Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Dusty, Lucky and Ned

Steve and I brought home three new cats on Friday. They're not ours to keep -- we're just borrowing them until they are weaned from their bottles. Their mother was unable to care for them, and the shelter had tried mixing them into a new litter. Of six. So that poor lady cat was trying to nurse nine kittens. It didn't work.

We have named them Dusty, Lucky and Ned (after the Three Amigos, one of our favorite comedies.) It is a lot of work taking care of baby kittens. Did you know you have to "help" (ahem) them (gulp) pee and poop? Mother cats lick the babies all over, and when their nether regions get licked, it encourages them to void (pee or poo.) So, basically, the boys have learned to do the pottie dance with a paper towel getting rubbed on their bottoms. We sing a little song about it.

They are almost three weeks old and getting their baby teeth. Every time they wake up from a nap, they are a little bit bigger. They're getting around on all fours now (although Steve said they walk like AT-AT's -- those big pachydermic-lookin' ships/tanks/whatever from The Empire Strikes Back.)

It has been interesting seeing the other cats' reactions to the kittens. Kitty doesn't like other cats, generally, so she just walks past and gives a dissatisfied grumble now and then. Boo hissed once, and she just hides now when the babies are getting fed. Ruby and Giblet, still almost kittens themselves, are more curious. Giblet sat by me yesterday while I fed them, keeping one paw on my leg, I guess in quiet support of the cause.

We'll only have them a couple of weeks, but I am hoping our labor helps three different families get twenty years each of love and companionship from these sweet little boys. That's sixty years of happy! Definitely worth some spilled milk and pee on my hands.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Two you haven't seen yet...

Above is Elizabeth Gandey's sampler from England. She did not date her sampler, but I'd guess it's in the 1830-1840 range for date. She was only EIGHT years old! I had started charting this one as a class proposal for Celebration of Needlework, but they did not choose this class project, so I finished charting it this weekend and am sending it to Kathy, one of my model stitchers.

It's being stitched on 36 count Pear (by Lakeside Linens), which is very close to the original fabric color and count. Silks are a combination of a few different brands, and it will be VERY pretty! Yes, you can join the waiting list for this one. It's not as large as many of my samplers (and there's lots of open space on the sampler.) It's difficult to see in the picture, but there's a doggie in the lawn. I love that this one extolls the virtues of what Jesus said are the two most important commandments. I am also complete enamored with the vine that the cherub is holding up with the flowers/bird on it. So cool!

(I bought this sampler about a year ago on eBay -- paid about $75.00 for it. The original is stitched in wools, and has survived remarkably well.)

And this one is a sampler I won on eBay this weekend for $172.50. WHATTADEAL! It's Dutch, was stitched in 1824, and I love all of the soft, dusty colors. There is a hole in it (down in the right hand corner), but you gotta love that monkey sitting in a chair right above it. Lots of great motifs. No, I don't know when I'll chart this one -- but I couldn't pass up such a deal. I'll put a better picture up on the blog when I receive the sampler in the mail (this was one of the few pics I have from the auction.)

Now, the sampler above is NOT one I own, but I am stitching it. I do get tired of stitching my own designs/reproductions, and needed a break this last week. I've had this graph in my stash from The Scarlet Letter for probably ten years...it's Elizabeth Hudson, and believe it or not, she was a Quaker! I am always struck by red in a sampler, and this one has been fun to stitch so far (although all I've been doing is border.) You can still order this sampler at -- www.scarlet-letter.com/. (This link will take you directly to the Elizabeth Hudson page.)

Happy stitching everybody -- back to work!


Friday, March 18, 2011

"Sampler in the Square" at Celebration of Needlework

I was so pleased to be asked to teach at Celebration of Needlework this spring. I haven't taught original design classes before (although I have given talks about my samplers and other stitching-related topics.) The trick has been coming up with smallish projects that teach accomplished stitchers a little something new. I tried to focus on finishing techniques that people can learn and then adapt to designs they have at home (basically, just taking measurements and adjusting sizes, then applying the class lesson to the new project.)

I really like everything I've come up with -- and I thought I'd share a picture with you. Above is Sampler in the Square, a variation on my Sampler Roundy. The design is an exclusive class piece, and I'll be teaching everyone how to put together these pincushion stands using inexpensive items from the craft store, some around-the-house supplies, and a little elbow grease.

Take a look at the Celebration of Needlework web site at www.celebrationofnw.com. You'll find my classes listed under my name (look in the "Teachers" section.) I hope to see you there!


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

In answer to common questions...

Kathleen wrote wanting to know about handling these old samplers that I buy. She noted that I had taken Ann right out of her frame. (I have to do this in order to do a good reproduction.) I get these types of questions regularly, so I thought I'd post my reply here, in case y'all are interested:

The samplers I buy from madelena.com have all been "conservation framed," meaning they have already been gently stitched down to muslin/cotton fabric which has been fitted over a padded mat board-like material. Typically, if you buy a sampler from a reputable dealer, the hard work will have already been done (it's best to ask, though, if you're not sure.) If you ask, these dealers will sometimes be willing to do layaway -- I have done this with Madelena a few times, and it makes paying for the samplers a lot easier.

Now, a number of the samplers I have purchased from eBay have been on their original wooden boards or other original framing materials, and I remove them as carefully as I can. I'm currently in the process of getting ready to frame some of those (the ones I have already reproduced), and those will be likewise sewn to fabric (which has been stretched around acid-free mat board.) I have saved the board the Euphrasier Enout (French Cathedral Sampler) was stretched on. The entire sampler image is "burned" onto the board. Yikes! I typically pay less for samplers from eBay, but they're more of a risk, in that I can't always see really well what the condition of the sampler is (sometimes I'm going on just a snapshot or two.) People ask me how I know I'm getting the "real deal," and honestly, I don't always. But, since I have been stitching and running my business a while, I do recognize samplers that have been released as reproductions (sometimes those do pop up on eBay as "antiques.")

Any good frame shop should be able to help you with framing a delicate sampler. I always figure if they've lasted THIS long, they can survive just a little more handling. And, as always, it's really important you purchase the finest quality sampler you can afford (look for one that's in good shape with few holes/thread loss.) Unless...

...some of the ones I buy for less money have issues -- i.e., they're faded, stained, "hole-y," incomplete, or, as in the Spanish Mystery Sampler, cut in half. These samplers I buy for several reasons, the first one being I can usually get a really good deal on them; I have paid as little as $25 for an antique sampler.

Also, I often see a sampler with a beautiful design, color palette, or sentiment that might also be in pretty rough shape. I try to look beyond the condition of the sampler and into its "heart," so to speak. I feel like when I buy one of these "ragamuffin" samplers, and then reproduce them, I am kind of resurrecting the dead. Most antique sampler collectors aren't going to buy a sampler in poor shape, generally, because they generally look for condition, origin (school, state, country) and provenance.

When *I* buy a sampler, I look for pleasing colors, originality, a lovely verse, red (I LOVE red in a sampler), personality, and a balanced design. I really have grown to love non-symmetrical samplers, although they can be more difficult to find (think "Ann Grant" -- the bottom of that sampler is a scene, rather than a mirror image right to left.) It's fun for me, as a stitcher, to stitch something that isn't symmetrical, because then I don't feel like I'm repeating myself, you know? I also like trees, flowers, birds, houses, animals and people.

And sometimes it's the verse that grabs me -- like with Sarah Woodham. That verse just knocks me out..."When e're I take my walks abroad, how many poor I see...."

As a designer and a stitcher, I'm in a unique position when I look at buying antique samplers. I buy, basically, what looks fun to stitch! I also love the faded look of old samplers, so when I reproduce them, I go by the colors on the front of the sampler. Sometimes the colors on the back of the sampler (the original colors) are...well...awful. Part of what makes a piece fun to stitch is working with a pleasing selection of fibers.

I'd highly recommend madelena.com (look in their samplers section). They do a great job of packaging and sending their samplers, and I've always been pleased with what I've purchased from them (Jane and Sarah Philpott, Ann Grant, Ann Dale, and Sarah Woodham). I bought my first several samplers from eBay.com, and that probably wasn't the best place to start, but it was definitely affordable. Look for sellers with a good rating and ask questions when you have them.

Take care - T

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Some good news...

Miss Ann Dale has arrived here in Mississippi, and she is WONDERFUL. I'm including a picture of the entire sampler (out of its frame) and a close-up of the bottom section for your appreciating (drooling) purposes.

I hadn't realized the majority of the sampler is stitched in very, very fine wool thread. The count of the linen is indeed about a 50-count, and parts of it are stitched in silk. I am also pleased at the colors and the condition of the sampler. It almost looks like it's just been in a drawer somewhere, because there is very little damage/loss. AND there is a pale teal blue worked in here and there, which with beiges/mucky greens/cherry reds just KNOCKS ME OUT! This one is going to be fun to stitch.

I am going to release this design THREE ways! (AND NO! IT IS NOT DONE YET! I JUST GOT IT THIS AFTERNOON -- SHEESH!) :)

The entire sampler will be graphed as is. It is a large piece, so it will be quite an accomplishment to finish. I already have a waiting list of stitchers who want this graph.

I will also be charting/stitching the bottom third of the sampler (with the strawberry border wrapped 'round the top.) This makes a nice complete-looking sampler for those with less-crazy stitching compulsions. It will still be pretty big.

And I will be making a booklet of 13 of the flower urns to use as ornaments, small accoutrements, gifties, etc.

In other news, I JUST bought a sampler today on ebay.co.uk about an hour ago. I do ding around a little looking for such things now and again, and found Eleanor Hawkesford's wonderful sampler from 1833 this weekend. Bidding ended this afternoon. She was ten. I am including a picture of this one, too. I am thinking it will make a WONDERFUL birth sampler or sampler for a child's room. But it would also look nice in your stitching area, too. I love the faded golds/beiges. The picture is only as good as I could get directly off the internet. I will post a better picture when I receive this one. It looks to be in really good shape, and I only paid about $300 for it. ;) What-ta-steal. Eleanor will also have a good home (along with a couple of Anne's, a Sarah, a Jane, a young French girl and some Spanish lady!) (tee hee) My collection is growing...

You better get to stitching Ann Grant, because Ann Dale won't be far behind.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Introducing ... Maggie Bean

Maggie is Jenny Bean's little sister, and because she's small, she works on smaller samplers than Jenny does. She also is learning about virtues, and so each pair will feature a virtue. Did you know a chair in a sampler symbolizes hospitality?

These are available through Crescent Colours as chart packs with the silk threads. Shops should order directly from Crescent Colours. There will be a total of six releases (two little designs each.) The designs are about 3 by 3 inches, and so would make wonderful pinkeeps, ornaments, pincushions, needlebooks and the like. The frames are by The Family Tree Frame Co. (aka, Crescent Colours.)

Each pair will be on a different color of linen, but each pair will match (this set is on 32 ct. Vintage Tundra by Lakeside Linens.) You get plenty of silk in each packet to stitch the pair. I hope you like them. Maggie's pretty pleased!