Friday, February 17, 2017

The Wool Industry

I got this link to a blog about a the wool industry from one of the casketeers as something I would find interesting.  Sure would!  I thought you all might be interested in reading it as well.

The writer, a knitter, decided to go to an industry conference; The American Sheep Industry Association, and was quite surprised about some of the themes about the industry that she learned about and what types of things the seemingly small sheep farmers/wool producers of her craft yarns were thinking about and concerned about (like the failure of the TPP agreement which bodes bad for them now).  Some of it contrary to some of her beliefs about how the industry works or should work or could work in terms of current political winds.  It is a nice perspective to share and I would sum it up in two points:

  • All industries are much more complicated than you think and simple/easy solutions don't apply, if they did - they would have done it!
  • What drives decisions isn't what you think!
This wasn't news to me, in fact, I had a great giggle over Lesson 3 in the post about how much the American wool industry depends on turnover in Naval recruits and innovation at the Army Research Labs here in MA (The research discussed is done in a group I have received funding from for years in my engineering life).  

It parallels a day when I was talking to a battery expert during the Iraq war.  I was the technical head of the program to redesign the soldier system (what everything the soldier wears and carries is called - to us that would be clothes + accessories).  We were discussing the batteries and changing the shape of the batteries/packaging to make them easier to fit on the body for wearable electronics for situational awareness.

At that point, I knew that the US Army had taken over a full football stadium in Bagdad and it was filled with batteries.  Yes.  FILLED with batteries and that was only a few day supply.  Batteries for all kinds of equipment.  That is a lot of batteries.  And yet, the battery expert had to smile and tell me that the volume of batteries the military purchased was not even 1% of the batteries the cell phone industry purchases and thus the military couldn't dictate any changes to the form, they would have to live with what the telecommunications industry wanted.  Think about that.

In a situation like we are in, where we want interesting new fibers or want threads and other materials to stay around a long time, I often get comments from stitchers that I just don't even know how to answer.  It has taken so long to understand the industries, cultures, intellectual property rights and legal framework and economic realities for the countries of origin and our own that it is hard to answer.  They are simple comments about how 'someone' should 'do something'.  I try to answer and sometimes I write blogs like this.  

Read Lesson 5 in the blog and you can see how a small bottleneck - when targeted and solved - can open up a new opportunity to domestic business or what 'somebody should do'.  This is what I spent a decade doing - looking for those bottlenecks and trying to find ways to solve them so we could open the floodgates for threads/Caskets for a period of time (until they close again).  I did this while I was working on those soldier uniforms, getting ready for the next period of my life.  Right now, I am working on the next phase - looking at the bottlenecks for something else, studying and understanding the complexities and waiting for the right moment hoping that it will show itself at about the same time the complexities of our adventure together start to close in on us.    

It was a great blog - I am happy that Genie shared it with me!


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Thistle Threads Closed Feb 18th-26th for Shipping

I will be unable to ship orders between Feb 17th and Feb 26th.  Any special orders that arrive before that or regular orders during that time will wait until I am able to start shipping again on Feb 27th

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A Good Story

Sometimes you need a good story to read!  These days, more than ever.  So here is a good one!  While we were sitting at a dinner after my robot team performed on Saturday in Vermont, Ben's mother turned to Mark's dad and reminded him of their connection - his brother had been best friends with Ben's dad growing up.  Yes!  Well, she said, you should hear what his son (Ben's cousin) had in store for this week...

As we all found out, this week (yesterday) the New York Times would publish a crossword puzzle to commemorate 75 years of puzzles.  And it was invented by Ben's cousin -- 13 years old and the youngest crossword constructor in Times history.

Very, very cool.  But even better - the New York Times took the time to write not one - but TWO articles about it, highlighting the experience and achievement by young Daniel.

Take a read - very cute!  I really like the description of what the author himself was doing at that age in the second article.  While I have met many of Ben's relatives over the years, I haven't met young Daniel but look forward to it at Ben's graduation this year.

Story 1:The Youngest Crossword Constructor in Times History

Story 2:  Archenemy of Buggs Bunny (the theme of the puzzle)

Daniel's Puzzle

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

An Embroidered Pop-Up

I think this is my favorite description ever of a piece of stumpwork: "like an exquisite 17th century pop-up book".  This piece has been offered by our friends at Witney Antiques and is quite a spectacular piece of stumpwork embroidery.

Witney Antiques

It was recently chosen as LAPADA's object of the week and a second image was posted which really shows how over the top the raised work of this piece is:

What is really exciting to me is that this piece has cousins where the choice of techniques for each motif match, design drawings are the same and execution is closely similar.  The most obvious of them is the piece at the MET called "Touch and Taste".  

MET panel 64.101.1337

It becomes really obvious when you take a look at some of the details, as shown here in the castle and fruit trees.

MET panel 64.101.1337 with its unusual high peaked towers

A similar castle with this strange peaked castle and the fruit tree in the Witney panel
There are so many parallels it would take a few blog posts to compare them all.  But very exciting to see and that brings this workshop or school up to six or more pieces in my database!

On a personal note, I really liked the treatment of the iris on this piece - how amazing that was!


Witney Antiques

Sunday, February 12, 2017

No - I REALLY mean no more snow...

Ok - now this isn't funny.  Sitting in the stands yesterday at our competition - we started getting alerts.  Snow.  Big snow.  We were going to go skiing today to celebrate (we hoped - will update tomorrow after I get some sleep).  Instead, we all got out of town as fast as possible to get these kids safely home and ensconced for the snow.  4 hour drive turned into 6 hours.  40 hours of snow they are telling us.  Ugh.

Even Boston's Mayor is thinking... Super Bowl win = bad snow.

Another snow day.  We'll see how much real work I get done.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

God's Confetti Raining Down on Us

Those readers who may have remembered the disasterous winter two years ago when we got 9 feet of snow and the havoc and hilarious pictures that resulted.  You might not have remembered EXACTLY how it all started.

Well, it started with a big snowstorm that was predicted to fall the night after the Super Bowl.  Yea.  The last time the Patriots won the Super Bowl - with a crazy last play (Malcolm Butler).  Hmmmmm.... is this starting to sound familiar?  We had a big super bowl party at our house with about 20 adults and kids that year - including my parents who had flown in for a visit to coincide with the game.

Well, in the middle of the game - all our phones started going off.  Not sure who was more excited - all the kids getting snow days or my mother whose flight was canceled.  Then the dispair of the Patriots looking like they were going to lose turned into elation with Brady pulling it out in the 4th quarter.

Fast forward to this week.  Yea - God is throwing confetti at us AGAIN after a miraculous super bowl win (house was full - 35 people screaming).  This time my parents did get to fly out.  The kids were actually checking the snow day calculator on their phones during the game - hoping against hope.  But apparently God decided to let us think he wasn't going to celebrate with us and waited a few days (perhaps he was still as stunned as the rest of the country).

It is now falling at about 4" an hour.  We had robot kids here all morning - have a competition this weekend in Vermont - and were making good use of our free day.  I took the last one home minutes ago while watching the weather to see when the heavy band would hit us.  I made it back JUST in time - pretty much can't see the houses next door.

In case you don't remember from my blogs - here is a graphic showing the snow totals as a function of date after the Super Bowl that year against common sights here in Boston, such as a fire hydrant, dog and Julian Edelman dancing on a Duck Boat.

Oh PLEASE, PLEASE don't repeat that year.  If the performance of the sports team was any indicator - you will have to send in the National Guard to dig us out in June.   Ha ha.  I JUST finished fixing my house from that year of snow a few weeks ago.  We had to take off the roof down to the rafters and redo it because of the ice damage.  There was so much damage here in New England from all that snow, it took that many years to get contractors.

So the Duck Boats were out in force on Tuesday and the rally was mind-blowing.  There are 4.6 million people in the greater Boston area.  The estimate of people out in the freezing rain for the Super Bowl parade by the MBTA and police - 1 million.  My sister-in-law works on the 13th floor down there in a sound proof building.  She said they couldn't work all day as the roar was deafening inside and the federal court recessed as they couldn't hear in the building.  

So staying tight right now and watching the snow pile up.  Robot kids gone, maybe some stitching will get started!  And yes - the 'game' is still playing non-stop on TV around here, seen it four times now.  

Seems to be some sort of odd weather-dance in New England....again.  


Sunday, February 5, 2017

A New Experiment at NOVA

Not a surprise, I love NOVA.  Wednesday nights are a huge highlight for me when episodes are on - I get a bit giddy and pull out my embroidery and sit and watch (and record) the latest episode.  And if it is History/Tech - OMG I go weak in the knees.   Most I watch more than once to catch all the details.  I have loved it since I can remember - which is about when they started the program.  You can put me in the bucket of being inspired as a little kid.  DUH.  What I have chosen to do is most often said to be a 'NOVA episode'.

So living in PBS land (that is what Bostonian's call it here - the birthplace of PBS), you stumble upon people involved here and there.  Can you imagine my excitement in 2013 moving to a new house and meeting my new next door neighbor, the mother of the child who comes in and out of here about 4 times a day (a robot boy), and I find out she has been working for NOVA since she graduated from MIT.  I about squealed.  Ok, I did.  Lauren is the Director of Digital Media at NOVA and has also been the producer on many amazing documentaries there as well as the really fun series "The Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers" .  So if it is on the website - it is hers.  All those amazing and cool simulations and ways to teach kids more from each episode - all goes across her desk.

Lauren's husband laughs as he says I am her next "Secret Life" story (I'm not) and she knows that my life is another CSI History episode in progress next door.   But it is great fun getting the back story on episodes, David Pogue (crazy man), and sometimes an invite to watch a first cut as she is trying to figure out what type of inter-actives to make months ahead of time.  I am very impressed by the work they do now that I have seen the back end.  One of our older robot kids interned there to help on some robot simulations and I have been known to have my brain picked more than once on my weird assortment of knowledge bases (This morning, historic textiles).

So it was exciting to see the new announcement become public of a really great idea by NOVA to take a step to make some documentaries on basic chemistry and physics publicly funded by kickstarter in a way that gets into every classroom in a very interactive way (Virtual Reality with cell phones is an extension goal).  You might enjoy looking at the little film footage on the Kickstarter page and maybe think about getting involved.  Personally - I am getting in at least at the level that gets me a NOVA mug to put next to my Cabinet of Curiosities mug!  Seems fitting to me.

(And I keep telling her... you know that Making of the Plimoth Jacket thing...ha ha )


Friday, February 3, 2017

A Garden in a Casket

Image on Christies showing front panel down and internal
garden in place.
There are only a few gardens known to me in caskets, one of which is a grainy picture from Christies of one sold years ago.  In that piece, the front of the casket folds down and reveals a very robust grassy and flowered interior.  Of course I have always had more questions than answers about this casket!

So last night I was surfing the web under different terms to see if anything new popped up (I do this every few weeks and yes, things do pop up!  Sometimes things that have come to auction, sometimes new museum collections on line).  Well, in this case a image of THIS casket showed up as a Getty image that could be licensed.  I can't reproduce it here - but you can go view it.

What they did is lift the tray the garden was made on and place it on the top of the closed casket.  Perhaps that is what it was made to do - using the box as a 'vase'.  But I spent time comparing the sides of the casket to the existing but poorer quality pictures and they are the same piece.  So wonderful to be able to see it much better!!  And what perfect timing after the results of the Casket Toy Contest!


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Grand Prize Winner

Janet Brandt's entry into the Casket Toy competition is the grand prize winner!  I think everyone who takes the time to look at all the pieces will agree that not only are they fully of whimsy but are inspired and unique in how they take the techniques and applied them to her concepts.  Janet has already shown us how many of her drawers contain items related to the storyline of her casket.  But now there are plenty of lovely little toys in the drawers as well.  Including a scene where you can move the little boat back and forth (see the video).  Janet is also starting today with posts on how she make the parts of her entry at her blog... so you can enjoy doubly!

Inspiration - by Janet Brandt

The theme of the competition and required materials/techniques were all the inspiration I needed! I knew I wanted the TOYS to be something that could actually be played with. I also knew I wanted them to fit the story-line of my casket.  I was able to bring figures and images that exist (or will very soon) on the exterior of the casket, to life as 3D toys and to store them inside.The gardens I created to store inside of the casket are now stitched into the door compositions on the outside. I had fun making the Peacock Casket toy and wanted the chance to use those techniques for the new dolls and their costumes. The wrapped bullion technique quickly inspired gardens and a gardening tool.

How They Were Made - by Janet Brandt

The wrapped snake technique became a watering can; the tongue became a sprinkling of water and the coiling was tweaked enough to go from snake to can. After that I had so much fun creating and wrapping flowers, trees and trellises with masses of gilt, purl and bullion. Eventually I lost track of what material I used where except that vast quantities of shiny things kept disappearing. The top garden has wrapped bullion trees and trellises and flowers and a golden ship. The ship can be moved back and forth in front of a lacet tent. 'Once' the little girl in green and 'Time' the friendly red dog with wings (Time Flies) are my lacet techniques showcases.(They have also been created in a more 2D version for the top of the casket.) Once and other casket dolls now have lacet jackets, hats, an apron and a flower gathering basket. In addition to the lacet techniques used to create the peacock I used the lacet as a base with needlelace stitching inside each 'feather' and I created the doll jackets with a lacet base infilled with needlelace stitches. Time's body is covered with lacet stitched directly to the body's base.

I think that everyone can agree that Janet's whimsical interior to her casket with its large inserts, moveable pieces and toys in every cavity deserved the Grand Prize.  Let's hope she does something equally as yummy with the second casket as this one!

Thank you to all the entrants into the contest, it has been so amazing to get the photos in my in-box, to take the time to read and look closely at the details and ask questions to see more at how they were put together.

I know that Janet will be blogging about her pieces after this post, so please check out her blog and you will see more and hear more about the inspiration behind her works and hopefully be inspired to do something yourself for your piece!


Shows the figures for the top that are attached on the left and the toy versions of them on the right (detached and fully

Doll Interior

Dolly's Lacet Clothes and Jackets

Back of Dolly's Lacet Jackets

Cottage Garden

Watering Can, Flower Basket and Hat made of Lacet and little dog

Lid Interior

Detail of the Garden

"Once" and "Time" 

Peacock from class, added to the menagerie

Garden in the lid, sparkling

Tent close up, see the striped gimp in knots and smooched trims, purls, soutashe and lacets.  The boat
that moves is in the foreground out of purls and checks.

"Time" in three dimensions as a toy and in 2-dimentions for attachment to the top.

Under the garden tray