Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Marrying Pocahontas - A Jacket Project

Many of you have already heard that Jamestown is reenacting the wedding of Pocahontas to John Rolfe in April of 2014 and that there is a public project to create a piece of clothing for that event.  Brenda Rosseau of the Williamsburg Costume Design Center is in charge of the project and has an interesting podcast on the subject. 

Williamsburg's Costume Design Center has a joint agreement to provide clothing for Jamestown and so is in charge of creating the embroidered jacket.  This one is inspired by the Falkland Jacket in the collection of the V&A but uses motifs native to the Americas in place of the animals and flora on the English jacket to relate it to this event.  The project is moving fast but is using embroiderers who volunteer like the Plimoth Jacket project.  If you are interested, you can contact them for a form and date that you could participate.

Volunteer embroiderers of all skill levels are invited to contact Julie Zellers-Frederick at julie@preservationvirginia.org or 757-856-1259.

I will be going to Virginia soon to participate with a group of those who stitched on the Plimoth Jacket. It will be an exciting experience as the jacket is being worked with several pieces on one frame, which would have been the traditional way to do it.  I am looking forward to it as this method will be a nice contrast to how we did the Plimoth Jacket (each piece on a different frame) and I am sure there will be some insights that come about from working on this project!

So if you missed out on working on the Plimoth Jacket - help Brenda and become one of her volunteers!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

How Many Hours!?!

So it is time to reveal the parameters regarding Rachael's beautiful basket.  I hope everyone is watching her blog as the building of the basket units has been really interesting to watch.  Here you can see the angel as it is built up.

So there were 14 entries with many guesses.  From the guesses I could tell that there was methods to the madness - everyone was using their own estimation technique.

The funny thing was that the most competitive of the answers was the number of hours!  So here are the real answers:

Number of Beads:  143, 304 (136,264 for the basket and 7040 for the base)

Number of Hours:  646 hours 23 minutes

Size:  25" x 24"

So the winners are:

L. Popp - 125,000 beads
R. Howan - 25" x 25"
A. Riehl - 560 hours

Quite a few people guessed between 500-560 hours.  I think that they figured out how many months she was working on it and made some good guesses!   So for the winners, some nice threads will be on the way soon.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014


When we think of needlelace we think of detached buttonhole and a handful of other stitches.  Indeed, there are nineteen at my last count!  This seems to be the same endless search as gold stitches from spot samplers.  Every time you think you have figured out every last stitch, another one pops up!  The creativity of the 17th century embroiderer was boundless!

The goal with all these stitches is texture and there are some great ones!  Then when you add in the additional dimension that you could change colors or even stitches while working, you can get some amazing effects.  So I thought I would give a preview of some of the stitches that will be covered in the Cabinet of Curiosities Part II Stumpwork course that is starting in March.  These are all needlelace!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Dutch Drawings and Prints - Inspiration

Hans bol, 1584: Sotheby's Lot 8, January 29th, 2014 Old Master Drawings
One of the styles adopted for embroidered pictures in the mid-17th century was a scene, often that of a rolling landscape, inside of a frame made of animals, bugs, birds and slips.  I was perusing an auction of Dutch masters and came upon this late 16th century drawing which uses the same construct.  I would bet that there are engravings of the same types sold in England that formed the basis for the copyist draftsperson to lay out embroidery patterns on linen.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Do You Also Quilt?

I make reproduction style quilts in my non-existant free time and have a massive reproduction fabric habit.  It fights for room with my embroidery supplied and wins.  We use my quilts in the house on beds and backs of chairs.  In piles and on walls (again fighting with the embroidery!).  So last week when I was at Old Sturbridge Village in the textile storage viewing some samplers related to the Abby Cozzens sampler, I couldn't help being distracted by a pile of quilt fabric.

I was delighted to find out that the mesmerizing pile was the newest collection of reproduction fabrics designed by Julie Rothermel and Old Sturbridge Village off their collection of quilts for Marcus Fabrics.  The large scale pattern was yummy and then the swirling stripes were an essential for my stash.  The best part is that the licensing revenue on these pieces goes to the museum.


Friday, February 14, 2014


Are you inspired to get out all those beads hiding in your stash now?  The amazing creativity of the artists who made the beaded baskets is mindblowing.  I really hope that those who were in process with baskets and didn't finish them in time will send me pictures as I would love to post more!

If you want to try a hand at it yourself - the rims for the baskets are still available in the shop.  I also have fruit and acorn forms there too that can be used for making the three-dimentional flora seen on several of these baskets.

Suzanne De Jesus supplied me with a picture of how she was building parts of her stunning acorn basket.  I laughed as the forms she used for the acorns were almost exactly the ones that I have put on my site for a stumpwork version seen on many pieces.  So if you want to try your hand with a beaded version!  Suzanne has been asked to make instructions, if she does - I will let everyone know as I am sure there are many of us who would love them!

Suzanne said about this picture:  I used English cake wires(paper wrapped wires) colored with Copic pens. I then wrapped them with silk thread to match the beads. After that I worked the peyote stitch inside the wire shaping the wire as I went.
I also remind everyone to visit Rachael's blog to see the building of her masterpiece - I think all of us should make something like this in our life!   And remember to send me your guesses for the number of beads and hours in Rachael's basket (tricia@alum.mit.edu)!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

How did Rachael Do That Contest!

I thought it was a wonderful idea that Rachael had - make everyone guess a few parameters about her basket!

So here is it -

1) How many beads did she use for the entire basket?

2) How many hours and minutes to make the basket?

3)  What is the size of the basket?

A prize will be given for the answer which is closest to the actual answer.  One of the prizes is this set of new metal threads from Access Commodities (and supplied by them as a gift to you!).  They are the same construction as the #371 and #380 but in new metallic colors (Light gold, dark gold, copper and matte gold).  There are other prizes as well and just as great!

If you want to enter - send me an email (tricia@alum.mit.edu) with BASKET NUMBERS in the subject line.  Then your guess(es).  Please use units such as hours, minutes, beads, or inches/cm so I can identify which question(s) you are answering.  Then don't forget to add your address so I can send you the prize if you win!  

I will take entries until Wednesday, Feb 19 at midnight EST.  So let the estimating begin!!


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Grand Prize Winner - A Mindblowing Basket!

The Grand Prize Winner!

When I established the rules for the contest, I specifically required only ONE of the two rims in the kit to encourage radical creativity and the possibility that someone out there would decide to make a much larger basket and go hog wild!  Well, Rachael Kinnison did just that!  You may have already been following her 'making of' blog which has been so fun to read.  Rachael is a well known doll artist and her work has been included in the Early American Life list of Traditional Artisans.  I know several people like Racheal, artists who when they touch a new media master it immediately.  After you ogle the basket - focus in on the mind blowing Baltimore Album quilt in the background.  Award winning - a finalist at the International Quilt Show in Houston.  I had to look it up.  I can't wait to see her embroidered casket now!
The face and hands of the angel use the same crackle technique she uses on her lovely dolls

Rachael has won the Flat Casket form with this entry and I know that no one will disagree with me on this decision.  I am going to let her blog and description tell the story behind the basket, but I do have to say that I so appreciate that she kept track of the number of beads and her time.  I can't tell you how valuable those two pieces of information are.  Before the contest was over, the pictures of this basket were being passed around secretly between myself, Rachael and museum curators/researchers because there are insights to be had from her information.  Thank you Rachael for giving us all a datapoint to put the antique baskets in context!

Can you see the bees flying above the basket rims or are you blinded by her award winning Baltimore Album quilt?

Rachael says:
  I have collected antique beads since I was in early grade school. I was always drawn to them, but never made anything with them.  The second the read about the beaded baskets in the lesson, I knew why I had collected them for so long.  I saw the Corning Museum basket, and that was it, my mind was made up in a nano second, I had to make that basket~ I had no idea how~so I just looked at the pictures and did it.  

I studied the four photos I have of the basket in detail, and from them, could see that the wire form was wrapped in fabric and then had beads applied over that.  I really liked the tri color wrapping so many of the baskets had, so I incorporated that into my design,  I  matched my colors to the Holburne Museum's basket.  

To fill the inner panels, I decided to reproduce the flowers from the Corning basket. Many of them are currently just wire shapes, the beads having been long lost~ so it was a great help actually to see how the shapes were wired.  

I wanted the basket to have special meaning for me, so I replaced the royal couple in the center with an angel.  For my special One, I took inspiration from a side panel of the Burrell casket.  My angel is done entirely in antique seed beads  less than a mm wide,  strung in single length, more than 50 to an inch. I sculpted her head and hands from mache, and stitched them to a vellum base. Her banner is a bit hard to see, but it reads "R Kinnison 2013" .    She is meant to be tending her garden~ the spokes of the basket are wrapped in Cotswold sheep's wool, then wrapped in silk I hand dyed to match the shade of brown in the top edge wrapping, and to represent the dirt of a garden. The white lattice is the fencing, with all the wonderful flowers within.  

Do you see the little ladybug?
There are 5 butterflies, a snail,  a ladybug, bird and 2 honey bees. The ladybug and bees were not on the original Corning basket~ the ladybug is for my four children,  and the honey bees are for my husband, who babies his 2 colonies of  honey bees.  The figures are all wired, then beads woven on.  All the wires are wrapped in soie ovale.  The peaches are woven and stuffed over a vellum shape, while some buds and the pears are woven beads over spun cotton watte shapes.  With the exception of the beads in the outer wrap, and the white of the lattice, all of the beads are antique, (opaque or clear) just like the original.  

The basket sits up on a separate base to raise it a little, it is made in the same fashion, wrapped in wool and silk, with an applied beaded lattice and beaded feet.

      This whole experience has changed me as a person, it has filled a void in my being that is hard to explain. I  hope that my finished basket can accurately represent my passion for this era in time and this sadly long forgotten art form. It has been a total pleasure in making, and I thank you greatly for the opportunity to participate
Rachael has kept track of time and the number of beads in this piece and suggested that I run a mini-contest to figure out the numbers!  I thought that was an EXCELLENT idea!  So did Lamora at Access Commodities - so they are providing prizes!  I will give more info on those tomorrow when I launch the  'how did Rachael do it' contest.  So get figuring!

I encourage you to visit her site to see more about the basket and its making.  And I very much hope that we will see a spate of absolutely wonderful baskets that this entry and all the other entries inspire!  If you make a basket - send me a picture.  There will be more pictures later as a few entries required a bit more elements to finish up and I would very much like to show them in their full glory after they are done.

A huge thank you to everyone who entered the contest and everyone who bought a beaded basket kit to help the Holburne Museum in their purchase of one of the only a few dozen baskets that exist and keep it in the public view.  The contest exceeded my expectations and I personally was so thrilled with the creativity and inspiration of the entries! Congratulations to the winners!


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Runner Up!

Rose Yamakawa won the Runner Up to the Grand Prize and the Fancy Mirror frame for her efforts.  Not only is her basket beautiful, but it incorporated a playful element that made me beg for more pictures so I could see the pieces changed in and out.  And add on to that - these elements were totally grounded in 17th century miniatures that she had viewed on exhibit last summer in the exhibition by the Royal Collection.  The catalogs of this exhibit formed most of the prizes in this contest.  Look closely at all the pictures to see the changing garments on the queen!

I “encountered” Queen Elizabeth I a few years ago at the National Portrait Gallery in London.   That experience started a strong fascination that led to research and museum visits.  This past summer, I was lucky enough to see the “In Fine Style” and “Elizabeth I and her People” exhibitions. My mind was overflowing with design ideas for the beaded basket contest.  Although I have not seen a Queen Elizabeth I casket or basket, these exhibits led me to imagine a little girl in the 17th century who was fascinated with her as much as I am.  Just like me, she would have seen a magnificent life size or a miniature portrait of the late Queen and designed her little basket in her honor.  It would have been her own little portrait of the Queen, complete with mica overlays to change her attire and it had to be red, white and gold, just like the Tudor Rose.



Rose gave me some more information about the size and materials she used.  I was just blown away by her painting on the mica!

I used just the bottom rim that you provided.  Made a bigger one for the top.  The basket beading is just as per your instructions.The design of the decorations is all mine except for the gold lace ruff.  I used an early lace pattern by Gillian Dye.
I tried to use all historically acceptable materials:Mica overlays were painted with oilThe Queen's face was made of parchment molded over a small pebbleAll embroidery done in silk and GSTAll natural pearls and stones. 

Maybe if we all beg a lot, Rose will send us a set of pictures with the rest of the mica overlays in place -- this has to be the absolute best 'Paper Doll' I have ever seen!  I awarded Rose the Runner Up award because of the beauty, the workmanship, the color, and the ingenuity with a historical context!  I hope you agree!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Just Wow Number 3!

Suzanne De Jesus created this LUSCIOUS acorn basket with her husband's initials.  I have to admit that I am a sucker for acorns and if I see this basket in person, it just might end up mysteriously disappearing to my house! You can imagine how this piece was an obvious choice for the Just Wow! category.

I was inspired by photographs found in the Beaded Basket Project Web Links at Thistle Threads, specifically Web#1 photo for the beaded initials. I found some examples of right angle weaves in the blue flower of Web#3 photo that I was able to incorporate in the acorn caps. Web#5 & #7 photos inspired my oak leaves from the wire framed Peyote stitched elements, also, the silk wrapped stems.

Suzanne gave a small tutorial about how she made the leaves on our private NING social site for the online classes - I will ask her if I can repeat it on the blog.  Maybe she might teach us all how to make the acorns as well!  If you look closely you will see empty acorn caps as well!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Just Wow Number 2!

You will recognize the name of this winner as she entered two baskets.  Katie Strachan calls this one The Garden and I really enjoyed not only the subtle coloring of the basket and its components but the very careful references to traditional baskets, as explained by her paragraph description.  Katie let me know that there are a few details that are planned to be added to the figure, including lace edgings to make the costume look more 17th century.  Hopefully we can get Katie to send us an update photo when she is finished primping her little figure.  But the basket was totally lovely without!  I love the handles.

This basket was designed to complement/go inside my casket, representing Andrew Marvell’s poem “The Garden”.[i]  

What wondrous life is this I lead! Ripe apples drop about my head ;
The luscious clusters of the vine
Upon my mouth do crush their wine
The luscious clusters of the vine Upon my mouth do crush their wine ;
The nectarine and curious peach
Into my hands themselves do reach
The nectarine and curious peach Into my hands themselves do reach ;
Stumbling on melons as I pass,
Ensnared with flowers, I fall on grass.
Stumbling on melons as I pass, Ensnared with flowers, I fall on grass.

 The stumpwork figure in the basket is Marvell, reclining in his beaded garden with the curious peach (bottom center), ensnared in flowers.  The figure was specifically inspired by Hilliard’s miniature of a young man in a garden.[ii]    I built structure of basket after the round/oval originals (round Fitzwilliam basket, the Corning museum oval basket), with straight supports and no netting, used lots of elements to instead give the illusion of sides.[iii]   Many of the elements were patterned after flowers found on the Corning museum basket, which also inspired the color scheme.  The stumpwork figure of Tiny Marvell is also like the figures found on many basket bottoms, but with a twist. He’s not attached to the basket and can be taken out, like a doll – a combination of casket toy and lover’s token.

[i] Full text of poem available at http://www.luminarium.org/sevenlit/marvell/garden.htm[ii] http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/bb/Henry_percy_hi.jpgThis miniature is actually in the collection of the Fitzwilliam Museum, also home to some beaded baskets.[iii] http://www.flickr.com/photos/aimeedars/2776643760/in/pool-18927983@N00/http://plays-with-needles.blogspot.com/2013/09/a-tisket-tasket.html (first photo)

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Just Wow Number 1!

I had some just amazing entries that made it really hard for me to judge.  There were three in particular that were clustered in the same category and I just had to make a new prize level for them!  So this is the first of the "Just Wow!" category that won them a Small Mirror with Doors.

Pat Richard's piece was fully enclosed and beaded and I know that you are all now saying "WOW!" This is such an amazing interpretation of a grotto scene with the kingfisher on the handle she fabricated.

This design is inspired by the 17th century traditional beaded baskets as filtered through my own design aesthetic. In other words, it is more exuberant than some of my previous work, but not quite as over the top as some of the original pieces. In researching what beading information was available on the internet, I stumbled across a pattern for a beaded Koi by Idele Gilbert and was enchanted. My original plans quickly shifted to focus on the grottoes found on so many 17th century embroideries. I covered the top and bottom rims with beads as I had done in the Nibble project, then began Peyote beading panels to cover the bottom of the basket and the inner sides with a wave pattern. The rocks/hillocks surrounding the water were beaded in assorted browns onto felt, stuffed lightly and sewn to the outside of the basket. Fronds and daffodils were created through trial and error until the scale and quality of construction satisfied me. The kingfisher was the final challenge and he was created in pieces on a stuffed felt body, and after many attempts, was finally successfully mounted on his branch, supported only by his skinny beaded wire legs.
This piece isn't a surprise from Pat - if you have seen her work in miniature before (think mini-casket that is only 2"!) you know that she is quite talented!  Maybe we can beg her to write directions...


Friday, February 7, 2014

Winner 17th Century Traditional Category

Jackie Wyatt was the winner in the 17th century traditional basket category.  Her flower rimmed basket was a delight and reminds you heavily of the baskets she references:

For a number of years I have wanted to create my own beaded basket, but their size kept me from attempting the project. I was therefore delighted when the opportunity arose to purchase a miniature basket kit from Thistle Threads. While all of the baskets I’ve seen are remarkable, I am particularly drawn to those which have flowers and plants attached to the sides of the baskets in three dimensions. The following are several examples that I used for inspiration: 



http://plays-with-needles.blogspot.ca/2013/09/a-tisket-tasket.html  (2nd basket)


After viewing a number of extant baskets online, I chose to use the beads provided with the kit due to many examples having a white and green colour scheme for the basket base. Aside from the beads provided in the kit, I primarily used size 15 beads for the flowers and leaves, with other sizes ranging from size 13 down to size 26, some vintage white hearts (blue, red) that are closer to size 11, and pearls. Many of these are vintage, probably early 20th century or even earlier.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

17th Century Beaded Basket - Multi Media Category

The first place winner in this category went to Carolyn Webb.  Her basket is called "Shakespeare's Flowers Basket

My basket was inspired by some of the flowers mentioned in the works of William Shakespeare. An educated girl of the period would have probably known about the plays and understood the references in them far better than we do today. Instead of planting my flowers in a garden, I created a basket featuring a few of the plants he referred to. I created a rose, daisy, buttercup, flax, iris, pansy, poppy, and violet plus leaves and clover in wonderful bright colors. I love flowers and it was fun to create them using the limitations that are inherent with the technique of wiring the beads in the needed shape.
 Carolyn told me that she has used card for the sides and fabric for the bottom.  She said that the beads are all either wired, wrapped or netted.  The larger of the wire rims forms the bottom (the rules said you only needed to use one of the two in the kit).  

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Modern Beaded Basket Category - Winners

In this category, anything went!  You only had to use one of the two rims that were provided in the kit (Which are available again).  The first prize in this category was a tie between two creative ladies!  I loved the interpretations!

The first basket is by Janet Brandt and is titled "Fish Out of Water".  I like the fact that Janet made and added handles to the piece.  Her impecible sense of proportion had her minimize the struts that make up the sides to focus the attention from her riot of beads inwards to the grotto with the fish.

I am a 'Fish Out Of Water' when it comes to beading so it is fitting that my beaded basket should feature a small fish jumping out of the pool of water and into the waterfall! The embroidered base was eliminated from a  different project and worked better in the basket. My favorite beads were poured into a bowl, strung, then wrapped around the metal rims. I improvised the clover leaf handles. The riot of colors and shapes that make up ethnic embroideries are the inspirations for most of my work. It was fun to try something new.

I have returned and see the future and its name is pollution......

Janet tied with Renee Fields, whose entry had a special place in my heart for her use of technology!  I really, really wish she would post a little video of her piece so we could all see the lights!  Her piece highlights the modern effects on the grotto that the mermaid would have been swimming in.  Hers has
colored LED lights inside the mica flames - inside the little tires!  Such a cool statement piece!  Note the mirror in the Mermaid's hand and the silk wrapped purl used for her hair.
My basket is modern.  Although I couldn’t show it in the photo, the flames are lit by rose colored LED lights.  The mermaid has resurfaced in the Cuyahoga River in 1969 amid pollution and the river is burning.  Mica sheets are used for the flames.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Honorable Mentions - Beading Contest

Today I would like to show you a selection of the honorable mention winners for the 17th Century Beaded Basket Contest and give you a bit about their inspirations

Our first winner in the 17th Century Traditional Basket category is Joanna Enzmann of Massachusetts, she used a second boarder of woven beads in a sampler alphabet to embellish her basket.  As Joanna mentioned, there just wasn't enough room for the last letter - Z - around the piece.  But no matter, it is lovely!

Katie Strachan (she entered twice) won a copy of Robe for her entry called Anniversary Basket.  Katie
gave us the inspiration for her basket:

This basket was inspired by the themes of love and courting couples on many historic baskets.   It made me think that a basket might be the perfect gift for an important anniversary.  In the 17th century baskets were made by young girls celebrating young, beginning love – an engagement, perhaps a marriage or a christening.  It seemed fitting that so many years later, a decorated basket would be made to celebrate love fulfilled – my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary.

In designing this basket I adapted historic elements – netted bottom and sides, sprays of peyote stitched flowers and leaves decorating the interior of the basket – to the modern tastes of the recipient. I was inspired specifically by the MFA Boston basket (fittingly, labeled as a “gift basket”), its slightly darker color scheme and the sparkle of the beads.[1] The first elements I beaded for my basket – the pair of
carnations in the upper right corner – were inspired by similar flowers on the MFA basket.  As I worked, I looked at the layout of decorations on the MFA basket, how flowers and leaves were arranged in sprays, the variety of leaves and blooms, and tried to emulate them in my design.  Essentially, modern love expressed in a 17th century form.

[1] http://www.mfa.org/collections/object/gift-basket-48017

Caren Scarbrough entered into the Modern Multimedia Category with her basket of movable flowers.  Caren said of this entry:

I decided on a basket with moveable flowers so a child could play at flower arranging.  All of the flowers are on wire. The brown piece started as a forest floor for the basket, but I decided it needed a border so it became a mat or a cover if all the flowers are simply placed in the basket.   

You can see how her flowers can be put into the basket in multiple ways in the following photos.  I also added a close up of the rose which I really liked!  The folding of a beaded formation was really neat!

More winners tomorrow!