Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Another Wonderful Day in Pennsylvania

Wednesday we headed to Chester County Historical Society, where we were joined by two of our longtime friends from the area that we are so happy to see whenever we have a chance to come to the area. Kathy Lesieur who brought us the exhibit of Berks County Samplers several years ago and Candace Perry curator of the Schwenkfelder Library and HistoricalSociety, who gave us the opportunity to publish their collection several years ago and also create several special pieces from their collection as gift items. 

L-R - Beth, Becky, Kathy, Barbara, Julie, Lynne and Candace
Photo courtesy of Barbara Rombold-Gillies

Ellen Endslow greeted us with a wonderful selection of samplers from their large collection of over 200 pieces.  Above, you can see us excitedly gathered to look through the samplers.  You can almost see us waiting for someone to shout "go!".  This photo and several others are from our friend Barbara - and you can see more of her great photos on her blog, 1Thread.  You can see from the photo what delights might await you if you make arrangements at some of these places - it's an amazing array, isn't it?

First Ellen gave us a wonderful overview of Chester County and how the area came to be and some of the special pieces held in their collection. The county was founded in 1681 with a significant Welsh population as well as Quaker influences.  Typical samplers from the area are multi-colored with bands, relatively narrow with meandering borders. They included alphabets, verses and names and were usually rectangular in shape. Most of the samplers are silk on linen ground with a few wool on linen ground.   The famous teacher Ann Marsh from Philadelphia died in Chester County. At her death she had $1209.19 pounds in probate. This was quite a sum for a woman who had never married. She taught sewing primarily.

One thing we learned here was what we had been calling the pendulum tulip on Quaker samplers is actually a Bluebell. You see these on both Westtown and Ackworth samplers.

Rebecca Jones visted Ackworth school and brought back information to help the Philadelphia-area Quakers establish Westtown School.  If you enjoy needlework from the Quaker traditions you will want to visit Chester County HistoricalSociety between December 2, 2011 and September 7, 2012, when they will display a large collection from both their own examples and those of Westtown school. The exhibit is called "In Stitches: Unraveling Their Stories"For more information about the exhibit contact Chester County Historical Society, 610-692-4800 or; or Mary Brooks, Westtown's Archivist, 610-399-7834 or

We saw many beautiful pieces and it was hard to choose a favorite as usual.  A couple of special pieces were a Dresden work piece by Elizabeth Taylor 1785 with a sawtooth border and insets of needle-lace.   One motif typical of the area are geographical trees formed with lines increasing in width, looking very triangular or increasing and then decreasing and looking very diamond like. 

There were also some German style samplers with motifs all over including people, which isn't typical of the West Chester Area. 

From here we journey down the street to a delight for our taste buds, to discuss what we had viewed and to catch up with our old friends! The Lincoln Room serves tea and light fare. We all indulged in the Tea for Two, with delicious sandwiches, scones and treats as well as pots of tea. We floated out of here saturated in so many ways. But the day was not done and there was more to see!

We drove a short distance to Historic Sugartown and the wonderful shop, Van Tassel/ Baumann Antiques 

where we were greeted by Ruth Van Tassel and her Husband Donald Baumann. They are one of the leading dealers in Needlework Samplers in the United States.  They always have a beautiful selection of both American and European needlework, and are welcoming to all - not only those  interested in buying, but anyone studying the history of these special pieces.  Ruth is very knowledgeable and shares that knowledge graciously. They research their pieces and document them as much as they possibly can.  Ruth keeps many notebooks and records for future use.  The warm atmosphere and personalities are a treat for anyone visiting this area.  Julie and I found so many treasures we wished we could bring home! Three girls did make their journey to Washington and you will see them in future products of "In The Company of Friends".  They are going to knock your socks off when you see what we create for you with these special pieces. I know, what a tease! It will be worth the wait.

That concludes our second day on the road.  You can see we are on the run when we travel to get to as much as we can while we are in the area. There is never enough time, but that always means we will just have to make another trip in the future.  We hope you are enjoying your armchair travels with us.  Next we will have another installment of the Dark Alphabet with the letter "R".  We hope that this week brings you much Thanksgiving with your friends and family. We are very thankful for all of you who join us here on the blog, who support us in our endeavors with In The Company of Friends and everyone we are lucky enough to call friend.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Stenton House, Wyck House and Germantown!

Our first stop on our excursion to Philadelphia was at Stenton House, where Laura Keim graciously gave us her morning to lead us through the home and relate the history as well as show us some of the special needlework held there.  

Stenton was the country house of James Logan. 

 It was built in the 1720's and was named after a village in Scotland where his father was born.  Mr. Logan met William Penn in England and in 1699 accompanied him to Philadelphia. He became a leading man in Pennsylvania when Penn returned to England. Logan was a Quaker. He was a politician, scientist and scholar.  His son William inherited Stenton after his father's death. William died on the eve of America's fight for independence leaving Stenton unoccupied by Logans during the American Revolution.  The house was used for headquarters by General Washington and British General Howe. After the revolution James' grandson George Logan and his wife came to live at Stenton.   In 1899 The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania became the stewards of Stenton.  They opened it to the public in 1900. This stewardship has encouraged research and much of life in the 18th century has been interpreted from these findings.

You will enjoy many beautiful furnishings as you tour the home and gardens here. There have been excavations from the grounds that have yielded china from the 1760's and these are displayed for you to see in the dining area. 

There are notes regarding Iroquois Indians who came to do trade and would camp at Stenton House. Many diaries and such were kept and these have given great detail to those who have been involved in the research and restoration of this beautiful home.  Included in this were records from Hannah Logan Smith on her expenses that listed sewing supplies for a wallet for John Smith made by her when they were courting in 1744.

The needlework we enjoyed here was a couple of samplers one by Mary Logan and one by Hannah Haines. We also viewed a queen stitch pin ball, a needle roll with pin-keep, a wallet and a quilt.

Laura next took us to the other location under her curatorship, Wyck House - one of the oldest homes in Philadelphia.  It was built around 1690 and grew as additions were made through the 18th century.  Hans Milan a Quaker from Germany was the first to occupy Wyck House.  Many generations have lived in this home, from the Haines and Wister families, most notably.  The families are still involved in the home and community.  There is an extensive historic rose garden and beautiful grounds.  There are many programs offered for the community here that continues the use of the gardens and grounds.  

The needlework treasures we viewed here are too numerous to list but we will highlight a few. 

- Margaret Wister silk sconce from 1738 when she was 9 years old. Silk Thread on silk using long and short stitch. 

-Ann Haines 1804 from Westtown. Quaker Floral motifs with birds and squirrels.
-  Lucy Turpin, a freed slave aged 11 years New York 1815 Stitched for Jane B Haines a member of the female Association

- Ann Haines Extract 1804 Westtown Boarding School - this was shown in Betty Ring's book
- Sarah Haines was Ruben Hines' oldest and was studying at a school in France 1824, did two samplers at the age of 11.  She died of a fever over a 10-day period.
- Hannah Marshall small band sampler 1776

Many wonderful needlework smalls and treasures and of course our time ran over and there was more to see! 

We can't show pictures of everything we saw, but we were lucky to get permission to blog and show these photos to you.  When you visit small museums and historical societies like this, always remember to respect their rules.  Ask permission to take photographs for your own study, and don't publish pictures online unless you have been given express permission to do so.  We were thrilled when Laura said - "please blog"!   Remember that light is needlework's enemy -don't use your flash, and don't handle anything - the oils in your skin can be disastrous for textiles.  Always ask your docent to turn a piece over or move it to a better spot.  

We dashed from Wyck on to Germantown Historical Society where we joined Elizabeth Solomon and one of her lovely docents to enjoy the special needlework in their collection. 

The Society currently serves as the home of Historic Germantown, a partnership between fourteen Germantown organizations joined by a common mission to provide knowledge and resources to help preserve Germantown's historic sites, interpret them to the public, and incorporate them into the life of the local community. Germantown's story is the story of founding and settlement, religious freedom and tolerance, patriotism, abolitionism, architectural excellence, industry, and community service

I have to admit my note taking became more of a list of names than details here, I was so overwhelmed by this time after lunch and our third stop of the day! There were Westtown samplers, others with Quaker motifs,

one commemorating the Battle of Tripoli in 1804 by Sarah Brland stitched in 1826, a beautiful hollie point and reticella piece by Amy Lewis in 1759 with a 9-patch layout and buttonhole stitch flowers in the center, lined with blue satin to show off the intricate work. Several other pieces drifted by as we oohed and aahed and then to top it off a few of their prized crazy quilts with wonderful embroidery accents were brought out for our dessert so to say.  We again ran short on time and kept our wonderful hostesses over their scheduled time.  They were so kind to share with us and we enjoyed it so very much.  

Saturated with beauty, we headed to their suggested dinner location, The Valley Green Inn.  It is located in the Wissahickon Valley of Fairmount Park in the city of Philadelphia.  It is one of the last remaining roadhouses and the beautiful setting along the creek is a charming location. 

The food was delicious and the service friendly and leisurely. It was just the perfect way to end our first day. 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Q is for Queen of the Night

If  you have been waiting impatiently for the next letter in the alphabet, wait no more!  We are lucky to find ourselves with lots to do and talk about, so we will intersperse a review of our travels and wonderful embroideries we saw with the letters in the Dark Alphabet.  Julie is hoping to finish off the alphabet by the end of January, which will leave us time and space to talk of what we saw on our most recent trip, as well as any new things that come up, and poor Pandora has been languishing away in Colonial America wondering what will happen to her next!  But for now, the stitch you knew was coming, yet dreaded at the same time, right?  The Queen Stitch!  But fear not - Becky has found two "Q" stitches, and while the Quodlibet stitch looks just as complex, I'm thinking it will be a little easier to do, and give a very similar look.  So if you don't want to use the Queen stitch, you have a good substitute!

There are several versions of the story of the "Queen of the Night," one of the most popular being the one told in Mozart's, "The Magic Flute." 

 This has the music we relate to the Queen of the Night and you can hear a version of that here:

An old Turkish tale is one I enjoy. And then there are the visuals of this bird like woman usually seen naked, but you can see Julie has decided to make her a bit more conservative here for your alphabet!

In the Turkish tale I enjoy this part which involves embroidery, and Julie decided to add this to her Queen - she holds an embroidery hoop and an extremely large needle! Two sisters have abandoned a younger sister in the woods and believe her to be dead, but find she is alive and living with the Queen of the Night as her daughter. They plan their mission and how to finish her off, for she is the more beautiful of the three and they are jealous. 

The women pretend to be overjoyed at finding again the sister they had mourned as lost, and congratulate her on her good fortune. When they had eaten and drunk of the good things she set before them, and were about to depart, the eldest sister produced from her basket an enchanted kerchief. 

"Here, dear Rosa," said she, "is a little present which we should like you to wear for our sakes. Let me pin it round your shoulders. Good-bye, dear!" she added, kissing her affectionately on both cheeks, "we will come and see you again before long and bring our father with us." "Do, dear sisters, and tell my dear father that I will go to see him as soon as my kind protectress may give me leave." 

Rosa watched her sisters from the window till they were out of sight, and then turned to the embroidery-frame, which she had laid aside on their arrival. She had not, however, made many stitches, before a feeling of faintness came over her; and letting her work slip from her hands, she fell back on the sofa and lost consciousness. 
When the Queen of Night came home, 

she went first, as was her wont, to the chamber of her dear adopted daughter, and finding her thus, she said, as she bent over the maiden and kissed her beautiful mouth, "She has tired herself, poor child, over that embroidery-frame; she is so industrious." 

Luckily the Queen removes the kerchief and the spell is broken. The story doesn't end there; this story is much like our fairytales from history and like many, in the end the good prevail!  

There are many versions of the Queen of the Night 

and much artwork and stories.  Again as usual we have only given you a taste of this history to tempt you to go further with your interest.

For the Queen we must have Queen Stitch

Queen Stitch is a highly textured diamond-shaped stitch.  This stitch did not appear on the earliest samplers but became one of the most popular stitches used in the 17th and 18th centuries for sampler making. Many small accessory items in Colonial canvas 

work were created from this stitch: pocketbooks, pincushions and 

needle cases. You can find more information on this stitch and its history in one of our favorite sources Eileen Bennett's The Red Book of Sampler Stitches

The other stitch that can be used here if you would like to try a different stitch in this project is the Quodlibet Stitch.  It is primarily a canvas stitch but can be used in counted work as well. You can use a variety of embroidery threads, but the stitch will be best shown in a flat thread, such as stranded floss or silk.  This stitch will make an interesting pattern when alternate rows are worked in contrasting color.  Our favorite guide for this stitch is The Complete Stitch Encyclopedia by Jan Eaton.

One last word on the Q stitches from Julie.  A few years ago, I took a class that talked about a Princess stitch - or the lazy girl's Queen stitch.  I don't find any examples on the internet, but it seemed to me to be a great solution for those of us who find that their Queen stitches look like blobs instead of nicely defined stitches...  Instead of four legs, the Princess has three, one in the middle, and one on either side, each tacked down in the center - you might try it if the Queen stitch seems a little daunting.  Of course, the Queen stitch is not meant to be looked at stitch by stitch, but as a whole ground - and it looks absolutely beautiful that way even if the individual stitches aren't perfect, I promise you.  We've had the opportunity to look at some stitching in very close detail, and what looks lovely overall is not always expertly executed.  That doesn't diminish it's beauty or value to us!

As usual, click on the picture of the chart to take you to our Freebie page, or click on Freebies in the side bar.  Happy Stitching!

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