Monday, May 30, 2016

Monday morning musings

Monday morning musings

To the uninitiated embroidery exemplifies the monotonous pulling of a needle and thread through a scrap of material yet to the appreciators of the art there are limitless fields to be discovered, explored and enjoyed.
A simple photograph glimpsed or a short sentence read can be a starting point to take us on a new adventure with embroidery combining it with history, travel and many other subjects.
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The current antique sampler on the easel in my studio is a Scottish sampler from the early 1800’s, the charting is complete and I am busy stitching the model and am submersed in all things Scottish whether stories, music, history or geography. I am half expecting to open my mouth and speak with a Scottish accent or a Gaelic phrase !
The sampler has taken me on quite a meandering journey whilst researching Scottish needlework.
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For anyone wishing to learn more about Scottish needlework a great place to start is with Naomi Tarrant’s Remember Now Thy Creator: Scottish Girls’ Samplers, 1700 – 1872 and Textile Treasures: An Introduction to European Decorative Textiles for home and church in the National Museums of Scotland.
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Turning to the Bibliography at back of the latter book there are some 2½ pages listing some wonderful written sources to delve into and with the internet site “google books”  excerpts from many of these books are freely, easily and instantly available.
A book’s bibliography can be the starting point of many voyages of discovery.

TRIVIA

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Scotland was an independent country until 1603. Then the king of Scotland became king of England (not the other way round), but the two countries didn’t merge their governments until 1707, to form the Kingdom of Great Britain.
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The modern game of golf originated in Scotland in the 15th century. First mentioned as ‘gowf’ in 1457, golf was originally played on a course of 22 holes.
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Scotland is reputed for its whisky, known outside Scotland as Scotch Whisky. What few people know is that whisky was invented in China, and was first distilled by monks in Ireland in the early 15th century before reaching Scotland 100 years later.
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The most infamous Scottish dish is haggis, normally made with sheep’s ‘pluck’ (heart, liver, and lungs), minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally boiled in the animal’s stomach for approximately an hour.
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Notable Scottish inventions include the method of logarithms (1614), tarmac (1820), the waterproof raincoat “mac”(1823), the hot blast furnace (1828), and the pneumatic tyre (1887).
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Scotland has some 790 islands, 130 of which are inhabited and has more than 600 square miles of freshwater lakes, including the famous Loch Ness.
Scottish literature includes such names as Sir Walter Scott, Robert Burns, Lord Byron, Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and J.K. Rowling.
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At least 6 US Presidents were of Scottish descent : Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), James Madison (1751-1836), Andrew Jackson (1767-1845), James Knox Polk (1795-1849), William McKinley (1843-1901), Woodrow (Thomas) Wilson (1856-1924).
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The two first Prime Minister of Canada, John A. Macdonald (1815-1891) and Alexander Mackenzie (1822-1892), were Scottish.
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Many Australian Prime Ministers were also of Scottish descent, like George Reid (1845-1918). Andrew Fisher (1862-1928), Stanley Bruce (1883-1967), or Robert Menzies (1894-1978).
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The official animal of Scotland is the Unicorn. The flower of Scotland is the thistle.
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Scotland has the highest proportion of redheads in the world. Around 13 per cent of the population has red hair, with 40 per cent carrying the recessive gene.
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The shortest scheduled flight in the world is one-and-a-half miles long from Westray to Papa Westray in the Orkney Islands of Scotland. The journey takes 1 minute 14 seconds to complete.
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Like Rome, Edinburgh was built on seven hills and the capital has more listed buildings than anywhere in the world.
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Queen Victoria is reputed to have smoked cigarettes during her visits to the Highlands of Scotland to keep away midges.
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Sunday, May 29, 2016

Pin Money

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Pin Money

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No matter where in the world you hail from and the language you speak you will use phrases and sayings that have been passed down the generations, the original meanings changing over the years. One such expression is “pin money”.
A quick google search would define the term today as:
Pin money is an English term for a small or insignificant amount of spending money  to be used for trivial purchases. It formerly referred to money a husband or guardian gave to a woman annually for her personal (dress) expenses.
One of earliest references to pin money comes from a will dated AD 1542 from York (UK), in The Testamenta Eboracensia – A Selection of Wills from the Registry at York. The clause reads:
“I give my said doughter Margarett my lease of the parsonadge of Kirkdall Churche… to by her pynnes withal.” (“I give my said daughter Margarett my lease of the parsonage of Kirkdall Church … to buy her pins with”).
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Pins were expensive items in those days and only used by the wealthy; the poor used sharpened thorns to hold their hats in place and keep their garments together. There are references in literature, including in The Canterbury Tales, to monks and friars making pins. A guild of pinmakers was first mentioned in 1376, and the livery company, the Company of Pinmakers, was incorporated in 1636.
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Because of their expense, pins were regarded as the ideal gift to the ladies in one’s life, and many merchants received financial bonuses with the caveat that the money was to be used ‘for her pyns’.
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Pins were very important in medieval times, and were made from bone, fish bones, wood, thorns, ivory, shell and metal. Pins were used to hold fabric together to be sewn, and to hold other clothes together, and fine bronze or copper alloy pins they were used to pin together ladies headwear — wimples consisted of bands of cloth pinned together around the top half of the head and also from chin to the top of the head, and veils pinned to the bands.
Pins were made by drawing brass or copper alloy wire (through a die) to the required length, sharpening one end, and coiling softer, finer, wire around the other end to form a ‘head’.This process requires 14–16 different steps, all done by hand. Pins were valuable luxuries in medieval times.
In the C14th, the English parliament passed an act allowing the pin-maker to sell his pins in “open shop” only on the 1st and 2d of January of each year.This was intended to prevent the sale of these “luxuries”, as they were then regarded, to too great an extent. It was on these two days of the year that the court ladies and city women of high and low degree flocked to buy them, having first been provided with pin money by their husbands.  
Over time, pins became much cheaper and the money could be spent on other items, but the expression remained.
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By the sixteenth century husbands were expected to give their wives an allowance (referred to as ‘pin money’), usually a substantial amount, with which to buy clothing and manage the household. The amount and terms of the ‘pin money’ were often written into the marriage contract.” Pin money could also be awarded to the wife if the husband died or if the couple separated—serving “as a sort of safety net at a time when women had few legal rights.” 
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In the Netherlands, the term speldegeld (‘pin money’) dates back to at least the fifteenth century and was used to describe a small sum of money that was added to the price of a product or service for the benefit of the female members of the family.
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By the nineteenth century in the USA, the term pin money referred to supplementary income a woman made by selling her needlework.
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Today in our household we use the term for the money that we set aside in our budget for my personal spending most of which is (appropriately) spent on needlework related items !
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Saturday, May 28, 2016

13th century seal bag

13th century seal bag

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One source for embroideries that survive from the 13th century is seal bags. These bags were used to protect the delicate wax seals attached to legal documents throughout the medieval and early modern period.
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In the Monument Room of Westminster Abbey is a document dated 26th November 1280 to which is attached an embroidered seal bag depicting the Royal Arms of England and protects the Great Seal of Edward 1. This is the only example so far known of wool inlaid work surviving from medieval England.
The stitches used are split stitch and surface couching. The central motif is the arms of the crown of England, three lions of yellow on a red shield. It is surrounded by a scrolling vine and trefoil design. This pattern appears on both sides of the bag. The edges of the bag are decorated with tassels.
The main fabric used in the bag is twill wool (green for the ground, red for the shield and yellow for the lions). It is lined with a blue linen fabric. The various details, such as the eyes, talons and foliate design are all worked in split stitch using silk thread.
The technique used for the design is intarsia, a form of applique. In this technique the design is cut out of the fabric and a contrasting piece of fabric inserted into the gap. In this case, the red shield is inserted into a shield shaped cut in the green wool ground and the yellow lions are inserted into cut outs in the shield shape, so that there are not three layers of fabric in the finished design, but only one. Then each shape is outlined using linen cord. This type of technique is used in similar secular items of the period and is used elsewhere in Europe, especially in Scandinavia.

TRIVIA – A love story in stone

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Edward I was born in the Palace of Westminster on 17 June 1239, the eldest child of Henry III and Eleanor of Provence, and was baptised in the Abbey. His nickname was “Longshanks”, being 6 feet 2 inches tall, and he is chiefly remembered for his battles against the Welsh and the Scots and for his legal reforms. In 1296 he brought to the Abbey the Stone of Scone, on which Scottish kings had once been crowned, and made a special oak Coronation Chair to enclose it. The Stone was returned to Scotland in 1996 and is displayed in Edinburgh Castle.
In October 1254, aged just 15, he married Eleanor (Leonor), daughter of Ferdinand III, King of Castile and Leon, at Las Huelgas.
Arranged royal marriages in the Middle Ages were not always happy, but available evidence indicates that Eleanor and Edward were devoted to each other. Edward is among the few medieval English kings not known to have conducted extramarital affairs or fathered children out of wedlock. The couple were rarely apart; she accompanied him on crusade and military campaigns.
Their household records witness incidents that imply a comfortable, even humorous, relationship. Each year on Easter Monday, Edward let Eleanor’s ladies trap him in his bed and paid them a token ransom so he could go to her bedroom on the first day after Lent; so important was this custom to him that in 1291, on the first Easter Monday after Eleanor’s death, he gave her ladies the money he would have given them had she been alive. Edward disliked ceremonies and in 1290 refused to attend the marriage of Earl Marshal Roger Bigod, 5th Earl of Norfolk; Eleanor thoughtfully  paid minstrels to play for him while he sat alone during the wedding.
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Eleanor’s death left Edward deeply affected, in a letter of January 1291, seeking prayers for the soul of his late wife, he wrote “whom living we dearly cherished, and whom dead we cannot cease to love.” In her memory, he ordered the construction of twelve elaborate stone crosses, known as the Eleanor Crosses, tall, pointed, highly ornamented monuments (of which three survive)  marking the route of her funeral procession between Lincoln and London.
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From St Catherine’s Priory in the south of Lincoln, the cortege took 12 days to reach London and between 1291 and 1294 for each place where the procession rested overnight an Eleanor’s Cross was erected. The stopping places were at Grantham, Stamford, Geddington, the Delapre Convent at Hardingstone, Northampton, Stony Stratford, Dunstable, Waltham Abbey, Cheapside and Charing Cross (deriving from chere reine cross- dear queen cross). The only remaining piece of the St Catherine’s cross left in Lincoln is housed in Lincoln Castle but there are three crosses remaining at Geddigton, Hardingstone and Waltham, replicas exist at other places.
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Edward remarried some ten years after her death, he and his second wife Margaret of France, daughter of Philip III of France, named their only daughter Eleanor in memory of her.  He delighted in the sons his new wife bore, but attended memorial services for Eleanor to the end of his life, Marguerite at his side on at least one occasion. Edward I was succeeded in 1307 by Eleanor’s only surviving son Edward of Caernarvon.
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York Museum Trust's Sampler Collection

Copyright © York Museums and Gallery Trust 2016

York Museums Trust’s sampler collection

Copyright © York Museums and Gallery Trust 2016
Copyright © York Museums and Gallery Trust 2016
York Museums Trust’s  collections cover a vast array of subjects including textiles. The Trust is one of just a handful of regional museum services in the UK which has had every single one of its collections designated by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council.
The scheme celebrates and promotes England’s most important and culturally valuable collections so that they can be fully enjoyed by many generations to come.
There are 204 samplers to be enjoyed HERE. Including the original Elizabeth Oliver that has been reproduced by Moria Blackburn.
In the search results information if you click on a  sampler it will open to show more information and from here you can then click the photograph of the sampler for a enlarged image so that the details can be studied.
Many of the samplers are “first” school girl exercises but scrolling through you will find some treasures. If you search on bed covers there are some wonderful quilts to be seen too (opt for images in search terms).
ENJOY !!
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Thursday, May 26, 2016

An Art Fund Appeal

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An Art Fund Appeal

During the Middle Ages, English artisans were famed throughout Europe for their embroidered church vestments. However, from the time that King Henry VIII severed relations with the Catholic church in 1534 and established the Church of England, the need for elaborately decorated religious vestments and furnishings for worship diminished greatly.
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By the late sixteenth century, the taste for rich clothing and domestic decorations increased and a larger portion of society could afford to buy or make these luxury items during the relatively peaceful and prosperous late years of Elizabeth I‘s reign.
Individual designers and embroiderers were often retained by a monarch or employed by a noble household to embellish garments, furnishings, and decorations, both for everyday use and special occasions.
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Embroidery reached every conceivable surface in the well-to-do Tudor home: sheets, valances and coverlets, cushions for benches and chairs, coifs, stomachers, sleeves, handkerchiefs, bags, hawking gear, needlecases, book covers, bookmarks, book cushions, shoes, gloves and aprons.
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Professional workshops  were likely to have their own draughtsmen to produce designs and numerous pattern books were available. Woodcuts and engravings in contemporary herbals, bestiaries and other illustrated books were also used as sources.
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Whilst few of the woodcuts and books have survived the paintings of the period have recorded for prosperity the abundant surface ornamentation of the Elizabethan Era and how it was expressed in clothing, especially by royalty and the aristocracy in Europe. Shirts and chemises were embroidered with blackwork and edged in lace. Heavy cut velvets and brocades were further ornamented with applied bobbin lace, gold and silver embroidery, and jewels.
The Art Fund has launched an appeal to save one of those paintings.
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The Armada Portrait of Elizabeth I (c.1590) English School. The Art Fund
The impressive Armada Portrait of Elizabeth I is a statement of power and authority with Queen Elizabeth I portrayed as Empress of the world and commander of the seas. This is probably the most iconic portrait of Elizabeth the Virgin Queen. There are three surviving versions of the portrait in addition to several derivative portraits.
The version owned by the Tyrwhitt-Drake family, has, for centuries, dominated the country house mantelpiece of Sir Francis Drake’s descendants in their ancestral home of Shardeloes, Buckinghamshire.
Scholars agree that this version is by a different hand to the other two, noting distinctive techniques and approaches to the modelling of the queen’s features. This version was heavily overpainted in the later 17th century and may account for several differences in details of the costume.
After more than 400 years the Drake family is on the verge of putting it up for sale on the open market, prompting fears that it will leave Britain’s shores for ever.
The Art Fund and Royal Museums Greenwich launched a campaign to raise the millions needed to buy the Armada Portrait.
The Treasury has said that if the painting, valued at £16 million, is saved for the nation it will forego the £6 million tax that any private buyer would have to pay. This means that £10 million needs to be raised over the next two months.
The Art Fund has already donated £1 million and the RMG another £400,000, its entire annual acquisition budget, leaving £8.6 million outstanding. Donations can be made through the ART FUND.
Frog purse Copyright Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford
Leather and silk embroidered gloves copyright The Glove Collection Trust,  Fashion Museum, Bath and North East Somerset Council

TRIVIA

The Armada Portrait is rich in symbolism, as are many of Elizabeth’s portraits.
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Elizabeth’s love of pearls is well known and in her portraits pearls symbolise purity and virginity. Pearls decorate the queen’s head and gown.  The queen is wearing a pearl necklace given to her by the earl of Leicester; it was Robert Dudley’s last gift to the queen.
Although Elizabeth was around 55 when this portrait was painted, she is presented as youthful and vibrant with her made-up face, bright red hair and unblemished complexion. She is also dressed in all her finery and rich jewels, and really is the iconic, ever-youthful Virgin Queen.
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Elizabeth is gazing into the distance which could symbolise her looking to the future of her realm.
Henry VIII’s posture in paintings spoke of his power and magnificence, Elizabeth too has adopted a posture of power and her ruff frames her face like rays of the sun.
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The queen was very proud of her beautiful hands. She considered them her best feature and took pains to have them prominently displayed in all of her state portraits. If you look at the placement of Elizabeth’s hand on the globe, you can see that her hand is over the Americas which England was busy colonising.
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The portrait was painted one year after the birth of the first English child in the colonist’s settlement of Virginia. Her fingers are extending to other parts of the globe and this symbolises that Elizabeth’s power is far reaching and that the whole world is at her disposal.
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In the window on the left hand side of the painting there is the arrival of the Armada and then on the right there is the defeat of the Armada. This portrait could be seen as a tribute to Elizabeth’s success at protecting the nation from Spanish invasion or you could see a religious meaning: perhaps the ships are being forced onto the rocks by the “Protestant wind”.
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The pomegranate above Elizabeth’s shoulder symbolised fertility, abundance, generosity, union, prosperity, rebirth, resurrection and eternal life.
The Queen is flanked by two columns behind, probably a reference to the famous Impresa of the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, Philip II of Spain’s father, which represented the pillars of Hercules, gateway to the Atlantic Ocean and the New World.
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The Imperial Crown emphasises Elizabeth’s powerful position as monarch and reflects her equality with the Holy Roman Emperor and her status as Empress of the world.
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The arm of the chair has a carving of a mermaid, a symbol of the potential destructive nature of females luring sailors to their doom.  Elizabeth’s position with her back to the image could signify her rejection of its meaning but it could also symbolise Elizabeth’s power over the seas. Another interpretation is that the mermaid symbolizes Mary Queen of Scots. Elizabeth is facing away from Mary indicating that the plots and Mary’s execution are all behind her and she doesn’t worry about it anymore
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The large bow is thought to be a display of Elizabeth’s virginity just as Henry VIII’s large codpiece spoke of his sexuality and prowess.
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