Category Archives: Books

CASTLES AND CARAVELS

Ok. I have no idea of there are Real Professional Researchers out there who are noting similarities of pieces held among far flung collections, but as you can see – the subject continues to fascinate me as an dilettante.  Trust me – if readers here are willing to sit still for them, I’ve got a ton more examples to share.

This set is is more difficult to show, in part because the Hermitage Museum has taken down one of the two artifact pages dedicated to two associated cutwork pieces, accession numbers T-8043 and T-8045.  The second depicted the castle that I graphed, below.  The last time I saw the source artifact at the museum’s website was in November 2014, but the castle can no longer be found from my saved links, or via searches on its name or accession number.
oldcastle-chart

You can find a full-size version of the chart above under the Embroidery Patterns tab at the top of this page.

There were small fragments of partial designs underneath the castle in T-8045 that associated it with this this other Hermitage artifact (T-8043).  This one shows a boat with passengers, several happy fish, and a pair of rather blocky lions.  The photo below is credited to their official artifact page for T-8043, where it is attributed to Italy, from the late 16th-17th century.  They call it “Embroidery over drawn thread”.

Herm-2

And here’s the cousin of the Hermitage artifacts:  a VERY similar – that’s similar, not “same” – fragment from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Accession #1939-9-1.  PMA calls out the piece as being 16th century, Italian, done in linen cutwork and drawnwork.

1939-9-1-dept

As far as acquisition time frames, the Hermitage samples come from the same Stieglitz Museum source as the other Hermitage embroidery sample I discussed last week.   The Philadelphia Museum of Art came by its piece in 1939, as a gift from Mrs. Frank Thorne Patterson (a noted collector of the time).

Now, the Philadelphia example is a truncated photo of a fragment, and has borders that the Hermitage samples lacked (you’ll have to take my word on the castle original), but in technique, composition and subject matter it’s very, very close.  It has the bottom edge of what is clearly almost the same castle as the one I graphed, plus a boat, manned by curious, full skirted figures, and some similar birds.  Yes, there are small differences in detail in the boat’s ornaments and passengers, plus motifs on each piece that do not appear on the other, but I believe these artifacts do like they might be from the same workshop.

Obviously, to prove this assertion we’d need some sort of detailed fiber analysis – much more than my casual observations.  Any grad students out there need a project?

Keep tuned for more episodes of Embroidery Family Reunion!

ONE DESIGN’S MIGRATION

Early stitching modelbooks.  They so often look the same, page after page. Where did I see that design before?  Why is it oh, so familiar?

And so we launch again into a post that only a stitching geek would love.

Early European modelbooks produced by sixteenth century printers in Italy, Germany and France often include similar patterns.  Often the same patterns.  Sometimes patterns SO much alike that one would think they were printed from the same blocks.  In some cases, especially if one printer did successive editions of work, that’s entirely likely.  In other cases, where the same block appears in works from different shops – that’s not entirely clear.  Especially if the workshops of the various printers were separated by geography and/or time.  However it happened – trade in blocks, plagiarism from printed copy, whatever – it is clear that considerable cross-pollination did occur.

Here is just one example.

This is from Niccolo d’Aristotile’s (called Zoppino) Venice-published Ensamplairo di Lavoiri, 1530/1531, as redacted as Volume I of Kathryn Goodwyn’s Flowers of the Needle collection (left).  At right I show the same page from an original (unredacted) copy of the same book in the Gallica BNF20 collection, to remove doubt about any assertions I made below being artifacts of cleaning up for reprint.  Watch those two center designs:

FOTN-1-zop zoppino-2

1530/31, Italy is pretty early, right?

Well, there’s this.  Johann Schonsperger the Younger, from 1529, published in Augsberg, Germany  This is from Ein new getruckt model Buchli auf außnehen, vnnd bortten wircken..., in the collection of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, #0S-1473-kl, as presented via Bildindex.

Schonsperger-1

Not surprisingly, Johann Schonsperger’s earlier work, Ein new Modelbuch auff auaußnehen vnd bortern wircken.. from 1526 (also from Augsberg) has the exact same page.  Also from Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, #0S-1472, as presented via Bildindex.

Schonsperger-2

So we’ve traced this panel back to a 1526 edition, published in Germany.   But were all of these printed from the same blocks?

I’d say that the two Schonsperger pages were certainly produced from the same blocks.  They have the same curious features and mistakes.

compare-1

By contrast, here are the same sections from the Zoppino work, with the same areas highlighted:

Compare-2

Yup.  The little crescent is missing, and the lower arm of the fleur-de-lis type detail with the clumsy header is gone entirely – the design is truncated, leaving it on the cutting room floor.  There are other differences – mistakes made in one version of the design but not in the other, that you would only notice if you were trying to redraft or stitch from each pattern.

So in this one case,  I’d posit that a copy of a printed page from Schonsperger in Augsberg – either as part of a book, or as a broadside – made its way to Venice, where it was seized upon and re-rendered for inclusion in Zoppino’s collections.   Which is pretty much counter to the intuitive argument that I’ve seen many make – that these counted patterns all originated in Italy and then spread north.  Of course there may be another printed copy even earlier than Schonsperger…

Oh, and this design in particular?  I’ve always been fascinated by the narrow border with its strong directionality. I posited in The New Carolingian Modelbook, that based on similarities to examples of Tiraz band calligraphy done on the count, as appearing in Richard Rutt’s book A History of Hand Knitting, 1989, that this motif may have been copied (possibly without knowing what it represented) from an extant piece of stitching, rug, or other textile from an Islamic workshop.  If that’s true, it would make the design’s peregrinations even more impressive.  Somewhere in the Islamic world, to Germany, then to Italy.  And on from there…

UPDATE

And the Schonsperger plate makes another appearance!  This time in Anton Woensam’s Ein new kunstlich Modelbůch, published in 1536, in Köln.

Woensam-1

 

FRACTURED SYMMETRY and TEMPLE OF BEAUTY

Today I brag not about my own products, but about those of the Resident Male.

Friends and family who know Fernando know that he has been writing for as long as I have known him.  His first letters to me were filled with tales of his own devising.  Over the years he’s continued, writing short stories, novellas, and longer works. 

I have had the joy of being his Audience of One – he reads them to me as they develop, and I hear his voice on every page.

Now you can read them, too.

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In his own words, from the book’s blurb:

Blair MacAlister is an expert at Judo, a credible AI hacker, and a certified pilot of craft atmospheric and interstellar. Her favorite weapon is sarcasm, or failing that, her ever-present blaster. Her boss is Terendurr the Black Stone: technical wizard, expert in the ethnography of myriad races, fancier of rare foods and wines, and even rarer fractalites. An Entharion Quadromorph, exiled from his homeworld and under constant threat of assassination, he is also somewhat irritable.
Together they investigate mysteries based on science, in a setting that brings them into contact with all the main races of Civspace: The mysterious Junn, the affable but biologically intense Raylics, the chaotic and powerful Oro-Ka, the commercial minded Keret, and the cynical Phair. At the center of their cases are transformative genetic therapies, unlikely fossils, the linked neurology of symbiotes, and more.

I am biased of course, but Fractured Symmetry is a strong collection of short stories and novellas about the same investigative team; mysteries that turn on both points of science, and insight into individuals and cultures.  It’s got action, adventure, aliens both threatening and endearing, devious antagonists, and a kick-ass heroine.  Plus a goodly dash of sarcasm and wit. 

It’s available from Amazon for download for Kindle readers on all devices (including KindleUnlimited); and in hard-copy paperback.

He’s also got another collection of short stories on Amazon, also available for Kindle readers and on KindleUnlimited:

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The Temple of Beauty is a bit more of an eclectic story collection. Its stories are retro-inspired, and include both SF and fantasy, ranging across a wide variety of tones and subjects.  More aliens, stealthy killers, high camp wandering heroes, and the clash of class and ideals.  Some played for ironic amusement, some less flippant. 

So, if you are planning an Icelandic style book-Christmas, looking for something to entertain and amuse, or planning a mobile book-hoard to get you through holiday travel and visits, please consider adding these.  I guarantee you’ll have a great ride, even if it isn’t on a giant saber-toothed rabbit.

THE DOODLES CONTINUE

The idle moments bit that’s taking place on the ground cloth area NOT used up by my two forehead cloths has taken on a life of its own.  Frankly, it started out as a delaying tactic – stitching was too much fun to stop and tend to finishing the two now-completed kerchiefs.  But it has become more than that.

I started out with another large-fill design, of the scale that rarely gets used in inhabited blackwork work.  The motifs are just too big to fit into any but the absolute largest areas in a standard dark outline, fancy fill project.  But they are on the scale of the regular fills shown in rectangular areas at the bottom of the famous Jane Bostocke sampler.  So why not?

This top fill (for the time being) is quasi-original.  I drafted it up, based on this linear design, appearing on another oft-cited sampler, the V&A’s T.14-1931

heart-strip

I’ve used that design as a teaching piece for years.  It’s in TNCM, and a tutorial on double running stitch logic featuring this design, complete with a chart for it is here.  For this piece I used the center motif, rotating it fourfold, and elongating the “stems” into a grid with a secondary motif.  I stitched it using two plies of the four-ply hand-dyed silk floss I am using.

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The next bit was the motto, described in the last post, so I won’t reiterate here.

Just below the motto is another motif that will be featured in the sequels to TNCM – a scrolling grapevine, with very angular, striated branches sprouting off more organic and woody trunks.  I wrote about it here before.  The space for it was too small to show the entire repeat, so I focused on the center bit, which left the gnarled fat branches off.  Again, this is stitched using two strands of the silk.

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Below the grapes is a curious design, also from the TNCM sequels.  Although it’s shown in the book without a fill, I chose to execute it with one here.  The design is entirely mine (one of the few totally unsourced pieces in the collection).  On this one I experimented with thread thickness.  All of the stitching is double-running, but the heavy outlines are worked with the full four-strand thickness of the floss.  The flowers are done in two strands, and the radial symmetry stepped fill is done in one strand.

After this comes another narrow strip pattern across the top (I can’t abide wasted space); plus a narrow border to frame the entire area.  The border and possibly the narrow top strip will be done with thread from a second batch of black silk, also hand-dyed with a historically appropriate dye by my Stealth Apprentice.  The goal is for me to “beta test” her output, and report back on the stitching qualities of each of the slightly different recipes. 

As for the sequel(s) to TNCM – yes.  I am working on them.  Yes, it’s going slowly.  It’s intensive, and having finished the whole book, having to rip it apart and remake it as two or three smaller volumes is proving more problematic than I thought.  Some pattern pages need to be re-composed, patterns with cross-references in their historical profiles have to be sorted and kept together to avoid jumping between volumes; the intro material needs to be re-written so that it appears in balanced (and relevant) quantities across the volumes.  Indices and referenced bibliographies entries have to be properly assigned to appear in the same volume as the patterns to which they are linked. This is taking time, and frankly, after a whole day of heavy editing for my professional job, sitting down and doing the same thing at night is slow going.

Why am I re-editing and cutting the thing apart?  Affordability.  Right now at a heavily illustrated 184 pages, including historical essays, how-to material, 75 plates with over 200 individual designs, research discussions, the bibliographies and indexes, for electronic publication, the break even point would put the per-copy cost in the neighborhood of $175, and even more for on-demand paper copy printing.  That’s flat out too much.  I am hoping to offer smaller books at a more accessible price point.

So apologies.  They are coming.  Slowly. 

THOSE SNAILS

Another question from the inbox:  “So, what’s up with those snails?”

No mystery – just a bit of silly that’s been codified into semi-tradition.

The original strip of snails was one of the first patterns I doodled up – inspired by the non-counted snails in Scholehouse for the Needle (1624)That was way long back ago, when I was still in college.  They’ve wandered in and out of my notes over the years, first appearing as a spot motif, and eventually ending up in my first and second hand drawn pattern collections (published in ‘76 and in the early ‘80s) and eventually my own New Carolingian Modelbook.  I dedicated that form of the pattern to Mistress Peridot of the Quaking Hand – a local resident of the SCA Barony of Carolingia (Eastern Massachusetts/greater Boston area), famed for her calligraphy and her unselfish sharing of the same. The artist behind so many excellent awards scrolls. Peridot’s own device features a sleepy snail.

Maybe it’s a subliminal comment on slow, steady perseverance inherent in needlework, but for whatever reason, I have used that snail on the majority of my samplers.  Not all, but most.  Here are charts for some of the ways my little creeping friends have shown up.  The original row is at the top left.  The all-over of snails circling little gardens with ominous intent is from the Trifles sampler.  The ribbon strip at the lower left is the bit I’m currently stitching in blue and red. 

snails

permission-5

THE WHOLE THING

The permission sampler is rolling right along.  At 30 threads per inch (15 stitches per inch) it’s fairly zooming.  Here you see the whole cloth. I’m already mostly done with 25% of the patterned area:

Permission-2

That small bit of solid blue cross stitch at the bottom?  I hate it and will be picking it out, presently.  Originally I wanted to frame the piece top and bottom with a denser border, done in cross stitch.  But I don’t like the look.  The bottom border will still be blue, and will still span the entire width of the piece, but will be something directional in double-running, instead.

Now for the two newest strips:

Permission-3

Both are patterns from my forthcoming The Second Carolingian Modelbook.  The top one is done in two weights of thread – double strand for the red and green sections of the motif, and single strand for the yellow half-cross stitch ground.  There’s no historical precedent that I can find for treating the background of a voided piece this way, but I do like the look of the more delicate field against the heavier outlines.  It’s something I’ve used a couple of times now.  Since there’s no requirement for this piece to be historically accurate, why not play?  The pattern itself does have a source – a stitched sample book of designs in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, with a posted provenance of Spain or Italy, early 1600s.

As for the lower bit, in blue – that one is interesting, too.

Here’s a close-up:

Permission-4

And here’s the source:

tafel-49

This is an excerpt from “Tafel 47” in Egenolff’s Modelbook of 1527.  Note that the original is clearly a freehand piece – not graphed.  But it translates very neatly to work as a counted pattern.  If you look closely at some of the freehand drawings in Egenolff and his contemporaries, you’ll see that (to my eye at least) they were intended to be congruent with counted execution.  That’s not to say they couldn’t be done off the count, but with constrained angles, no fine detail, and geometric execution, working them that way is a cinch.

Back to my modern piece.  It’s pretty clear that the area below the words will be two columns of strip patterns.  I am still thinking of what to do in the top part.  I could do more strips of similar proportion.  I could do one moderately wide strip  (the area there is too narrow north-south for any of the really big patterns in T2CM, believe it or not).  Or I might do a collection of spot motifs, or one large all-over.  I haven’t decided.  More bungee jump stitching ahead, as I continue to design on the fly.

FINISHED!

It’s done.  All 80+ gears, each with a different filling pattern, worked with well-aged “Art Silk” (probably rayon) purchased for a single rupee per skein in India, on 30-count linen.  The soot sprites (little black fuzzy creatures) playing the part of “Trifles” are in discontinued DMC linen floss, so that they contrast shaggy and matte against the brighter, smoother silky stuff.  I’ve also attached some real, brass gears as embellishments, to add extra Steampunk flavor.

Trifles-018

Here’s a close-up of the sprites in process, adapted from the little soot creatures in the movie Spirited Away.

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To stitch them I worked totally off count. (Yes, I can do that, too). I outlined the eyes in split stitch using one strand of floss, and placed the eyes’ pupils, using French knots.  Then I worked long and short stitch, encroaching on the split stitch eye frames, to get that spiky, unkempt, hairy texture.  The arms and legs are close-worked chain with two strands, with the little toes and fingers (what of them there are) also in split stitch, but with two strands.  The gears are filled in using (mostly) double running, with some departures into “wandering running” using two strands of the very fine art silk floss; and outlined in chain stitch using three strands of the stuff.  All threads used were waxed using real beeswax, for manageability.

I am happy to say I’ve hit all of the specific design requests.  And there were many:

  • A good motto
  • Steampunk (the gear theme)
  • Something Whovian (the Daleks)
  • Octopodes (dancing in one of the fills)
  • Snails (ditto)
  • Unicorns and/or dragons (ditto, and the winged, serpent tailed, beaky thing is good enough)
  • Anime (the soot sprites)
  • Interlaces (also inhabiting the gears)
  • Autumn colors (brown, gold, russet, silver)
  • Something from India (the thread itself)

The saying itself is particularly suitable for the target Daughter.  It’s one of Mushashi’s Nine Precepts.  The Daleks are from a graph by Amy Schilling, intended for knitting. The narrow border is in my forthcoming book, The Second Carolingian Modelbook. I found all of the alphabets used (there are four) in Ramzi’s Sajou collection. The gear shapes are adapted from a freehand tracing of a commercial airbrush stencil by Artool.  Most of the gear fills can be found in Ensamplario AtlantioThe few that aren’t from that source are recent doodles, and will be made available in time, either as a fifth segment of that work, or perhaps as their own stand-alone sequel.  Ensamplario Secundo, anyone?

Now Younger Daughter doesn’t head off to school until next fall, so I have about a year to add hanging tabs, or back the piece with contrasting fabric to make a scroll-like presentation.  So while the stitching is complete, this piece may revisit String when I decide what the display treatment will be.

On to the next.  I’ve got two more original stitched pieces in queue, with only a general idea of what each one will be, and what styles/designs/colors I’ll use.  Free-fall stitching!  Gotta love the adventure!

THAT SAD POINT AS A PROJECT WINDS DOWN

After lots of happy chugging along, as you can see Trifles is nearing completion.

trifles-17

I’ve got only eight more gears to finish up, including the two in process now.  Then come a couple of “Trifles,” modeled on the little soot demons from Spirited Awayanother special request from the target recipient.  The hapless little things will be prisoners in the mechanism.

thesootballs

Finally, if there’s room and it looks good, I plan to add some brass watch gears for extra Steampunk flavor.

To answer questions, no – I am not planning this in advance.  I choose the fill and color as each new gear presents itself.  I chose to use four colors as a nod to the (rarely used) four color theorem, which states that any contiguous plane map can be colored in using only four colors, and have no two regions of the same color touching each other.  In my case as a non-mathematician, this was done on a lark, and adds geeky joy. 

I do admit that a little logical thinking has been used to select the optimal color for each gear, in a “If I make this one brown, then this one will have to be gold, and that one must be maroon,” sort of way.  But again I haven’t sat down and plotted my plan of attack, other than to make the juncture point where I finish adding gears around the motto be the narrowest point of the sampler, to simplify any color meet-up issues.

On fills, I’ve tried to mix up densities and shapes, to achieve as much contrast as possible.  So fills based on interlaces abut fills with isolated spot motifs, which bump up against all-over small geometrics, which in turn are next to line-based fills with few or no closed shapes.  I’ve had a lot of fun paging through Ensamplario Atlantio looking for the best choice for each gear.  And I’ve ended up doodling a few more, just for fun.  Here are a couple:

fillings-235-a fillings-236-a

The rather annoyed unicorn is an adaptation of a motif from the open source pattern group exercise I hosted here back in 2010/2011.  I have to say that doodling these is addictive.  Just playing around, I’ve put together twenty more design squares, including those I collected from the Victoria and Albert Museum smock, item T.113-188-1997.  I could easily do dozens more.  Now comes a question, with T2CM now finished and awaiting only resolution of logistical and publication issues prior to general availability,  do I release the new group as a fifth section of Ensamplario Atlantio, or do I go on and start on Ensamplario Secundo?

PROGRESS CAN BE VERY BORING

You know you’ve hit full stride in a project when you think of what to write in a progress post, but have no new challenges, discoveries, tricks, or lessons-learned to report.  All I can do today is show off more gears and cams, with more fillings:

Trifles-11 Trifles-12

I’m continuing up the left side of the motto, then I’ll do the right side, and finish with the top.  I’m having tons of fun selecting fill patterns from Ensamplario Atlantio.  

I had hoped that when I released the thing I’d see more things on line that use its designs, but searching does turn up a few projects:

  • Ben from Tiny Dream Stitchery is doing a sweet sampler,  I really like the layout he’s using.  It’s reminiscent of a formal Renaissance garden plan.
  • Whispered Stitch is making adorable little needlebooks using motifs from the patterns, and offers a tutorial on their construction.
  • And Stitches used the patterns in her rendition of a large group stitch-along project.
  • Rebecca of Hugs are Fun did a name sampler, a striking and innovative idea for using the fills.
  •  Kathy at Unbroken Thread stitched up a spectacular piece, incorporating gold, paillettes, purl, and beads.
  • Miriam did a bunch of nifty key fobs, using EnsAtl patterns along with ones from other sources.
  • Colorize also has a sampler.  She’s picked some of the more complex designs, brave soul!
  • Susan at Tuesday Stitchers used a design in a large departure from the usual, as an embellishment stitch done on gingham in a crazy quilt.  Very cool!

If you know of any others, please post them in the comments.  It gives me immense joy to see the mischief that these designs get up to out there in the wide, wide world.

Sadly, I’ve also found a ton of pirate sites on line, mostly in Russia, who felt it necessary to steal the book and repost it in its entirety.  I can’t do anything about them besides despise the lack of integrity and gutter slime ethics that such theft represents.

The ONLY authorized source for the book is right here on this site. It’s free. Link above, and under the Books tab on every page of String.  If you have downloaded my book anywhere else, you have found a stolen copy. 

GEARING UP

As you can see, Trifles is coming along.  I’ve just about finished the first set of gears:

Trifles-9  trifles-10

The next bit to do will be the two sides, proceeding left and right of the established bit, growing up to frame the motto.  I’ll use the same stencil for my basic layout, rotating and flipping it to make the repetition less evident. 

A couple of you have written to me to say that you find the gears rather disappointing – that they are not sharp and mechanical enough.  In fact, the edges of some of them are more gentle, cam shaped rather than toothed, and the teeth do not mesh exactly.

Frankly, I don’t find this a problem, and I don’t care.  The thing will be more representational than mechanistic.  I’m going for the idea of gears here, not a CADD drawing.

I am having fun flipping through Ensamplario Atlantio looking for which fill to do next.  Everything you see here has been done ad-hoc, one gear at a time, with no pre-planning on what design/color to use next.  I’ve used four-color placement principles to avoid having two gears of the same color right next to each other.  I’ve also tried to achieve a nice mix of densities and shapes, with contrast between horizontal/vertical and diagonal elements, all-overs/spaced spot motifs, and between straight lines/curvy patterns.  On the whole I’m pleased.  I’ll add more dark and density to the lower left, next.  Also more gold there in that corner. 

Stay tuned for further developments!