Cabinet of Curiosities



Welcome to Thistle Threads, I am currently running a popular online course called 'Cabinet of Curiosities'.

The course teaches the fundamental information needed to design, embroider and cover a wooden cabinet to make a replica of a 17th century casket.  For those who have ever seen a picture of an embroidered cabinet or been lucky enough to see one in person, these items delight and enchant and are quite desirous for needleworkers.  

Due to popular demand, there will be a last encore of the course starting Fall 2016 and registrations for spots are starting in May 2016.   
17th century embroidered cabinet, one of
32 caskets examined in detail in over 1000
photographs in the course.
  • The course is 18-months and includes three phases:
    • learning about the meaning and design of the 17th century embroideries seen on caskets so you can design your own
    • trying out embroidery techniques on five small projects that include a small trinket box
    • learning how to finish and apply the embroideries to a box.  A small trinket box is provided to learn on with reproduction finishing materials.
    Four of the five projects used in the
    class to teach common embroidered
    cabinet techniques
  • Two kits are sent during the class.  They include four full 32-color thread lines (Soie Ovale, Soie Paris, Silk Gimp and Silk Wrapped Purl) that were reproduced in a color line that matches the back of 17th century embroidery.  That is over 125 tubes of silk fiber!  Other contents include the fabrics and finishing materials for the five projects and the trinket box with reproduction hardware.
  • Some students use the designs I offer in the class, others design their own based on the motifs and design instruction, and others use a contemporary muse to make something their own.  A casket will take a long time to embroider - it needs to be what you want to hand down generations, not the teacher's vision.
The double casket form, one of three offered to students of
the class at a discount

  • The course is designed to allow the student to chose to make their own wooden form or purchase one of the boxes or mirrors that I offer.  No matter what, a reproduction embroidered cabinet is an expensive project.  The course allows great flexibility for students to spread that cost over years, use materials in their own stash and choose techniques that save time or resources.  As a teacher, my goal is to enable the student to make their own opus within their own budget constraints.  For that reason the special hardware needed is also sold separately so a different box design than offered can be made.

The Trinket Box project done with the class kits.  Full stitching
instructions for this piece is just part of the course
  • The course is designed to be a stand alone allowing gorgeous cabinets to be made, but there is a part II for those students who want to delve into stumpwork and explore dozens of needlelace stitches in further study. 
There are 250 spaces in the course left.  I will not be renewing my licensing agreements for the course and will be wrapping it up because of the future retirement of the cabinet maker.  Cabinets will be made until December 2020.  The artisans are all in the twilight of their careers and since embroiderers often take years for their projects; it is my responsibility to be sure materials are available for those students I take on.

This course is specifically for those students who want to stretch and produce something a bit unique - either taking the provided designs and stitching it in techniques of their comfort zone or who want to stretch themselves.  If you have always wanted a double casket with tons of little drawers, this course is for you.  If you are looking for a 'kit' course, I will be launching a stumpwork casket on the short flat casket in 2017 as a project class - you reproduce the teacher example but the number will be limited as I have to pre-manufacture all the threads.

If you would like to see a few examples that students have worked in class, look at these examples.  You will see pieces mounted on my wooden forms, those made by husbands with my hardware and the incredible diversity of the makers in the course.  Some of whom had never tried anything other than cross stitch before:

Janice Gail's Double Casket
Edith and John Brewer's Casket
Jeri Zoubek's Stumpwork Casket progress
Kate and Jack Hewitt's Casket
Janet Brandt's Casket Panels in progress



20 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  2. SO HOW DO YOU SIGN UP FOR THE CASKET COURSES.?

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    1. go to: http://thistle-threads.com/teaching/projects/onlineclasses/index.html
      click on the register button and choose the class Cabinet of Curiosities which is at this link:
      http://thistle-threads.com/teaching/projects/onlineclasses/casket/register.html

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  3. Hi, I am a student at Tulane University in New Orleans LA and am taking a class entitled Childhood in America. In many of the readings concerning the education of young girls we are noticing the teaching of embroidery as one of the subjects. I am beginning to collect research materials on why embroidery was so widely taught for a future paper. I was wondering if you have any scholarly sources that would help in my understanding. It would seem that since embroidery was a decorative art that clothing construction would have been a more useful subject to educate young women in. Am I missing something? I love your site and enjoy all the beautiful pieces featured. Thanks for any help! Barbara Miller bkjm3@yahoo.com

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    1. Anonymous, You have started a journey that will surely open your eyes. Yes embroidery was taught for use on clothing. Take a look at the clothing of royalty in the past and some even in todays world. The internet and library are rich in history. But you can contact EGA (Embroidery Guild of America).

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    2. Girls learned to embroider for many reasons, including to decorate clothing and mark textiles. Many girls' schools taught embroidery. Girls stitched increasingly complex samplers which were often "proudly displayed" in the family home to show off the girls' skills as seamstresses. Skill with a needle was a valued quality in a potential wife/homemaker. Schoolgirl samplers have become valuable collectors' items. Check out the websites of M. Finkel & Daughter and Stephen & Carol Huber, both antique embroidery dealers. Both sites include articles on the history and importance of schoolgirl samplers. It's a place to start.

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    3. Early in a girl's education - age 6 or 7 - girls were taught to stitch the alphabet. In part, this was a way of teaching them their letters so they'd be able to learn to read. Reading and writing were taught separately, and while not everyone learned to write, virtually everyone learned to read. Once King Henry VIII had established a new church (The Church of England), it was desired that people have a personal relationship with God and be able to read the scripture and interpret it for themselves, rather than only through the clergy. With the King James version of the bible, it became very common for everyone to learn to read. Many girls didn't learn to write, as this was thought to be a skill needed for business, which girls wouldn't have to have.

      I wish there was a single book you could look to - but there isn't. There are many books on Samplers and Schoolgirl Embroideries, however, which can shed some light. I might start with the definitive book - Girlhood Embroidery in two volumes by Betty Ring.

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  4. I'm not sure this was the answer they were looking for; I believe they were taught clothing construction as well, although actually the ones who were taught the embroidery I believe we more the upper class who had their clothes made for them

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    1. All classes learned some embroidery - lower class girls learned it to be able to take care of the clothing and fine linens in a household. They were preparing to be employed as ladies' maids - those lucky enough to have an affinity for it were assured of a better life than those children who ended up in match factories, or worse yet, on the streets.

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  7. How much prior needlework experience do you recommend? Is this course accessible for a relative beginner?

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  8. If you can cross stitch or do needlepoint - then this course is for you!! 70% of caskets in the 17th century were done in poor satin stitch technique (by 12 yr olds) or in tent stitch. So there shouldn't be anything in your way!

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    1. Thank you for the speedy and encouraging reply!

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  9. Hi, I think Stumpwork is very pretty but find I don't enjoy it as much as other of types of handwork. If I were to take the cabinet of curiosities class and get the casket (which I ADORE) are we taught alternative options from stumpwork to use on the casket? Thankyou

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  10. Yes - stumpwork is taught in the second class, the first is tied to low relief techniques like couching, stain stitch, long and short, tent, etc.

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  11. The caskets are new to me. Is there a place where one could view examples of the vintage ones? I'm so amazed by the intricate needlework.

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  12. Look at the last four blogs of this blog - meaning Jan 2015

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  13. Thank you! I should have looked further before asking that question. How in the world can you ever contain your excitement when actually in the presence of such stunning stitchery! And you are so blessed with the ability to emulate it! God bless you.

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