Friday, June 10, 2016

A new release - Louisa Coulimore

A new release – Louisa Coulimore

Front Cover - Page 1 Louisa Coulimore

Hands Across the Sea Samplers are pleased to present LOUISA COULIMORE, a Bristol Orphanage sampler.
Louisa’s sampler is suitable for all levels and is stitched entirely in cross stitch over 2 threads with 2 skeins of Glorianna silk in Schoolhouse Red. With a stitch count of 246(w) x 280(h) she is an ideal travel/holiday project.
Samplers worked within the Müller Orphanage are highly sought after by collectors and it is said that a collection of antique samplers or a stitcher’s sampler wall is not complete without at least one example. The samplers acted as a reference to the girls’ needlework skills in the marking of linen and household items when many of the girls found employment as domestic servants.
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Bristol orphanage samplers are particularly important as the orphanage kept meticulous records of each child, casting light onto the poverty and desperate social conditions that existed throughout Britain in the 19th century. Today these records give us the opportunity to share Louisa’s story with you.
Louisa was born on July 4 1861 in Weymouth Dorset, the daughter of William Coulimore, a shoe maker,  and Louisa Beard. Her mother died in May 1867 of typhoid fever which was rife, particularly in Victorian industrial cities, due to infected water.
Louisa, one of her two brothers and two younger sisters, Alice and Matilda, were given into the care of their Aunt Jane Chivers, a laundress living in Melksham, Wiltshire. Her father moved to Brackley in Northamptonshire, presumably to find work.
William did not re-marry and died in July 1874 and only 11 days later the children’s grandfather wrote to the Müller Orphanage asking for four of the children to be admitted. Matilda the youngest child was not mentioned and remained in her Aunt’s care.
Possible stampA letter of reference describes Louisa as “a thoroughly honest, good girl, her Aunt, with whom she has been living has been careful to teach her rightly, she is tractable and willing and was kept at school until she was twelve.“
Only Louisa and Alice were granted places and they were admitted to Number One house on August 21 1874. Orphan No’s: 4313 and 4314.
Louisa remained at the orphanage until she was 16 and in 1877 on August 6 she was returned to her Aunt’s care as “ ….she could not be recommended for a situation ….. her health being very poor and her weakness such that she gets faint and exhausted  to work”.
In 1886 in Eastbourne, Sussex Louisa married William Humphress. The census records show that through the following decades Louisa was a self-employed dressmaker. She put to good use the skills learnt at the orphanage, stitching: rows of alphabets, border patterns, numerals and  small pictorial motifs including a bible on a small piece of cotton ground.
Louisa and William had 2 children who died in early infancy. Despite her ill health as a young girl, she lived to 79 years dying in 1940.
The chart includes five pages of historical information on Louisa, her family and the Müller Orphanage. It is beautifully illustrated and we hope that you will get as much pleasure form reading the chart and stitching the sampler as we did researching Louisa, producing the chart and reproducing her sampler.
Please visit our LOUISA’S web page for full details.
- See more at: https://hands-across-the-sea-samplers.com/?page_id=53#sthash.hAgLGiFX.dpuf

Monday, June 6, 2016

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Monday morning musings

I recently read a story about a lady who was taking embroidery lessons, to the third lesson she brought a linen table cloth decorated with pulled stitches. She said to her teacher:
“A friend sent me this years ago. Of course I liked it but after the last lesson I got it out and looked at it again and now I value it. I wrote to my friend and told her about my lessons and that I could now see how much work had gone into its making and how lovely I thought the cloth was”.
Beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder. Just a little training in needlework helped the “beholder” to appreciate the skill needed in its execution and therefore perceive much more beauty in the gift.
I am sure that many of us will have given needlework gifts that have either been dismissed as “just” homemade or greatly valued as the time and workmanship were recognised. After learning the hard way I now only give needlework gifts to other needleworkers.
Whilst “musing” on this my thoughts began to meander and I started to think about the various different ways in which we learn and can pass knowledge on.
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We are very fortunate to live in an age where we have almost instant access to countless books and Google which makes it possible to “self teach”. It is very easy to ping a message around the world to a stitching friend for help or advice. There are numerous “web”classes, workshops, and groups in the real and virtual world. Youtube is a wonderful source of all sorts of tutorials.
Needlework has traditionally been passed down through the generations by female family members.  I have some lovely memories of my “Nana” who always had some type of needle in her hand more often than not for necessity rather than leisure. She was very skilled at plain and fancy work.
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Can you think back to who helped you thread your first needle, taught you to sew on a button, cast on your first stitches and picked up your dropped ones ?
For most it will have been a mother or grandmother.
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Even in today’s high tec and material world needlework is a skill, that whilst not vital to our survival as in centuries past,   is still well worth learning and passing on to younger generations.
A pleasure shared is a pleasure doubled.
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Sunday, June 5, 2016

Tartan - cultural identity through textiles

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Tartan – cultural identity through textiles

The followers of the Outlander TV series last Sunday found Jamie and Claire back in Scotland, and gone are the gloriously embroidered costumes of the 18th century French Court and Paris.
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The last few weeks have been a feast for the eyes and a delight for embroiderers, not only in the costumes but the interior scenes which have been filled with richly embroidered fabrics on all possible surfaces.
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There is, however, still much to be enjoyed as a plenitude of tartan and rugged Highland scenery fill our TV screens.
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For several centuries, tartan has been part of the everyday garb of the Highlander. Whilst tartan was worn in other parts of Scotland, it was in the Highlands that its development continued and so it became synonymous with the symbol of clan kinship.
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Tartan was used to make the items of clothing which are today considered traditional Scottish dress. The kilt, or philabeg to use its older Gaelic name, has now become the standard dress for all “Highlanders”. The kilt has its origin in an older garment called the belted plaid which was wrapped around the waist, secured with a belt  and cast over the shoulder and fastened at the front.
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The English word “tartan” is most likely derived from the French tartarin meaning “Tartar cloth”. It has also been suggested that “tartan” may be derived from modern Scottish Gaelic tarsainn, meaning “across”. Today “tartan” usually refers to coloured patterns, though originally a tartan did not have to be made up of any pattern at all.  Patterned cloth from the Gaelic-speaking Scottish Highlands was called breacan, meaning many colours. Over time the meanings of tartan and breacan were combined to describe certain type of pattern on a certain type of cloth. The pattern of a tartan is called a sett. The sett is made up of a series of woven threads which cross at right angles, and are used to identify the clan, family, or regiment with which the wearer is associated.
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Although the kilt is the most recognizable of the tartans, it also manifests itself in the form of trews (trousers), shawls, and skirts.
A hat, or bonnet of knitted wool sporting a badge of the clan, usually a plant of flower, would sit proudly on the head of the clansman. The highly ornamented leather sporran worn in front of the kilt served as a purse and completed the ensemble.
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The women of the clan wore a curraichd of linen over their heads which fastened under their chin. The tonnag was a small square of tartan worn over the shoulders, and the arasaid was a long self-coloured or tartan garment, which reached from the head to the ankles, pleated all round and fastened at the breast with a brooch and at the waist by a belt.
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Early tartans were simple checks of perhaps only two or three colours. Each area or community grouping would doubtless have a weaver. He  would  produce the same tartan for those around him and that tartan would initially become what we now call a District Tartan  worn by individuals living in close geographical proximity such as glen or strath. That community would be one huge extended family that soon became identified by its tartan which it wore, not to differentiate it from its neighbours in the next glen – but because that is what its community weaver produced.
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All weavers depended very much on local plants for their dyes so the locality of the weaver might well have some bearing on the colours of the tartan that he produced. If he lived on the west coast of Scotland, Gipsywort would give him lettuce green, seaweeds would give him flesh colour and seashore whelks might provide purple.
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If he lived inland, then he would undoubtedly look to the moors for his colours: heather treated in different ways would give him yellow, deep green and brownish orange; blaeberries (the favourite food of the grouse) would provide purples, browns and blues; over 20 different lichens would give him a wide range of subtle shades. If he was affluent or dyeing and weaving for a customer of some substance, then he would seek more exotic imported colours of madder, cochineal, woad and indigo.
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With the evolution of chemical dies, weavers were able to introduce more elaborate patterns including more vivid and varied colours. As clans grew and branched through birth, death or marriage, the newer clans evolved tartans of their own by adding an over stripe onto the basic pattern of the parent clan.
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It was after the Battle of Culloden in 1746 that the government in London attempted to purge the Highlands of all unlawful elements by seeking to crush the rebellious clan system. An Act of Parliament was passed which made the carrying of weapons and the wearing of tartan a penal offence. The Act was rigorously enforced. So much so it seems that by the time the Act was repealed in 1785, Highlanders had lost all enthusiasm for their tartan garb, content to wear the same type of dress as other Scots.
By 1785, tartan was a thing of the past, many of the weavers had died and with them the details of the old patterns were lost. as their wooden pattern sticks had rotted away leaving little evidence for future generations.
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The great tartan revival started in 1822, when George IV visited Edinburgh and suggested that people attending the official functions should wear their respective tartans.
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Almost overnight tartan became popular and families, who probably had never before worn tartan, (and hated the Highlanders) became the proud possessors of family tartans. The loss of the original patterns meant it was necessary for many ‘original’ tartans to be reinvented by the tailors of the day.
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Another great boost to tartan came from Queen Victoria and her Consort, Prince Albert. They fell in love with Balmoral – the Royal residence on Deeside in Scotland – and with tartan and all things Highland. Prince Albert designed the now world famous Balmoral tartan and they bedecked room after room with it, further consolidating the Victorians’ romanticised view of the ‘noble’ Highlander.
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Over the last century tartan has developed into a multi-million pound industry dominated by a few large mills. Today tartan holds a unique place in the annuals of textile history and has come to symbolise, along with the kilt and bagpipes, the cultural identity of the whole Scottish nation.
GENTLEMEN – THE TARTAN
Here’s to it!
The fighting sheen of it,
The yellow, the green of it,
The white, the blue of it,
The swing, the hue of it,
The dark, the red of it,
Every thread of it.
The fair have sighed for it,
The brave have died for it,
Foemen sought for it,
Heroes fought for it.
Honour the name of it,
Drink to the fame of it –
THE TARTAN.
– Murdoch Maclean
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Saturday, June 4, 2016

What is it?

What is it?

I recently stumbled across a photograph of an object that I had not seen before. I am sure that many of you will recognize this object immediately.
Thinking that it just had to be craft related and with an enquiring mind I enjoyed hunting around the internet to find out more. So here we have the history of the MP Handy Guide to Knitting and Crochet
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It was patented and manufactured in 1936 in Britain as a pair of rectangular flat metal plates sandwiching a paper card marked with number lists, and sliders with markers to record current row number, increase, decrease and times.
However the metal slides did not work smoothly and could get stuck. The gadget incorporated a small ruler and needle gauge. There is an example of this counter in the Victoria and Albert Museum.  The paper instructions pasted on the back carried the following legend:
“Rows: When knitting and suddenly called away, mark off the number of rows reached.
Increase/decrease: For casting on, or casting off stitches.
Times: To mark off the pattern when doing fancy knitting, etc.
Measure: Very handy when tape measure is mislaid.
Needle gauge: For correct sizes from 6 to 12.”
A paper card version of the MP Handy Guide was published with folded card sliders for the war effort under the auspices of the UK Ministry of Defence during World War II and was intended for use by people knitting gloves, socks and balaclavas for the troops.
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In the 1960s, Aero Needles of Redditch, England produced the Knitters Companion, a pocket version of the complex counter, consisting of a pierced bar of black plastic containing seven knurled, white, rotary, numbered discs whose numbers would appear through the piercings in the bar. As in the MP Handy Guide, the numbers were labelled Increase, Decrease, Rows and Times. It was supplied with a soft plastic case which was intended to maintain memory of the count by preventing accidental movement of the discs.
In 1972, UK magazine Woman’s Weekly gave away its own card variation of this, with the numbers on dials with rotary paper pointers to record rows, increases or decreases, and times. Like the MP Handy Guide it incorporated a small inch-ruler and needle gauge, but now added a tension gauge measure and centimetre ruler.
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In spring 2008 the UK magazine Simply Knitting no.39 gave away a green plastic version of the MP Handy Guide, without needle gauge or ruler and with a clarified version of the same instructions moulded onto the back:
“Rows: move the markers when you have completed each row.
Increase and decrease: keep count each time you need to increase or decrease stitches.
Times: use the markers when you need to make more than one set of increases or decreases.”
This version illustrated the difficulty of mass-producing such a gadget cheaply: the inner card is easily displaced during assembly, thereby misplacing the numbers, and some of the sliders do not move easily.
There are some interesting vintage counters and gauges to collect.
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Do you have  a vintage or antique counter or gauge?  If you so please share a photograph with us.

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Friday, June 3, 2016

Hannah Smith's cabinet


Hannah Smith’s cabinet


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17th century cabinets are greatly admired by embroiderers and collectors alike for their beauty and the needlework skills needed to accomplish their execution.
It is rare for the name of the cabinet’s embroiderer to be known and what makes Hannah’s casket particularly special is the note she placed in one of the drawers giving us a rare glimpse of an individual 17th century embroiderer. Hannah was aged eleven when she started the cabinet.
Written in 1657 one year after she completed the cabinet it tells of the two years she spent working on the project in Oxford (a Royalist stronghold) and of her excitement at sending the embroidered panels to London to be mounted onto the cabinet. Can you imagine Hannah’s delight when those panels came back from London beautifully mounted on the cabinet and edged with shimmering silver braid ?
She must have been so excited opening the cabinet doors and exploring the rows of drawers ornamented with laid silk.
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Hannah tells us that she wrote the note in order to record her satisfaction and sense of achievement on completing her work lest at some later time in her life she might have forgotten about it.
The cabinet is embroidered in tent stitch, queen stitch, stem stitch, long and short stitch, with seed pearls and spangles. The lion and leopard on the lid is in raised work which is now known as stumpwork.
The lid of the casket depicts Joseph being raised from the Pit and sold to the Midanites. The draughtsman took the central group from Gerard de Jode’s Thesaurus but added two gentlemen in contemporary dress and a smiling sun.
The sides have scenes depicting Autumn and Winter warming their hands at a fire and resourceful Deborah and Barak, and  the courageous Jael and Sisera on the door panels. Scenes from the Old Testament were very popular at this time.
Hannah altered the scenes which has added additional meanings appropriate to her personal and political situation. The biblical scenes represent powerful actions by women. The lion and leopard on the front of the box executed in raised work are Royalist symbols. Did Hannah imply a parallel between the oppressed Jews in Canaan and the Royalists under Oliver Cromwell’s Protectorate?
Hannah has added to Joseph’s scene a figure who is given extra importance by being excecuted in raised work. This figure could be Charles I seen as Joseph reborn. There are further symbols of Royalist sympathy. The sun which symbolises the god given right to rule, partly hidden by a cloud (Commonwealth) suggesting that the sun (Royality) will emerge (Restoration) to shine. The butterfly and caterpillar were used by Royalists suggesting that the king never dies without being replaced by another as a butterfly emerges from the chrysalis made by the caterpillar.
The cabinet is in the collection of the Whitworth Gallery which was founded in 1889 and is part of the University of Manchester. Today the Whitworth is a place of research and academic collaboration.
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Originally known as the Whitworth Institute and Park, it opened its doors to “people of all social classes”. During the Industrial Revolution, Manchester was the world’s largest centre of manufacturing, and so it followed that the city should furnish itself with the sorts of internationally relevant museums, galleries and libraries that befitted its global status.  One of the reasons that the Whitworth’s textiles collection is so strong is because the gallery’s founders bought samples of the world’s best textiles, old and new, to inspire the makers of the Manchester cloth on which the city’s fortunes were founded.
Images copyright The Whitworth Gallery

TRIVIA

In the Book of Judges, it is stated that Deborah was a prophet, a judge of Israel and the wife of Lapidoth. She rendered her judgments beneath a date palm tree between Ramah in Benjamin and Bethel in the land of Ephraim.  Some people today refer to Deborah as the mother of Israel, as she is titled in the Biblical “Song of Deborah and Barak”
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The people of Israel had been oppressed by Jabin, the king of Canaan, whose capital was Hazor, for twenty years. Stirred by the wretched condition of Israel she incites a rebellion, and sends to Barak, the son of Abinoam, at Kedesh of Naphtali, and directs him to muster ten thousand troops of Naphtali and Zebulun and concentrate them upon Mount Tabor, the mountain at the northern angle of the great plain of Esdraelon. At the same time she states that she will draw Sisera to the River Kishon. Barak declines to go without the prophet. Deborah consents, but declares that the glory of the victory will therefore belong to a woman. As soon as the news of the rebellion reaches Sisera he collects nine hundred chariots of iron and a host of people.
When Deborah saw the army, she said, according to Judges 4:14:
“Go! This is the day the Lord has given Sisera into your hands. Has not the Lord gone ahead of you?” So Barak went down Mount Tabor, with ten thousand men following him.
As Deborah prophesied, a battle is fought, and Sisera is completely defeated. He himself escapes on foot, while his army is pursued as far as Harosheth of the Gentiles and destroyed. Sisera comes to the tent of Jael; and he lies down to rest. He asks for a drink; she gives him milk; and while he is asleep she hammers a tent-pin through his temple.
The Biblical account of Deborah ends with the statement that after the battle, there was peace in the land for 40 years.
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Pin Cushions and Needle Cases

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Pin cushions and needle cases

If you are a collector or admirer of needlework tools or a stitcher of smalls there is an interesting collection of pin cushions, strawberries and needle cases coming up for sale on  June 9 at  STROUD AUCTIONS  – Lots 1444 to 1479.
For our international readers these auctioneers have an in house postal service and will ship worldwide.
Here are some of the items coming under the hammer – a feast for the eyes on this Thursday morning.
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If you are tempted to bid on a lot please read the auctioneers terms and conditions carefully, there are additional costs to be added to the hammer price.

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