Saturday, March 6, 2021

Casket Finishing Materials

After being out of most of the casket finishing materials for many months - I have all but the silver woven tape in stock!!  The gold tape arrived this morning so I have 500 meters of that with another 2000 meters worming its way through customs.

Papers are in stock as well, bottles, and inkwells.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Twixt Art & Nature Book

For those of you who attended my lecture at SNAD today - I promised that I would put out one of my favorite books for 17th century embroidery.  It is a gold star!  

The best part about it is it is out of print and now available as a FREE download!!!

So here is the link.  Add it to cart and give your info and you will get a free pdf download of this massive book to enjoy.


Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Giving a Lecture Online

I am giving a zoom lecture at the San Fransisco School of Needlework and Design on Wednesday January 27th at 2pm PST.  I will be talking about the Plimoth Jacket™ reproduction project and the lessons learned that tell us about 17th century embroidery.  

You can go to this link to get a ticket to the lecture!  Join us!  Ask questions (anything about embroidery is up for grabs!).

Friday, December 25, 2020

12 Days of Christmas Giveaway - Day 12

Merry Christmas! 

Today's giveaway is a great one! An unwrapped kit of the Ann Holewll sampler at Williamburg charted by The Exemplary.  It is the DMC version on 35 count linen.   

If you are interested in this kit:

1) you have to send me an email ( with "Ann Hoewll" in the subject line.  

2) You HAVE to put your name and full address in the body of the message (I can't send it to people who don't).  

3) Then send by Midnight EST on Dec 26th

I will pick the winner and send the sampler kit after Christmas.

So I have to ask - did Santa bring you what you wanted under the Christmas tree?  Of course, if you got good health then you definitely got your first wish!  :-)  But if you are looking for something a bit more stitching related - there are several online courses that are starting up on January 1st.    

I have been working on an online course for about a year now and haven't talked about it because it was still in development and stitching progress.  But shockingly to me, enough people wanted to do it sight unseen that there are over 50 in the stitch along (people who already own a casket) and 40 in the project version of the course (those who needed a casket to do the class).  That leaves only a handful of spots left and thus I won't really be able to do a big splashy 'ta-da' here is the class and you can register for it once the piece is done.  I am reasonably sure at this point that the spots will be all claimed and started before I finish the embroidery.

The course is called "The Four Seasons Double Casket" and it is a full out, no-holds-barred stumpwork casket.  All the bells and whistles with funky threads - some that I hand make with prototype equipment in my home and will never happen again (i.e. Tricia got tired of turning the crank!).  

This is the little lamb on the top frieze of the double casket.  His curly coat is made of a couched thread called a silk coil.  This is made by spinning a silk gimp on another thread - in this case a silk perlee using a small machine my son and I made from studying a drawing of a table top gold thread spinning machine from Turkey in the 1800s.  We fabricated the machine from robot parts and designed the rest and 3-D printed it.  I have to hand crank it and it took three days to make all the cream silk coil for all the 100 kits that were made.  The silk coil is a bit uneven and that is what distinguishes it from silk wrapped purl, a more organic look and it is what makes that historic thread perfect for lambs.  I have photographed this effect on historic pieces and wanted to do it once.

It has been fun to do as I am letting my imagination go wild and tossing in things I have seen or think would have been done.  Another example of this is the use of silk gimps for gold work stitches to make really textural flowers such as the ones below:

It is about the Four Seasons with Winter and Fall on the sides and Summer and Spring on the front.  It includes a grotto and mermaid which will be a bit over the top and includes embroidery INSIDE the casket.  The silk purl flower baskets were planned to be inside the doors.  There is another inside embroidery and I won't yet reveal that secret.  :-)

I enjoyed doing the birds on the slopes a few weeks ago:

It can be hard to visualize the casket as each panel is published for the students, so I decided to put together one of my mini-caskets that you can cut out and put together.  While I can't link the pdf here, I can send it to you if you want to print it out and put together - send me an email.  But I can put the picture.  It has the partially done Fall and Winter sides in it.  

Thursday, December 24, 2020

12 Days of Christmas Giveaway - Day 11

The Day 11 giveaway is one of two issues of the now not published Sampler and Antique Needlework Quarterly.  I am so sad this isn't published anymore!!

If you are interested in an issue:

1) you have to send me an email ( with "SANQ" in the subject line.  

2) You HAVE to put your name and full address in the body of the message (I can't send it to people who don't).  

3) Then send by Midnight EST on Dec 25th

I will pick two winners to send them to after Christmas.

Here is another close up picture of the Harmony with Nature Casket.  It shows many of the unusual threads that are used to stitch this piece.  Many people email me with a desire to take the class but professing they don't have the skills to do it.  When I designed this piece, I was very thoughtful in doing it to make it adaptable to many skill levels.  I chose the roundel design specifically for several reasons.  First, it allowed me to put the stumpwork from needlelace mostly inside the oval.  Why?  Well, it limited the needlelace and left the ovals and outside to be made in high relief with fancy threads like silk purls and Facette which are couched down.  Couching is a very simple skill where you take a second thread and go over the first that is laying on the surface.  So that took the skill level down.  Also, most stumpwork is worked in this period by doing satin stitch on the outline on the fabric and then making a separate needlelace petal (see the gilt sylke twist in blue in the middle bottom of the image?) and tacking it in place over that blue satin stitch under it.  So if a student wanted, they could omit the needlelace petal and their casket would still be complete and beautiful.  So I designed in ways to downgrade the 'level of difficulty'.  A student could try the harder technique to learn and decide for themselves if they wanted to put it on or not.  

The areas inside the oval were part of this teaching design philosophy as well.  So while in the example, they are stitched in stumpwork, often in the 17th century anything in an oval like that was stitched in tent stitch (half-cross stitch).  So say a student was more comfortable with cross stitch or liked that look - they could use the design and get a few extra soie paris threads and decide to stitch inside the oval with tent stitch using the drawn design as the reference like people doing needlepoint do.  I haven't yet seen one but I really hope someone does it as I think the effect would be amazing.  So see...that is why the linen was used vs a silk satin!  I was enabling someone in the class to change their mind and do tent stitch in the oval.

The oval design also had another ulterior motive - it enables design changes to the box.  Say you have another box you have seen that you just love.  But I have a lady playing a lute on the top of mine and you just love the boxes with a couple standing next to each other.  You don't have to design your own box.  You just need to trace the couple and put them inside my circle on the top instead of my lady.  And the box is then perfect to your taste!  One lady in the course is changing the circle to have a weaver in it using a composition from a period engraving.  I have gone back and forth with her showing other engravings with motifs and discussion how to position the figure, fill the space, etc.  I can't wait until the box is done and we can see it!  I celebrate those who change bits of the design to make it their own.  I made this design so it could be easy to modify.  The sprays of flowers at the top on the outside are easy to change the flower heads to those flowers that are meaningful for your country or even the big flowers on the front and back.  In fact the designer, John Nelham, in the 17th century used to change the heads on his flowers like this all the time, mixing and matching the leaves to different heads!  

So the Harmony with Nature box was careful edited and designed to enable the last group of people in my casket courses to chose their own adventure in a more limited and 'safe' way:

- Change a color

- Downgrade the skills 

- Change the design with easy spots to do this to make it your own piece

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

12 Days of Christmas - Day 10

Today's giveaway is a 2007 Just Cross Stitch ornament issue which featured a design of mine for the Trinkets Stocking.  It also comes with the Trinkets Stocking to stitch it on!

If you are interested:

1) you have to send me an email ( with "Stocking" in the subject line.  

2) You HAVE to put your name and full address in the body of the message (I can't send it to people who don't).  

3) Then send by Midnight EST on Dec 25th

I will pick a winners to send them to after Christmas.

Have you seen the video on the making of the bottles for the embroidered caskets?  Each of the current casket classes (Harmony with Nature, Four Seasons Double Casket and Five Senses Double Casket) includes the bottles needed to fill the cavities in the box for them.  It took me about 10 years to reproduce the bottles and I think the process would be surprising to those who haven't ever done any manufacturing.  I often get questions like "ever thought of bringing back Tokens and Trifles" or "can I make that at home" or other ones that show the writer isn't an avid watcher of the Science Channel show "How It's Made".  We are in this house and setting up to make more than one of something - or make one at all - is really complex.  So I made the video about the reproduction of the bottles to give a flavor of what it takes.  Hint... complicated!  You can watch the video by creating a free account on my teaching website (don't forget to look through the free projects there) and clicking on that free video.

This is really the reason why there will never be another casket course like the ones I have been doing (We are now down to about 86 total caskets not claimed between all the courses - then done).  Once you see what went into just one item for the boxes - then think about how almost EVERYTHING about the boxes - has gone through that process.  It all starts with a mini-research project about the item, say the paper used under the embroidery to act as both a barrier between the wood and the embroidery and aid the gluing of the embroidery to the wood.  It is also used to cover all the raw exposed edges of the box.  After making appointments to examine over 50 caskets (realize that most institutions or collectors own just one - so think about how many institutions I had to travel to!) to get a baseline on 'what does the paper look like and what is the variance', I then researched paper makers of the period, papers of the period, raw materials used, and why were all some shade of purple to grey.  

From that I found scientific papers showing that the colors were all originally one color and that the differences were the amount of oxidation.  This was backed up when looking at two caskets which had the original bright silver stamping on the dark purple paper still intact because the wood panel in front of it had warped and touched it so it kept the oxygen out.  So all the paper had been purple.  That then confirmed my suspicion that the paper was the 'blue paper' advertised in London in that period.  Made of linen rags and mainly of one cheeper dye source, it was the butchers paper of the day.  Used to wrap sugar cones and be the general packaging.  It was used to glue onto caskets.  From there, I had more information on the composition and I could then start looking for the few people who made fine handmade papers who could do this type of paper.  Once I found the right person, we had to establish the color of purple, do tests making paper, try her wares gluing on wood and turning corners, etc. and then start production.  Just for something that you likely think is 'just paper'.  She has now, after an illness, gone into semi-retirement and is making paper to finish up my classes before she shutters her workshop.  

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

12 Days of Christmas - Day 9

 The giveaway for today is one of two large canvas bags with old cross-stitch/berlin work patterns printed on it.  Large enough to put a scroll frame inside with a magazine or graph and your threads.  So a pretty good project bag to move around.  

If you are interested in this giveaway:

1) you have to send me an email ( with "Project Bag" in the subject line.  

2) You HAVE to put your name and full address in the body of the message (I can't send it to people who don't).  

3) Then send by Midnight EST on Dec 24th

I will pick two winners to send them to after Christmas.

If you are looking for something else to do today while stitching, tune into the Fiber Talk YouTube Live I did with Gary a few weeks ago about caskets: