Monday, February 23, 2015

Reports of Demise Premature!!

I am reposting what I posted to my Cabinet of Curiosities course late last week when we all found out that there had been a fire at the Lyon-region plant of Au Ver a Soie.  Apparently people have been passing around a story that paints a much more dire and incorrect picture.  So I wanted to get out there and help correct it.  If you have a chance - jump over to their Facebook site and give them a few words of encouragement!  I know it has meant a lot to them to hear that everyone in the needlework world cares.


Hello everyone - I thought I would jump in and add some information before panic runs amuck. Au Ver a Soie is wounded but not devastated. We talked to Nathalie this morning about the extent and will learn much more early next week after Marc can better access the plant. Marc and Nathalie are brother and sister and the current members of the Boucher family to run Au Ver a Soie.

This is terrible loss for Au Ver a Soie because it is on the heals of the loss of Marc and Nathalie's mother in December and their beloved and silk expert Uncle a few months prior (mentioned in the French news article). I hadn't talked about those losses - as they seemed private.

The one thing to know is that this is a family that is devoted to the production of silk and has suffered much deeper losses in the past that they had to rebound from. In fact, their entire factory was bombed by the American's by mistake in WWII and they had to totally rebuild - and did. This is something that is a bonus about ancient family businesses, they often take the long view and this will be something that they come back from. One of the things that they had realized from the former disaster is the importance to distribute the expertise, machinery and stock to ward against singular disasters bringing down a company and had planned for that wisely over the years. While the capability at this plant was severely damaged - they have a network of machines, partners, etc around France they work with who can help them weather this as well as who were already doing some of the braiding and other things we enjoy in our threads. Stock was distributed in multiple places too - phew. That of course has been a benefit to the Cabinet of Curiosities - if they didn't have the machinery to make me something, they knew who did and could coordinate. So, being in the know a bit, I am confident that we are not in imminent danger because of how distributed the manufacturing, dying, and post operations were - especially on our threads.

This will certainly delay some of the new threads I was working on with Au Ver a Soie and we won't know the extent for awhile. And I am sure that some random color will be scarce for a few weeks at some point as delays hit, but it will only be temporary. I am not as concerned about the machinery losses - an example being a new skeining machine that was destroyed - as I know that operation is done at Access for the US threads (we prefer a different size/packaging in this market). So some capability losses won't impact us as they are already shifted to machinery here. What I am concerned about is time. In any small business, there isn't an excess of labor and so things like this delay new initiatives in favor of getting basic operations back running. I know that the time I have to take to shovel snow are hours not spent shipping or working on new things. It will be the same for Au Ver a Soie, with some things taking longer to get back to and thus some new yummies we may have been hopping for will be delayed a bit.

So I am sure you will hear about the fire in the future from me as the reason something is delayed - but don't fear - it isn't about a total loss of capabilities, it is more about a diversion of valuable time until they get this few weeks or months out of the way. I do know already that I can plan in a bit more time on the frostings launch, we already had another delay just two weeks ago on another front -- but that is business.

What you can do though is express to Marc and Nathalie support of the embroiderers who love their materials and efforts. Their mother passed away from a long battle with cancer and it really took a toil on them emotionally. So I am sure they could use some 'appreciation' at the moment. Perhaps a card with a picture of an embroidery of yours using their threads - or one in progress. Let them know that you so appreciate their dedication to fine, quality materials and supporting this course. They are lovely people!

Marc Boucher and Nathalie Borhorel

Au Ver a Soie

102 rue Reaumur

75002 Paris


An additional note - I believe that 2020 will be the 200th anniversary of the company and I really look forward to the celebration when this fire will be but a distant memory!


Friday, February 20, 2015

Interesting Casket

This casket is being sold by Erna Hiscock Antiques.  A really interesting shape and construction.  I have no idea if it shows evidence of being put together later or if the embroidery was original.  The lock is period and I have seen it on other pieces.  If you look at the signature weaving, it looks like 1713 or 1718 in the date line.  I would love to get a listing of all the words on the sides, not on her website.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

I Visited a Snow Farm

Quite a few comments about the hilarity of our snow situation here at the North Pole.  I thought I would add the new favorite pictures - including one I took myself while picking up caskets yesterday.  On Tuesday this month of snow became the 2nd biggest season in all of Boston history.  Then we woke up to a few more inches this morning.  Think we only have 7" to go to be the most in history. 
Check out these icicles.  Everywhere.  Every house you pass anywhere is caked in ice.  

I liked this one - really expresses what sidewalks look like everywhere.  Tough to see cars pull out and pedestrians.
I heard a new one yesterday about drivers/walkers -- "You look right, then left and then make the sign of the cross"

I took this today from Richard's (the Casket Maker) window.  This is one of the Boston snow farms.  
And the latest thing that has happened when you have tremendous cabin fever -- the Boston Blizzard Challenge (remember the ice bucket challenge got its steam here in bean town).  Yes - the challenge is to jump out of your 2nd floor window half naked into the snow.  Stupid.  Watch the video of the guy swimming in the snow.  Was funny to me as my teen reported yesterday that he tried to swim in the snow too - its so deep you can try it.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Robe - Royal Collection

I just got the question on where to get a copy of ROBE - May 1667, a tonge-in-cheek booklet that reads like a 17th century fashion magazine with lots of great pictures of embroidered accessories.  It is quite fun.

The Royal Collection still has copies for sale on its website.  It is just under 4 pounds.


Monday, February 16, 2015

Most Absurd Snow Pictures Ever - More Snow Humor

This was BEFORE the Valentines Day Storm...

Snow mound at MIT, dubbed "The Alps of MIT".  It is 5-stories high.

Today, they tried to start bus service and rail service again in a few places.  Didn't go well. This one is totally stuck in Cambridge as the roads aren't wide enough anymore to turn.  And note that the snow banks are as tall as the bus!

How desperate are we here in Boston?  Well, if you are able bodied and willing to shovel the MBTA is paying $30/hour to anyone willing to dig out the tracks.  They even emptied the jails for labor.  Seriously, I am not joking.  

That is pretty nasty to look at down the rails.  Never ends.
We just poked a hole in our ceiling to reduce the risk of the whole thing coming down.  We took out several gallons of water.  So it is a good thing that they are stationing boats at every corner now.

We started to bring in boats - if this all melts we will need the arks!  (There is a boat show in town and they got them stuck in the snow causing horrible traffic - my neighbor got home at 9pm that night - 3 hours to go 10 miles).
Did I mention that it will be snowing when I get up tomorrow morning?

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Phillips Needlework Picture c. 1670s

This piece really deserves to be read about if you are interested in the question of 'was 17th century embroidery done in the colonies'.  It is one of the few pieces with good provenance for being worked in the 17th century here in New England.  You will recognize the obvious 1670s English reference for design in the piece, but it is worked in wool on a linen ground.  The piece has remained in the family and is being sold with a $800,000 to $1,200,000 estimate.  I am not sure that a museum will be able to purchase this piece, but it really does belong in one here in the area.  We shall see what happens.  Skinner always exhibits the auction pieces before the auction and if you want to brave the snow - come see it!

Skinner Lot 30 March 1, 2015 Auction
More views are online 

The Phillips Family Needlework Picture, Sarah Phillips (b. Rowley, Massachusetts, 1656), Boston, Massachusetts, c. 1670, worked in red, blue, yellow, black, and white wool and silver and gold metallic threads on a blue/green linen ground, composed of two figures flanking the "Tree of Life" at center, the prodigal son at lower right, a brick building facade with mica "window" at right center, a cloud and partially obscured sun at upper left, and a rainbow at upper right, further stitched with a shepherd and his flock, leafy trees, flowers, a pomegranate, several birds, insects, and animals including a dog, a squirrel, a rabbit, a recumbent lion, a beaver, and a recumbent stag, under glass in a molded wood frame, (survives in a remarkable state of preservation, with minor losses, some discoloration), 17 1/4 x 24 1/4 in. 

Provenance: Preserved by the Phillips family for more than three centuries, the Sarah Phillips needlework picture has a long and well-documented provenance. Sarah Phillips (1656-1707) was a daughter of Reverend Samuel Phillips (1625-1696) who immigrated to America from Boxted, England in 1630 on the ship Arbella with his parents Reverend George and Elizabeth Phillips settling in Watertown, MA. Reverend George Phillips (c. 1593-1644) was the first minister of Watertown, MA. Reverend Samuel Phillips graduated from Harvard College in 1650 and settled in Rowley, MA in 1651. He married Sarah Appleton that same year and with her had eleven children including Sarah (1656-1707). Sarah was reportedly educated at a private school in Boston where she likely stitched her needlepoint picture in the late 1660s or early 1670s. 

Sarah Phillips married Stephen Mighill (1651-1687) in 1680 and had at least three children together. The needlepoint picture descended through their son, Nathaniel's (1684-1761) family passing to Nathaniel's son Nathaniel (1715-1788) then to his daughter Hannah Mighill Perley (1753-1812), then to her daughter Hannah Perley (1772-1858). Hannah Perley is documented as having owned Sarah Phillips' needlepoint picture in Thomas Gage's The History of Rowley published in 1840. On September 5, 1839, the town of Rowley celebrated its second centennial anniversary of its settlement. Much of the festivities occurred in a pavilion erected in the town to host a dinner and several orations on the historic occasion. In this pavilion were also displayed "relics" of Rowley's past including "A piece of embroidery of curious workmanship, wrought by Sarah Phillips, (daughter of the Rev. Samuel Phillips, the second minister of Rowley,) more than one hundred and sixty years ago, attracted much attention, and is now owned by Miss Hannah Perley, the said Sarah Phillips being grandmother to the said Hannah's grandfather…" It may have been the needlepoint's exhibition in Rowley that prompted the penning of its short history on the picture frame's wooden backing board reading "This picture was/wrought at a boarding/school in Boston by/Miss Sarah Phillips/ daughter of Rev. Sam./Phillips." Shortly after the celebration, it seems, the needlepoint picture was transferred to Hannah Perley's cousin Hannah Lancaster Sawyer (1754-1851), a great-granddaughter of Sarah Phillips. 

In December 1842 the picture was purchased from Hannah Lancaster Sawyer for thirty dollars by the Honorable Jonathan Phillips (1778-1860). Jonathan Phillips was a direct descendent of Sarah Phillips' brother Samuel (1658-1722) and a celebrated Boston philanthropist. There is no doubt that the needlework picture purchased by Jonathan Phillips in 1842 is the Sarah Phillips needlework. In a letter written to Jonathan Phillips on December 3 by Ann Tracy, a relative of Jonathan's facilitating the sale, Tracy describes the picture and ponders its symbolism and iconography: 

"With how lordly a bearing do those portly sheep trample mid-air as if they were walking on this terrible earth! And that powerful beast - placed in the region of the clouds, & of the rainbow - is the showing fight to his neighbors, or scampering away in fear, while he throws a look of fierce menace, if not of defiance, behind him? We are permitted, in common with yourself to gaze, awe-stricken upon our far-off ancestor with his Spanish cloak, & in his knightly attitude, rejecting, with the extended arm of eloquent rebuke the fruit which the Lady Eve is plucking for him, in her Parisian costume of the Old-Court style of elegance. Can you or Mrs. P. resolve the problem which troubles our doubts respecting the building? Is it, with its nice pediment & supporting pillars, intended to represent the "bower of bliss" provided for the first pair --- or, have the able-bodied birds surmounting it, made no mistake in taking it for a shelter for themselves? Certainly the most natural & affecting presentation is that of the poor Prodigal, still clad in his splendid garments, partaking of the husks which his valorous swine are devouring" 

Phillips family oral history states that upon Jonathan's death in 1860 the needlework picture was given to his only son William (1819-1873). Jonathan's will supports this noting that "All the remainder of my estate, real, personal, and mixed, I give and bequeath to my son William Phillips, to be at his free and absolute disposal forever." Phillips family history also states that upon William's death in 1873 that the picture was given to John Charles Phillips (1838-1885), a fact also supported by William Phillips' will noting "I give unto John Charles Phillips now of New York, merchant, son of Reverend John Charles Phillips, now of said Boston, all my plate, pictures, statuary, engravings, books, household furniture, watches, jewelry, wines and ornaments." After John Charles Phillips' death in 1885 the picture descended to his son the Honorable William Phillips (1878-1968) a distinguished career United States Diplomat. In 1939 William Phillips' wife, Caroline, lent the Sarah Phillips needlework picture to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts where it was photographed and documented, removed from its old frame and remounted by the museum's textiles department. It was subsequently exhibited at the museum during the winters of 1945 and 1946. The needlepoint picture has remained in the family of William Phillips to this day. 

Note: This is one of a very few pictorial 17th century American needleworks known, though of course it follows English design somewhat closely. In a letter to Mrs. William Phillips, dated January 19, 1945, Gertrude Townsend, Curator of Textiles at the Museum of Fine Arts, remarks on "the use of the bluish wool ground, instead of white satin, and wool instead of silk, for the stitchery, is a deviation from the English custom. The result is delightful." The letter goes on to include Ms. Townsend's hope that the Museum be granted "the privilege of exhibiting this embroidered picture with our other New England embroideries," and finishes the letter referring to Sarah Phillips's work as "one of the few important surviving examples of seventeenth century work which can be attributed to New England." 

Prior to publishing her exhaustive work Girlhood Embroidery: American Samplers and Pictorial Needlework 1650-1850 (Knopf, New York, 1993), Betty Ring also examined Sarah's work. She writes in Volume I, "Pictorial embroideries, like samplers, were surely made by seventeenth-century colonial schoolgirls, but only two authentic examples are known" (p. 30). In a footnote on the same page, Ring refers to the present lot specifically: "Unpublished is a pictorial embroidery of wool, silk, metal, and mica on a greenish-blue wool... It features a couple in seventeenth-century dress beside the Tree of Life and a rendition of the prodigal son amid many birds, beasts, and flowers. Inscribed on the reverse: 'This picture was wrought at a boarding school in Boston by Miss Sarah Phillips daughter of Rev. Sam. Phillips.' This fully documented and wonderfully colorful piece was loaned to the MFA [Museum of Fine Arts, Boston] in 1946." On page 31, a needlework, probably made in Boston, by Rebeckah Wheeler of Concord, is pictured (fig. 30). Like Sarah Phillips's needlework, Rebeckah Wheeler's consists of little raised work, and is stitched in wool threads which, Ring tells us, like Gertrude Townsend reported in 1945, is different from similar English work of the time, which was most often in silk.

In Jonathan Fairbanks and Robert Trent's work New England Begins, Linda Wesselman discusses Rebeckah Wheeler's sampler as entry number 318 (Vol. 2, pp. 311-12). She mentions the lack of raised work also, as being in distinct contrast to English needleworks of the period. More, Wesselman describes the "personal translations of pictorial sources" -animals, insects, etc.- apparent in Rebeckah's work, citing two European pattern books from the early 17th century to which Rebeckah had access as source material, and to which Sarah Phillips, at her school, likely had access as well. From a purely compositional standpoint, Rebeckah's needlework follows the English model - fully worked, with vertical figures overlapping horizontals creating the sense of a three-dimensional space, and the result is more restrained and less imaginative. Sarah's sampler shows no such restraint, and profound imagination. Her figures, while carefully arranged to create an overall balance to the work, float freely and give the picture a sense of whimsy. 

Saturday, February 14, 2015


A Postscript to add - storm not over and those snow totals were blown out the window.  17" here at our house on a 8"-12" prediction.   The weather guy said "when the thundersnow started at 3am, we threw our predictions out the window".  So add 'Thundersnownado' to the list below.

Ok - to keep ourselves amused as the snow started and the next round of 'trapped inside' got underway - we started to list all the names used to describe our big storms.  We were trying to figure out where our exaggerating storm coverage would go next... I mean, they already used "The Blizzard of 2105" and here we are in the second blizzard in one month.
I guess they decided to call it 'Round 2'.  Guess they are going all Hollywood.
Actually the winds are a class 2 hurricane level.

Remembering a few of the ones used so far to describe our five huge storms:

- Winter Storm Juno
- Snowmaggedon
- Blizzard of 2015
- Blizzard of 2105 - Round 2
- Snow 'hurricane'

So we are going to have to coin some new ones because the way the weather man hedged about later this week - we know we are getting hit again soon:

- Snowbola
- Blizzaster
- Snowpocalypse
- Snowverload
- Snowtastrophe
- Snowzilla
- Snowlicious
- Snownado
- Blizznasty
- DaBlizzard

And a Boston special:  Wicked Blizzawd

Of course, those are only the clean names we are using around here.  :-) You know it is past absurd when you see this on TV.  In two hours, the rest of the 2-way streets in Boston will instantaneously change to one-way streets until April.  Don't come drive here - some of the intersections have taken one hour to get through all last week and I have no idea what confusion this change will unleash!  Is Google Maps taking notice?

Why?  Well apparently we are not satisfied with Mother Nature dumping it on us - we have to farm it now (ha ha).  Ever heard of a Snow Farm?  Actually the report is that the National Guard has been here all week removing snow.  And now NY, PA and other states sent in crews.  We just got back from a day skiing and we saw soooo many front loaders and bobcats on the highway being trucked in from other states.  It was crazy.  

Snow Farm in Boston - Feb 14th, 2015 (14 of these have been 'opened')

Folk Art Beaded Mirror?

Skinner's Americana auction is in early March and they have a few things on auction I am going to post to look at.  First is this one, listed as a late 18th century Northern Europe Folk Mirror.

What do you think?  Seems a bit earlier than that to me.

Friday, February 13, 2015

How Bad is the Snow Here?

1) Forget Needlework!!  This is my new business idea:

2) Our street signs have been replaced because we can't see them anymore:

3) We now measure our storm totals in 'Gronks'  (inside joke for those who know about MIT's Harvard bridge measured in Smoots)

4) Schools are closed because their roofs are in danger of collapse and those who are open are serving strange meals from deep freeze in the cafeterias because no food has been delivered for more than a week (my son is loving the endless hot dogs).  Some private schools have had to resort to drive by drop offs/pick ups.  That means that the town declares that a road is now one way, you drive up in front of the school and kick your kid out the door - stopping traffic.  Same thing for pick up - this road is pick up for names A-N.  Another road is O-Z names.  Yes.  Did it.  Stop in the middle of the road and your elementary kid jumps in.   Really crazy but the kids just can't stay home all of February.

5) Our weather forecasters have become more honest in their assessments

And that is the weather forecast for THIS WEEKEND.  ANOTHER BLIZZARD.  12-16" MORE to come.  I think the new Governor (only a three weeks on the job) and Mayor are now asking to be recalled to end their misery 

6) We have had big snow before.  Just never all in three weeks.  Before this storm coming at us tomorrow, we are in the 9th biggest snow SEASON in Boston history.  And it all came in 16 days - not five months.  

7) I actually had to wait trying to pick up my kid in a church driveway with a line of cars yesterday while people took selfies with an icicle.  Granted it was three floors high and was about 1 foot in diameter at the base where it grew to the ground.  It was impressive and bigger than most trees.

8) I know people wonder why the New Englanders are whining.  It has to do with the density of the urban environment.  There aren't many parking lots so street parking is key for almost all residents.  When the emergency parking bans go in place, everyone who owns a car has to move them to an indoor parking lot - such as Logan airport, public parking lots, hotels, and malls.  So imagine that - now all the retail parking is used as a private parking lot for people without driveways and garages.  And that is many of the suburbs, not just Boston.  So then it becomes almost impossible to get to a retail/post office/etc and park your car.  My teen is getting tired of being let out at a corner and doing my errands while I circle the blocks.  So the natural thing is - use pubic transportation!  But our public transportation broke down.  Literally.  2 million people use it a day and it stopped.   So on the TV during the days of storms and in the aftermath clean up - they are telling you that if you are a medical worker - call the police so you can get a ride to the hospital to work.  

9) We would raise the white flag - but you can't see it.  We spent the week saving now seven rooms from leaking disasters.  I estimate over $5000 inside damage already and $1500 in outside snow removal/roof dam emergency work conservatively.  I have never seen paint on whole walls bubble up from the moisture in the walls.  :-(  One day I made a dozen snow boas -- nylons filled with salt to put on the roof.  But they have helped and the leaks are stopped.  Except for that foot+ we are expecting now.   The difficulty in clearing roofs is that the ground to put the ladders on is so unsafe.  We had three people on our roof for one full day and only cleared 20% of it because of so much ice to chip away.  

Please send your sunshine and mild weather this way... but slowly otherwise I will need to build an ark.

Thanks for listening to the snow humor.  A return to needlework tomorrow.  

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

And the Winner Is...

The 12 Days of Christmas Winners are:

Day 1: Michelle H. from MD, Sharron K. from UT, and Rosemary C. from MA

Day 2:  Elisabeth M. from CT

Day 3:  Terri P. from IN

Day 4:  Sharron G. from VA, Allison S. from GA, Renee F. from NY, and Judy L. from OH

Day 5:  Sue D. from MO

Day 6:  Mendy B. from VA

Day 7: Jan H. from Great Britian

Day 8: Pat G. from TX

Day 9: Agne/Paideria from Sweden and Jennifer S. from Great Britain

Day 10: Lynn S. from WA

Day 11: David R. from LA

Day 12:  Kay J. from Australia, LeMoyne M. from WA, Theresa H. from DE, Rachael K. from CO, and Linda C. from TX

The items are all on the way!!  Thanks for participating in the giveaway drawing!


Monday, February 9, 2015

Snow - Part III

Wow.  Do we have snow.  We also have a State of Emergency just being declared by our Gov with only a few hours left of this current storm that was supposed to be 6-12 and now the numbers are as much as 27" with a few more hours to go.  Apparently they are asking other states to sent us snow melters, front loaders, etc.

Our public transportation system is completely shut down now for the foreseeable future.  We have had as much as 7 feet of snow that hasn't melted in a little over two weeks.  The trains keep loosing power on the iced rails and so people keep getting stranded on trains and having to be rescued after hours.

The ice on our roofs are now as much as 8" thick and the leaking has begun.  Ours has about six leaks and we spent the day melting the thick ice inside the windows with heat guns all day.  It was 'comforting' to find out on email that all our neighbors are in the same situations (got great tips on how to handle the leak buckets, etc).  Kids just came down to inform us that the windows are all full of ice again.  Crud - I was going to embroider.

Fun fact - Boston hauled 6000 trucks of snow and melted it today.

The next 'significant storm' is Thursday/Friday.  OMG.


This was the snow state TWO DAYS AGO.  We have to see how bad it is when the sun comes up tomorrow after another 20"+ on top of this.  My kids were actually sledding from our garage today

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Snow - Part II

So what happens when you get a full winter of snow (plus) in 10 days?  You have to rent a bobcat.  Yes - we have had so much snow - and no melt off - that there is no where left to put the snow in our driveway.  So after a paltry 3" fell midweek - our snow guy informed us that we had to rent a bobcat to remove our snow before the anticipated 1-2 feet this weekend.

It was pretty fun to watch him work.  The snow where he is sitting in that second picture was 8 feet high an hour before! Now I guess we have room for another 3 feet to fall.  But at this rate, my kids will be going to school until the middle of July!  And the post office is a total mess.  Today I was thankful to find that they had used a bobcat there too and now there was street parking in front. 

At least I have been getting some embroidery done when snowed in.  A picture of some progress is shown below.  Seems the winter has been good for many people to stitch as the pictures of completed trinket boxes and casket progress on the NING site is amazing.


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Yahoo Makers!

Article Tile from Yahoo! Makers this week

Yahoo has a new online magazine called Yahoo! Makers.  They did a profile of me this week - it was a fun interview and quite the challenge to try to describe the two ends of the tech spectrum!  And hey - I got to share the screen with Princess Kate too!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Daily Yum - Quilt

I really love quilts and couldn't afford this one on auction last month.  But we can sigh and think about making a replica.  Today would be a good day as we are stuck inside with five inches of snow and another 12 hours of snow to go!

Love that scalloped orange and white border!

Sunday, February 1, 2015


We haven't had snow this season and now in the span of a week we have had over 30" and by the end of the Super Bowl, our next foot of snow will have started!  I am sure there are friends in cold places that have larger accumulations (I think of Buffalo at Thanksgiving!) but geez.  We haven't had mail service - and getting into a post office isn't really possible as there are no parking lots and on-street parking is banned here and there.  :-)

So my shipping is a bit slow at the moment - I drive and drive around the block waiting for one of the limited spots.  :-)

My neighbor made good use of the snow!