Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Do you know this Finisher?

I am trying to find someone and think I will use the power of the internet.  As my usual detective work hasn't gotten me the answer.  And hey - the story is kinda funny too.

A few weeks ago I got a business call from my health insurance company needing to validate some info on my business medical insurance.  As I went to my office to get the info for the administrator, the woman took the opportunity to ask me a question sheepishly.  "Is your business named Thistle Threads".  "Yes", I responded, thinking she was validating the company name.  "Like Tricia Wilson Nguyen - seen in Just Cross Stitch?" 

"Well, yes!"

"OMG this is like a celebrity moment" she said.  I was shocked and then we laughed, seems her job in high school was working for 3 Stitches in Texas and now in addition to her day job, she did needlework finishing and had finished many a piece of embroidery I had taught others.  We quickly forgot the task at hand and started talking needlework.  

I have been looking for another finisher who is familiar with my work to suggest when people contact me. Someone did today and I looked for the info I had written down with her name and instagram handle.  I couldn't find it and had tried the instagram handle before to no luck (likely a spelling issue).  It was a rhyme with Buckaroo Bonazi - when she said it, we found another thing in common (I also loved that cult classic and we talked about Peter Weller the actor for a bit).  

So now - if you know how to get ahold her - let me know!  Or if you have seen her instagram - send it to me!! 


Friday, November 6, 2020

Historic Royal Palace Talks

I am going to assume that many of you are Lucy Worsley fans and gobble up her many documentaries made for the BBC that filter over to the US and (I have to assume) other countries as well.  While they don't all concern the Tudor/Stuart period, they are always fun, interesting and enjoyable to watch while you stitch.  

Lucy, as you might know is the head curator at the Historic Royal Palaces, a private trust that holds and runs the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, Kensington Palace State Apartments, the Banqueting House in Whitehall and Kew Palace.  Some pretty important places to us lovers of history!!  The Historic Royal Palaces is unique as they rely on public donations and visitors and they are hurting tremendously during the pandemic - as are many public facing arts and history organizations.

I wanted to let everyone know of an opportunity to help that also is fun for you.  Since the pandemic started, Lucy has been hosting online talks about subjects with multiple other experts.  This week was one about the Guy Fawlks Gunpowder Plot.  They are unique in that they gather several experts (in this case a Gunpowder Plot expert and a Tower of London expert) and use photos of primary source documents as well as other photos to tell the story in great detail along with the current research that is going on.  Of course this could seem dry but Lucy is great at making it fun to watch.  You can watch live for a small donation or if you become a member of the Historic Royal Palaces for 55£, you can watch it anytime as well as the dozen earlier talks!!  The next one is on Nov 18th on Royal Coronations.

Past topics available to members include Royal Fashion, Diana's dresses, Field of Cloth of Gold, the Ravenmasters, etc.  I have listened to many of these types of talks so far during Covid and it makes a tremendous difference to have a seasoned TV personality on it!  

I would say that the live-cast is a bit choppy at times like all of these.  The video is immediately available right after for 24-hours to those who gave a small donation - but open forever to members.   But I found the Historic Royal Palace staff the best at allowing me a little extra time on access if I couldn't get to the 24-hour open video (as I couldn't) because of scheduling issues.  I was able to watch it complete the next morning and really enjoy it.  On some of these topics it is hard to see new material as we have all heard it before - if you are a rabid documentary watcher - but I was pleasantly surprised that there was new information and insights I hadn't heard before.  I decided to join as a member as I was happy with both the content and customer service when I had some hiccups with the use.

So help out our favorite sites and get a full day of of their past presentations to boot AND the rest of the next year's worth as well.  It certainly beats reality TV!


Saturday, October 10, 2020

Embroidered Leaves

 Sometimes you run into the work of an artist that just delights you.  Today something came across my pintrest feed and I had to look - an artist who uses dried leaves and embellishes them with different types of edges in crochet and needlelace (I think).

Susanna Bauer works these edges or inserts into leaves and the creativity is worth a look.  Of course it made me look as I am working on a bunch of stumpwork leaves for my casket right now and I am using the expanded laid down trim for them but this takes it to another level that I might have to experiment with to get even more interesting edges!


Tuesday, September 15, 2020

A Little More Time

If you can believe it - even though I have had more time this summer, it was incredibly busy as well.  Summer is when I get a bunch of travel done but also lots of kit manufacturing.  Usually we do the cutting and final assembly of a Frostings Box as well as doing some kit assembly.

Covid made that tons more complicated.  Usually I hire my robot team past and present members to come by and watch movies, laugh and talk and put stuff in boxes.  Now we couldn't be inside or close to each other.  So like many businesses, I had to improvise to get things done.  And honestly, it was as important to cut and pack soutache for some kit as it was to have the kids together for their own mental health.

All of our parents are scientists, doctors or engineers and so we are all on the extremely careful end of the spectrum about the virus and of course we were hit very hard in our locality with one of the super-spreader events early and while 'well under control' for the US, we look like a nightmare for Europeans and those from Australia and New Zealand where we can't go out in public without a mask.  And no end in sight.  

Thinking ahead to now when the Robot Team would have to either go forward with the season or forgo a year of competition, having the group work for me this summer was a good way to test the waters of being together.  It took calling and talking to all the parents about their risk aversion, talking to the board of health, coming up with rules and procedures and then getting the infrastructure put together outside.  Cardboard trays of work units planned out ahead, duplicate tools, tents and tables.  Fans as it was SOOOO HOT.  We ended up with internal tent lights, a fan that hung to give us downward ventilation, and all kinds of other things to keep us safe.  But we made it work.  We had pods based upon who lived with each other and for a short time our next door neighbor had strong antibodies so he was part of our pod.  Every work session kids rotated in and out as we were capacity limited.  Rain sucked and I have to say the weather was very unpredictable this summer (if you know how weather models are done - the pressure measurements by commercial aircrafts are inputted into the big models - so weather isn't as well predicted right now as our aircraft are so grounded!)

It was very helpful to have the kids work, although I think I may have put in almost as many hours doing the preparation work at times.   But I think the best effect was that it was a HUGE mental health boost.  After spending about four months without seeing each other - they were so starved to get out of their homes and with other people.  The conversations were intense, wide reaching and the smiles ear-to-ear that were reported by parents when they go home were worth it all.  For several of the kids - this has been the ONLY place that they have been allowed to go since March 12th.  So it was an enormous pick me up.  Again - I thank all of you who may note a crooked label and wonder what kind of 'operation' I am running.  Well - one with heart.  I know I wasn't able to go by and make a suggestion to reposition a label this year as I couldn't go within a radius of all of them and it could be hard to peer at things held up at me from more than six feet away.  

We would plan out how we were going to do robots this year as the conditions aren't going to get better while we cut silk fabric.  And it was awesome as the kids were so starved for human contact that they would follow any rule I could put out.  Now the entire group is totally trained for starting robots tomorrow.  We have now all kinds of ways worked out to work virtually and the robot field will be out on the deck for the next several months.  The competitions will be virtual as well and that is going to be quite a change!

In the process we figured out how to turn the trellis of our deck area and fire pit into an outside movie theater and we have been hosting one family at a time for new releases (Mullan last night).  Another total pleasure that we have so enjoyed to see a movie under the stars with someone else and a roaring fire.  We can't wait to have this all over and turn it into a regular thing with the team and do outdoor movies with them all at once.  We won't be able to meet all at the same time other than a half hour cross-over with home brought food in chairs in a huge circle in the drive to pass info back and forth and enjoy people.  Our kids will all be virtual for school for at least two more months and so this is just so important to give them purpose and things to look forward to.

Again I thank you all for how you are tolerant of me spending time with a group of kids mentoring them and sometimes waiting for my work sessions to end so I can get that package out or answer that email.  I think about all the lives saved because a large group of teens thought it was more important to stay clean and safe for each other instead of running around town without masks on.  

Monday, September 14, 2020

Fiber Talk - This Week

Being homebound and putting all travel on hold has given me a little extra time to do some things I have had in my 'someday' bucket.  One of those was recording a podcast with Gary Parr of Fiber Talk.  I have promised Gary for over a year I would find some time and we finally did!

The podcast is being broadcast this week and we will be following up with a live YouTube session on Wednesday night.

See Fiber Talk's website for details of how to listen and log in for the live session!  

If you like it - I might be able to come back on again as we didn't even come close to talking about all the subjects Gary told me he wanted to cover.


Sunday, September 13, 2020

Winterthur Online Embroidery Symposium

Normally every two years there is an Embroidery Symposium of renown at Winterthur Museum.   It is my favorite symposium to give a talk at and its definitely one of those high-academic level conferences - real meat on the bones!  

With the current situation, Winterthur made the decision to host the symposium as originally planned in an online format - but delaying the hands-on component to another year.  

This should be seen as an opportunity for many far away to take advantage of the ability to sit in on the talks that they would normally never be able to see!  The talks will be online and available to paid participants for one full month - so you can watch and rewatch and pause and savor!!  So often I hear from participants that they wish they could rewind my presentation and this year you can!!!

On Oct 2-3, the original dates for the event, there will be several live events with Linda Eaton moderating small groups of the speakers talking about the subjects of their talks and taking questions from the viewers.  

I highly recommend you taking advantage of this opportunity and registering for the event - perhaps in the future it will become something that more events do - a in-person and online component which will bring so many more into the knowledge presented.  

I am giving a talk about whitework samplers of the 17th century and pattern books.  I have to say that Linda always gives me wide-berth to take the time to present new knowledge and I love her for that.  I always invest several weeks in putting together the presentations and material for this conference.  I just sent off my presentation today to the organizers and I am quite happy with how it turned out - in this format I was able to add more multi-media content than ever before and I feel it made the presentation richer for it. 

The cost of the event is $150 ($125 for members) and that is a fraction of what you spend to attend in person - so quite a deal. 

Hope to see you there during the Q&A session!!


Saturday, September 12, 2020

17th century American (?) Embroidery

 As the Massachusetts Bay Colony was founded in 1620 there was rapid immigration to this region I live in during the 17th century and inevitably, there were pieces of embroidery brought over finished, unfinished and maybe imported to be worked here.  We know of several samplers that were worked here (and some brought with immigrants).  But there are few stumpwork or pictures that we can say - yes, that might have been made in colonial America.  

One particular piece, a picture of the Story of Esther, has provenance that says that Rebeckah Wheeler (1645-1718) worked the piece in Concord, MA.  It is long stitched in wool instead of silk but does have some metallic thread elements.  It is possible that the drawn linen was brought from England in the 1650-1660s and she completed it here.  The wool thread and long stitch choice are unusual for England but one could see it being a local choice.

There is more to the story about her and her family.  Today a video by the Concord Museum curator (where the embroidery resides) dropped a YouTube video about the piece and a particular political issue in the Massachusetts Bay Colony at the time.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Reproducing the Glass Bottles for the Cabinet of Curiosities

Usually I would write about ten blog posts for a huge story like this, but I decided to do a video that I would be able to post in a few places.  

The bottles for embroidered caskets are ready and are now on sale for those who have been making an embroidered cabinet.  It has been a very long process and I hope as interesting as the inkwells were too!  There is history mixed in as well - especially for those of you who aren't as familiar with 17th century caskets.  

If you are interested in making one (and getting a bottle or two in it), my two project courses are still registering right now with the last of the caskets.  Each come with the bottle(s) it needs in the kit. 

The Harmony with Nature Casket and the Four Seasons Double Casket Project Course

Friday, August 7, 2020

17th Century Whitework Sampler Online Course

I put together a video showing close ups of several antique whitework samplers to discuss the current online university 17th century whitework sampler course.

I have currently 14 kits in hand for those who want to join the course - especially those who have run through a few of their older projects while in this period of social distancing.  There will be 50 more spots later when supplies reach me again.

In general, supplies are seriously, seriously difficult to get at the moment.  I think through the end of the year I will only be able to offer those projects where I already have the items today.  Those include:

14 - 17th century Whitework Sampler spots

112 - Harmony in Nature Casket Course spots (end of run)

11 - Four Senses Casket Project Course spots (end of run)

24 - Stuart Silk Purl Flower Course spots (end of run)

That is pretty small inventory and three of those courses will be the last of them!  So if you are thinking about your Fall/Winter stitching, you might want to get what you are interested in.

I am working on getting some of my lectures ready to post as well, but that means I have to negotiate image rights with every museum represented and it is taking a few weeks for each because they aren't in the office, are usually the only person that was brought back in the department from furlow and I was told that their work load is up because all professors are writing papers during this period.  :-)  So it will take awhile.  

Saturday, May 16, 2020

A Few Things to Stitch By

There are many 'snips' of culture being put out right now to keep our cultural arts relevant for everyone when we can't visit our museums, etc.  One that I got today was a short spot about an embroidered crazy quilt recently acquired and on display at the American Folk Art Museum.  It is a nice little 'context' video about the object.  I am going to post a few here and there

Curator Stacy C. Hollander talks to NYC-ARTS about the work “Crazy Quilt” by Clara Leon, which is in the collection of the American Folk Art Museum

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Using New Frostings Threads

For some of you, you have gotten the new short run Frostings 5 box.  For those who missed out on the opportunity, I may have some more during the next ordering period for the shop site - but it won't be the level I normally can do.

We are trying to see how much of the threads we can get.  Honestly with the level of unemployment and stock market collapse, I didn't think I could sell 80 much less the 300 I usually try to make.  I am glad many of you are not having a tough time during this pandemic - so many are having trouble as evidenced by the off-the-charts increase in food bank lines.  (Bless you who are still whole and I hope you remember those who aren't with help)

But one of the threads in the box needs a bit of explanation on what other cool things you can do with it.  I will be trying, as raw materials allow, to get more of this in the shop as well as the Frostings 5 bundles that I will make available for those who want as much of what was in the collection as possible.

So in the box was something called Small Silk Laid Down Trim.  It was in five green colors and the 235/2916 pink color.  It is fantastic as a little trim to couch down along things - but even better when you stretch it to make it into a Small Silk Scallop Trim!  In that case, you can use it as the wire outline for needlelace shapes!!  It then gives you this really amazing scallop edge to your pieces.   This video that I made shows how to do it.

The video is also something I have been working towards as soon as the pandemic hit.  I thought I would have all kinds of time to do great video snips to post to my different sites.  Instead I have been in email hell/building out a new teaching site that was forced by internet protocol changes.  I am hoping that some of the changes I have been making will free up some time for these cool things instead.

I bought a new iPad Pro that just came out.  Shockingly its camera is as good as my special macro camera I use for needlework photographs.  But the added bonus is I can draw on pictures and screen record at the same time.  So it is like me standing in front of a big picture in a class room and using my finger to point to things and talking about what we are seeing.  It has been killing me to have it sitting out on the table for weeks with my whitework samplers sitting next to it ready for 'Camera -Action!" and instead walking by it daily to answer emails.  Fingers crossed I have more time for the fun stuff soon.  This is my first video trial - it was all done on the iPad.  Sorry for any choppy voice stuff, I was learning to edit on the iPad at the same time.  But it was quick which was good.

I got an email from someone who took the lack of blog as maybe an indication that we had caught the virus and was very concerned.  Thank you for the concern!  But actually every business that serves a hobby that someone could pick up during this time or return to some really old (I mean really old - like my computers don't have the data on it anymore) have seen business and customer service requests go through the roof several hundred percent.  I hear just puzzle sales are up 300%.  :-)  I have spoken to the distributors and heard from other store owners - no one is able to keep up at all.  We are all drowning.  And the labor I usually hire to help me out when I am crushed can't come into the home (they need some supervision.  I can't give it to most as they have cats or dogs and can't risk the hard fought product to animal damage).  So blog and cool plans for videos went to the back of the line.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Marbled Paper

One of the things that attracted me to embroidered caskets was that they were full of other artisan produced items and I love knowing how everything and anything is made.

It has been so fun to learn about marbled paper and look at the designs that were made in the 17th century as well as search out papers and artisans.  I spent time in a studio in Florence and one in Venice in the last few years.  My new marbler is out of Nice and I was planning on visiting this year but now that won't happen.  He let me know yesterday that the studio is part of his home so he is still producing and healthy (Phew!!).

Here is a wonderful video about how different patterns are made for marbled papers, you can get lost in watching the zen like patterns.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Woodworkers, Makers, and those who Sew - Give up Your Gloves and Masks Locally

I have been having a private conversation with people who are in my classes on an online forum of late.  I will not bore you with all the details, but in my former profession, I worked on haz-mat gear for soldiers for bio-terrorism among other things.  So people I knew in my former life have been contacting me from areas of high need for personal protective gear to ask me opinions about substitutions, making PPE at home, jury-rigging stuff, etc.   
The landscape is bleak.  I have dug out many resources but there are several short term things that we can do this minute that would drastically change the course of what is going on at hospitals with little effort on our parts.  Right now we are facing imminent exhaustion of PPE resources and a lag until more commercial operations increases in production can reach hospitals.  In fact, there are some horrific issues in the supply chain that will cause lapses coming soon.  Read this Boston Globe article about how 75% of the worlds gloves are made in one country and they are going to 50% production because of cornavirus loose in their population.  
There is no doubt that many of us have those flimsy surgical masks in our horde.  Anyone afraid during the H1N1 or SARS scare may have bought a box.  I did.  In fact one church in Manhattan suddenly realized they had 5,000 N95 masks they ordered during the SARS scare years ago and found them.  Or maybe you were aware and got some earlier this year when you realized it was getting out of control in China.  Understandable.  But now we are at the front lines.
Don't give the cotton masks you are making to the hospital workers who are 100% going to be in the presence of huge viral loads.  It is these over-exposure levels that is getting them sick and not somewhat sick - they are becoming critically ill fast because instead of fighting off 2 viruses they got 2000 into their nose.  Give them the best stuff you have and save the cotton masks you make for yourself.  Give the cotton masks to the UPS driver, the postal worker, the UberEats person, the grocery worker, etc.  Hand them out willy nilly.  Give them $10 for delivering your food and a stack of home made masks.
You will need something in front of your face in the very unlikely case you walk into a recent cough cloud.  Through my reading the most protective use of a mask in the general public is actually to keep you from rubbing your mouth or nose with your fingers that have been contaminated from a surface.  It is just a light barrier need.  So in that case, the cotton home-sewn mask does its job keeping the virus from transferring to the mucus membranes of your face.  The same if you have a member of the family get sick.  The purpose is to have the cough aerosol prevented from being sprayed into the room.  Having a stack of a dozen of the ones you made is great - one at all times on the sick person and you wear one when going into their room.   Wash them frequently.  Even if all it does is reduce the number of viruses you catch to get you sick - you will likely have a lower grade infection that is survivable.  But the nurse who has to stand there with the sickest patient needs the disposable high filtration mask to not only stay well to care for people but also to survive. 
If we all give up even half of the box of surgical masks bought out of care for our families - think of the supply for hospitals that would materialize overnight.
I read a well done article yesterday from an infectious disease specialist.  They said that South Korea and Singapore have done a good job of flattening the curve because of a few things that their societies do because of hard lessons learned in the last several epidemics.  
1) In these times EVERYONE wears a mask - it is the socially responsible things to do.   And as their cultures are predicated on communal behavior instead of individualism - it works.  It is a cliche here that people of asian decent wear masks and we all look at them for being weird.   They are being smart and thinking about everyone around them - they aren't sick - they are willing to be ostracized in America for the greater good because culturally caring for the greater good is the highest form of humanity.  They know that there are walking spreaders and that people unknowingly are the spreader or come in contact with them.   If everyone wears a cotton mask - then so will the sick people.  Transmission goes way down.   Honestly - this practice is the only way we will be getting back to work and out of our houses until we have a vaccine that has been used on most of the population.
2) The sick don't stay in their homes, they are moved to 'dorm' clinic settings to be isolated and monitored by nurses.  If someone in the home gets it - the whole family gets it.  That is the majority of cases in all countries right now.  In Boston they are already identifying which dormitories from colleges have the right ventilation systems, plumbing, etc to do this. 
A N95 mask - usually from 3M used for dust
Most needleworkers know other people who make things - the most likely candidate is your home woodworker.  Go into their stash and start looking.  I know all this stuff and we were looking for some wood pen blanks Sunday that we knew we bought some 10 years ago (bought a lathe to keep kid busy during this).  I found 12 - a DOZEN - 3M N95 masks that are gold at the moment.  I didn't even know I had them as they are forgettable.  Dust masks for woodworking are what they are using - that is the most protective mask there is.
The reason there are some more N95 masks on the way to NYC right now is because of FDA rule changes.  Previously if you were making these masks, they would only be accepted into  a hospital if they were made on a FDA certified manufacturing line.  If you wanted your product that was the same to be cheeper, you didn't have the line FDA certified with extra controls to make sure they were 100% sterile.  Same product.  So now, hospitals are allowed to use the ones that are coming off the line for contractors, woodworkers, etc.  So FIND the 2-5 you have in your house and give them up!!  Talk to anyone you know who might have some and get them to drop them off.  You are saving lives.
And I found an unopened box of 100 nitrile gloves he had for wood finishing.  Then I started thinking about where else I might have dust masks squirreled away and came up with a few more.  My robot mom on the front lines at Children's hospital almost cried when I called her.  I rushed them over to her house and dropped them in the garage.  Hairdresses, construction workers, dentists, bio labs, woodworkers - all these professionals and more HAVE THESE THINGS laying on the shelves.  Stop making cotton masks that are 28% effective (yes, better than nothing) and shake this stuff that is 100% what they need out of the trees first and then go back to making masks.   In Boston we have started doing that and they are showing up in boxloads.  I told that to the ER nurse who is a robot mom and trying to figure out how to make masks on Friday night.  She posted to the town mom's discussion group how desperate they are.  On Sunday she called me crying as her lawn was full of personal protective gear that came from nowhere.  Yesterday a truckload of gathered PPE was delivered to Mass General from the bio-labs in the area.   Honestly there shouldn't be a dentist office anywhere with anything in stock except a few items kept back for emergency procedures - it should all be trucked to the local hospital.  Same with orthodontists, etc.  My UPS guy told me two weeks ago (the last time I would open the door) that he was mad that people were hoarding.  He delivered 19,000 rubber gloves to just one dentist that week.   That dentist had better drive them all over to the hospital.  
If you find boxes that are open and are concerned that they are a bit dusty.  Think if  you were a doctor or your son or daughter was a nurse?   Would you care?  If you think they would - give the box to your local supermarket, those cashers need them.  If people working jobs in food distribution don't feel safe enough, they won't show up and our distribution system will grind to a halt.  Give them a sewn mask while you are at it as well so they don't scratch their nose with the gloved hand.
The 3D printed headband for face shields -
a temporary solution in the 1-2 weeks between
exhaustion of supply and commercial
supply ramping up.  The ties, foam piece
and clear shield needs to be added
We all want to do something helpful - be smart about it.  Everyone with a 3D printer and a sewing machine is trying something - but usually without the basic knowledge of the science behind masks.  (That link was the National Academy of Sciences report on the shortage of PPE in the SARS epidemic).  Many of the good will efforts are going in the wrong direction.  Of the PPE gear for a hospital, it is the disposable face shield that has the most potential to be made using 3D printing.  We have been working with a local emergency room nurse who is also another robot coach and got the rest fo the materials donated to fabricate them.  We are printing non stop here and are up to 30 shields now since Sunday and local hospitals are accepting them.   We know they will only be needed until companies like Bauer get their ramp up done and are delivering.

So please focus on calling that woodworker, contractor, dentist, hairdresser, etc you know and get them to pull out dust masks and gloves.  And start wearing your mask, make it a fashion statement.  I might embroider the edges of mine.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Casket for Sale

There is an embroidered casket for sale this weekend on auction.   It has certainly seen much better days but it amazingly has its bottles, inkwells and even a good print in the inside.

It is lot 945 at Hutchion Scott Limited in Skipton, UK. The auction is on March 27th.  I can't quite tell which story is on this casket and the back is in somewhat better condition than the front.  There are more pictures of the casket online if you look.

Again - if you get it - you owe me some great pictures!!


Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Sol 14 - Tricia - Needlework Pirate

This morning, my youngest son greeted me with:

"Sol 14"

I hope you understand that reference (MarkWatney from The Martian - a family favorite - watch it).

As a mother I had to laugh as well as totally appreciate the sentiment and humor he was finding in the situation.  We have been self isolating as a family now since March 12th.  We had foreseen that it was  coming and had been taking precautions and had a family plan that we pushed into action.  The trigger was when the public schools closed in our town. We had developed a 4-week food plan, shopped for the 'dry goods' and both my husband and I had the list and would rush out to fulfill the moment the trigger occurred.  I was taking a short break as I had just moved a UHaul of boxes to the house (casket boxes) and my son looked up and said - 'they closed our school'.  I jumped up and grabbed my purse and bee-lined it to the local store.

Several years ago, the FIRST robotics topic of the year was natural disasters and so the kids had studied all kinds of preparedness and worked for a year on innovative projects regarding getting populations to do the right types of things in the face of some sort of disaster.  In this one, I am glad the kids had advance mental preparation when younger.

We had spent a few weeks casually talking to our college son to get him mentally prepared to respond if we asked him to come home.  That helped, it was so hard for my 20-yr old son fresh off spring break to get a call from Mom and be asked to throw stuff in a bag and that I would be there in a few hours to pick him up.  His university had just announced online courses but that they would be residential during the rest of the term. Of course as soon as Harvard and MIT across the river closed that day - I knew it was days until his university would have to close.  So he was horribly embarrassed to leave, but it was Thursday night and if we could avoid a whole weekend of coronavirus parties - we wanted that buffer.  We allowed him the next day to pack up his room and say good bye to a handful of friends as they were coming to terms that their own parents were starting to call, expecting the university would close (they did it the worst way-announce on Sunday night and be out by Tuesday).  I was so relieved that he respected his father's and my request to come home in a way that limited our exposure.  Of course he has now been notified he can't come back for summer semester so he is stuck here with us until September.

My kids have been awesome.  We all talked for weeks about what we would do if we had to become shut-ins.  So we had identified skills we wanted to develop, tools, materials and fun stuff we would need and they were all ordered that night.  Loads of projects.  At Christmas we had given my husband a rain check on a lathe to be ordered for this summer after we could reconfigure the shop.  It arrived a week ago.  So at this point it has been non-stop project time and the family has been so busy.  My oldest has so many projects envisioned we will need to be in quarantine for months.  In fact - its been a bit like The Martian around here - complete with moving robots.  The boys want to know when we get to try growing potatoes in our own poop.  I said the garden room would be appropriate.  (ha ha).  There was a baking soda experiment on Sol 2.  Getting the 480 pound lathe into the basement by ourselves on Sol 7 was hilarious as delivery men wouldn't come in house.

They have kept the humor up - which honestly is pretty amazing.  The day we 'went inside' or "Sol 1" was particularly hard on my youngest.  We were in the UHaul and his worst fear came true - the World Championship for Robotics was canceled.  I haven't had the chance to tell the rest of the story from last year or this year's story.  Sometimes I do that as other teams scour the web for pictures of our robot.  Spoiler alert - they had just won the state championship four days before and were #2 in the world (OMG, he is just a freshman) - he was legitimately competing in late April for the World championship as captain of his own team.  He was upset that wouldn't happen now.  I feel so bad for the kids.

So his daily humor is good.  In fact, even though it is now likely his robot will never get fielded again, he has taken on not only rebuilding it to be the best ever but doing prework for next year.  He is taking advantage of his brother being around to tutor him in advanced CAD and other techniques.  His team has been keeping busy in their own homes building a new team website, learning more coding skills, etc.  It shows remarkable resiliency for these kids.   Every day there is another big thing the kids tackle.  They cleaned the whole robot room this morning just to play a rousing game of ping pong on the work table.  My husband and I took a walk on Sol 10 to talk serious stuff and the boys figured out how to hook their music to the home speakers and had the place rocking when we returned along with a huge dinner cooked.  The board games have lasted hours and we are only on movie #5 of watching the entire Marvel Universe in chronological order.  Actually, the TV has barely been on.

Sol 14.  I actually couldn't believe it - after shutting down the shop I was starting to think about what I would do now that I was shut in and I didn't really realize that we had been locked down already for  half a month as a family.

So they have been advising me on how to do modern informal videos or vlogs.  So expect some stuff in the future.  I promised them I would take a "Vacation" first.  It lasted 30 minutes last night.  But I will try again sometime today and make it longer.

Tricia - Needlework Pirate

Friday, March 20, 2020

Thistle Threads Shop Site Closing Temporarily - Sunday March 22nd

I will need to close down the Thistle Threads Shop site so that I can respect the needs in my community to shelter in place.  As much as us needleworkers feel that getting our threads is 'essential' - I need to place the health of my family and my community above our needs to stitch.  I must stop the constant trips to the post office. I anticipate this being about 3-4 weeks, I hope.   

Unfortunately production in France of silks and other threads as well as linens in Italy has been shut down.  We hope and pray for our friends that this is short but it will inevitably result in long delays of materials just when we have lots of time to stitch.  

Shop site will become inactive at midnight EST Sunday, March 22nd

I will not be going out of business but will need to remove products/inventory from the site to prevent ordering.  I have modified the inventory to reflect only things in stock today. When I am able to reopen and ship safely, I will put the site back up.  

I will be continuing to write my lessons, post to the blog, and maybe even will have time to do some development and uploading of videos/needlework nibbles that have been in the works but I just haven't had the time to finish.  

For those in new classes starting April 1st, you should have just gotten early access to the classes as I am sensitive to your interest in starting early with theme on your hands.  

Please everyone stay safe, respect the community rules on interactions with others and lets see each other happy and healthy later in 2020!!


Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Five Senses Casket Gone

The spots I had reserved for the Five Senses Casket worked in counted work are now gone.  If you are wanting a casket and don't already own one, the opportunities are getting smaller.

I still have 127 spots in the Harmony with Nature casket course that just started and is still accepting reservations.  It started registering in the late fall and already is half filled.  

Harmony with Nature Casket

There is one more double casket class coming called the Four Seasons Double Casket.  People are very hungry for this style of cabinet with the little drawers and secret spots.  So much so that even though I haven't finished stitching it, the request was made to start it now or reserve a spot ahead.  So I opened registration for it a week ago to the list of people I had who had enquired and 20 of the 48 spots are now gone.

As I only have an estimated price, I am allowing people who want to wait until it is done to reserve a space now with a refundable reservation of $500.  If you are interested in learning more - email me at tricia@alum.mit.edu.

You can see the design here below and two of the panels that are complete.  They are the inside of the doors and are amazingly luscious!  If you love the doors but just can't bite off the double casket, the door designs will be released as a course by the summer (we are waiting for silk purl production to catch up).  If you want to be put on a list to get first notice of that course - email me at tricia@alum.mit.edu

Four Seasons Double Casket design showing Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall on the sides and front doors.  The back has Hope, Faith and Charity and the top includes a mermaid in her grotto

Right inner door of Four Seasons Casket

Left inner door of Four Seasons Casket

Friday, February 21, 2020

Five Senses Casket Open for Registration

I finally was able to allow registrations for the Five Senses Casket with the tent stitch embroidery on it because Access Commodities and I have found another old-world weaver who was willing to spend the time to reproduce the linen.

We originally used this amazing old looking linen called Montrose which had been made in one batch some 20 years ago.  In the intervening time no one seemed to want it until I came along and recognized that it was a good substitute for 17th century linen!  But by that time the original weaver was organizing his retirement and closing his looms down.  So Access Commodities bought everything that was on the shelf and we worked through it.

Just when I got the casket done and everyone said - HEY - I want to do that!!  We were out of linen.

This happened to several other good things and so another really deep search for those precious gems of old world makers was attempted.  You talk to everyone and try to find out sources on the ground.  Well one gentleman was willing to try - and it wasn't easy as the climate change has really affected how linen grows and what species can be grown where and that impacts the length of the fibers and thus the quality of linen.

We decided to commission a 10 yard sample and were thrilled with the results.  So the big boat of
linen is headed to the USA and I will have a supply of Montrose again!!  That means that a few lucky people can decide to do a double casket with a tent stitch design over 20 count.  And I know for a few people that is heaven!  Eyesight sometimes gets the best of us.

So if you are interested - come on to the shop and look at the parameters for the course!


Friday, January 31, 2020

Kimono Revolution

So I was a Japanese Embroidery student at 12, back in the early 1980s; so I care about the techniques, experts and history of Japanese textile culture.  You also know that endangered textile technologies and techniques are kinda 'my thing'.  So last night when I sat down to embroider and watch TV and was looking through the options - a program called "Kimono Revolution" coming on at 8pm really got me to stop and switch the channel to it.

It didn't take more than a few minutes for the program to get me crying and really want to recommend it to you all.  The program is right now making the rounds on PBS but it can also be watched on the internet.  It is in subtitles but soooo worth it.

Watch Kimono Revolution

It is a story of how the decline of the traditional kimono - which is the one product that keeps almost ALL textile artisans in Japan going - has reduced to less than 1/3 the market in just the last 10 years.  One major Kimono store owner is on a single minded mission to save the entirety of the textile artisan infrastructure.  Kinda sounds familiar, doesn't it.

So he conceived of an audacious project and hoped he could have it done in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic games.  (1) Raise about $40,000 per kimono (how much they cost) from donors, corporations and the government (2) recruit all the artisans to take their techniques and challenge themselves to modernize the look and (3) produce a work-of-art kimono for each of the 206 countries represented at the Olympics.

The money would keep the artisans going a few more years and the unique interpretations by these living treasures and new upcoming artisans would excite the market and drive interest in Kimono in the public.

Several of the kimono productions are gone through in detail and every time I cried.  The beauty, the expertise, the age of the artisans, the collaborations to make something new.  It was heartbreakingly beautiful.  The film really encapsulates what I have seen throughout my life of traveling around the world and being introduced to experts that we are loosing and often standing there knowing that the next time I try to come back - it will be gone.  I have so many pieces of something in my house that I pull out sometimes and "pet".  The 'last' of something and full of memories of some tremendous expertise that is gone and I got to see before it was gone.

So please put watching this on your to do list.  Pull out a cup of tea or glass of wine and afterwards you will decide to do something textile related.  Find your nice things and pet them, use them and honor the legions of elderly experts like those in the film.

And we NEED an exhibition of these kimono to come to America after the Olympics.  Who can we beg to do that???

The visionary's quote is: "My dream is to see the people leading the delegations wearing the kimonos at the opening ceremony of the Tokyo games".  Oh gosh I really hope so.  It is just an incredible feat and such an appropriate way to boost their long traditional culture.


Wednesday, January 1, 2020

News Flash - Au Ver a Soie Theft

I don't like posting without complete information but the situation demands it.  There was a break in at the Au Ver a Soie factory between Christmas and today and a significant amount of silk thread was stolen - likely to be fenced on the internet.  I don't have any details beyond what they just posted on their facebook page an hour ago.  I will be getting details soon so we can know what to look for and will post as soon as I do.

I can't tell you the horror Access Commodities and myself are absorbing at the moment as we understand what it takes to remake schedule wise.  I also don't know yet what it means to current courses I am running.  But impacting future plans - yes.

Here is the post:
Dear customers, dear friends, dear partners,
The Life of a small business is not always quite as follow : our plant has been robbed between Xmas and New Year’s eve. The thieves have taken entire ranges of threads, orders ready to be shipped to French and abroad customers. Their aim was clearly to slow down our activity but we will not give up as we did after the fire in 2015. 
Thanks to warn us if you see suspect sales of our products on Internet. This concerns : flyfishing silklines, soie de Paris, sewing silk (soie 1003 and surfines), kits of Pascal Jaouen, special colours in soie perlĂ©e. 
We wish you a very happy new year 2020 which will be full of surprises for our 200th year anniversary.
Take special care when viewing offers of the silks - they likely stole spools as that would be easy to fence.  Au Ver a Soie spools several of these on wooden spools.  I think they are doing the white spools now as well.  The spools that Au Ver a Soie prints on have "Au Ver a Soie" on the top and then thread type on the bottom.  The ones that Access Commodities spools show the thread type on the top in writing and don't say Au Ver a Soie on them - to help you distinguish.   While I don't know this as a fact - it is a decent conjecture at this point.

If you see something that appears fraudulent (from eBay):

1. Get the item number and the seller's username.  Take a screen shot as well using your computer or phone
2. Inform your local police and ask them to get in touch with eBay. You can find local law enforcement officers on the USACops website.
3. Tell the officers to email us at stopfraud@ebay.com
Please note that we can only investigate such a serious allegation if it comes from the police.
4. email Au Ver a Soie immediately - info@auverasoie.com