Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Golden Splendor and Guild Meetings

There is still time to get the Golden Splendor box - but not for long - they're almost all gone - if you've been "thinking it over" - don't miss your chance!  But for right now, you can still go to our site and click on the "buy" button!  (If you don't live in the US, please email us to find out shipping costs).

Something a lot of you know already is that we really started our business because we have enjoyed the creativity required to make up table favors for guild parties and meetings - we LOVE themed parties, especially, and have gathered together a number of ideas here for putting on themed guild events.  When we were planning guild meetings, sometimes we wracked our brains, so thought you'd like to take a look through some of these ideas to see if there's anything you can adapt!
Some of the favors we make through the company for guild events.

Does your guild or sampler group ever have a hard time thinking of ideas for meetings?  Often the subjects have been done before, but it's been awhile, and there is always more or updated information.  Put a new spin on it by expanding it and including supporting materials to bring the topic to life!

Pick a country, a state or grouping of needlework that you wish to learn more about.  Be sure to include as many people in the planning and fact-finding as possible. Getting more members involved will offer a broader range of information to share and make for less work for each person.  It's also fun for everyone - and a great way for the "shy ones" to participate without having to feel like they are carrying a whole program.  

If you are picking a country you may have several styles of samplers that can be studied and the information brought to share with the group.  The more visuals you can share the more interesting it will be. If you have the ability to put it on a PowerPoint presentation, a slide show or even just having photocopies to share will help everyone see what is being discussed.  We needlework lovers are such visual learners it seems. 

Scottish sampler detail 

Do you have historic samplers or reproductions of these types of samplers you can bring to share with the group. Nothing is better than seeing it up close and personal.  Do you have clothing or costumes from perhaps your family's history that relate or other pieces of needlework from the area being discussed?  Do you have other pieces of artwork or craft items that are from the period or location? The more there is to see and share the better your program will be.  

Are there local museums or historical societies that have pieces from the area you are discussing? Possibly they have a room where you can hold your meeting so that those pieces can be incorporated or you might have enough information and outside sources that you do two meetings so that you can include a field trip in one of the meetings to add to the enrichment of the experience. 

When looking at the needlework from the area of interest to be discussed, what questions might you find answers to?

How does this grouping of needlework relate? 
Do they have the same alphabets, borders, motifs, bands?
Are they laid out in a similar fashion? 
Are they of similar size? 
Use the same colors?
What types of materials were used, how did they get those materials?
What significant motifs are found in samplers from the area you are discussing? 
Do they have meanings that can be found?
How many motifs are popular to the area and do they relate to other material culture from the area?
Why are these styles of samplers significant for this area? 
Were these samplers or types of needlework taught in schools? 
What schools were they and who were the teachers?
What years were important to these groupings of needlework?

You can see this is only a start of some of the questions to ask yourself about the area of needlework you are researching to present.  There are many more that might be important to the area you will be presenting as well as general information to share.

Many museum collections are now being put online, such as the Museum of Fine Arts, in Boston, so we can view them and study them as a resource.  Many books are in our collections that I know I have yet to truly read, what a great excuse to pull them out and enjoy them with a cup of tea as you prepare information to share with your friends of like mind.

Maybe bring in information about other crafts or material culture relates to the needlework can be interesting.  Many times the same motifs and symbols from samplers are found in various clothing and costume decoration as well as in woodwork designs, pottery decoration and other objects.  Support your information on sampler design through material found on these pieces and their significance. Much of this information can be found through searches online, making our studies more and more easy to do from the comfort of our homes,but don't forget the fabulous libraries full of historical supporting information.

Stylized carnation motifs on Ottoman cushion cover

Have someone research the history of the area during the time period of the needlework being discussed. Sharing what life was like for the women at the time they created the needlework rounds out the picture.  Some of the special facts and stories from the area will give your members a better view of that country, state or area. Possibly share pictures of the State or Country flag, flower, or other important symbols which can also relate to the work you are looking at.  Is there a national song or verse that might lend itself to future or past needlework? 

Albanian National Flag

Telling of the special folklore or myths from the area can be enjoyable. I have found the youth section of the library can be very helpful for this information.  We are never too old for a fairy tale or two. There might be a folk tale or myth that relates to motifs that are found on the needlework you are studying. For Becky, the mermaid is a favorite motif and there are many stories from various countries regarding mermaids.

For instance, if you were to study Irish Samplers and possibly found a mermaid motif, hummm can't think if I have seen one, but if so you could include stories on the merrows and creatures that are seal and human---the silkies, banshees and keening.

Of course food is always a fun way to explore a culture, whether it be foreign or from your own country. There are special foods that relate to the area and often are special to the time period as well.  You could enjoy a group potluck of foods from the location being studied or if that isn't possible maybe a cookie or treat to go with your coffee that ties into the theme.  You can find recipe books from various cultures at your local library or online. With the ability to search the web these days it makes finding so much of this information right at our desk.

Here is one idea for an area of study. Mexican samplers: have a taco salad bar or a fajita bar.  Maybe you add some Spanish rice or Mexican cornbread for the sides. Top it off with Mexican Wedding cookies and flan for dessert. You could also offer Mexican hot chocolate if you are in the winter months or some of the special Mexican juice drinks. Maybe have a hot pepper tasting.  Or what about a Scottish sampler program, yummy shortbread I think, or German samplers with brats, possibly Moravian samplers and some wonderful Sugar Cake or maybe go for an Asian theme with noodles and mochi and tea! 

Aztec stitch on Mexican embroidery

There are so many ways to involve members and make it an enjoyable experience and bring many aspects into the study of an area of interest.  You can see how the ideas are limitless and fun to create.  Involving more and more members to make the meetings more interactive can refresh our groups in many ways.

What ideas can you think of for subjects and supporting materials?  What would you like to learn more about? Maybe we will create a blog out of some of your ideas as we go through the upcoming months.  Share with us on the blog in the comments area - sharing is a great way to spread the wealth with your needlework friends far and wide.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Tea Time!


A Cup of Tea
When the world is all at odds
And the mind is all at sea
Then cease the useless tedium
And brew a cup of tea.

There is magic in its fragrance,
There is solace in its taste;
And the laden moments vanish
Somehow into space.

And the world becomes a lovely thing!
There's beauty as you'll see;
All because you briefly stopped
To brew a cup of tea.

Tea helps our head and heart.
Tea medicates most every part.
Tea rejuvenates the very old.
Tea warms the hands of those who're cold.

(J. Jonker, Amsterdam, c.1670) 

It is no secret how much Julie and I enjoy tea.  We love going to tea, planning and giving themed tea parties for our friends and just slowing down and enjoying a cuppa.

There have been many practical uses for tea through time.  Years ago in Bellevue Washington, one of my favorite tea rooms was called Lisa's Tea Treasures. In 1997 they printed a few of her practical hints and uses for tea, besides the obvious of drinking it for pleasure and health.  Here are a few we will share with you.

- To stop bleeding on your gums, press a damp tea bag against the spot and hold for a few minutes.  It doesn't say, but this is usually black tea or something like a Liptons teabag when I have seen it noted before.

- To keep shoes fresh, leave a bag of dried tea leaves in each shoe.  If we are telling stinky stories, when my son was young and in grade school, he didn't like wearing socks. That seam bothered him...but his shoes and feet were so terribly smelly, active young lad that he was, so  I asked the Dr. for ideas and he told me to soak his feet in a tea bath a few times a week. Yup it worked! 

- Bags of cold, moist, used tea leaves make wonderful compresses for hot, puffy or tired eyes.

By Naama ym from Tel-Aviv, Israel (Tea for two) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

- Of course teas can be used as a dye. Some of us have dyed things we didn't plan to dye by spilling strong tea onto a light garment or table cloth.  They do make for wonderful linen and thread colors when planned though.

- Black tea and Chamomile tea can be added to henna for a more complex hair color.  Hummm don't think I will try dying my hair to do this one, someone else will have to let me know if it works. Julie? (Julie answers: While I used to use henna when I was younger, I didn't know about this then - of course, it couldn't have helped but be more complex, as henna makes for a pretty solid color.)

- For relief from sunburn, brew up a strong mint tea, let it cool and apply to the sunburned area with a compress. If you live in Washington, you might not have the opportunity to try this one either. So someone else in the Southern any other part of the country will have to let us know on this one.

- Chilled peppermint tea is a great soak for tired and hot feet.

- Tea is also great for cooking other items with such as chicken, eggs and fish. Some of the smoky oolong teas would do nicely for this.

Oolong Tea
Iateasquirrel at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons

Recently my husband and I have been enjoying "Tea Classes" at Experience Tea a new shop in Issaquah Washington.  Julie attended the first with us, which was a Tea Discovery Class.  We took another this last week - Exploring Rooibos, 
Rooibos Tea

Honey Bush and Tulsi Teas and have one more to go Experience Green Teas, in our package. Then we can decide if we wish to take any of the other classes they offer as well.  Along with a bit of history you do a tasting of the various types of tea, learn the proper brewing methods and what some of the proclaimed benefits might be from the various types of tea.  

Now before I go on further, yes, I am calling them all tea, when truly they are not all "Tea".  Only those that come from the camellia sinensis plant that is native to China and India are tea,

the rest are herbals or tisanes and we often call them tea but they do not have any of the camellia sinensis plant in them.  Any of you who watch the Agatha Christie Hercule Poirot series know that M. Poirot wouldn't dream of drinking anything but a "tisane".  It was watching him order his herbal tea that showed me how to pronounce the word.

In the Discovery tea class we tried white tea, green tea, oolong tea, black tea and Pu'erh tea.  In class we only tried the straight tea, no flavored teas which I tend to prefer, because I enjoy that taste of a little sweetness and many times fruity or spicy flavor.  It does help to taste them straight up, so you know that base you might prefer for your flavored teas.  

Brewing tea at the proper temperature and length of time, can be essential to getting the best flavor from your teas.  I truly learned this in the last class.  The last tea to taste was the Yerba Mate.  In the past I have not been a fan of this tea.  Again many times this is a tea that is in a tea bag not loose at stores. Also many times this tea is brewed at boiling and for too long and therefore creates a bitter taste.  It should be brewed at 175-185 degrees like your green tea and for only 2 minutes.  The taste was much better than before, but still not one I would go to for my cup of comfort.  It has a more roasted smell and taste and if you prefer coffee, you might give this a try. It is closer to that type of taste.  

Most black teas should be brewed between 195-200 degrees for about 3 minutes.  Keemun, a Chinese black tea should be brewed at boiling for 4-5 minutes, some call this tea red tea.  
Keemun tea

Ceylon, too, can be brewed at boiling for 4-5 minutes.  Your green tea you want to bring down the temperature to 175 degrees and brew 2-3 minutes.  

Green and Red Rooibos are tisanes and can be brewed at boiling for as long as you wish, you usually cannot cause these to become bitter. We brewed for about 5 minutes in class.  This is true for the Honeybush and Tulsi and Holy Basil that we tried as well.  I had not tried the Holy Basil and the one we tried is called Holy Detox in the store, it is a green blend. 

Holy Basil plant

I really enjoyed this one it had some lemon and spearmint tones to it.  The nice thing about the herbal tisanes is that they do not have caffeine. So these are nice for a nighttime beverage.  The yerba mates are brewed at 175-185 degrees and for 2 minutes. These can become bitter if left too long or brewed at too high a temperature. The Green Yerba Mate of the two we tasted was the better in my opinion. It had a lighter taste and not the roasted flavor of the other yerba mate we tried.

You can also steep your leaves of several of the types of teas and herbals more than once.  For some, one steeping is best, but some you can steep up to 4 times and you still are able to get good taste .

Tea is quite a science and has so much history as well as folklore surrounding it.  It has played many a role in history as well, as we can all remember hearing about the Boston tea party and the tea going into the harbor.  

"The Destruction of Tea at Boston Harbor" Nathaniel Currier

Tea is prominent in many novels from the past and current libraries and there is much tradition in taking tea, whether it be in Japan, England or here.  If you are interested there is so much you can enjoy and find on the web regarding all you ever wanted to know about tea.  

The history of tea begins in China.  There are claims that it was found and used as early as 2737 BC. Tea has traveled the world and is considered the most popular beverage as well as the healthiest. Tea has been used for medicinal properties as well as for religious offerings.  Tea was at times limited to the Kings and Queens and those of Royal titles.  Tea finally arrived in England in the 17th century. It was imported to England from East India.  English Breakfast and Earl Grey are the two most popular teas in England's history.  

Charles, the second Earl Grey, for whom the tea is named.

The Dutch first brought tea to America in the 17th century as well and then of course there is the history of the highly taxed tea being imported by England East India Tea Company and the Boston Tea Party that fills our history books when the colonist  protested the high taxes and poured the tea into the harbor.

Teavana gives a great history of tea, as does this site.  And here is a wonderful tea timeline.  I love the poems and stories found here.

There is much etiquette that accompanies an afternoon tea, especially in the English tradition through history.  I have one little book that is entitled Tea & Conversation, Develop the Art of Conversation with Afternoon Tea. 

Published in England, I purchased it on one of our trips to Historic Deerfield.  It tells of all the ways you should or should not engage in conversation; what is preferable to say, how to be the best hostess whether in your home or out to tea.  Some is very eccentric, but a fun read... "One should always say 'Drink Tea' and not 'Take Tea' which is a vulgarism!"   "Good humor may be said  to be one of the very best articles of dress one can wear in society."  Thackeray

What about reading tea leaves?  Can you tell your future by what is left in the bottom of your cup? Some believe you can.  

The residue in the cup is now swirled by the seeker three times clockwise. The seeker must then touch the edge of the saucer with the cup and wish a wish of the heart and turn it over immediately onto the saucer. This allows the tea to drain away before it is passed to the reader. If there is much sadness in the seeker's future, the tears or drops of tea, will not drain away. If a star does not appear at the top of the cup then the wish will not be fulfilled.  To learn how to read tea leaves, try this site.

There is some debate on what to do with the tea leaves once the reading is done. Thrown on the ground, they ward off evil spirits and if placed at the back of the fireplace or woodstove, they will ward off poverty.

Here are few symbols and their meanings, but there are so many more to see at this link.

BIRDS - good news
DUCK - money coming
GOAT - be careful of enemies
KITE - wishes coming true
NEEDLE - recognition, admiration
OWL - gossip, scandal
SHIP - worthwhile journey
THIMBLE - changes at home
WOLF - jealousy
If you can tell a wolf from a dog and a duck from a bird and a thimble from a cup, you are doing far better than I at reading your tea leaves!

There are many newsletters and magazines devoted to tea as well as blogs and web-sites.  Here are a few to get you started looking:

Along with tea there are all the little tastes to enjoy. The savories and sweets that make up the tea tray can become quite an art of their own.  I love just having a taste of this and that as refreshments. It is so much fun to think of how to portray your theme in these little morsels. The display and lay of the table are all important aspects to the special tea party. But just slowing down in the day and taking time to sit and sip and think without anything at all special becomes special in our age of going at such speeds to do it all.  I could go on and on about tea, but I think it's time to go for a cuppa. So won't you join me.  What will you choose today, hummmm I think I might have more of that lovely coconut oolong we recently purchased on a trip to the Bay area. It's light and just a hint to the scent of the tea with it's coconut. 

Julie recently invited a few girlfriends to a "Titanic Tea" party - here's a little taste of what we enjoyed.  

The first order of business was to choose your tea hat.  Depending on the hat you chose, you took on the persona of one of the survivors of the Titanic.  Which hat would you choose?
In the little white reticule at your place you'd find a roll of Lifesavers (might come in handy) and your first class ticket.

Here we are with our friend Beth, enjoying a bracing cup!

The food was themed, of course - and here is where Pinterest came in very handy, as Julie saw so many ideas for the food.  

Poor Devils in Lifejackets

And of course, we weren't afraid of a little Ice


The internet is a wonderful place to find lots of recipes for tea goodies:

As usual there are many more links to information and books at your library that can add to all of this if we have wetted your appetite for a tea party or just a cuppa for yourself ! 

Here are more of our recent tea photos.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Latest Boxed Set Available!

We are so excited to share our newest limited edition piece with all of you!  This has been in the works for awhile - we kept thinking of more and more things to add to it and some are different than anything we have offered before, so it took some hunting to come up with the pieces we needed to create it all.  Each time we create a new box, it's our favorite, so you won't be surprised to hear this is our very favorite of them all.  We call it "Golden Splendor".  We alluded to it in the last blog, so you might have guessed what it is.  It is our own version of a needlework casket.  

Each faux painted casket is adorned with gorgeous golden metallic trim inside and out, and the beautiful photographs of an embroidered picture that we purchased on our last trip to Pennsylvania and Delaware at Van Tassel Baumann Antiques.  No two are alike in these special handmade limited edition pieces. The garden scene is perfect for the decoration of "Golden Splendor"... so many creatures to entertain you as you gaze at this beauty.   

Inside is full of special toys for the needle worker, as well as a gold-trimmed mirror.  

Since our casket doesn't have a secret drawer to hide a special token in, we have created a matching miniature box that holds a special token, a beeswax butterfly to ply your silks with as you stitch.  

To accompany your time stitching, we have blended a special "Golden Gardens Tea" just for this piece.  It's a lovely flavored black tea that is as beautiful to look at, as is to taste.  We started with Paris/Versailles tea, and added marigold and saffron blossoms.  It will keep you quite satisfied as you work away.  

A lovely chatelaine is included and holds so many beautiful tools of the trade.  

What proper lady would be without her chatelaine, and of course it holds a key, thimble charm, mother-of-pearl ruler, beaded needle threader, silk pin ball, and a lovely awl.  We used gorgeous silk ribbon for the "chains" and wove them through bone rings before attaching them to the butterfly "clasp".

We have a grid pad for your designs, as you visit with your stitching friends and find ones you would like to try from their examplers.  

A silk pouch holds a beautiful magnifier (designs of magnifiers vary, but all are lovely - we will choose one for you), when you are not using it to see your stitches better, you might explore the garden for specimens.  

Every lady at her sampler needs her embroidery scissors, and these Lace scissors from Kelmscott come complete with a fob and leather sheath.  

As we worked along on this gorgeous set, we made up a story about all that goes on in this magical garden, and we included it here in a Story Book with it's own miniature magnetic bookmark. (Spoiler alert - the animals arranged for the lady and gentleman in the picture to fall in love!) 

We have so enjoyed the creatures that roam this piece and they have all been given names. They cannot wait to meet you all as well.  We placed three of them on the special threadwinders.

Last we have a wonderful wallet holding needles, jeweled pins and a thread counter bejeweled as well.  

Words cannot begin to tell how beautiful "Golden Splendor" is, so the photos are here to show you all the special little toys and tools that need a home with a special stitcher.  Remember that this is a limited edition and when they are gone there will be no more.  

Right now, we have a stack of them waiting for YOU!

The photos on the website are a touch larger, so you can see every detail.  This beautiful casket will sell for $225 plus shipping. If you are outside of the United States, please email us directly at so that we may figure the proper shipping for your order.

Two other pieces have been designed to go along with this piece and will be sold separately, a lovely thread palette and a magnetic bookmark to keep your place in your favorite needlework book.   

Thank you so much for your continued support. We love our work, and hope you will like our "labor of love".

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