Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Why Take the Class?

So I have been getting quite a few emails of late from readers who want to buy a casket without taking the Cabinet of Curiosities course.

The emails always contain a laundry list of the years of textile love, course experience, teachers they have studied under, certifications, master craftsmen courses, etc. of the writer to try to convince me that they don't need to take the course or increase their stash, thank you very much.  The emails usually run to several paragraphs and sometimes contain testimonials from family members on how beautifully they embroider and thus they don't need my instruction.  (I can't help it - hard to write back as it really seems like a comment on my precevied uselessness as a teacher).

The point is totally missed.

The reason I want people who buy the caskets to have taken the class is very simple:  Do you know how to attach the embroidery to the casket?

How do you get the embroidery on? And please don't say
lacing.  That is nowhere near how it was done.
Plain and simple.  Sit with a picture of a casket for awhile and think past the embroidery!  Also think for awhile - have you ever seen one in person?  Taken the drawers in and out?  Operated the secret locks?  What if you were given a bare one and told that the entire thing was covered in multiple layers of papers and fabrics and if you cover the edges the wrong way, the drawers won't go in and out.  What glue was used?  How do I put the glue on my embroidery?  For gosh sake - how do you mix the glue?  GLUE??  Don't you just lace it and pop it into the frame? (No, absolutely wrong, no frame, it's glued to the outside).  Did you know that the embroidery has to be done so it isn't too thick in certain areas or the hardware and tapes won't fit?  What are tapes? Do you have templates to design inside?  Why can't I cover it in computer paper and need that expensive paper on your site? The list goes on and on.

Are you willing to go it alone after spending 2 years on your beautiful embroidery?

That is what the course is about.  Remember - any 12 year old was allowed to embroider one in the 17th century - but they sent the finished embroidery to a finisher to build the casket and apply the embroidery.  Why do you need a laundry list of certifications today to convince me to let you embroider one?  What you need is knowledge of how they went together!  That is the information you can't find anywhere but the course.

The course has materials so it can have projects to allow you to try the finishing technique and risk screwing up a very small project (hopefully I successfully lead you through that project so it isn't screwed up) instead of one costing thousands and taking years to work.

You can spend the money on the casket without the class - but I feel responsible to tell you why you shouldn't hand over so much money to me without the knowledge of how to cover it.

Most people have never seen a casket up close.  Anyone know why that drawer has stuff on the edge and
silk threads in front? 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A Design Contest!!

Lacet flowers (A Poesy Casket Toy Kit)
Thistle Threads is sponsoring a design competition around ‘casket toys’ of the 17th century.  During the study of English embroidered cabinets, a preponderence of small needlework objects have been found both in boxes in private and public collections.  Many of which are highly similar and fall into catagories of smalls that may have been schoolgirl exercises.  They parallel the types of objects that needleworkers favor making today: needlebooks, small purses, tape measures, needlekeeps and pin keeps.  In addition to the traditional shapes that these items bring to mind, a wealth of other unusual and delightful forms exisit such as bellows, grape purses, poseys, small animals, tiny gloves, and stand-up figural, floral, and animal arrangements.

While there are many techniques used in these pieces, two are found quite often and haven’t been explored to their fullest and most creative extensions.  The first is the use of a narrow flat braid (lacet) to construct floral poseys, animals/birds, and other items where it would be more expedient to sew together the lacets than needlelace a piece.

The second is the use of a wire frame that is then covered with wool batt and wrapped with a
Expanded gilt bullion around a silk covered wire structure,
this is the close up view of a snake
decorative silk or cotton thread and then covered with an expanded bullion, purl or check thread in silver or gilt.  

The competition is based around the use of one of two materials:  2mm Lacet or any gilt or silver bullion, purl, or check thread.  Bias will be given to those which show some use of the techniques described above somewhere in the object.
The objects need to fit inside a casket that Thistle Threads sells and can be afixed if that is central to the design.  A series of blogs startign July 1st, 2016 on Thistle Threads site will help to show techniques and examples for you to draw upon.

There are two needlework nibbles that show these techniques for your reference.  It is fine to use the objects in the needlework nibbles (snake and pansy) as well as the Lacet Peacock class piece and/or Strawberry Posey kit in the contest as long as they are only a part of the entire design. 

The contest entries are due on December 31st, 2016 so there is plenty of time to get thinking and making!!  

Check out the contest PDF for full contest details.  The blog will spend the next few weeks going over inspiration items and techniques that can be used in the contest.


Sunday, June 26, 2016

Planning for the End of Casket Making

I think everyone can tell that I am a planner - an engineer - someone who always has a 10-year plan in my head (or on paper).  So it should be no surprise that I have planned for a graceful end to the casket making as well.

Richard and I sat down a month ago and really plotted things out.  We are right now nearing the end of the caskets that are in the queue that are on order from students and we wanted to plan forward for those that might be ordered, what I need for my project class upcoming, and his end to making them.

Richard will be retiring in 2021 and since this is already his second career (he used to own and operate a large engineering plastics plant), he and his lovely wife have already started traveling quite a bit (Iran was a fantastic trip they took just last year and he just got back from a trip to Ireland).  So we made some hard decisions on when to wrap up making boxes and put January 2021 as the date of the last deliveries.  Based on our historic volume, I put in orders for hardware and locks a month ago to tide us through 2019 and then we will plan our last wrap-up order of hardware and locks.  We also estimated how many caskets could be made between now and then.

This means that students who are thinking about ordering a casket should consider putting it on order
to claim a spot in the queue.  While January 2021 seems like a long time in the future - in 'casket years' it is not.  Since most people put their caskets on order in a 24-month payment cycle - that backs it up to December 2018.  And realistically, he can't make 100 caskets for delivery the same day!  And realistically, I can't store dozens of caskets here either.  So we make them to order.

I wanted to give all the students past, present and future a long warning period that we would stop making caskets because of the long payment cycles and making time.  I am not sure yet when we will have to stop taking orders - as that will be a fluid thing based on how many are in the queue and the time frame to manufacture any remaining locks needed.  But it could be six-nine months before he stops making them.

If anyone wants to reserve one and needs to go on a longer payment plan than offered - let me know and we can work something out.  I have streamlined the ordering method on my website to make it easier to get that done.

Just to recap - there are four full-sized cabinet options available that range from $375 - $2640.  And don't be fooled by the lesser priced options as being too simple.  In fact, the simplicity allows for even greater embellishing and 'tricking' out.  Some students have made doors in the lids by adding wood dividers that are embroidered, installed beautiful music boxes in the bottoms and false bottoms to expand the complexity, and I know there are gardens underway slowing growing in silk inside some of the cavities!  So in many ways the most inexpensive of the caskets will end up some of the most stunning and complex.

And yes - that was planned...


Saturday, June 25, 2016

A Fun Pincushion for Summer Stitching - A New Needlework Nibble!

Flame Stitch Pincushion - Needlework Nibble.  The background show the three silk velvet backing choices.
This Flame Stitch pincushion is the latest needlework nibble and one of three that will show up in the next month!  It is 2" x 2.5" and is inspired by the small pincushion in the Martha Edlin casket.  Using a different flame stitch pattern, it does take its colors from the original.  Worked in Soie Paris on a 24-count Montrose linen, it is backed with silk velvet like the originals.

The pattern for this is available for download.  It is quick and easy to do - something that I really love when taking long rides or sitting at the beach.  Not much counting - once the pattern is established you just follow along with the next row.  And over a large count too!

I designed this with the colors from the Cabinet of Curiosities Kit 1 thread kits, so if you already have that, pull it out and you should have all the thread you need to work this piece.  If you need a piece of linen and that yummy silk velvet - they are both offered on the shop site.  If you don't have the threads, a full kit is available too - just get it and download the instructions before you head out on your summer vacation.

And while you are there - if you are working the Pink Pincushion Needlework Nibble from the Frostings Club and would like a backing piece of silk velvet for that too -  I have those up as well.


Thursday, June 23, 2016

All Good Things Must Come to an End - The Last Running of Cabinet of Curiosities

Yes - I said it last year that the 2016 Encore of Cabinet of Curiosities would be the last running and it is.  There are many reasons for this:

- My licensing contracts with the museums (historic pictures) will be running out and to renegotiate all of them again is quite an undertaking and I don't think there will be enough students in the future to justify the numbers I will need to agree to.

- Many of the thread manufacturers have capacity limits or will retire and so my ability to supply the current students with the threads they need will become more limited and I want to make sure everyone can finish what they have started.  We already have had a first retirement.

- My cabinet maker, Richard, will be retiring.

When I started this course in 2010, I knew it was a 10-year window at best where we had excited and willing artisans who were knowledgeable and still plying their trade as well as a student population with interest and 'keen eyes and nimble fingers' still.  So I put the massive investment into the apparatus that would be needed.  But I knew that the window would start to close somewhere around 2020 when the ages of the artisans would have them retire or slow down their work greatly to take advantage of travel and other distractions of a life well worked.  And while we had all hoped against hope that the European companies who make threads could take on apprentices to pass on knowledge, the window for that is closing.  For those of us Americans perplexed by the strikes and fights in the EU; they are over labor laws and struggles by the governments to make modifications.  I see it on the ground as I hear the difficulties from the manufacturers in why they can't commit to apprentices because they have little options to make changes - the risks for 1-5 person operations become too great and thus they can't take on new hires to pass on knowledge or increase production.  After spending a decade trying to help them increase business to do so - I now understand it is unlikely in many cases and we will see some threads disappear.

So while we are still 3.5 years before 2020 - it is time to start ending the Cabinet of Curoisities as I want to give new students the time to design, decide and purchase their casket before Richard stops making them in January 2021.

So Cabinet of Curiosities 2016 is now taking course reservations.  The description of the course as well as additional links is at this page.  Reservations can be handled through this shop page.  In September I will be deciding how many kits to make and reserving thread making.  Once I do that - I will have a few extra spots for late comers until the kits run out - but that will be it.  A sad day for me, for sure.

I am designing a flat short casket right now that will become a project course and am planning on threads and caskets for it.  I will be ordering a certain number ahead of production stopping and will announce that course as soon as I have the project finished (maybe a year or so).  But it will be limited as there is just only so much production room between now and January 2021 for everyone involved to make things.  A small tent stitch trinket box project will be launching in the fall for those who just aren't ready for something huge - I will be having many trinket boxes made in between the large caskets and we will see how long those kits last into the future.

So if your dream has been to make an embroidered cabinet of your own - the time to plan on it is upon us all.


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

German Dyeing Recipe Book

Artisan's Recipe Book for Dyeing Wool, 1680  Getty Research Institute
What a treasure!  These how-to manuals of the 17th century are like gold for researchers, especially like those of us who reproduce threads and need to name colors!  I happen to know that Lamora Haidar uses resources like this when our colors come back, that I have carefully chosen from the backs of embroideries, and needs to give them a color name.  It can take a long time to research the dyes and the samples related to a name to come up with what it actually looks like.  I am thrilled that she spends the time as now when I read inventories, such as Queen Elizabeth I's, a visual picture of the piece starts showing up in my head as I know what 'Incarnadine' looks like.

Artisan's Recipe Book for Dyeing Wool, 1680  Getty Research Institute.  This page
shows the difference of time in the dye pot.
So this is a German dyers recipe book from the 17th century, dated 1680.  While it is focused on
wool, the amazing thing about it is that it has wool samples in it that are affixed with red sealing wax!  So not only do you have the color preserved between the pages with the recipe and variables like time, etc. - you have a real sample that can be chemically tested either nondestructively or destructively with tiny hair like samples removed.  That is a TREASURE.

This book is owned by the Getty Research Institute and there is a wonderful blog about the book by Karin Leonhard (Research Scholar, MPIWG) and David Brafman (Curator for Rare Books, Getty Research Institute) that I will let you read instead of paraphrasing.

And even better for any of you who get really interested and 'geek-ed' out by stuff like this, the entire manuscript has been photo graphed and put up on the Getty site for researchers.  It is a bit clunky to go through, but fun none the less.

Click here for the digital version and then click on the upper right link "Display Item" to get to a series of files with the pages digitized inside.


Friday, June 17, 2016

Another Nelham Designed Picture

There was a really lovely (and ultimately very expensive - I watched the auction live in case it was a bargain to be had, drat) picture up for auction last week in the UK.  This piece conforms to the recognizable John Nelham genre of designs with its cartouche with five-lobed flowers at the 45 degree positions as well as the heavy-lided style of character portraiture and the large single flowers at the corners.

When magnified (go to the site), the long and short nature of the satin stitch almost makes it look painted at the resolution of the photo.  I soooo would have liked to have seen this piece in person as I think it might have been a total stunner in embroidery quality.  The textural stumpwork threads used in the cartouche alone signified a really well done piece.

Overall a great 'daily yum' to drink a cup of tea while studying


Lot 1284 June 9th Canterbury Auctions