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:

Monday, December 21, 2020

12-Days of Christmas - Day 8

 Day 8 of the 12-Days of Christmas is a set of four Just Cross Stitch Magazines.  If you are interested in getting this pile of interesting reads:


1) you have to send me an email ( with "4 JCS" 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 23th

I will pick a of winner to send it after Christmas.

I have just had a student who had to cancel her registration of the Five Senses Double Casket so I have one casket available now for anyone who wants to take that course.  There is a video of the casket that you can watch to see the design, stitched in Soie Paris over 1 on about 22 count fabric in tent stitch.  The only difference is that the hardware and the tape edging will all be in gold vs silver.  So if Santa didn't do their job this Christmas - maybe this is the answer!

Sunday, December 20, 2020

12-Days of Christmas - Day 7

 Today's giveaway for the 7th Day of Christmas is a set of grey-blue Glorianna stranded wool skeins. If

you are interested in this yum bite of fuzzy goodness:


1) you have to send me an email ( with "Glorianna" 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 22th

I will pick a of winner to send one after Christmas.

I have a number of courses starting again on January 1st.  One of them is the Whitework Course which sold out quickly after my Fiber Talk YouTube Live episode on whitework samplers.   The supply chain has been so hard this year and while I wanted to offer more spots, I wasn't confident I could get the materials.  I finally was able to get 34 sets of the linen threads out of Europe and while the many who had gone on the wait list have had a chance to register - if anyone was hoping for a spot, the registration is open for the 18-month long exploration of whitework samplers.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

12-Days of Christmas - Day 6

 Today's giveaway is posted a little late - sorry so busy!  The giveaway is one of two issues of Just Cross Stitch this year.  If you are interested:


1) you have to send me an email ( with "Wintry Wonderlands" 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 21th

I will pick a pair of winners to send one after Christmas.

Talking about Winter Wonderland, I am working on a panel called Winter right now for the Four Seasons Double Casket.  I didn't want to do a white snow background so decided on the bareness of winter ground.  The fire pot has been fun to do - the picture doesn't do it justice as the center of each flame is gold and so it glitters at you, giving the impression of fire.  While there isn't much color in the piece yet, there will be quite a bit of the darker shades of several of the color families to give the impression of the somber part of the year.  

Friday, December 18, 2020

12-Days of Christmas - Day 5

 We just got a foot of snow overnight and everything is white and sparkly!  So it seems like a fitting giveaway to put some light effects in white up.  So a bunch of people will get a bit of nice thread to stitch snow if their name is pulled!


1) you have to send me an email ( with "White Light Effects" 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 20th

I will pick a bunch of winners to send some after Christmas.

This is a different way to add a bit of sparkly to a project.  Inside the Harmony with Nature casket is a embroidered vase that is in the lid as a panel to cover the mirror.  When you open the lid, the light catches the moving lid and the flowers sparkle.  The tulips are stitched in Gilt Sylke Twist with a gold wire around the silk and the other flowers have a strip of silver in the needlelace.  

Thursday, December 17, 2020

12 Days of Christmas - Day 4


Today's giveaway is this year's Just Cross Stitch Ornament issue for 2020.  I have four copies to give away.  If you want one, here are the rules for the drawing:

1) you have to send me an email ( with "2020 Ornament Issue" 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 19th

I will pick four winners to send a set after Christmas.

Now a closer look at the Harmony with Nature Casket:

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

12-Days of Christmas - Day 3

Today's giveaway is a magazine with a Tokens and Trifles project in it (using the Bon Bon package of Tokens and Trifles perforated papers) and a package of Tokens and Trifles to use.  You can make a three-dimensional butterfly with them.  

If you are interested in one of the three sets, please follow the instructions for the giveaway:

1) you have to send me an email ( with "TOKENS and TRIFLES BUTTERFLY" 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 18th

I will pick three winners to send a set after Christmas.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

12-Days of Christmas - Day 2

It's the 2nd day of Christmas and we have some cute postcards to giveaway.  These are of an amazing embroidered dress from Sweden I saw last year.  

One of my favorite museums there is the Livrustkammaren which is the 'Royal Armory' under the Royal Palace.  It is where all the Royal embroidered clothing and embroidered regalia for horses/knights resides.  If you haven't been there and are going to Sweden in the future - do not miss!  There is so much 17th century embroidery on display - the Swedish royalty was very powerful during the 17th century and they had the money to spend but not the embroiderers in country, so they bought from professionals in England and France.  So you can find some really good stuff there.  

This was a dress made from silver tissue (silver strip woven with silk) and then over embroidered.  It was the wedding dress of Louise of the Netherlands in 1850 when she became the Queen of Sweden & Norway.  The train was just stunning, here are a few better pictures of it.

So if you would like a postcard of the dress - send me an email (

1) you have to send me an email with "WEDDING DRESS" 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 17th

I will pick four winners to send a lovely postcard to after Christmas.


Did you know I did a Fiber Talk Podcast this year?  If you want to listen to how I got my start and why I have been working in historic embroidery for years as an engineer - go here to find the podcast.

Monday, December 14, 2020

12-Days of Christmas - Day 1

 I know I skipped out on this holiday tradition last year - but it seems like we all need a bit of cheer so here we go again!  My 12-Days of Christmas giveaways!

Here are the rules:

1) you have to send me an email ( with "JUST CROSS STITCH 2019 XMAS" 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 16th

I will pick four winners to send a copy of the 2019 Just Cross Stitch Christmas Ornament issue to after Christmas.

Good Luck on the draw!

If you are looking for a new small project this winter, think about the Stuart Silk Purl Flower project.  It is a small introduction to using silk purls and couching down a gold twist.  Because the small silk purls are being discontinued, I only have 14 of these left.  But it makes a quick little sparkly project - about the size of a index card.  The course has videos of how-to as well as how silk purls are made and a little history too.

Silk purls are deceptively fancy looking.  They are a small spring made from wire that is covered with silk.  You can couch them down or pass a thread though the middle and stitch it down like a bead - either straight or in loops.  They work up fast and yet have a huge bang for the effort.  


Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Do you know this Finisher?

I am trying to find someone and think I will use the power of the internet.  As my usual detective work hasn't gotten me the answer.  And hey - the story is kinda funny too.

A few weeks ago I got a business call from my health insurance company needing to validate some info on my business medical insurance.  As I went to my office to get the info for the administrator, the woman took the opportunity to ask me a question sheepishly.  "Is your business named Thistle Threads".  "Yes", I responded, thinking she was validating the company name.  "Like Tricia Wilson Nguyen - seen in Just Cross Stitch?" 

"Well, yes!"

"OMG this is like a celebrity moment" she said.  I was shocked and then we laughed, seems her job in high school was working for 3 Stitches in Texas and now in addition to her day job, she did needlework finishing and had finished many a piece of embroidery I had taught others.  We quickly forgot the task at hand and started talking needlework.  

I have been looking for another finisher who is familiar with my work to suggest when people contact me. Someone did today and I looked for the info I had written down with her name and instagram handle.  I couldn't find it and had tried the instagram handle before to no luck (likely a spelling issue).  It was a rhyme with Buckaroo Bonazi - when she said it, we found another thing in common (I also loved that cult classic and we talked about Peter Weller the actor for a bit).  

So now - if you know how to get ahold her - let me know!  Or if you have seen her instagram - send it to me!! 


Friday, November 6, 2020

Historic Royal Palace Talks

I am going to assume that many of you are Lucy Worsley fans and gobble up her many documentaries made for the BBC that filter over to the US and (I have to assume) other countries as well.  While they don't all concern the Tudor/Stuart period, they are always fun, interesting and enjoyable to watch while you stitch.  

Lucy, as you might know is the head curator at the Historic Royal Palaces, a private trust that holds and runs the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, Kensington Palace State Apartments, the Banqueting House in Whitehall and Kew Palace.  Some pretty important places to us lovers of history!!  The Historic Royal Palaces is unique as they rely on public donations and visitors and they are hurting tremendously during the pandemic - as are many public facing arts and history organizations.

I wanted to let everyone know of an opportunity to help that also is fun for you.  Since the pandemic started, Lucy has been hosting online talks about subjects with multiple other experts.  This week was one about the Guy Fawlks Gunpowder Plot.  They are unique in that they gather several experts (in this case a Gunpowder Plot expert and a Tower of London expert) and use photos of primary source documents as well as other photos to tell the story in great detail along with the current research that is going on.  Of course this could seem dry but Lucy is great at making it fun to watch.  You can watch live for a small donation or if you become a member of the Historic Royal Palaces for 55£, you can watch it anytime as well as the dozen earlier talks!!  The next one is on Nov 18th on Royal Coronations.

Past topics available to members include Royal Fashion, Diana's dresses, Field of Cloth of Gold, the Ravenmasters, etc.  I have listened to many of these types of talks so far during Covid and it makes a tremendous difference to have a seasoned TV personality on it!  

I would say that the live-cast is a bit choppy at times like all of these.  The video is immediately available right after for 24-hours to those who gave a small donation - but open forever to members.   But I found the Historic Royal Palace staff the best at allowing me a little extra time on access if I couldn't get to the 24-hour open video (as I couldn't) because of scheduling issues.  I was able to watch it complete the next morning and really enjoy it.  On some of these topics it is hard to see new material as we have all heard it before - if you are a rabid documentary watcher - but I was pleasantly surprised that there was new information and insights I hadn't heard before.  I decided to join as a member as I was happy with both the content and customer service when I had some hiccups with the use.

So help out our favorite sites and get a full day of of their past presentations to boot AND the rest of the next year's worth as well.  It certainly beats reality TV!


Saturday, October 10, 2020

Embroidered Leaves

 Sometimes you run into the work of an artist that just delights you.  Today something came across my pintrest feed and I had to look - an artist who uses dried leaves and embellishes them with different types of edges in crochet and needlelace (I think).

Susanna Bauer works these edges or inserts into leaves and the creativity is worth a look.  Of course it made me look as I am working on a bunch of stumpwork leaves for my casket right now and I am using the expanded laid down trim for them but this takes it to another level that I might have to experiment with to get even more interesting edges!


Tuesday, September 15, 2020

A Little More Time

If you can believe it - even though I have had more time this summer, it was incredibly busy as well.  Summer is when I get a bunch of travel done but also lots of kit manufacturing.  Usually we do the cutting and final assembly of a Frostings Box as well as doing some kit assembly.

Covid made that tons more complicated.  Usually I hire my robot team past and present members to come by and watch movies, laugh and talk and put stuff in boxes.  Now we couldn't be inside or close to each other.  So like many businesses, I had to improvise to get things done.  And honestly, it was as important to cut and pack soutache for some kit as it was to have the kids together for their own mental health.

All of our parents are scientists, doctors or engineers and so we are all on the extremely careful end of the spectrum about the virus and of course we were hit very hard in our locality with one of the super-spreader events early and while 'well under control' for the US, we look like a nightmare for Europeans and those from Australia and New Zealand where we can't go out in public without a mask.  And no end in sight.  

Thinking ahead to now when the Robot Team would have to either go forward with the season or forgo a year of competition, having the group work for me this summer was a good way to test the waters of being together.  It took calling and talking to all the parents about their risk aversion, talking to the board of health, coming up with rules and procedures and then getting the infrastructure put together outside.  Cardboard trays of work units planned out ahead, duplicate tools, tents and tables.  Fans as it was SOOOO HOT.  We ended up with internal tent lights, a fan that hung to give us downward ventilation, and all kinds of other things to keep us safe.  But we made it work.  We had pods based upon who lived with each other and for a short time our next door neighbor had strong antibodies so he was part of our pod.  Every work session kids rotated in and out as we were capacity limited.  Rain sucked and I have to say the weather was very unpredictable this summer (if you know how weather models are done - the pressure measurements by commercial aircrafts are inputted into the big models - so weather isn't as well predicted right now as our aircraft are so grounded!)

It was very helpful to have the kids work, although I think I may have put in almost as many hours doing the preparation work at times.   But I think the best effect was that it was a HUGE mental health boost.  After spending about four months without seeing each other - they were so starved to get out of their homes and with other people.  The conversations were intense, wide reaching and the smiles ear-to-ear that were reported by parents when they go home were worth it all.  For several of the kids - this has been the ONLY place that they have been allowed to go since March 12th.  So it was an enormous pick me up.  Again - I thank all of you who may note a crooked label and wonder what kind of 'operation' I am running.  Well - one with heart.  I know I wasn't able to go by and make a suggestion to reposition a label this year as I couldn't go within a radius of all of them and it could be hard to peer at things held up at me from more than six feet away.  

We would plan out how we were going to do robots this year as the conditions aren't going to get better while we cut silk fabric.  And it was awesome as the kids were so starved for human contact that they would follow any rule I could put out.  Now the entire group is totally trained for starting robots tomorrow.  We have now all kinds of ways worked out to work virtually and the robot field will be out on the deck for the next several months.  The competitions will be virtual as well and that is going to be quite a change!

In the process we figured out how to turn the trellis of our deck area and fire pit into an outside movie theater and we have been hosting one family at a time for new releases (Mullan last night).  Another total pleasure that we have so enjoyed to see a movie under the stars with someone else and a roaring fire.  We can't wait to have this all over and turn it into a regular thing with the team and do outdoor movies with them all at once.  We won't be able to meet all at the same time other than a half hour cross-over with home brought food in chairs in a huge circle in the drive to pass info back and forth and enjoy people.  Our kids will all be virtual for school for at least two more months and so this is just so important to give them purpose and things to look forward to.

Again I thank you all for how you are tolerant of me spending time with a group of kids mentoring them and sometimes waiting for my work sessions to end so I can get that package out or answer that email.  I think about all the lives saved because a large group of teens thought it was more important to stay clean and safe for each other instead of running around town without masks on.  

Monday, September 14, 2020

Fiber Talk - This Week

Being homebound and putting all travel on hold has given me a little extra time to do some things I have had in my 'someday' bucket.  One of those was recording a podcast with Gary Parr of Fiber Talk.  I have promised Gary for over a year I would find some time and we finally did!

The podcast is being broadcast this week and we will be following up with a live YouTube session on Wednesday night.

See Fiber Talk's website for details of how to listen and log in for the live session!  

If you like it - I might be able to come back on again as we didn't even come close to talking about all the subjects Gary told me he wanted to cover.


Sunday, September 13, 2020

Winterthur Online Embroidery Symposium

Normally every two years there is an Embroidery Symposium of renown at Winterthur Museum.   It is my favorite symposium to give a talk at and its definitely one of those high-academic level conferences - real meat on the bones!  

With the current situation, Winterthur made the decision to host the symposium as originally planned in an online format - but delaying the hands-on component to another year.  

This should be seen as an opportunity for many far away to take advantage of the ability to sit in on the talks that they would normally never be able to see!  The talks will be online and available to paid participants for one full month - so you can watch and rewatch and pause and savor!!  So often I hear from participants that they wish they could rewind my presentation and this year you can!!!

On Oct 2-3, the original dates for the event, there will be several live events with Linda Eaton moderating small groups of the speakers talking about the subjects of their talks and taking questions from the viewers.  

I highly recommend you taking advantage of this opportunity and registering for the event - perhaps in the future it will become something that more events do - a in-person and online component which will bring so many more into the knowledge presented.  

I am giving a talk about whitework samplers of the 17th century and pattern books.  I have to say that Linda always gives me wide-berth to take the time to present new knowledge and I love her for that.  I always invest several weeks in putting together the presentations and material for this conference.  I just sent off my presentation today to the organizers and I am quite happy with how it turned out - in this format I was able to add more multi-media content than ever before and I feel it made the presentation richer for it. 

The cost of the event is $150 ($125 for members) and that is a fraction of what you spend to attend in person - so quite a deal. 

Hope to see you there during the Q&A session!!


Saturday, September 12, 2020

17th century American (?) Embroidery

 As the Massachusetts Bay Colony was founded in 1620 there was rapid immigration to this region I live in during the 17th century and inevitably, there were pieces of embroidery brought over finished, unfinished and maybe imported to be worked here.  We know of several samplers that were worked here (and some brought with immigrants).  But there are few stumpwork or pictures that we can say - yes, that might have been made in colonial America.  

One particular piece, a picture of the Story of Esther, has provenance that says that Rebeckah Wheeler (1645-1718) worked the piece in Concord, MA.  It is long stitched in wool instead of silk but does have some metallic thread elements.  It is possible that the drawn linen was brought from England in the 1650-1660s and she completed it here.  The wool thread and long stitch choice are unusual for England but one could see it being a local choice.

There is more to the story about her and her family.  Today a video by the Concord Museum curator (where the embroidery resides) dropped a YouTube video about the piece and a particular political issue in the Massachusetts Bay Colony at the time.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Reproducing the Glass Bottles for the Cabinet of Curiosities

Usually I would write about ten blog posts for a huge story like this, but I decided to do a video that I would be able to post in a few places.  

The bottles for embroidered caskets are ready and are now on sale for those who have been making an embroidered cabinet.  It has been a very long process and I hope as interesting as the inkwells were too!  There is history mixed in as well - especially for those of you who aren't as familiar with 17th century caskets.  

If you are interested in making one (and getting a bottle or two in it), my two project courses are still registering right now with the last of the caskets.  Each come with the bottle(s) it needs in the kit. 

The Harmony with Nature Casket and the Four Seasons Double Casket Project Course

Friday, August 7, 2020

17th Century Whitework Sampler Online Course

I put together a video showing close ups of several antique whitework samplers to discuss the current online university 17th century whitework sampler course.

I have currently 14 kits in hand for those who want to join the course - especially those who have run through a few of their older projects while in this period of social distancing.  There will be 50 more spots later when supplies reach me again.

In general, supplies are seriously, seriously difficult to get at the moment.  I think through the end of the year I will only be able to offer those projects where I already have the items today.  Those include:

14 - 17th century Whitework Sampler spots

112 - Harmony in Nature Casket Course spots (end of run)

11 - Four Senses Casket Project Course spots (end of run)

24 - Stuart Silk Purl Flower Course spots (end of run)

That is pretty small inventory and three of those courses will be the last of them!  So if you are thinking about your Fall/Winter stitching, you might want to get what you are interested in.

I am working on getting some of my lectures ready to post as well, but that means I have to negotiate image rights with every museum represented and it is taking a few weeks for each because they aren't in the office, are usually the only person that was brought back in the department from furlow and I was told that their work load is up because all professors are writing papers during this period.  :-)  So it will take awhile.  

Saturday, May 16, 2020

A Few Things to Stitch By

There are many 'snips' of culture being put out right now to keep our cultural arts relevant for everyone when we can't visit our museums, etc.  One that I got today was a short spot about an embroidered crazy quilt recently acquired and on display at the American Folk Art Museum.  It is a nice little 'context' video about the object.  I am going to post a few here and there

Curator Stacy C. Hollander talks to NYC-ARTS about the work “Crazy Quilt” by Clara Leon, which is in the collection of the American Folk Art Museum

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Using New Frostings Threads

For some of you, you have gotten the new short run Frostings 5 box.  For those who missed out on the opportunity, I may have some more during the next ordering period for the shop site - but it won't be the level I normally can do.

We are trying to see how much of the threads we can get.  Honestly with the level of unemployment and stock market collapse, I didn't think I could sell 80 much less the 300 I usually try to make.  I am glad many of you are not having a tough time during this pandemic - so many are having trouble as evidenced by the off-the-charts increase in food bank lines.  (Bless you who are still whole and I hope you remember those who aren't with help)

But one of the threads in the box needs a bit of explanation on what other cool things you can do with it.  I will be trying, as raw materials allow, to get more of this in the shop as well as the Frostings 5 bundles that I will make available for those who want as much of what was in the collection as possible.

So in the box was something called Small Silk Laid Down Trim.  It was in five green colors and the 235/2916 pink color.  It is fantastic as a little trim to couch down along things - but even better when you stretch it to make it into a Small Silk Scallop Trim!  In that case, you can use it as the wire outline for needlelace shapes!!  It then gives you this really amazing scallop edge to your pieces.   This video that I made shows how to do it.

The video is also something I have been working towards as soon as the pandemic hit.  I thought I would have all kinds of time to do great video snips to post to my different sites.  Instead I have been in email hell/building out a new teaching site that was forced by internet protocol changes.  I am hoping that some of the changes I have been making will free up some time for these cool things instead.

I bought a new iPad Pro that just came out.  Shockingly its camera is as good as my special macro camera I use for needlework photographs.  But the added bonus is I can draw on pictures and screen record at the same time.  So it is like me standing in front of a big picture in a class room and using my finger to point to things and talking about what we are seeing.  It has been killing me to have it sitting out on the table for weeks with my whitework samplers sitting next to it ready for 'Camera -Action!" and instead walking by it daily to answer emails.  Fingers crossed I have more time for the fun stuff soon.  This is my first video trial - it was all done on the iPad.  Sorry for any choppy voice stuff, I was learning to edit on the iPad at the same time.  But it was quick which was good.

I got an email from someone who took the lack of blog as maybe an indication that we had caught the virus and was very concerned.  Thank you for the concern!  But actually every business that serves a hobby that someone could pick up during this time or return to some really old (I mean really old - like my computers don't have the data on it anymore) have seen business and customer service requests go through the roof several hundred percent.  I hear just puzzle sales are up 300%.  :-)  I have spoken to the distributors and heard from other store owners - no one is able to keep up at all.  We are all drowning.  And the labor I usually hire to help me out when I am crushed can't come into the home (they need some supervision.  I can't give it to most as they have cats or dogs and can't risk the hard fought product to animal damage).  So blog and cool plans for videos went to the back of the line.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Marbled Paper

One of the things that attracted me to embroidered caskets was that they were full of other artisan produced items and I love knowing how everything and anything is made.

It has been so fun to learn about marbled paper and look at the designs that were made in the 17th century as well as search out papers and artisans.  I spent time in a studio in Florence and one in Venice in the last few years.  My new marbler is out of Nice and I was planning on visiting this year but now that won't happen.  He let me know yesterday that the studio is part of his home so he is still producing and healthy (Phew!!).

Here is a wonderful video about how different patterns are made for marbled papers, you can get lost in watching the zen like patterns.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Woodworkers, Makers, and those who Sew - Give up Your Gloves and Masks Locally

I have been having a private conversation with people who are in my classes on an online forum of late.  I will not bore you with all the details, but in my former profession, I worked on haz-mat gear for soldiers for bio-terrorism among other things.  So people I knew in my former life have been contacting me from areas of high need for personal protective gear to ask me opinions about substitutions, making PPE at home, jury-rigging stuff, etc.   
The landscape is bleak.  I have dug out many resources but there are several short term things that we can do this minute that would drastically change the course of what is going on at hospitals with little effort on our parts.  Right now we are facing imminent exhaustion of PPE resources and a lag until more commercial operations increases in production can reach hospitals.  In fact, there are some horrific issues in the supply chain that will cause lapses coming soon.  Read this Boston Globe article about how 75% of the worlds gloves are made in one country and they are going to 50% production because of cornavirus loose in their population.  
There is no doubt that many of us have those flimsy surgical masks in our horde.  Anyone afraid during the H1N1 or SARS scare may have bought a box.  I did.  In fact one church in Manhattan suddenly realized they had 5,000 N95 masks they ordered during the SARS scare years ago and found them.  Or maybe you were aware and got some earlier this year when you realized it was getting out of control in China.  Understandable.  But now we are at the front lines.
Don't give the cotton masks you are making to the hospital workers who are 100% going to be in the presence of huge viral loads.  It is these over-exposure levels that is getting them sick and not somewhat sick - they are becoming critically ill fast because instead of fighting off 2 viruses they got 2000 into their nose.  Give them the best stuff you have and save the cotton masks you make for yourself.  Give the cotton masks to the UPS driver, the postal worker, the UberEats person, the grocery worker, etc.  Hand them out willy nilly.  Give them $10 for delivering your food and a stack of home made masks.
You will need something in front of your face in the very unlikely case you walk into a recent cough cloud.  Through my reading the most protective use of a mask in the general public is actually to keep you from rubbing your mouth or nose with your fingers that have been contaminated from a surface.  It is just a light barrier need.  So in that case, the cotton home-sewn mask does its job keeping the virus from transferring to the mucus membranes of your face.  The same if you have a member of the family get sick.  The purpose is to have the cough aerosol prevented from being sprayed into the room.  Having a stack of a dozen of the ones you made is great - one at all times on the sick person and you wear one when going into their room.   Wash them frequently.  Even if all it does is reduce the number of viruses you catch to get you sick - you will likely have a lower grade infection that is survivable.  But the nurse who has to stand there with the sickest patient needs the disposable high filtration mask to not only stay well to care for people but also to survive. 
If we all give up even half of the box of surgical masks bought out of care for our families - think of the supply for hospitals that would materialize overnight.
I read a well done article yesterday from an infectious disease specialist.  They said that South Korea and Singapore have done a good job of flattening the curve because of a few things that their societies do because of hard lessons learned in the last several epidemics.  
1) In these times EVERYONE wears a mask - it is the socially responsible things to do.   And as their cultures are predicated on communal behavior instead of individualism - it works.  It is a cliche here that people of asian decent wear masks and we all look at them for being weird.   They are being smart and thinking about everyone around them - they aren't sick - they are willing to be ostracized in America for the greater good because culturally caring for the greater good is the highest form of humanity.  They know that there are walking spreaders and that people unknowingly are the spreader or come in contact with them.   If everyone wears a cotton mask - then so will the sick people.  Transmission goes way down.   Honestly - this practice is the only way we will be getting back to work and out of our houses until we have a vaccine that has been used on most of the population.
2) The sick don't stay in their homes, they are moved to 'dorm' clinic settings to be isolated and monitored by nurses.  If someone in the home gets it - the whole family gets it.  That is the majority of cases in all countries right now.  In Boston they are already identifying which dormitories from colleges have the right ventilation systems, plumbing, etc to do this. 
A N95 mask - usually from 3M used for dust
Most needleworkers know other people who make things - the most likely candidate is your home woodworker.  Go into their stash and start looking.  I know all this stuff and we were looking for some wood pen blanks Sunday that we knew we bought some 10 years ago (bought a lathe to keep kid busy during this).  I found 12 - a DOZEN - 3M N95 masks that are gold at the moment.  I didn't even know I had them as they are forgettable.  Dust masks for woodworking are what they are using - that is the most protective mask there is.
The reason there are some more N95 masks on the way to NYC right now is because of FDA rule changes.  Previously if you were making these masks, they would only be accepted into  a hospital if they were made on a FDA certified manufacturing line.  If you wanted your product that was the same to be cheeper, you didn't have the line FDA certified with extra controls to make sure they were 100% sterile.  Same product.  So now, hospitals are allowed to use the ones that are coming off the line for contractors, woodworkers, etc.  So FIND the 2-5 you have in your house and give them up!!  Talk to anyone you know who might have some and get them to drop them off.  You are saving lives.
And I found an unopened box of 100 nitrile gloves he had for wood finishing.  Then I started thinking about where else I might have dust masks squirreled away and came up with a few more.  My robot mom on the front lines at Children's hospital almost cried when I called her.  I rushed them over to her house and dropped them in the garage.  Hairdresses, construction workers, dentists, bio labs, woodworkers - all these professionals and more HAVE THESE THINGS laying on the shelves.  Stop making cotton masks that are 28% effective (yes, better than nothing) and shake this stuff that is 100% what they need out of the trees first and then go back to making masks.   In Boston we have started doing that and they are showing up in boxloads.  I told that to the ER nurse who is a robot mom and trying to figure out how to make masks on Friday night.  She posted to the town mom's discussion group how desperate they are.  On Sunday she called me crying as her lawn was full of personal protective gear that came from nowhere.  Yesterday a truckload of gathered PPE was delivered to Mass General from the bio-labs in the area.   Honestly there shouldn't be a dentist office anywhere with anything in stock except a few items kept back for emergency procedures - it should all be trucked to the local hospital.  Same with orthodontists, etc.  My UPS guy told me two weeks ago (the last time I would open the door) that he was mad that people were hoarding.  He delivered 19,000 rubber gloves to just one dentist that week.   That dentist had better drive them all over to the hospital.  
If you find boxes that are open and are concerned that they are a bit dusty.  Think if  you were a doctor or your son or daughter was a nurse?   Would you care?  If you think they would - give the box to your local supermarket, those cashers need them.  If people working jobs in food distribution don't feel safe enough, they won't show up and our distribution system will grind to a halt.  Give them a sewn mask while you are at it as well so they don't scratch their nose with the gloved hand.
The 3D printed headband for face shields -
a temporary solution in the 1-2 weeks between
exhaustion of supply and commercial
supply ramping up.  The ties, foam piece
and clear shield needs to be added
We all want to do something helpful - be smart about it.  Everyone with a 3D printer and a sewing machine is trying something - but usually without the basic knowledge of the science behind masks.  (That link was the National Academy of Sciences report on the shortage of PPE in the SARS epidemic).  Many of the good will efforts are going in the wrong direction.  Of the PPE gear for a hospital, it is the disposable face shield that has the most potential to be made using 3D printing.  We have been working with a local emergency room nurse who is also another robot coach and got the rest fo the materials donated to fabricate them.  We are printing non stop here and are up to 30 shields now since Sunday and local hospitals are accepting them.   We know they will only be needed until companies like Bauer get their ramp up done and are delivering.

So please focus on calling that woodworker, contractor, dentist, hairdresser, etc you know and get them to pull out dust masks and gloves.  And start wearing your mask, make it a fashion statement.  I might embroider the edges of mine.