it! So it was like we were outdoors all day. It certainly made us tired!

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