Friday, November 20, 2015

Driving to England - Day 4, Part 1

Detail of the Lady Wintour Peascod Chasuble at Auckland Castle - a total surprise of Day 4
Bagpipes! Don't get us
started about the haggis
After a night of dancing and bagpipes (somewhere in there Richard made me dance and found out I have two left feet and try to lead!) we set off in our bus for a long (5 hour) ride to York for the weekend.  You have to admit that our bus sign must have gotten a bunch of looks and comments - and it did.  I kept telling our hilarious bus driver, Ian, that it was a front for our 'burlesque' club to throw people off the scent.  ha ha.  (He almost hit a car when I said that, laughing so hard.  I was slightly offended... is it so hard to believe?  ha ha).

We had a stop planned at Bowes Castle for a private lunch and viewing
The sign got many comments
their embroidery and very popular Yves St Laurent show.  But only a week before we embarked on the tour, I got a email from a friend alerting me to an exhibit that was opening in that region.  In fact, it was opening up the day before we would literally drive right by the museum!  So we quickly contacted our bus group and changed the schedule so we could stop on the way to Bowes Castle.

What an incredible treat it was!  Imagine the most famous thwarted assassination in England - the Guy Fawkes gunpowder plot - and then that a co-conspirator, Robert Wintour, had a daughter, Helen Wintour who was a  prolific embroiderer.  They were Catholic so her 17th century embroidery was placed on vestments and chalice veils.  The exhibit is called Plots and Spangles, and is being held at Aukland Castle.  If you are in the UK before April 11, 2016 - go see it!!
These are only some of TEN vestments and multiple chalice veils she embroidered!!

The exhibit was was completely mind-blowing.  Stumpwork grapes and slips all over these vestments, metal threads and silks used in the most amazing high relief.  Roses and pea pods.  We were thrilled with the joining of a very famous event and embroidery.

We came in on its second day like a band of warriors with only an hour to see it (had we known, the website really doesn't do it any justice at all, we would have set aside more time).  Our cameras were blazing and noses pressed to the glass along with excited chatter.  The lovely, poor docent didn't know what hit her!  We could barely listen to her chat on embroidery.  Then to add to it - I turned into another room and was presented with a case that had 'modern reproduction' threads for the
The Bodenham Chalice Veil
viewer to compare to and saw stumpwork threads that I had made in my attic workroom!!  I had no idea how they ended up in the case as I am the only one who sells them.  The next day Mary Brooks admitted that all the threads I had donated to the Ashmolean exhibit had been loaned to this one and they hadn't gotten the labels up the night before in the rush to mount the exhibit - not knowing I would be walking in from America!  Mystery solved - I had wanted to refund the person who had bought them as I don't charge museums for items for their displays.
The Bodenham Chalice Veil - you can see plaited braid, a flatted coil used in the edges of many elements, gilt 1 1/2 twist,
detached buttonhole over gold threads to fill the leaves, and drizzle stitch for the stems with corals and pearls embedded.  A new idea instead of doing that for grottos.

There were techniques on some veils that I had never seen before and I WANT to do.  One is using a thread that is in the second box for the Frostings Club, so that was pretty cool.  I know a new way of using it.   There is a guide that is given out in the exhibit that is also online so you can see it.  But even better, there is a book that was published for the exhibit.  Now a funny story - our tour guide who had joined us the night before for the middle-of-England portion, had grabbed this tour as she is an avid embroiderer.  So at every stop she knew exactly what we would want - she would scope the gift store and if there was an obvious purchase - she would alert the staff to go get more out and then let us all know in the gallery that there was a book.  Good girl!  So at this location, they had just opened the first box the night before of the book.  She told them - you don't have enough!  The book was just 10 pounds ($15).  They didn't believe her.... of course a few trips to the basement and we had bought 20% of all the books they had printed for the seven month long exhibit.  Yes - they looked a bit shellshocked by us locusts.  It is really nice as it combines the history of the plot with the embroidery.   They don't have an online store - so if you want one - email:

Veil associated with Lady Wintour Peascod Chasuble - Yes all those petals are detached buttonhole over gold or silver threads - the sparkle is amazing.  This vase of flowers is about 9" x 9" in size.
The Alleluia Chasuble - Those grapes are stuffed spiral trellis in a silver strip wrapped silk.  The petals on the roses and flowers are all detached buttonhole over a gold thread.  The purple gem - is one.  The dimension on this piece is mind bending -- you actually say "Alleluia" when you see it and then are blown away that this is the work of one woman. But the thing is - you recognize the 'hand' and choices in all the pieces.  She liked particular techniques and treated similar motifs the same way.


  1. Incredible!! How very lucky you were, and think of the historians in the future talking about your threads being made in the 21st century. How does it feel to be an inspiration for stitchers 400 years from now?

  2. It was truly amazing!

  3. It is such a blessing for us to be able to see the world of embroidery through your eyes and camera lens. How awesome the sights are!

  4. Thank you for sharing these magnificent pieces.