Monday, July 11, 2016

Monday Morning Musings

Summer is here and the beach in the little cove where I live is starting to get busy. This weekend I spotted someone or rather something that brought memories flooding back from my own childhood – a man chilling in the sunshine wearing a hanky hat. The fashioning of a white handkerchief into headwear by tying knots at the corners became something of a clichéd image of the British male at play in sunny weather.
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A look much lampooned and certainly best forgotten !
Musing on the “hankie” I started to think of its various different uses. Besides the obvious of blowing one’s nose it can be used can be used to hold, wrap and protect.
One evening in 1913 New York socialite Mary Phelps Jacob was putting on a sheer silk evening gown as she eagerly got ready for a dinner party. She had one small problem, whalebones were visible beneath the sheer silk fabric and were poking out of her corset. With the help of her French maid she created a brassiere from two silk handkerchiefs and some pink ribbon. Soon thereafter she started to sell her silk handkerchief brassieres.
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Textiles help us in a multitude of everyday ways. A piece of cloth has so many different uses. Usually we think of a sari simply as a garment but it does much more than cover the body. The loose end that is draped over the body also serves as a handy piece of fabric that can mop the brow and protect the face from dirt and sun. It can be used as a potholder and the end can be tied to hold money and keys in.
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The belted plaid was used not only as a garment, but also as bedding at night, the wearer wrapping himself in it and sleeping directly on the ground.
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The Mexican rebozo and the Guatemalan tzute function as shawls or as carriers of everything from babies to firewood.
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The uses for a scout’s neckerchief are endless.
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In the 21st century of the Western world very few of us weave our own cloth and the laborious processes and multiple steps that go into its production are carried out in factories in faraway countries. Textiles play an important role in our lives, they are all around us. We use expressions such as “life hanging by a thread”, “moral fibre”, “fibre of our being”, “cut from the same cloth”, “spinning a yarn” and “to cotton on”.  The historical meanings and significance behind textiles might have faded into the background but there is a rich and interesting story to be told.

TRIVIA

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The idea for this post came from seeing a man sporting a hanky hat and coincidentally the word “kerchief”  came from two French words: couvrir, which means “to cover,” and chef, which means “head.”
By the 16th century the kerchief had become known as the handkerchief.
The Romans waved handkerchiefs in the air at public games, and the drop of a hankie would signal the beginning of the chariot races. The medieval knight would tie a lady’s handkerchief to the back of his helmet as a good luck talisman when jousting.
Handkerchiefs appeared in Shakespearean plays – Cymbeline, As You Like It, and most memorably Othello, in which a misunderstanding over a handkerchief caused Othello to kill his wife and then himself.
Handkerchiefs were listed in dowries and  bequeathed in wills. The loss of a handkerchief was found recorded in publications as far back as 1665.
In Persia, they were considered a sign of nobility and were reserved for kings. Aristocrats sitting for their portraits would request that a handkerchief be included in the picture, the more embellished the better, to indicate their status and position.
The nobles of France began sporting handkerchiefs in the 14th century. These handkerchiefs were items of great beauty – made of silk, often heavily embroidered and were found in many shapes, including circles and triangles. Often these handkerchiefs were scented as protection from the smells resulting from a lack of regular baths and working toilets.
Considered a symbol of wealth, handkerchiefs became larger and larger, until, in 1785 Louis XVI issued a decree prohibiting anyone from carrying a handkerchief larger than his.
The handkerchief was used as a way to flirt. It was said that Queen Elizabeth I, who carried handkerchiefs embroidered with gold and silver thread, created a whole vocabulary of hankie gestures for dealing with her staff.
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In addition to carrying for practical purposes, handkerchiefs have long been displayed in the top pocket of men’s jackets. Used in this way, they are referred to as a pocket handkerchief or pocket square.
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As a visible fashion item there are a wide variety of ways to fold a pocket square, ranging from the austere to the flamboyant.
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During the depression in the 1930’s, a handkerchief was often the only new item a woman could afford enhance her wardrobe. A woman would “change” her outfit by changing her hankie.
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Ladies would embroider colorful flowers, monograms or motifs on their hankies.
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In WWII, with clothes rationing the handkerchief played an important role in fashion and could be seen peeking from breast pockets or draped over a belt as an accessory. Manufacturers like Burmel and Kimball advertised a handkerchief of the month in Vogue magazine. With the perfection of color-fast dyes, a vast array of cheerful colors allowed artists the freedom to depict everything from flowers to animals to cocktail recipes. There were handkerchiefs to celebrate holidays, birthdays, get well greetings, Mother’s Day, and more, often sold in special gift cards.
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Several years after the war, once fashion began to revive, Balmain, Dior, Rochas and other designers utilized handkerchiefs as a final touch to their haute couture. Hankies were tied to the wrist, threaded through the top buttonhole of a suit or popped from the side pocket of a handbag.
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Handkerchiefs were very popular with the armed forces to give as gifts to mothers and sweethearts.
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The production of souvenir handkerchiefs can be traced to the 17th century, with designs including depictions of victories in battle, royal events, performers, maps and unusual events. These designs could help to satisfy patriotic sentiments or signify particular allegiances. By the second half of the 18th century handkerchiefs were among the most common commemorative items produced.
Handkerchiefs were even employed for advertising in political campaigns. One historian claims Martha Washington created a handkerchief to help promote the election of her husband.
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Apparently she had “George Washington for President” hankies printed for distribution at the Constitutional Convention of 1787. To this day, handkerchiefs are printed depicting both Republican and Democratic parties, as well as coronation handkerchiefs for royalty. There is even a handkerchief that contains King Edward’s abdication speech.
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The birth of tissues sounded the death knell for handkerchiefs. Originally invented in the 1920’s as a face towel to remove cold cream, by the 1930’s Kleenex was touted as the antidote to germs with their slogan “Don’t carry a cold in your pocket.” Busy housewives eagerly embraced the disposable hankie.


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“Blankets wrap you in warmth; quilts wrap you in love.”

Quilts are a perfect example of how the same material, interpreted through different personalities, hearts and minds can produce countless masterpieces.
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A much enjoyed coffee top book in my library is  “Red and White Quilts: Infinite Variety: Presented by the American Folk Arts Museum”. Everytime I pick up the book I am amazed by the energy that emanates from these quilts.
It is not a quilt pattern book. It is the story of an exhibition of 651 red and white quilts belonging to Joanna Rose. The exhibition in 2011 was the largest exhibition of quilts ever held in New York.
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As an extraordinary gift to the public, entry to this unprecedented event was free to celebrate Joanna’s 80th birthday. In appreciation for the show Joanna Rose donated 50 quilts to the American Folk Art Museum.
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The exhibit soared 60 ft. high and viewers could surround and submerge themselves in the angles and curves, the patterns and compositions which reflected hundreds of quilters, thousands of hours, and millions of stitches, joined in tribute to the creative spirit.
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Fortunately for us there are several videos showcasing the quilts on youtube.
Joanna Rose described herself as “an accumulator, a treasure hunter.” In her words “A collector is always bettering what he has. I only have accumulations of things.”
I am sure that many of us know exactly what she means. Whilst not necessarily on Joanna’s scale, we “collectors’ amass items we enjoy looking at or handling, and to save what we think should be treasured and preserved for the future. Sometimes, items simply tug on our heartstrings. My own sampler collection has often been added to just because of the stitcher’s back story.
What and why do you collect ?
Photographs of the exhibition are by Gavin Ashworth


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The Little Black Dress

Black. Colour of mystery and mortality, while Anna Wintour dislikes it black continues to be the anchor of style; a wardrobe staple.
The colour is everywhere. It is the highest ranking ball on the snooker table and  the Rolling Stones tell us to paint in it. In 1861, when Prince Albert died, Queen Victoria took to wearing black as everyday dress. Her decision to wear “widows weeds” resonated into everyday fashion, as people reconfigured her mourning into fashion. Subsequently it became the uniform of Coco Chanel, the beatniks and Johnny Cash.
A little black dress (LBD) is a black evening or cocktail dress, cut simply and often quite short. It is considered essential to a complete wardrobe by many women and fashion observers, who believe it a “rule of fashion” that every woman should own a simple, elegant black dress that can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion: for example, worn with a jacket and pumps for daytime business wear or with more ornate jewellery and accessories for evening. Because it is meant to be a staple of the wardrobe for a number of years, the style of the little black dress ideally should be as simple as possible: a short black dress that is too clearly part of a trend would not qualify because it would soon appear dated.
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Prior to the 1920s black was reserved for periods of mourning and considered indecent when worn outside such circumstances, such as depicted in John Singer Sargent’s painting, Portrait of Madame X.
Mourning clothes were a family’s outward display of their inner feelings. The rules for who wore what and for how long were complicated, and were outlined in popular journals or household manuals such as The Queen and Cassell’s – both very popular among Victorian housewives. They gave copious instructions about appropriate mourning etiquette. If your second cousin died and you wanted to know what sort of mourning clothes you should wear and for how long, you consulted The Queen or Cassell’s or other manuals.
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For deepest mourning clothes were to be black, the symbolic of spiritual darkness. Dresses for deepest mourning were usually made of non-reflective paramatta silk or the cheaper bombazine – many of the widows in Dickens’ novels wore bombazine. Dresses were trimmed with crape, a hard, scratchy silk with a peculiar crimped appearance produced by heat. Crape is particularly associated with mourning because it doesn’t combine well with any other clothing – you can’t wear velvet or satin or lace or embroidery with it. After a specified period the crape could be removed – this was called “slighting the mourning.”
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The second stage lasted nine months and permitted the wearing of black silk. In “ordinary mourning” for three months, the widow could accessorize only with black ribbon, lace, embroidery, or jet jewellery.
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The final six months of “half-mourning” allowed the bereaved to wear muted or neutral colors: shades and tints of purple were most common.
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Someone had to provide the clothes quickly to mourners. Many shops catered to the trade; the largest and best known of them in London was Jay’s of Regent Street. Opened in 1841 as a kind of warehouse for mourners, Jay’s provided every conceivable item of clothing you and your family could need. And you were bound to be repeat customers: it was considered bad luck to keep mourning clothes – particularly crape – in the house after mourning ended. That meant buying clothes all over again when the next loved one passed. Mourning was a lucrative business.
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Because of the number of deaths in World War I, plus the many fatalities during the Spanish flu epidemic, it became more common for women to appear in public wearing black.
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In mourning mode after the death of her lover in 1915, Coco Chanel’s tendency towards black naturally crept in to her designs.
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Coco Chanel recreated the little black dress as we know it today when she designed a simple, short black dress that was published in Vogue on October 1st, 1926.
“Chanel’s Ford Dress” the frock that all the world will wear is model 817 of black crepe de chine. The bodice blouses slightly at the front and sides and has a tight bolero at the back. Especially chic is the arrangement of tiny tucks which cross in front. Imported by Saks.” That w
“Chanel’s Ford Dress” the frock that all the world will wear is model 817 of black crepe de chine. The bodice blouses slightly at the front and sides and has a tight bolero at the back. Especially chic is the arrangement of tiny tucks which cross in front. Imported by Saks.”
The fashion bible described the dress as “Chanel’s Ford Dress”. This description was referencing the Model-T Ford, of which Henry Ford claimed, “any customer can have a car painted in any color that he wants so long as it’s black.” The allusion to the reliable car reflected the reliability and versatility of the dress and that it was accessible to women of all social classes.
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The dress drew it’s origins from the increasingly popular flapper style and it is still debatable if the LBD was in fact ‘invented’ by Chanel. But certainly her penchant for simplicity was hugely influential.
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As the 1930s arrived Hollywood secured its iconic status through the cartoon character Betty Boop. Other designers, notably Nettie Rosenstein, and Elsa Schiaparelli began to design ‘ little black dresses’ and the outfit became a standard staple for simple evening wear. The 1930s conservative look brought evening dress hems down to the calf again.  The ‘gamine’ silhouette – so popular in the 1920s, was replaced with more natural feminine flowing curves .
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A meticulously tailored LBD as worn by the Duchess of Windsor in 1939. Wallis was famous for her sense of style as she was infamous for her love life.
“When a little black dress is right, there is nothing else to wear in its place,” – Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor.
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Postwar, the fashion world took a new turn with Christian Dior’s legendary New Look: wasp waist and lavishly full skirt.
“You can wear black at any time. You can wear it at any age. You may wear it for almost any occasion.” — Christian Dior
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The sleek sheath, this one by Dior again, would be one of the shapes that dominated the ’50s.
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The most famous LBD and probably the most iconic item of clothing in the history of 20th fashion is Audrey Hepburn’s dress worn in the opening of the 1961 Breakfast at Tiffany’s. It was designed by Hubert de Givenchy.
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The “revenge dress” of Princess Diana is another iconic LBD of the 20th century.  In 1994, the royal attended a Vanity Fair party at the Serpentine Gallery not long after Charles’ confession of adultery during a now-infamous interview. The off-the-shoulder number by Christina Stambolian she wore was an immediate show-stopper and ensured Diana would not be pitied.
The grace and elegance with which Princess Diana carried herself is largely unmatched to this day. Despite her tumultuous marriage and subsequent divorce, the “People’s Princess” always managed to appear stylish and gracious.
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The legacy of the LBD has undisputedly stood the test of time, remaining the singular most iconic fashion item that transcends age, size and occasion. Its versatility and figure-flattering qualities for women of all shapes and sizes means Chanel’s timeless little black dress remains the most dependable, go-to item in any women’s wardrobe to this day.
But always remember:
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Palestinian Embroidery

In Palestine during the 19th and early 20th centuries, handmade and richly embroidered women’s garments expressed regional identity at the same time as they marked age and status.
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Patterns and motifs are the hallmark of Palestinian embroidery. The colors and designs make a statement about the embroiderer’s  identity and skill.
Traditional patterns used in Palestinian embroidery are designs of geometric shapes, but also include designs which were most familiar to Palestinian women as impressions of their daily surroundings. These patterns symbolize good health, hope, prosperity and protection, among other attributes of positive beliefs. Depending on the region in Palestine, the patterns included representations of cypress tree, bunches of grapes, apple tree, cauliflower, cock, pigeon, rainbow, roses, birds of paradise, flower pot and extensive other such representations. Geometric designs were given such names as ‘foreign moon’, ‘cow’s eye’, ‘mill wheel’, ‘crab’ , ‘moon with feathers’, ‘old man’s teeth’, ‘bachelor’s cushion’, ‘the baker’s wife’, ‘old man upside down’ and other such creative and often humorous names.
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Embroidered motifs could express a woman’s hopes and expectations, and even her attitude toward certain issues such as marriage, children, and in-laws. If a woman from Hebron, for example, wanted to have children, she might embroider “doll” figures on the back panel of her dress to express this desire.
imageVillages and even entire regions were associated with the use of certain color fabrics and threads. Dyes were produced from local plants and insects. Producing these colors was the specialty of a few families in Palestine, and the production processes were kept as very well-guarded family secrets. The use of synthetic dyes began in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century, but locally produced natural colors continued to be used. Natural dyes were more attractive to most women because their color stayed vibrant and did not fade after many years of use.
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Cross-stitching was most commonly used in the central, southern, and coastal regions of the country. Most of the 19th and 20th century traditional dresses were made with a coarse weave that facilitated counting the threads of the warp and the weft, enabling women to cross-stitch on the fabric directly without a pattern. With the introduction of modern fabrics, women used embroidery canvas or a pattern since most new fabrics are too tightly woven to allow for the easy counting of threads.
Couching is a technique in which cords were laid down on the fabric and secured with tiny stitches. Women in Bethlehem were famous for couching gold and silver cords, and since most of the embroidery on wedding thobs was done on fine-textured silk fabrics, it was easier to embroider using a couching stitch. Women throughout Palestine traveled to Bethlehem to purchase chest panels embroidered with the couching stitch. Dresses and panels employing the couching stitch were unique, festive, and beautiful. Villagers felt that they were buying a premium product from the town of Bethlehem, a product that was created by women who specialized in this kind of work.
Other stitches used in Palestine are the hem stitch, satin stitch used as a filler to give solid appearance, manajel and sanabel stitches used to hold selvedges together, chain stitch, and stem stitch.

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Historic embroidery – Queen Charlotte

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Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz married George III in September 1761. A fortnight later they were crowned at Westminster Abbey and their coronation portraits were commissioned from Alan Ramsay, who had recently succeeded John Shackleton as Principal Painter in Ordinary.
Charlotte is seen in a similar setting to her husband, with classical columns and rich drapery. In coronation robes of gold and ermine to match George, she gestures towards the crown. This version is by Ramsay’s studio – the replication of state portraits for heads of state, colonial governors, ambassadors etc, was a common occurrence during this time. There are subtle differences between the copies. Ramsay’s earliest version shows Charlotte wearing a pearl necklace, whereas later portraits, such as this, feature a gem encrusted necklace.
Helen McCook is a professional embroiderer and expert in historic embroidery. During her time at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery Helen gave a number of talks to the public regarding the portrait of Queen Charlotte by the Studio of Alan Ramsay. This VIDEO gives a flavour of those talks and the fascinating details that they revealed.
If you are interested in embroidery, costume or history this video is well worth watching.
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The eye of the needle

Despite the numerous tools and gadgets a needleworker acquires over time we actually need very little equipment to stitch or sew. However, as we start our needlework journey we quickly come to realise the importance of the right equipment.
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The most basic and essential tool is probably the needle. Experience will soon teach us that the eye must be big enough to take the thread that we are working with.
Damage can be caused to silk and cotton when it has to be pushed or coaxed through the eye of a needle. It is also important that the needle itself will make a big enough hole for the thread to pass easily through the fabric.  Threads can easily lose their smooth surface when rubbed.
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On the other hand if you have a needle that is too large for the thread and the count of your fabric your work will not look neat. The needle will make holes that are too large for your thread to fill.
The type of threads used dictate whether you need a needle with a round or flat eye, whilst the type of fabric will dictate a sharp or blunt tip.
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No matter the type it is always worth investing in good quality needles. Inferior needles can have poorly drilled eyes which will rub your thread. A needle that bends no matter how comfortable it feels in the hand will not stitch a straight line.
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A needle collection can grow as quickly as your stash of charts.
Beading Needles
Standard beading needles are very fine and long, with long eyes and are available in sizes 10 to 15. These needles are suitable to use with beads, pearls and sequins and they are particularly useful in the art of threading and stringing pearls. Short Beading needles are ideal when attaching beads to fabric featuring additional embroidery.
Bodkin Needles
These needles are used to thread ribbons, elastics and tapes. They come in two different forms: flat and round.
Chenille NeedlesThese needles are identical to tapestry needles except that they have a sharp point and are used for different types of embroidery.
Curved Repair
Curved needles are great for those difficult tasks: sewing fabric boxes together or repairing lampshades.
Darning NeedlesThese are used for darning work such as repairing holes in socks.
Embroidery NeedlesThese needles have a longer eye which makes them ideal for threading stranded cotton. Apart from this, they are the same length and point as and ordinary sewing needle.
Leather NeedlesThese needles have triangular points which pass through tough materials without causing unnecessary abrasion.
Long Darners
Another form of darning needle, the extra length and large eyes make these suitable for mending with wool. In addition to being a darning needle these needles are useful to use during basting and layering fabrics together.
Milliner/Straw NeedlesTraditionally used in the millinery trade, they are now more commonly used for embroidery. They are similar to an ordinary sewing needle except that they are longer.
Quilting Needles
These needles are very short and fine with a round eye. The shorter length allows the quilter to create quick and even stitching.
Sharps
These are general sewing needles used by dressmakers.
Size 2, 3 and 4 suitable for medium to heavy fabrics
Size 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 suitable for light to medium fabrics
Size 11 and 12 suitable for fine fabrics or creating small delicate stitches
Tapestry Needles
These needles have a large eye and a blunt round point designed for the use in needlepoint, petit point, countered cross stitch and plastic canvas work. The blunt ends enable the needle to pass through canvas, linen and aida without piercing the threads of the fabric.
Yarn Darners
These are long needles with long eyes making them ideal for spanning large holes during mending, using cotton or yarn. Size 14/18 are useful needles to use when sewing pieces of knitting or crochet together.
JOHN JAMES NEEDLES has a very useful guide that can be downloaded and stored for future reference.

TRIVIA

If you see a needle sticking up in the carpet, you may expect a visitor.
It is unlucky to find a broken needle on the ground.
To break a needle while making a garment, is a sign that the owner will live to wear it out.
It is bad luck for anyone to give another needles.
On opening a paper of needles, always take the third one first, for that will give you success in whatever you do with that paper of needles.
If you are pricked by a pin, keep a sharp lookout on your lover, or you may lose him.
“Camel through the eye of a needle” – used as part of a comparison to indicate that something is impossible or extremely difficult to accomplish. Taken from the passage in the Bible (Luke 18:25), “For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
A darning needle is a regional term for a dragonfly.
“Like looking for a needle in a haystack” engaged in a hopeless search.
“To needle “someone about someone or something is to pester or bother them.
“On pins and needles” is to be worried or excited about something.
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Monday Morning Musings

I was putting a thread legend of 25 colours together this weekend and the sun was pouring through the window bouncing light around the room. The skeins of silks were shimmering and flashing in the late afternoon sun and I felt as if my lap was full of rubies, sapphires, emeralds, opals, garnets, peridots and topazes.
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Pondering on how silks are like liquid jewels two images came to mind: the big cat in Mary Dean’s sampler and the “Big Cats” in the jewellery collection of Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor.
The Duchess of Windsor jewellery collection consisted of 214 pieces and grew out of the most controversial love story of modern times. Wallis and Edward married in a private ceremony on 3 June 1937, at Chateau de Candé in France and changed the course of history in the process.
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The couple marked the milestones of their romance and 20 years of their marriage with jewelled gifts and the collection tells Wallis and Edward’s story in a most personal way.
Edward VIII showered the love of his life, throughout their marriage with the finest Jewels. Indeed, so possessive was King Edward VIII of Wallis and the jewellery he gave her, that he instructed that the Duchess of Windsor collection of jewels be dismantled after her death. He didn’t want any other woman ever to wear them, but his wishes were not carried out.
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The Three Ostrich Plume Diamond Brooch was designed in 1935, by Edward (who was at the time, the Prince of Wales) for his future bride, before the wedding in 1937. It was sold by Sotheby’s to the late Elizabeth Taylor.
American actress, Elizabeth Taylor, was an avid Jewelry Collector and a close friend of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. She purchased the antique diamond ostrich plume brooch as she admired it when Wallis Simpson wore it, and bought it mainly for sentimental reasons.
Sapphires were the Duchess of Windsor’s favourite gemstone; Wallis thought the colour of blue sapphires brought out the colour of her eyes, and they probably did!
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Rubies, Diamonds, Emeralds and Blue Sapphires feature in the Cartier Flamingo Clip.
Among the Duchess of Windsor Collection of jewelry gifts, Edward lavished on Wallis Simpson was the signature ‘Great Cats’ commissioned from the House of Cartier.
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It was the famous Panther Bracelet that enjoyed pride of place among Wallis Simpson’s Big Cat Jewelry Collection.
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Another big cat, The Duchess of Windsor acquired is the Diamond and Sapphire Panther Pin made by Cartier In 1949. The big cat on this pin appears crouching in a lifelike pose, ready to leap over the moon; on a large perfectly round cabochon star sapphire weighing 152.35 carats. The panther pin was one of the Wallis Simpson’s favorite pieces.
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The Leopard’s Head has been the London Town mark, (crowned & uncrowned) from 1478 to the present. The lion has been a symbol of the King of England, i.e., Lion Hearted King of England. It is also the national animal of England and has been associated with English royalty for hundreds of years.
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The “big cats”: the tiger, lion, jaguar, and leopard, belong to the genus Panthera. Their common trait is their powerful roar. Were the cats, Edward placed in the hands of the lady he adored, a silent roar declaring he was a King?
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TRIVIA

The V&A is renowned for its collection of textiles and fashion. It also has one of the finest and most comprehensive collections of jewellery in the world.
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Over 3,000 jewels tell the story of jewellery in Europe from ancient times to the present day. The video clip “Spotlight on the V & A Jewellery Collection” (running time of 10 minutes) is a tantalizing glimpse of the collection.
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William Larkin

The paintings of William Larkin provide a wonderful insight into the beauty and opulence of embroidery and costume in the early 1600’s.
William Larkin was born in the 1580’s and was an English painter active from 1609 until his death in 1619.
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He was known for his iconic portraits of members of the court of James I of England which capture in brilliant detail the opulent layering of textiles, embroidery, lace, and jewellery characteristic of fashion in the Jacobean era.
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Little is known of William Larkin’s life. It is almost certain that he was the son of an innkeeper also named William Larkin and lived in the parish of St Sepulchre.
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His father was a close neighbour of Robert Peake, the portrait painter to Henry, Prince of Wales, and it may have been Peake who introduced Larkin to painting.
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Until 1952 Larkin was a mostly unknown artist. The paintings were attributed to the ‘Curtain Master’ but in the 1950s architectural historian James Lees Milne found the missing clues and could attribute some paintings to Larkin. Around 40 of his portraits are now known.
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A fairly limited range of props and poses were used.
Larkin, William; Lady Isabel Rich, nee Cope; English Heritage, Kenwood; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/lady-isabel-rich-nee-cope-191792
This portrait is believed to be of Lady Thornhagh and was sold by Christies in 2008 for £505,250.S
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The richly decorated costumes, covered with embroidery, ruffs and cuffs, needlelace and Italian cutwork are typical of renaissance style.
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The dress of Diana is identical to the one her twin sister is wearing in a companion portrait. It was quite common in those days for siblings close in age to wear the same clothes. Her matching bodice and petticoat show a fairly formal court dress in an extreme and short-lived style of fashion with slashes across the front panel of her skirt. The portrait was probably painted around 1618 when Diana was about twelve, perhaps a little older. She was unmarried. She stands on the same carpet as her twin sister in the accompanying portrait and also in the portrait of their mother a carpet of the same pattern, but with different colours is depicted.
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The painting of the gold thread embroidery is one of Larkin’s trademarks. His meticulous depiction of the highlights dotted all over the painting could not be copied by his assistants and experts can still tell whose hand applied the dots.
by William Larkin, oil on panel, circa 1618
© National Portrait Gallery, London
He did not use gilt or metallic leaf but created the effect of metallic shine in mere paint. He had a method of a triple layered application of brown, orange and yellow for gold, and dark grey, light grey and white for silver. Raised dots of paint added to the realistic effect. The embroidered fabrics in his paintings are built up in 7 or 8 layers of paint.
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His faces are much more life like and subtle than his costumes and a world away from the mask like portraits of the 16th century.
(c) The National Trust for Scotland, Fyvie Castle; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Larkin took the Elizabethan tradition of full dress portraiture to its utmost glory.

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A book review – Early Style Hardanger by Yvette Stanton

Very few of us become proficient at a craft by instinct. If we wish to learn we need to find out as much as we can about the materials we need; the tools to use and the correct way to use them. Needlework is not just a question of a needle and some thread, but of which needle and what kind of thread, and how to use them once chosen. There are a multitude of stitches and techniques to discover and master.
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I am a self taught needleworker and through Yvette’s earlier books I have become competent in Hardanger,  whitework and drawn thread work. I have come to appreciate the simple elegance of white on white. When there is no colour to distract, the pattern and texture formed by the stitching really comes to the fore.
I have been eagerly awaiting delivery of Yvette Stanton’s new book “Early Style Hardanger” since its publication was announced, and I have not been disappointed. This is a must have book for a needleworker’s library.
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Normally I dip into books but I have been totally enthralled from the 1st to the 160th page, all of which are packed with over 1500 colour photos and diagrams.
There is so much to enjoy including a fascinating section on the history of hardanger. I found the chapter comparing the early style Hardanger and the modern day version particularly interesting. Early-style Hardanger is quite distinct from contemporary Hardanger. This historical style of embroidery has traditionally been used on the women’s clothing in the Hardangerfjord region, and was designed to emulate needle-made lace of the 1600s and 1700s.
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The Projects chapter has 10 gorgeous projects that tempt. The small projects make wonderful learning pieces culminating in a traditional apron. The projects have well written finishing instructions and the pattern sheets come in a separate pack at the back on the book.
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The section on “Stitches and Techniques”  opens with “where to start” which explains how to read a chart, the stitching order and how to find the starting point, all important basics that can often be overlooked.
Yvette guides the reader through this comprehensive section with right and left handed step by step stitch and technique instructions that are extremely clear and easy to follow supplemented by well drawn out illustrations.
Early Style Hardanger is now one of my “go-to” stitch reference books and can be found on my “special shelf” within arm’s reach of my stitching station.
The book is now available through needlework stores, and direct from  YVETTE.
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Yvette Stanton is the publisher and designer behind Vetty Creations. Yvette is a highly respected tutor accredited by the Embroiderers Guild of NSW, and teaches embroidery classes, specialising in whitework at shops and guild groups around Australia.
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