Friday, August 28, 2015

New Class Registering Now

Eve in the Garden of Eden is now registering for a October 1st start (100 spots).  The course is 6-months long and is a project based course (no history).  The project is a small box (about 6" x 4") which is a faux binding.  The top cover can be folded back to place objects in 'the book'.  What you hide in your box is up to you; using it as an etui for your needlework tools would be one idea.

The front and back designs contain a cartouche which shows Adam and Eve surrounding the apple tree being tempted by the serpent.  Around the cartouche, the flora and fauna of the Garden of Eden wind around the faux binding.  The majority of the embroidery is worked in counted tent stitch in silk, with accents in gold and silver threads.  The class will focus on the use of a variety of speciality reproduction threads from the 17th century which will comprise the relief elements of the design including the cartouche and its interior.  Threads such as silk gimp and crenelated gold plate as well as a variety of gold purls and silk purls will be couched down on the counted work providing a rich look to the binding.  The project is designed to be a good introduction for the uninitiated while having new materials to work with for those who are advanced.

A few people have missed the link in the first line to the registration pages where all the details on cost, etc are.  The course is $360 and that can be paid in one lump or $60/monthly.  The rest of the details are here as well as the actual buttons to register.  Currently the course is already 1/3 full.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Designing a Casket

For those who are thinking about taking the Cabinet of Curiosities course and wonder about the designs, I would like to talk a bit about how we have been going about it.

The caskets that are being produced are 'modular'; this means that we started with one base and top and have been working from those external dimensions for all the caskets.  It took quite a bit of work to get to this - but it has been working out really great.  We used a real casket for the external and internal dimensions to get the right proportions.  What this means for the designs is that the top of a flat type casket is the same no matter if the piece has doors, is short or is tall.  And the friezes for a top are the same for any of the caskets.  So there is design portability, which is great because there can be more designs published in the class for use and they can be used on more than one casket type.    As well as you can change your mind on the type of casket you want to buy and not have to throw out your whole design - just some minor modifications need to be made.

And that means that we have made templates - these templates can be filled in with drawings or the

100's of motifs that are provided in the class that have been traced from original pieces.  In the class,
Example of templates in class for
fill-in work
there are some 100 or more sides and friezes that are also provided for mix and match design work.  Students often start with some of the complete sides and then start substituting or adding to them.  Some draw from their own abilities (I am still constantly amazed at the skill!!) and some collaborate with a local artist or my graphic designer to take their ideas and make them work on a set of casket templates.

A design that is a collaboration between stitcher Judy Laning
and graphic artist Dave Rickerd 
If you have seen the mini-casket that I have provided in the Needlework Nibbles, that is an example of a complete casket design made from the design sides provided in class.  There are also now around 50 sides that are partially designed and allow you to put in just the major motif or picture you want in the ovals.  In an earlier blog post, you saw an example of a mostly free-drawn stumpwork piece from Czech fairy tales.  Judy Laning has been working with a local Cincinnati artist, Dave Rickerd, to take her love of the Sir Lancelot and Guinevere tale and help her turn it into a wonderful casket design.

We just added a set of graph templates to the mix in four common linen sizes.  That is helping those who want to do a tent stitch or other counted technique work through the design.

The first three months of the course are devoted to helping the design process get moving for those who want an original piece.


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Calling All Sampler Owners! Last Delaware Sampler Documentation Day


The Delaware Sampler Discovery Group will host a Delaware Sampler Identification Day at The Lewes Historical Society Campus at 110 Shipcarpenter Street in Lewes, Delaware, on September 19, 2015 from 10:00 am-4:00 pm.

Please bring your eighteenth and/or nineteenth century samplers and any supporting family
Mary Rose (1821-1904)
Probably taught by Eliza McKay at the Frederica Academy
Kent County, Delaware, 1835
Image courtesy of M. Finkel & Daughter
Collection of the DAR Museum
information be photographed and documented by the Delaware Sampler Discovery Group. If you have more than two samplers, please make an appointment by contacting Ryan Grover at 302-674-2111, extension 108, or email him at Volunteers will be available to help transport your samplers from the parking area on West Third Street to the documentation site.


The Lewes Historical Society is partnering with the Delaware Sampler Discovery Group, which has been active for more than ten years, on a statewide initiative to locate, document, and photograph schoolgirl samplers in Delaware’s public and private collections. Two sampler ID Days were held last summer and five in 2013 (including one at The Lewes Historical Society), with funds provided by the Delaware Humanities Forum and private donors leading to the discovery of many unpublished Delaware samplers.

Another partner, the Biggs Museum of American Art in Dover, DE, hosted an ID Day in June 2015 and several of the earlier identification events. In March 2014 the Biggs Museum was the site of an exhibition and three–day symposium on Delaware genealogical samplers entitled Wrought with Careful Hand: Ties of Kinship on Delaware Samplers. The exhibition was accompanied by a catalog with the same title.

Dr. Gloria Seaman Allen will research recent and future Delaware sampler discoveries for a comprehensive study of Delaware girlhood embroideries with a publication date of 2017.

For more information, contact Ryan Grover at 302-674-2111 extension 108, or, or Cynthia Steinhoff at 410-777-2483 or

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Thistle Threads Shipping Closed Aug 8-18th

I will be taking a short break and will not be shipping between Aug 8-18th.  If you make an order between that time frame, it will be shipped after we reopen.

I will still be answering email, but with a delay.


Friday, August 7, 2015

Annual Open House at Hubers!

Stephen & Carol Huber are holding their annual Summer Sampler Sale & Open House this weekend - August 8 & 9th from 10am - 5pm.

If you have never been there, the historic house is filled to the brim with lovely embroideries!  They are located at 40 Ferry Road, Old Saybrook, CT

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Stumpwork Mirror Finish

Time to show off the mirror that was worked as an extra project in the Stumpwork Course (also known as Cabinet of Curiosities Part II).  This was a last minute add-on to the course which it made it easier for me to illustrate many of the stitches and techniques being taught.

The pattern and step-by-step directions are in the course (including finishing).  60% of the materials needed to work the piece are included in the four thread kits that are sent during COC Part I and Part II, so students who were in both courses have much of what is needed to work the piece.

It is shown here with the projects that are worked (and included) in the Cabinet of Curiosities Part I course (The beaded basket is a free-instructions project in my Needlework Nibbles section).
I will be showing more up close pictures of it this month, interspersed with pictures of other student's works from the courses.

The Cabinet of Curiosities Part I course is registering now and starts again on September 1st.  I have 300 spots left in my licensing of the historic photographs for this course.  As soon as I finish those spots, I will be taking a pause to re-evaluate the licensing with the twenty groups providing historic pictures and the manufacturing infrastructure (dozens of artisans and companies) to make sure that if we go forward and run the courses for more students, that we can supply the demand.  When I designed the course, I put agreements in place to supply a certain number of students since this is so complicated and requires so many specialized artisans.  But the reality is that many of these gifted and critical artisans have developed their skills over a lifetime of study and practice and are thus closer to retirement than any of us would like to admit.   While it seems like we just started this grand project yesterday, it started in 2009.  I would love to offer the course for years and years to come, but I have to be sure that students who have started have access to the materials they need for their projects as that is a responsibility of mine as a teacher.  So a pause will be taken to evaluate and be sure they are served first and to let the manufacturing infrastructure catch up with the students.  Already one of the small handful of trained gold thread makers has retired and the fire at Au Ver a Soie this year certainly showed us how fragile our textile infrastructure is and can be impacted greatly by events out of our control.  So if you have been thinking of taking the course and keep putting it off, I wanted to let the community know that these spots are available and there will be a pause taken after they are filled.

The Stumpwork course is registering as well now and starts again in November.  Both courses can be taken at the same time or in reverse order, care was taken to make sure they could stand on their own, yet build at the same time.  The Stumpwork course will also have a pause taken after the next 300 spots are filled, for the same reasons.  Each of these courses require dozens of custom manufacturing runs and I went ahead and did double for this course so I could ensure a Stumpwork encore and extra for enrolled students.  I will be taking a pause to work with the manufacturers to make sure that equipment is in place and able to fulfill another encore.

Just yesterday I received a report of a Victorian Era tool that had broke at one of our partners and am anxiously awaiting more news on the work around everyone is trying on a thread I was hoping to introduce to the world through the Frostings Club.  Very frustrating when 1/3 of the run was done already and we might not be able to complete it.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Wiscasset Memories Casket

Kate and Jack Hewitt's Collaborative Double Casket chronicling their hometown Wiscasset. Maine.
Kate Hewitt and her husband Jack have made a wonderful double casket together and are the subject of today's blog on casket finished and designs by students in Cabinet of Curiosities.  Their casket is also a collaboration of a husband talented in woodworking and the stitcher.  I love all these joint projects as they create wonderful heirlooms!

The frieze is populated by famous New England buildings
Their casket used the exterior dimensions from the templates I provide and the pictures of the interiors of antiques in the course.  Kate and Jack asked me many questions to help them with the interior.  The biggest hint is to leave extra slop space to accommodate the paper and silk that is adhered to the wood.

One amazing extra that Kate and Jack added was a custom made book that would fit in the interior with the story of the casket design and making.  They have added dates and other data that would be of great help to their heirs and future curators!  What a fantastic idea!  I am continually blown away by not only the execution and design but the
The Customs House built in 1870
creativity of the students!

I will let their words describe the casket - this is the text from the booklet:

Kate’s and Jack’s Sewing Casket
I always admired sewing caskets made by young ladies in the 16OO’s.  However, the scope of the project seemed daunting.  The opportunity to make a casket came along when Tricia Nguyen presented The Cabinet of Curiosities class. I joined the class in December of 2012. Jack decided that he would like to make the casket, rather than purchasing one from Trisha.
The process began.  So many decisions had to be made.  After much thought the theme, fabric, style, stitches, threads and edging were decided.  Making the casket seemed to be a daunting project. Tricia provided paper patterns which included the dimensions for the various components of the casket. These were mounted on foam board to make a mockup of the exterior panels that were to be
The pineapple motif on the top of the lid
covered with stitching. While this provided the exterior dimensions for the casket, the actual construction details of the interior of the casket were a mystery.
Reproduction locks, hinges, escutcheonsdrawer pulls, sterling silver woven tape, silver edging paper and keys were purchased from Tricia.  Stitching began in January of 2013 and was completed by the end of the year. Casket construction began in  the fall of 2013 and was completed in November 2014. 
Marbled paper was then applied to all drawer interiors.  Silk lining was applied to drawer fronts, interior panels, components of the large tray and the
small tray in the top section.  Paper edging, stamped with a silver design was used to cover all raw edges on the various components.  Finally, the stitching and the silver woven tape were applied to the casket as edging for all stitched panels and drawer fronts. The addition of drawer pulls and hinges completed the project.
Stitching Motifs
The pineapple design on the top panel of the casket was taken from an antique sampler which Pat Houghton charted for me. The two bargello designs were adapted from a stitching book. The slanted panels depict houses from Newport, RI which were designed by Virginia Creekman, of Tidewater Originals.  The doors are New England scenes adapted from Old Nantucket chart by Little House Needleworks.
Doors open
The Customs House (red building on left side of casket) located across the street from Le Garage restaurant was built in 1870 to accommodate all the commerce generated from the shipbuilding in Wiscasset at that time.  At present, it is a private residence.
The Nickels-Sortwell House (white building on the back of casket) is located on the Main Street of Wiscasset (2 blocks up from Red’s Eats).  It was built by successful ship owner Captain William Nickels in 1807 when shipbuilding and maritime trade were so important to Wiscasset.  It is a museum and a national historic landmark at the present time.

The Israel Crane House (gray building on right side of casket) was built in 1796 in Montclair, New Jersey by
A look into the small lid and the pull out tray
Israel Crane a descendant of the founding family of
 Cranetown (now Montclair). It belongs to the Montclair Historical Society and is a museum. I was born and raised in Montclair and liked the house.

Kate gave me lovely pictures of the interior and I just have to publish them all since their finishing was so expertly done.  It is comforting to everyone that students can and do finish their pieces and turn them into such wonderfully complicated pieces!  I also think it is great to hear how Kate expertly took charted motifs she liked and adapted them to cover her cabinet as well as working on elements of her
Large lid open
own.  It can be daunting to think about designing your own piece and I think that she shows how you can work with elements you love to complete a highly personal piece.

Jack also made a traveling case for the casket as well.  I find it quite charming that the husband's who make pieces all make traveling cases.  It is a subtle point of pride to insure that the casket can be taken to places to show!  Quite wonderful!!  We might have to make some traveling cases ourselves.  


Interior of case, some of the panels and secret drawers are pulled out

pincushion and its secret drawer
Interior showing drawers after the panel is pulled out

Drawers pulled out
Interior set of drawers showing secret place for rings
Embroidered cover of the booklet
Interior of the booklet explaining the casket
Carrying case for Casket
Interior of casket carrying case