Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Fashioning the New England Family

We are sooooo close as a textile community to doing one of the first textile publications funded by the Kickstarter method!!  SIX more people and the goal is met and this book will happen and we can all think forward to more books that we all want being done!!!  This is getting exciting and I am hoping a few readers that haven't gotten around to it might step up today.

If you don't know what I am talking about - read this blog post from earlier this month.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Lace Museum in Detroit

There is a new museum located in Northville, Michigan (my dad grew up there!) - located about 15 min from the airport.  Run by Mary Gen Salmon, it opened this last year and is based around her collection of European and American laces.  If you happen to be in the area, you should go see it!  The website has a lot to look at and there isn't ever much on view in the midwest so this is exciting.  I will be in Michigan sometime this spring and plan to go visit.

I even suspect that Mary was the vendor of amazing old laces at the Ann Arbor-Saline antiques market that I used to frequent when I was a graduate student.  An amazing market, there was a concentration of great textiles and amazing samplers.  One particular set I cried looking at - amazing color, provenance, by sisters, and stitches.  They were revolutionary war - Massachusetts and they cost a few months of my graduate school salary and I stood there mooning over them while a museum bought them.  But if Mary was the vendor of the laces - then she sold me the most beautiful christening gown with overlaid lace.  She taught me that many old christening gowns were made from the lace of the veils and this one was no different.  We pulled one string and the veil emerged.  I wore it and then threaded the string back on for my boys to wear the gown to be christened.  Love that thing!  Hope it was her and I look forward to my visit this spring.


Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Knitting Coach

I know you were thinking that I was picking up knitting - nope, haven't done that yet!  But I just might, I was just watching the Olympics and a brief aside was done on the Finnish Men's snowboarding team with the coach at the top of the hill, actively knitting while standing and waiting for his team to take down the hill!

Seems it is a 'thing' with the Finnish team coach, something he started at an earlier olympic games and it became something where team members added to the scarf and then passed it on to the summer olympics team later.

Sounds hilarious and wonderful!  As someone who often sits and bites my nails watching the competitions, it is too difficult to stitch with my safety glasses on.  But I certainly could see myself learning to knit!


Thursday, February 8, 2018

Schwalm Whitework

Many of you might not know that my first love was whitework and that was how I got my start teaching.  I was in love with hardanger in the 1980s and won many youth talent competitions for my big all cutwork runners as a teenager (that made me unique enough to get into MIT!).  I started teaching it when I was 13.

So during my trips to Europe, I have always been looking for and digging up the special places to see it - Venice, UK, Norway and Germany to name a few.  Of course, if you know anything about whitework, you might know and love German Schwalm work.  Back in 2004, my husband and I were hanging out in Germany - he for work and me because I had a work injury of my hand and couldn't do any computer work for almost a year.  So I had the kid (4 yrs old) and the car during the daytime.  It made for a huge adventure - I could go anywhere to see any embroidery I wanted as long as I could keep the little one happy (which was quite the chore!).

One day I dropped my husband off at an airport for some meeting in London and I raced deep into central Germany to search out the home of Schwalm whitework.  Arriving off the autobahn (I taught the little one how to sing 'Born to be Wild' to keep him busy), we found the sweet little town of Schwlmstadt-Ziegenhain and its museum.  I was thrilled beyond, beyond to discover the exhibit of works by Luzine Happel and her books as well as tons of antiques on display.  Whitework heaven with instructions to buy!! What was icing on the cake was the display of military material and other crafts such as woven coverlets.  I felt like I had walked into an Early American decorative arts museum with so much material being so familiar to me - like being in Pennsylvania!  Well, the Hessians - mercenary German army men were from this region and so they brought all their traditional crafts to America as many of them stayed after the Revolutionary war.  Well wasn't that a delightful surprise for the day!!

So now I am returning to whitework to get ready for the course I am developing and of course I am rooting around in all my reference material - especially looking at how people have diagrammed things in the past to figure out how I will do it for certain techniques.  And I came upon Luzine Happel's wonderful books I had brought back that day and then I found her really great website, blog and how to buy her books (some download now on your computer).  So if you have ever been interested in Schwalm work - take a look!  If you have a cup of tea moment - it will be worth it!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Getting Back Up and Running - Frames

In the theme of using crowdsourcing to get obscure materials back into manufacture, I thought this story would be of interest to many.  While I have not used Mythic Crafts products because I have my own slate frames made, I found the description of their move back to the UK interesting and worth it to talk about.

They are looking to develop a backlog of orders to give them the capital to buy the professional equipment for production after a move from North America to the UK.  The voltage difference between the two regions made it impossible to bring the equipment with them.  Also in the discussion of their frames and trestles, is a nice discussion of woodworking production that explains quite a bit more why saving some businesses or getting them up and running well is so difficult.  Worth a read through for those of you who are interested or want to understand some of what goes into our 'stash'.

In the last several months I have been inundated with comments from people telling me I should buy Golden Threads and keep it running.  While it is a nice thought, this Indigogo posting by another company makes many of the points that run through my head immediately as a manufacturing engineer/entrepreneur.  The transport of equipment across country boundaries is more than difficult and mind boggling costly, and the electrical systems aren't compatible.  The USA is one of the highest tariffed countries when it comes to anything related to textiles - so it would be very difficult to get the equipment in or deal with the product if it was still made in the UK.  I deal in small quantities all the time to make it easier.  That is why you need to have an expert in import and while Access Commodities is a needlework business - their core competency is import.  And then there is the expert labor - the main issue.  All the thread making companies like this have had great difficulty finding people to apprentice - and becoming the new owner doesn't make that go away.  If we could solve that problem - there would be no problem.

What would be interesting would be having a thread company put out pre-buys of runs of thread or linen...that would be interesting!  I can imagine that someday this is how things go forward.

Monday, February 5, 2018

A Unique Way to Get an Exhibit Catalog Published

Ever since Amazon got into the book business, the publishing of niche interest area publications has been decimated.  Publishers have pulled back and it has become the responsibility of the author to raise funds or pay for the publication without renumeration for the book.   This is exactly why I haven't published a book yet (after reviewing several 'contracts' and doing the excel spreadsheets).

So museums are in this boat as well, especially small ones, usually relying on a donation from a benefactor to be able to publish a small catalog.  In these situations, while I am seriously grateful to the benefactor for their largesse, the number of photos and page count is usually limited.

Everyone knows that I run Thistle Threads with creativity in fund raising to be able to make all the threads and boxes, etc that we want.  I have often told people from the outside that I developed my own kickstarter method to get my products made.  So it was with great excitement that I got two emails this week.  One, I will discuss in my next blog post, is how a business like mine is trying to get back up and running again making needlework supplies.  The other, was sent to me by Wendy White (Plimoth Jacket fame) to let everyone know about.

The Massachusetts Historical Society is going to be mounting an exhibition on embellished clothing and their stories in late 2018 and would like to publish a book to go with the exhibition.  To raise the funds for the exhibit book, they launched a Kickstarter campaign yesterday to raise the basic funds needed to publish the book.  Mainly the 'rewards' for this kickstarter are a copy of the book, but there are some really neat tours as well.

If you aren't already a frequenter of Kickstarter, then you need to know how it works.  You sign up for a reward and back the project.  The project has set a goal and if the goal is met during the time frame they have set, you are charged your backing amount.  The funds are then released to the organization and they go to work getting the product or project underway.  If the goal is not reached, you aren't charged and they get no money - and the project was essentially deemed by the 'crowd' as not worthy of being done.  Then you wait for the project/product to be done and get your reward.  Depending on the complexity of what is being crowdfunded, this can be timely (likely a book will make schedule) or not so timely when lots of manufacturing engineering has to be done.  I run into this all the time with our threads and it drives me nuts but it is part and parcel of doing things this way.

This is almost what I have been doing, except that I work out the numbers to know that I can make it and I take on some risk that no one wants those threads or classes because I have to start before I promote and take orders/reservations.

I think this is a fantastic way to fund a book and I encourage you to go to the Kickstarter website and review the proposal, video and rewards.  Hopefully you will decide you want the book and will back the project.  If something like this gets backed, I might just think about trying it with a publication someday myself!!

They are doing pretty good, 13% of their goal in only 24 hours.  If they keep up at this rate they will make it and we will have another good book on our shelves.

If anyone is in 'the area' and wants to think about doing that $2500 level reward with the exhibition, books, tour behind the scenes, and all that - let me know at and I will contact them about setting something up and grabbing that reward.  It would work out to about $250 a person and might be a really fun day (we need to get them to put in a few more books).

They are also putting neat stuff up on their blog in the month of February to promote this - keep looking back!

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Need Blackwork Patterns?

If you are looking for backward filling patterns for some project of yours, you should know about the Ensamplario Atlantio, a collection of 220 filling patterns that is available to download and use for free.  This is the work of Kim Salazar, who lives almost next door here in my area.  A fellow casketeer, Kim does lovely work and was it is quite a gift to us all to document these patterns and give them away on her blog.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Ask This Old House

So my 5-minutes of renovation fame happened tonight on the Ask This Old House episode.  If you didn't see it - you can for the next few weeks on their website.   Season 16 - Episode 13.  It was a lot of fun to film and funny to see myself digging a hole on national TV.  And you can't miss that custom paint color - Au Ver a Soie 4611 on the house!