Saturday, March 24, 2012

Y is for Yggdrasil??????????

Yggdrasil Tree

Mysselhoj, a Danish gravemound from the early bronze age.

Photo by Jorgen Larsen, 2007-04-07

Our "Y" word, Yggdrasil Tree is rich in folklore and as I searched for some to share I kept envisioning a wonderful piece of needlework just as rich with symbolism.  This wonderful tree and the nine worlds with all of the creatures it encompasses would be such a delight to create.  I challenge someone out there to create a piece of their own just from these tales and share it with us when you have completed it! 

The Elder or Poetic Edda Title Page showing Yggadrisil

I hope more of you share the work you have been doing on this alphabet, I know some of you have been creative in your choices of colors and such and making it your own in special ways.  We have one more letter to share after this and then your Dark Alphabet will be complete.   Can you guess what "Z" will be? 

How do you say Yddgrasil?  Here is a site that will pronounce it for you, so you can learn to say this word as well.  Please don't ask me to say it for you! Even though I am of  Norwegian descent, I did not learn the language that my grandmother and her siblings used to speak whenever they were lucky enough to get together.  I just remember much laughter as they carried on.

According to Norse, in the midst of Asgard, where the gods dwelt, was Yggdrasil. Yggdrasil was the tree of life - an eternal green Ash tree, its branches stretched out over the worlds. It was under this tree that the gods held their meetings and held court. 

The Nordics liked nines. So they have nine worlds. YGGDRASIL, the Tree of Life, has nine roots which feed or lead to different realms. Starting from the bottom up:

1 : HELHEIM, HEL's Domain of the Dead 

2 : NIFLHEIM, the frosty Realm of Ice 

3 : JOTUNHEIM, Land of the Giants 

4 : NIDAVELLIR, the Land of Dwarfs 

5 : SVARTALFHEIM, the Domain of the Dark Elves 

6 : MIDGARD, Middle-earth, our bit, the Realm of Mankind 

7 : ALFHEIM, the Land of the Light Elves 

8 : VANAHEIM, the World of the VANIR 

9 : ASGARD, the World of the AESIR 

Also fitting somehow into the picture are MUSPELL, a sort of no-man's-land of Fire Giants, and GINNUNGAGAP, the ancient Void of Chaos. And don't forget YGGDRASIL itself. This is the tree you need to talk to.

A stylized image of Yggdrasil appears on the famous Ă–verhogdal Tapestry, which dates to the year 1066 and depicts the events of Ragnarok, the apocalyptic prophecy of Pre-Christian Norse legend. Yggdrasil is one of many variations of the Cosmic Axis or Universal World Tree known to all human cultures. 

Yggdrasil is home to many creatures, most notably the serpent or Dragon Nidhogg, who lurks in the base, The Rooster Gullinkambi (golden comb), who lives at the tree's peak, and the squirrel, Ratatosk, who carries messages between them. These animals can be viewed as metaphors for the human body. According to Norse legend, Yggdrasil is where the god Odin hung upside-down for nine nights in order to obtain the Rune Alphabet. Beneath the roots of the World Ash lies the spring, Mimir, to which Odin sacrificed an eye to gain wisdom.

As you can imagine like many of the characters we have portrayed in this alphabet there are games, music and more about this mythological symbol.  The sites we have shown here and brought to your attention are just a very few that are available with information for you to learn more about the Yggdrasil tree. This is a symbol very rich with tradition and the pictures of this tree are as varied as the people who created them.

Yggdrasil tattoo

Yugoslav Border Stitch

Yugoslav Border Stitch, also known as the Bosnia Stitch, Barrier Stitch, Zig Zag Holbein and Fence Stitch.  The stitch is found on the wide borders of the national costumes of South Eastern Europe.  The colors used on the costumes many times depict the colors of the owner's village. 

This was also a common dividing band on English-made samplers. It is a two motion stitch, worked left to right and right to left.  It can also be done in two colors to give it a totally different look.  Sometimes gold and silver threads are used giving it a rich appearance.  Julie has used it on the grass under the tree in this instance.

You can find this stitch in our go-to stitch guides: The Red Book of Sampler Stitches by Eileen Bennett and The Complete Stitch Encyclopedia by Jan Eaton

The Eastern European Art site has books on embroidery of costume and the culture for many countries besides the Eastern European we are discussing here. I think you will find some items to check into further - maybe your local libraries have some of them available as well. Here are some beautiful examples of so many traditional arts and crafts.

As ever - click on the picture of the chart above, or on the word "Freebies" in the side bar to be taken to our freebie page and download the chart.  Have fun with Y!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Lost Girls Found!

The fantastic news is that two of our "lost girls" have been found!  Ann Wade was found thanks to our friend Amy Mitten, and Sophia Beare was tracked down by the tireless efforts of Amy Finkel of M. Finkel and Daughter.  Amy Finkel has been such a boon to us - just because a photo didn't happen to be hers didn't mean she stopped looking for a clue and was able to help us with a number of images.  Thank you so much to Amy F. and Amy Mitten - the owners of both samplers have now given us permission to include images in the book and we couldn't be happier about that!

Of course, that DOES still leave nine images who continue to elude us!  Please, if you have any ideas as to where these samplers are, let us know, or let the owner know we're looking for them.  We'd so love to include them. Who's still missing?

Elizabeth Fryer - date obscured - May ????  Sorry for the poor picture - she wouldn't hold still!  

Ruth Potter 1835 - all we have is this black and white photo - last seen at Christie's Auction house

Mary Ann Coward 1828 - last seen at Christie's Auction house - we don't have a picture of Mary Ann

Mary Linstead - date obscured by camera flash - was thought to have been at the Museum of American Folk Art in New York, but this has turned out to be incorrect.  The name E.P. Dutton has been associated with this sampler.

Rebecca Gidney - 1811  - 
Had been thought to be at the V&A, but is not found there

Mary Gidney - 1798 - 
Had been thought to be at the V&A, but is not found there

Susan Dunn – 1771 - was reproduced by Marcia Van Valin, but she has no record of her whereabouts.  This photo is of the reproduction.

Hannah Bowen
– 1824 - last seen at Charlton Hall Auction House

Sarah Everitt – 1777 – last seen in book “Samplers Selected and Described” by Leigh Ashton.  Photo has the name Mrs. Croly beneath it.

Any help will be greatly appreciated!  Just email us at - thank you so much!

Meanwhile - where are we on the Dark Alphabet?  You know how it is when you're reading a book you really enjoy - you slow down at the end - not wanting it to be over.  I kind of feel that way about the last letters of the Dark Alphabet - this has been a wonderful journey - we've made new friends, developed some great ideas and learned some pretty "iffy" things!  Some of us are still recovering from the "god of the toilet", hahaha.  X Y and Z - that's all that's left, and after today, just the last two letters!  We do hope you've been enjoying the Dark Alphabet - we have thoroughly enjoyed learning about underworld gods and nasty imps!  Speaking of which - X is a prime example!
Image of Xaphan (Za-FAN) from Collin de Plancy's Dictionnaire infernal 

X is for Xaphan and X-stitch!

So many times I have said regarding someone I've heard about, that with all that creative knowledge, why can they not put it to good use instead of bad? Such knowledge and inventiveness gone wrong.  However I didn't know they were following in Xaphan's footsteps! 

In Collin de Plancy's book, Dictionnaire Infernal, Xaphan was one of the fallen angels. He rebelled with Satan, and is a demon of the 2nd rank. He is said to have an inventive mind and came up with the idea to set fire to heaven before he and the other fallen were cast out. He has a bellows as an emblem, but must fan the flames of the abyss with his mouth and hands, and is said to be the reason why coals glow.

Xaphan also appears in Marvel Comics: Nightcrawler vIII#3, Deadpool Team-Up#897, and Marvel Super Hero Contest of Champions v1#1.[1]  And if you have a hankering to write a horror story - why not use the Xaphan font?

"X" stitch

Cross stitch, or "X" stitch - what we will call it here, because we could not find any counted thread stitches that started with "X"! So if you know one that we missed, please share! "X" stitch is one of the most ancient and commonly known stitches in embroidery. It probably developed from the tent stitch. This is a beautiful stitch for it's evenness, each leg of the same size and the final cross always in the same direction.  Historically this stitch was completed before going to the next stitch, but if you are like me, you have learned many variations on how to create this stitch!  Do you complete the first leg of the journey across the whole row and then work your way back? Do you start on the left or the right, top or the bottom, how about in the middle? There are so many ways to create this stitch as well as many variations on this stitch. 

There are so many beautiful stitches out there, but "X" stitch is always my favorite. The rhythm you find when you are stitching in "X" stitch is part of the wonderful stress release I have when I find the time to sit and stitch a bit.

I think most of you know how to cross stitch if you are here working the charts, but you never know maybe we have some newbies or maybe you might just like to have some fun and check out The Subversive Cross Stitch site! I thought it might be a little devilish for our Xaphan character!

Of course one of our favorites for a reference of this stitch is The Red Book of Sampler Stitches by Eileen Bennett.

As always, click on the chart to go to our Freebies page or click on "Freebies" in the sidebar.

Have fun with Xaphan - but don't get burned!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Here There Be Wyverns...

Though W seems like it should be for Weejee, of course, that wasn't going to work for our W word - but who can resist a Ouija board?

We had the great good fortune to spend some time with the Swan Sampler Guild members at their retreat last summer, and to take Betsy Morgan's Toy Chest Etui class.  We thought it would be cute to make up a little favor for the class attendees and we came up with this Ouija board as an addition to the toy box.  Since then, Betsy has been traveling about and showing the Ouija board to other classes and we've received requests for them, so, with Betsy's blessing, we are offering it now on our website.  

This cute Ouija Board does triple-duty!  It holds your threads for you, and the millefiori heart is held in place with magnets - so it will also hold onto your needles.  But the special trick is that the heart planchette moves around the board mysteriously! (hint - if you move the magnet under the board, the heart will follow).  Don't like how the "he loves me, he loves me not" daisy petals turned out?  Now you can control your destiny - and your stitching!   

W is for Wyvern

Wyvern or Dragon, Can You Tell The Difference?



The traditional description of a Wyvern is of a creature that resembles a small dragon but with only two legs and a barbed tail. The barb is often said to contain poison. In many ways the wyvern is closer to a winged serpent than to a fully fledged dragon.  Wyverns rarely if ever breathe fire.

There are few surviving legends concerning wyverns specifically. It appears to have been a rather unpleasant beast and is associated with plague, pestilence and destruction.  Although it appears rarely in written tales, the wyvern is common in heraldry. It is normally described on the blazon as "statant" (standing). Presumably its popularity is due to its destructive nature - an example of heraldically "bigging oneself up"! You can find many a banner with a Wyvern in place of honor for a family or town.

The usual spelling wyvern (older wivern too) is not attested before the 17th century as 'winged two-footed dragon'. It is an alteration of Middle English wyvere, wyver (13th century), loanword of Old French wivre (French guivre and vouivre), itself from Latin vipera 'viper', 'adder', 'asp', altered in Proto-French to wipera by Germanic influence. But as you will see if you research just a little, many spellings exist throughout time. 

The wywern is truly a terrifying creature, it can turn humans into charcoal in a matter of seconds with its flame,which reaches temperatures of above 700 degrees Fahrenheit!!!! (wouldn't you like to know who measured that? ) Some wyverns also guard treasure from humans.

But there are many more legends about dragons in Italy, particularly in Umbria. One of the most famous dragons of Italian folklore is Thyrus, a wyvern that besieged Terni in the Middle Ages. One day, a young and brave knight, tired of witnessing the death of his fellow citizens and depopulation of Terni, faced the dragon and killed him. From that day, the town assumed the creature in its coat of arms. Also a Latin inscription supports this: "Thyrus et amnis dederunt signa Teramnis" that stands under the banner of the town of Terni.

There are a few cryptozoologists who think that the wyvern actually represent pterosaurs, winged dinosaurs which disappeared about 65 million years ago, and which by some far-fetched opinions cohabitated with humans. But, today there is no conclusive evidence to back this theory. The winged creatures are described as very powerful, bloodthirsty and extremely cruel, being the perfect hunters. The legends claim, with some shivers of fear, that the legs of these creatures were the size of oak trees, which could crush entire villages with a move, while their eyes were hypnotizing and terrifying at the same time. They could lift with no difficulty from the soil up into the sky, from where they could see any prey and kill it with no remorse.

The wyvern had the capacity to emit flames out of its nostrils, while its breath was terrible, keeping some traces of the feast before. Because these beasts were very powerful and fearsome, the one who had the courage to kill them as trophies became true heroes, who had a physical and mental force way above normal. Many times the purpose was to impress a maiden in distress, one of the main themes of the chivalry model

Wyverns have made their way into modern culture through movies, and of course, books.  As you might imagine, Here Be Wyverns by Nancy Spies is our favorite.  Besides the imaginary creatures from the 6th to the 16th century, there are designs for animals, water creatures, architecture, borders, alphabets, and all-over designs of the medieval period.  The phrase "Here Be Wyverns" is from old maps where unknown territories were labeled "Here Be Wyverns", "Here Be Dragons" or "Here Be Monsters".  (Might as well cover your bases).  We love the beautiful old maps which have beautifully detailed pictures of such monsters.

Mordiford Wyvern

A young girl called Maud was walking through the woods when she found a baby wyvern, bright green and no bigger than a cucumber. She took it home to keep as a pet, feeding it on milk. It grew very fast and began to eat chickens, then sheep, before graduating onto cows. Finally, as an adult, it turned into a man-eater, but it remained friendly toward Maud. It made its lair on a ridge in Hauge Wood and always followed the same path, known to this day as Serpent Path, to the river.

You can continue reading the story here on the Mysterious Britain and Ireland site.

How to Draw a Wyvern
I know we have some younger followers of this site, following the mystical creatures in the Dark Alphabet. At you can learn how to draw a Wyvern, young or old. You may wish to design your own creature for your own mystical story of this beast. If you write one, please share it with us! We would love to read it.

Gamers are also familiar with this mythological creature, which is featured in card and video games.

Witch Stitch

Also known as the Herringbone, Mossoul, Persian and Russian stitch to name a few.  It is a common stitch in sampler making and appeared as early as 1681 on an English Band Sampler.  We just loved the name Witch Stitch as befitting the Dark Alphabet!

The Witch Stitch creates a pretty crossed zig-zag line. It is worked left to right and is an easy and quick stitch to work. This stitch may also be used as a filling stitch. Using a variety of threads will offer variations in the look of this stitch.  This stitch can also serve as couching for silk ribbon to offer yet another look.

As usual our favorite guides are The Complete Stitch Encyclopedia by Jan Eaton and The Red Book of Sample Stitches by Eileen Bennett.  In a Minute Ago has a good description on their site.

Julie's design uses the Witch Stitch just for the shadow cast under the Wyvern.  As always, click on the picture of the chart, or on the word "Freebies" in the side bar to be taken to our Freebies page.

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