Tuesday, March 27, 2012

It's What We Do

While thumbing through some sampler books last week, I was thinking about needleworkers in history, why they did what they did, how they did it, and what they must have been thinking while stitching.

At the same time, I've also been working on stitching Hannah Pepper's Sampler (see above) -- a reproduction sampler of an original stitched over 200 years ago. And that gives me thinking time, too. The magazine I'm working from shows the reproduction stitched on a creamy linen in reds and golds alongside the original which is now stained with age...the antique sampler looks almost like a sepia-toned version of the newer version. I want mine to look like the old one -- like it looks now -- not like something brand new. I selected a hand-dyed fabric and am stitching in silks in mucky shades of green, brown, gold and red, and I'm pretty pleased so far.

You know that these original sampler stitchers were usually girls in school -- anywhere from, oh, say, six years old to 13 or 14. Their samplers were lessons in marking linens, in history, math, religion, spelling, geography, and virtue. These samplers were hung by families who were proud of their daughters and eager to show each girl's worth in terms of her education and her abilities as a woman.

Up until recently, I've always thought that what we do is interesting, neat, intriguing, a little nerdy, and complimentary -- copying the work of schoolgirls long gone -- schoolgirls who didn't always want to be stitching samplers, but persisted nonetheless. We're really copycats, right? What value can be found in a copycat?

So, I'm thinking and I'm thinking, and what I think is this:

In 200 years, what are people going to be thinking ... about US?

Surely, our work will last that long. Our samplers are conservation framed with acid-free materials, spacers, and museum-quality glass. The fibers and fabrics we use are much more stable than the animal/mineral/plant dyes used way-back-when. And, it will be so much easier for our descendants to pull up information about us and our lives, even copies of the patterns we used, books we read, pictures of our faces.

We are so fortunate to have the kind of leisure time women had little of long ago. Dishwashers, washing machines, electricity, refrigeration, transportation, even the ability to go to a store and purchase clothes, food, whatever we need, quickly, and relatively inexpensively, all give us the ability to spend time doing what we WANT to do.

There has been a fundamental shift from samplers being stitched by girls in school to samplers being stitched by women as a leisure activity. While needlework used to be a part of a regular education program, now we find needlework as an activity outside of (and after) school. And while some girls enjoyed and others hated their stitching lessons, we stitch now because we WANT to stitch. We find peace in it. We use our needlework to say, "This is what is important to us -- home, beauty, patience, silence, persistence, enjoyment, thought, quality."

Are we copycats? In a way. But I think more than that we value those who have gone before us and left us a little piece of themselves. And so, too, we leave pieces of ourselves ... X by X by X.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Three quick news items

Scraps' adoption fell through. I haven't heard the whole story yet, but the owners said he had some kind of eye condition that they are unable to accommodate. So, he's back up for adoption. He is such a gentle, loving and sweet thing, and he's been through so much. I hope we are able to find him a home again soon. Keep him in your thoughts.

And, I've had people asking about the Fine Lines Magazine issues that Hannah Pepper is in. The issues are Summer 2002, Fall 2002 and Winter 2003. The magazine lists this as a four-part series, but the fourth article (Spring 2003) is an article about how to make a hand-painted frame for the sampler. This article is very interesting (techniques are by Catherine Campbell of Primitive Traditions), but it is not essential if you want to stitch the sampler.

You can sometimes find Fine Lines Magazine on eBay. It was a fantastic sampler-themed magazine with articles, charts and techniques and NO ADVERTISEMENTS. If you love samplers, but don't have a collection of these, I recommend them whole-heartedly.

Also, here are the verses on the sampler, since some have asked:

LORD I will not let thee go
Till the blessing thou bestow
Hear my Advocate divine
Lo to his my fruit I join
Join to his it cannot fail
Bless me for I will prevail

AWAKE my soul and with the sun Thy daily stage of duty run
Shake off dull sloth and early rise To Pay the morning sacrafice
Redeem thy mispent moments past And live this day as if the last
Thy talents to improve take care For the great day thyself prepare

And, now I'm on Pinterest -- you'll find me at http://pinterest.com/xspeddler/. It's kind of a fun way to keep track of all those little things online that are inspirational and helpful.

Now...go have a wonderful day!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Some bits and pieces before stitching...

I have been working my hiney off, because it's just that time of year. Everything is going well, but you should see my desk at work. I'm practically going to need a shovel to get through the avalanche of orders and paperwork.

Here's what my week has looked like. Wish I had more pictures to share, but this is going to have to do...

Monday was my 42nd birthday. I had a great day with Steve, Harrison and Graham, which included lunch at Tabella (chicken parmesan and chocolate mousse/brownie/home-made whipped cream for dessert), a little shopping at the kitchen supply and book stores, opening gifts, answering the phone, and stitching on the Hannah Pepper Sampler.

I went through my stash and picked out half a dozen or so that I liked at that moment, and had Steve pick. He chose this one (and one other.) I agreed with him on Miss Pepper's Sampler, because it has a nice verse about making the most of your time...living each day to the fullest and what-not. I am working with the silks I've got at home to make mine look as much like the original (to the left) as I can. It's gorgeous, and I'll soon post WIP pics. Fine Lines magazine, of course, is no longer around, but sometimes you can find these back issues on eBay (which is where I got mine.) It's a three-part sampler.

I also have been instrumental in finding homes for four cats already this week -- Joplin, Cleo, Bobby and Scraps. It's a long boring story, but I will tell you that I am really proud about Scraps in particular. He was in the temp. room, and was about to be put down, but I found a volunteer who was able to take Scraps and give him his antibiotics for a week and a half. I took him to PetSmart today, and WHILE I WAS STILL THERE, a young couple came in, and after looking at a few of the other cats, decided on Scraps. He is gentle and sweet, and as soon as I put Scraps down by their feet, Scraps butted his head on the nice man's foot, then rolled over on his back to show them his belly. They fell in love with him, and he's going to a very good home with one other cat they already have (Miss Kitty) and a designated cat ROOM to play in with lots of toys. I am so happy for Scraps, and very proud to have helped in some way to find a great life.

and...i bought a stupid ole sampler today. (Shrug...grin.) Yes, again. This was one I looked at earlier in the week, and then Diane at Little House told me to go look at it, because she thought it looked like me (something I'd like), and then a blog follower called to have me go look at it. So, I bought it. There! Are you all happy? It's actually quite lovely. I don't know much about it, but didn't pay very much for it. It was stitched by Maria White at age SEVEN in 1846. Besides the verse, which is lovely...well...here:

While my Redeemers near
My Shepherd and my guide
I bid farewell to anxious fear
My wants are all supply'd
To ever fragrant meads
Where rich abundance grows
His gracious hand indulgent leads
And guards my sweet repose

...I was struck by how small it is compared to how much is on there. It's only 13 inches wide. The linen has got to be very fine. Yes, there's some staining. And a few holes. And while it's a little matchy-matchy for me (I like things that are a little more lop-sided, generally), I do love the sentiment. And the colors are lovely. And it's got birds. And there must be about a hundred and fifty strawberries in that border. It's lovely. Not sure what I'll do with it or when, but add it to the flock. It's got good company.

And did I mention she was SEVEN? Good golly. I'm off to climb into sweatpants and stitch a while. Ahhhhh....

Friday, March 9, 2012

Ragamuffin #2: A Quaker Sampler

The very first sampler I reproduced was Ann Harrison's Sampler from 1830. It was also the first sampler I purchased...and I paid WAY too much for it for the condition it was in. The original is in wool...I'll have to photograph the original to show you how bad it was, but here is what the reproduction looks like:

I was really pleased with how it came out -- true to the original and fun to stitch. The animals at the bottom are a hoot, and I love that windmill. I called it Ragamuffin #1: Ann Harrison 1830, because it really is in a ragamuffin-state....kind of a dusty little orphan in ragged clothes.

I got better at shopping for samplers, and as my reproductions became popular, I was able to spend a little more money on the originals, shopping at antiques dealers in addition to finding my bargains on eBay. Since that first purchase, I hadn't really purchased what I considered to be Ragamuffin #2, until now.

This is my next little orphan. I believe her to be an American Quaker sampler, and there is a date of 1811 stitched on it, but only a partial name. The alphabets are what make this a ragamuffin. Due to dyeing techniques, black thread often fell away, and boy, did that happen with this sampler. A designer told me this week that among other things, a black dye job included ingredients like iron (which rusts) and horse urine (which is...well...horse urine.)

Lucky for me, I practically stole this sampler for just $130.00 on eBay, and even though ANOTHER designer friend of mine thinks I'm a crazy girl, I'm going to piece this baby back together by adding Quaker style alphabets at the top where they are missing, and by filling in the missing letters on the alphabets that are still there.

The rest of the sampler is in fantastic shape. It's actually all in silk and is stitched on approximately 28/34 count un-evenweave linen. This means, of course, that the reproduction is going to come out taller than the original. I love the springtime colors and that simple see-saw border with a berry at each peak is fabulous. What do you think?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Whoopsie-Doodles! Ann Dale Correction Alert

Hey guys,

I have had a few eagle-eyed stitchers find what should have been a glaring mistake to me regarding the Ann Dale reproduction sampler. I charted one of the zig-zag borders at the top of the chart zagging in the wrong direction! My apologies! While the sampler would be fine stitched as-is (and I surely would have had my model stitcher do it that way, too), I understand if you want a correction.

If you would like me to send you the correction, I will send it in the mail. I was going to put it online, but it would have been a pretty big file. To get a hard copy of the correction, send an e-mail to xspeddler@yahoo.com. In it, I will need your name and address and the name of the shop where you purchased your pattern. Thanks for your understanding. There were 65,000 stitches in this baby, and after looking at it for such a long time, I think my eyeballs must have gone on strike. The correction does go the whole way across, but you are not getting a new copy of the entire chart. This is a two-page correction you'll get in a standard sized envelope.

Thanks, and keep stitchin'!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

An update from an old friend

I am so happy this morning (well, I'm happy most mornings, but I'm REALLY-REALLY happy this morning.) I just got an e-mail from Mufasa's (Moofie's) adoptive mom. You might remember Mufasa from last year -- we fostered her summer of 2011 along with her sister Simba...remember...we thought they were both boys until they had their surgery?

Well, here is Moofie TODAY!

Her new name is "Link," and she is very loved by her new family -- a nice man and a nice lady. The nice man doesn't even really like cats, and is allergic to them...but he loves Link. The nice lady says that Link is definitely a lap cat and she has been a "perfect addition" to their lives.

This is Link with her new doggie friend, Jayden. They love to snuggle and nap together.

I am so pleased to have gotten news about a past foster kitten. I don't know where they all end up, but even knowing this little sweet pea has the fabulous family she deserves makes my day, my week, my year.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

A little cat news

I am always amazed at how many stitchers I run into at market who say they follow my blog and LOVE the cats. I am so glad! But for a stitching blog, the cats seem to rule the roost. I'm always so happy to be volunteering for the shelter, and have had miscellaneous waifs at my house for the last year...pretty much full-time. Here are a few of our recent "saves" who are up for adoption RIGHT NOW!

You may remember Fargo. He was adopted a few days before Christmas, but was recently returned to me, as the dogs at his new house thought he looked...delicious. His new owner didn't feel like life was being fair to him, since he had to hide all the time to avoid being lunch. She was sad to give him back to me, but he is at our house playing with Zero and eating good food. He's looking for a home and is FREE to whoever wants him. He has been fixed, he's loving, sweet, fun, silly, playful and such a looker. He's about five months old, and I'm hoping to find a forever home for him with someone wonderful.

This is Hinun (Native American for "Spirit of the Storm.") Harrison took care of this cat while he recovered from a cold, which would have otherwise meant his being euthanized at the shelter. He's a BEAUTIFUL boy, very gentle and friendly. He loves to be near people, and his favorite thing is to be petted while he's eating (what a weirdo!) Harrison called him "Brimley," because he thought the cat looks like Wilford Brimley. He's $50.00 and has been neutered. He was surrendered to the shelter, because his previous owner "didn't want him anymore." He'll be a perfect cat for someone.

And this is Yoko. She, too, had a cold and was scheduled for euthanasia. We saved her a few weeks ago, got her through her antibiotics and a little ringworm on her ear, and now she's up for adoption, too. She's a very LONG and lanky cat. She only weighs about eight pounds, but her legs and body are very long. Her eyes are wide-set and a beautiful green tea color. She is sometimes chatty, but usually quiet, and she loves to sit on laps or be near people. Graham really fell in love with Yoko and was sad to see her go. Still, we gave her a second chance at life, and I hope she finds a great place to live (filled with top-quality peoples!)

The cat situation at the shelter is quiet...the quiet before the storm. March starts kitten season, and soon litters will start coming in. That means I'll soon have pictures of tiny babies, and I'm hoping to take on a new-born litter again this spring. They're a lot of work, but so much fun. Some good news is that in 2010, the animal shelter took in over 9,000 un-wanted/stray animals, but last year, that number was down below 7,000! Over-population is still a huge problem here in Hattiesburg, BUT the Spay & Neuter Clinic (which offers very low-cost spay and neuter surgeries to all income brackets) seems to be making a dent in that problem.

And a lot of you ask me about Zero....he's a heart-stealer. Well, last week, I had some pre-market running around to do, so I thought it would be fun to take him for a ride in the car. He hadn't been in the car for a while, and he's so laid-back, you know...good idea? Right? He became very upset after a few blocks, was panting, then trying to hide under the seat. And then he just pooped on the floor (while I watched helpless from the driver's seat.) Then he scratched the poo-poo into the carpet real good. Then he went back under the seat. So, I drove home behind someone who was driving SO SLOW with Zero-Stink in the air and a miserable cat under my seat. I guess I learned a lesson!

He came out of it just fine -- in fact, as soon as we were back home, he trotted off as though the world were made of cat nip and salmon treats. ZERO!

I had a great time at market and will be posting an update soon. I am still working on getting things scanned and ready for the web site and newsletter. I'll update the blog with pictures from market soon, too!

(P.S. I know some of you are going to ask about the euthanasia policy at the shelter. Of course, I don't make the rules. But things like upper respiratory infections spread like wildfire in our cat cottages. Sometimes cats can kick the infections, and sometimes they just get worse. Cats or kittens who get the sniffles are often immediately euthanized to prevent other cats from catching the virus/infection. I have recently started a small band of volunteers called The Sneeze Brigade whose mission is to catch some of these cats before they are put down. They are taken to good homes, given their antibiotics/nursed back to health and are given a second shot at life. I can't save them all...but I can save a bunch!)