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THE STITCHES SPEAK – Part 1

Roughly four years ago I was invited to give a talk on historical styles of counted embroidery at an embroidery Schola (day of lectures and workshops), held under the auspices of a regional group of the Society for Creative Anachronism.

I put together some talking points and visuals and gave the chat.  I think the audience was a bit overwhelmed, though because I didn’t get many questions or much feedback.

Today I was going through some old files and came upon my talk’s slide deck.  I share it here now.  Note that some things have come to light since I spoke in 2014.  Most obvious among that is the reclassification of several patterns by the holding institutions, moving them from uncertain provenance or continental/southern European 16th/17th century provenance to their proper place in Morocco.  I’ve written about this group before, but they are represented in the talk, in their “before” incarnation.

In any case, here are the images from my talk.  It’s long (no one ever accused me of being concise when it comes to discourse on my fave subject).  Therefore, I’ll break the thing up into roughly six parts over the coming days.

Enjoy!

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MORE CHANTERELLES

Well, this pattern has wound my curiosity up around itself.  The basic design of the Chanterelle scarf is quite simple, but it can look quite different depending on the yarn chosen.  I have written it for any 100g ball of fingering/sock weight yarn, and finding out what the various yarns end up looking like when knit up – that’s turning out to be tons of fun.

So let’s start.

So far I’ve used two different Schoppel Zauberball Crazy colors: the autumn/purples mix of the original, plus a lilac/cream/navy mix. The pix below the scarves are photos of the SAME color numbers of Zauberball as the ones I knit from.  There is considerable variation between balls of the stuff, but you can get an idea of how the original yarn looked, none the less.

 

 

The ends look different because for some reason although the balls were marked with identical yardage, the one on the left was significantly shorter, and yielded only ten trumpet sections, while the shades-of-purple one yielded 11.  Go figure…  In any case, it’s nice that regardless of how many full sections are knit, the ends still complement the piece.

Here’s the third try.  This one is a stash-aged Opal yarn, whose label with its color number has long since gone the way of all things.

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You can see that the color runs are pretty wide, and unlike the happy chaos of Zauberball Crazy, the repeat is very predictable.  Variation happens because the yardage required to produce one trumpet isn’t in synch with that of the yarn’s printed repeat,  so the colors wander up and down the trumpet motifs, and the faux Fair Isle spot manifests differently each time it pops up, shaped mostly by the width of the section where it appears.

I’m now trying for Chanterelle #4.  This one is from another stash-aged yarn – another ball that was a gift from the generous Nancys.  It’s Schoeller and Stahl’s Fortisimma Socka Color, # 1776 – a red, white, and blue mix. This one looks to have small to medium width stripes.

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We’ll see how these stripes manifest.  I’ve obviously not gotten this out of my system yet, so I’m sure I’ll be doing some more Chanterelles.  Luckily they are a quick and mindless knit, and can be done while watching subtitled movies and shows on TV.

If you want to do up a Chanterelle and would like me to post it, you can find the free pattern under the Scarves section of the Knitting Patterns tab at the top of this page.  I’d be grateful for pix of the skein and pix of the finished product, as done above.  That will help others decide whether or not this design would work for their beautiful but problematic yarns, too.

CHANTERELLE – EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN

UPDATE:  THE DOWNLOADABLE PDF PATTERN FOR CHANTERELLE HAS BEEN ADDED TO MY KNITTING PATTERNS PAGE, AT THE TAB ABOVE.

A bit more mindless knitting this week past.  I have two balls of Zauberball Crazy, a wildly variegated (and expensive) fingering weight yarn.  Both balls had minor damages to them, and I wanted to work them up quickly.  But I didn’t want to make socks.  This stuff’s colors are so over the top that I wanted to make something that would be seen.  Scarves are ideal.  I’ve done several before using Wingspan and its variants, or other designs calculated to display the gradients to their best effect.  But I wanted to do something different.  I cast on for a couple of designs I found on Ravelry, but wasn’t particularly pleased.

What to do….

Ah.  Thinking back, my most popular pattern of all time is Kureopatora’s Snake.  That was written for a DK weight variegated, and was the result of happy experiment.  It’s basically Entrelac, but slimmed down to just the two edge triangles, and worked over a large number of stitches.  The result is a graceful interlock of trumpet shapes, with the trumpet’s spread accentuated by working a purl into (not just slipping) the K2tog join stitch at the end of each partial row before the turn.

Why not make that one up in fingering weight, and publish the pattern adaptations that make it work?

So I present the first of the two test pieces.  I’ll be starting the second tonight:

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First off, I’ve renamed the thing. Now that it’s independent of the original yarn, I re-dub this one “Chanterelle.”  Yes, there are ends (the initial cast-on, bind off, plus a couple of damages).  A personal quirk – I don’t darn in the ends until I am ready to give my knit gift to the recipient.  This will sit un-darned until then.

I will be writing up the full design again under the new name, but for now, start with the Kureopatora’s Snake pattern, available for free at the Knitting Patterns tab at the top of this page.

CHANTERELLE:
A FINGERING-WEIGHT VARIATION OF KUREOPATORA’S SNAKE

Grab your ball of fingering weight variegated yarn.  ONE ball of Zauberball Crazy made this scarf, with only about 3 yards of yarn left over.  It’s about 5 inches wide (a bit under 8 cm), and 66 inches long (a bit under 168 cm).  Gauge is pretty much unimportant.  I recommend a MUCH looser gauge than one would use for socks.  I used a US #5 needle (3.5mm) for this project.

Follow the Kureopatora pattern as written for the initial section, but instead of stopping when you have 30 stitches on the needle, keep going until you have 46.

Work the entire scarf as-written, until you have completed ten full trumpet sections (not counting the partial trumpet done to initiate the project).

Follow the directions for the final finishing section, EXCEPT that instead of working the final section as normal until there are 15 stitches on each needle, keep going until you have 23 stitches on each needle.  Then on every row that begins on the edge of the scarf after that, work a SSK instead of the increase you have been doing throughout the prior sections.

DO NOT STRETCH-BLOCK this piece.  If you feel it’s lumpy, moisten it and pat it flat, but do not use wires or pins to stretch it out.  You want to preserve those graceful curves.

SWISH BY SWISH

I continue to make slow progress on my Fish piece.  Again, I plead the heat, the general malaise it creates, my unwillingness to sit under a hot halogen work light, and a reticence to stitch with sweaty fingers.  But as you can see, I’m almost done with the center area gold water swirls.  Just a few “echo lines” are left to add to the group below the head of Fish #1, then I will have to advance the scroll, to get the remaining bits at the top and bottom.  (Swirly lines that currently go off the edges of my stitching area have been saved until the work area is realigned, even if they go over by just a little bit.)  And of course, sign the thing with my initials and the date.

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I do like the way the spirals of gold in the head spots turned out.

More answers to inbox questions:

Where did you get the gold and sequins?

The #5 imitation gold thread came from the Japanese Embroidery Center, in Atlanta Georgia.  The 2mm gold tone pailettes came from General Bead, in San Francisco.  Both were ordered off the ‘net sight-unseen.

How are you sewing down the gold?

Standard simple couching, of two strands held together, flat and parallel (not twisted around each other).  I’m using one strand of gold-tone silk, heavily waxed, taking little stitches across the gold.  The stitches get closer together as curves are formed, and further apart on the straight runs, but generally don’t exceed about 5mm (3/16ths of an inch) apart.

The no-hands frame is an absolute must for this type of work.  I hold the gold and bend it into a curve to match the sketched lines with my left hand, then use the right to form the affixing stitches, taking care not to pull so tightly that I deform the line.  After the length is stitched down and the end cut, leaving about 3/4 of an inch on the surface, I plunge them to the back.  I do this with a heavy, antique needle threaded with a loop of strong carpet thread, and lasso the ends, pulling the loop gently around the waving ends, then quickly yank them to the back of the work. After I finish an area I bundle the plunged gold ends as neatly as I can, mostly trying to keep the resulting bits small and camouflaged as much as possible.  Note that on shortest line segments care must be taken when plunging NOT to end up pulling out one or both of the stitched down gold strands.  Much colorful language ensues when that happens…

How will you finish this piece off?

I really don’t know.  I don’t want to do a fabric scroll or hanging style finish on this one.  Although that would be congruent with the subject matter, I feel it would be too cliche, and take up too much space on the beach place wall where we intend to hang it.  Instead I may opt for a spare non-matted/no glass modern frame.  Possibly a near-invisible thin black one.  But in any case, I suspect I’ll splurge and have this one done by pros instead of my usual dinking around above my competence.

What’s next?

Not sure.  I still have a stitch-itch, although I have a couple of projects lined up to knit once fall weather kicks in.  Possibly a return to my big green sampler, now that I have a reliable stand for it.  Possibly a smaller something-else.

SLOW PROGRESS IS STILL PROGRESS

Inching along here on my fishies.  Yes, did end up getting the Lowery stand last week:

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I really like it and am glad I splurged when I did.  For those looking at the photo, trying to parse it out, the stand itself is the grey metal armature – from the heavy base plate, up to the gripper jaw holding on to the wooden cross piece, to which my stitching frame is attached.

The wooden piece with its grasping flanges that engage my frame is a supplemental purchase – the “Long Frame Extension.”  I strongly recommend it if you have a Millennium or other scrolling frame, especially if it’s large/heavy, or has wide bars.  Because the stand clamps down on the solid wood of the extension, I do not have to worry about overtensioning the jaws and harming the delicate stretcher arm, with its reamed out internal screw threads.

Now, as to actual progress, it’s been hot, and since I sit under a halogen work lamp, and we are not air-conditioning-enabled – I admit slacking off on most hot evenings.  In response to questions about my comfy chair, I post this photo, complete with orb-of-the-sun heat-source mini floor-lamp, Morris style recliner, and frame (supported by its new stand.)

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No, that’s not a real cat in the chair.  It’s a conveniently sized stuffed-toy cat, liberated from the kids’ collection.  It serves as a nice, soft supplemental elbow rest.  You can also see the embarrassing midden of supplies and in-progress projects, heaped into baskets between the chair and the bookcase, and the ever-encroaching box of on-deck items that is slowly taking over the small table.

The floor stand’s foot is tucked underneath my chair, with a couple of bricks on it for good measure.  The extra weight allows me to swing the frame out of my way like a door, so I can exit the chair without having to move the entire set-up, or shimmy under it.

Finally, here’s the paltry progress itself:

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I’ve added sequins to the previously un-sequined Fish #1, who was feeling very jealous of Fish #2’s bling.  The light is angled to make some of them sparkle, but there is a sequin in the center of each grid area in the body.  I’ve also made progress on the gold whorls.  Next are finishing the couched gold lines above Fish #1, doing the spot on his head, and starting on the whorls below him.  Eventually I will have to scroll up and down a tiny bit to access the remaining swirly bits at the very top and bottom of the piece.

And then I’ll be done.

Next project?  Not sure yet.  I have a couple in mind.  Possibly return to Big Green.  Possibly another smaller sampler.  Possibly a cushion to replace the stuffed cat.  Maybe playing with tambour and wool…  There’s no need to rush, I’ll be working finishing up my koi probably until September.

GOLD FISH!

After an annoying lapse of personal preparedness, I am now back from vacation – at home where I left my gold thread.  Sadly, no fish-stitching happened during my break because I was without it.

Goldwork is temperamental, exacting, and oh so rewarding.  I don’t pretend to be very good at it, especially compared to The Masters.  I bumble around at best.

I did play with metal thread embroidery decades ago, when I first encounted the SCA and began looking into historical styles.  I did couched work, direct embroidery with passing threads, and or nuée – a style that involves laying the gold threads across the entire width of the image-to-be, then overstitching it with colored threads to create pictures, almost in raster style, that glimmer as the gold peeks through.  But I had a goal back then – to advance embroidery in that organization, and all of these styles have a high learning curve.  Happily, I stumbled across blackwork – something that’s easy to learn and easy to teach.  I haven’t climbed back out of that hole in the years since.

Back to the project at hand – it’s clear that hooping over gold would destroy it, so for this phase of the work I have moved Two Fish to my flat frame.

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The rather unusual scrolling flat frame is a Millennium from Needle Needs in the UK.  It’s a bit on the pricey side, but worth every penny.   Although the design isn’t centered in this early fit, I do not think that the minor bit of scrolling I may have to do will damage the work – for example, there’s no point where I would have to lap stitched fabric entirely around the top and bottom bars.

It became evident very quickly that an extra hand would be needed to do this part of the project.  Or two.  So I hauled out my ancient Grip-It floor stand.  I prefer a side stand rather than a trestle or tilt-top support that sits in front of the worker, and but side-supports are hard to find.

Ancient Grip-It works ok, but its main two drawbacks are that is easily overbalanced by a large frame like this, even when front mounted; and that the jaw is wimpy and doesn’t hold very well – and at the same time, I am concerned about pressure it puts on the finely turned wood sidebars of the Millennium.  Here’s my sadly overmatched Grip-It in action on an earlier piece on this same frame.  You can almost hear the joints squeaking as it strains to keep itself upright. To be fair, since I sit in a Morris style chair as I work, the off side of the frame does get extra support from my left side chair arm.
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I’m on the hunt for a replacement floor stand, so if you have a candidate to recommend, feel free to post a comment.

As far as the stitching itself goes, I’ve begun.  Even with the floor stand, I find I need additional hands.

I want hand one to manage the stitch-down thread (one strand of gold-color silk floss, well waxed) poised on top of the work; one hand to receive the stitch-down thread’s needle below the work; one hand to provide gentle tension on the gold threads to keep them flat and even as I go along; and one hand to manage a laying tool to keep the two strands being couched in flat alignment to each other, and not crossing over each other. That’s two more hands than I currently have…

I can double up the stitch-down needle hand, stabbing the thing into the work on each stitch, then re-positioning the hand above or below and drawing the thread through the ground; but I haven’t found a graceful way to tension and direct the gold yet.  Since I haven’t worked this way in over 20 years, extensive re-training/re-familiarization is needed, and the going is slow but steady.

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THE AZEMMOUR CLUSTER

Thanks to Elaine, whose comment on the Spider Flower post sent me off on a new research quest, a group that had long intrigued me has now been solidly planted.

I had seen many examples of what appeared to be a related set of stitched fragments, from many museums, collected over many decades – mostly by amateurs in the late 1800s/early 1900s.  These were identifiable as being a group because of shared motifs, designs, treatments, materials and overall look.  But the museum IDs and book citations were all over the place, citing individual examples as being from anywhere from the Greek Islands, to Sicily, Northern Africa (unspecified), Spain, and the Italian mainland.  For example, all of the patterns on this page can be found in Lipperheide’s Muster altitalienischer Leinenstickrei, Volume 1, published in 1881, credited as Italian works.  Dates also ranged widely with some examples being attributed as early as the 1500s, and others tagged as late 1800s to early 1900s.  I do note however that comparing current tags to my old notes, over the last few years several museums have updated their provenance notations to locate this group in Azemmour, Morocco.

We’ve already seen the Spider Flower, this example from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts,  Accession 93.208. Again, their sample is undated, and is tagged as Spanish or North African, with a note that it is “Italian embroidery.”

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Here are some others of the same group.  This one I tag as the Pomegranate Meander, because the ornament on the diagonals has swollen into an enormous fruit, and the center flower has shrunk down to a skeletal remainder.  This sample is quoted from the Cleveland Museum of Art’s photo, and is tagged in their collection as being from Azemmur (an alternate spelling), 19th century, Accession 1929.843.

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Mr. Ross has provided us with a Pomegranate sample, too. This one is also at the MFA, Accession 11.2880, called out as Spanish or Eastern, with no date.

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Here’s a different member of this group. In my notes I tag it as Wide Snake Meander.  This one is from the musée du quai Branly, in Paris, Accession M61.2.16, and is attributed to 17th-18th century, from Azemmour.

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This design crops up not infrequently.  Here’s a sample from the MFA, Accession 93.1495, no date, with Spain as provenance.  Another piece collected my Mr. Ross – this is the MFA’s photo.

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And another, from TextilesAsArt.com, entry 2227, they call it out as being Moroccan from Azemmour, and date it to 1650.

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Here’s a sample of Wide Snakes that has a different border.  This photo is quoted from the dealer RugRabbit’s website.  They ID it as 17th century, Moroccan.

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From the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Accession 09.50.1291, now tagged as Moroccan from Azemmour, from the 18th century.

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Azemmour has a second style in addition to these pieces.  Birds.  Paired birds with and without vases or urns, or trees in between them are extremely well represented in museum and private collections.  Although paired birds are common in early modelbooks and in stitching examples throughout Europe, the Azemmour birds have a particular look, often done in two colors, with outlines in black and the voided ground in red.

Here is a particularly choice example from the Textile Museum of Canada, Accession T85.0301, dated to the 18th century (image quoted from their photo).

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Here’s a whole flock, including MFA 16.298 (Italian or Spanish, no date), Yale University Art Gallery 1941.278 (Azimoor (another alternate spelling), 1700s), Cooper-Hewitt 1970-0-1 (No provenance, late 19th century), Philadelphia Museum of Art’s 1919-686 (Azemmour, 17th century)  I’ve easily got two dozen more samples in my logs.  They still turn up fairly frequently for sale in textile specialty antiques houses and even on eBay.

And these same birds make appearances on darned net, this image is from a Gros & Delettrez, a dealer in antiquities, who call it out as being from Azemmour, made in the 1800s.

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Now.  Where did all of these come from?

I’ve read a few accounts that claim Jewish refugees fleeing the Reconquista and Inquisition in Spain settled in and around Azemmour.  It is speculated that their influence blended with the local Islamic stitching heritage, to create this local style family; one that is distinct from other Moroccan stitching styles.  The Jewish link is cited by The Textile Museum of Canada. The Jewish Virtual Library notes the migration and community.  The Jewish link is also mentioned here. The Textile Research Centre writes that production of Azemmour pieces died out in the mid 1900s, although recent revivals have been undertaken.

Finally, to muddy the waters further, here is an artifact that might be seen as a bridge between European/Italian voided work, and the voided work done in Azemmour.  This is a strip in the collection of the Cooper-Hewitt Museum Accession 1962-58-17, attributed to 16th century Italy, and the image below is quoted from their photo.  Yes, the foreground of the motifs are left quite bare compared to the ornamented Moroccan samples.  But look at that design.  Does it remind you of both Spider Flower and Pomegranate Meander?   It should…

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THE SPIDER FLOWER

Continuing…

I have no idea if this design has ever been given an official name, but it shows up with regularity in museum collections.  It’s part of a larger design cluster that includes several other patterns, but more on that another day.  Today is the Flower’s day.  Now.  Is this a 17th century design?  Or  is it later…

I call it “Spider Flower” because it’s characterized by a center bloom that has rather arachnid looking petals, often spiky.  It can also be recognized by a simple diagonal meander (with up/down symmetry), and some sort of knot or “wing-nut” swelling ornamenting the simple meander.  It’s usually accompanied by a smaller secondary border, but there is little consistency among samples on the secondary border.  However, the secondary borders can help in assigning Spider Flower to the cluster I mentioned.

In addition to the general voided layout, there is often complex hatching or other ornamentation on the foreground bits.  The background varies too, although it’s usually a solid color treatment – either long-armed cross stitch, or the tightly pulled mesh stitch common to strip pieces produced in Italy.

Here’s a pretty typical example:

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This sample is a photo from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Accession 16.300.  The museum calls the ground “tent stitch” but it looks more like a four-sided Italian cross stitch pulled moderately tight (the mesh effect is not very pronounced, but the coverage is there).  It’s part of the MFA’s Denman Waldo Ross Collection, which means it was collected some time prior to his death in 1935.  The MFA does not date this piece, and attributes it to North Africa or Spain.

Apparently, Mr. Ross liked this design.  He found several examples of it.  Here’s another, also from the MFA, Accession 98.204.  The museum calls it out as “Spanish or Eastern,” but tags it as being Italian embroidery.  Again, it’s called tent stitch, but zooming in shows that the ground is the same four-sided boxed cross stitch, pulled tight.

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Nope, it’s not part of the same piece, although the similarities are clear.  Not only are the secondary border and internal fills different, but the details of the voided area’s shapes are a bit different, too.  Yet for all that, it’s clearly recognizable as another Spider Flower.

Mr. Ross’ third sample in the MFA’s collection.  This one is Accession 93.208.  Same working method, and again – the museum’s own photo.  No date on this one either, although it is also called “Spanish or Eastern,” and tagged as Italian embroidery.SC57831

This one has a different and more elaborate secondary border.  Also the border is asymmetrical north/south.  Possibly it came from the end of a towel or cloth.

But not all of the Spider Flowers I have seen have come from the MFA.  Here’s one in the holdings of the Yale University Art Gallery, accession 1939.498 – a gift of Mrs. F.M. Whitehouse in 1939.  The museum dates it as being 19th century, originating in Morocco, but put a disclaimer on the page saying that the on-line documentation does not necessarily reflect their most current knowledge about the piece.

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The picture is rather dark and compressed, and the work itself is heavier and less delicate than the above samples, but it’s clear that we have our Flower, along with its companion border.  There are some similarities – the layout, the center flower and meander, the ornamentation inside the voided spaces; and some differences, the largest of which is the truncation of that wing-nut decorated lozenge on the meander’s center.  It has lost its center barrel.  As far as technique goes, I can’t say anything for certain, although given the density of the ground and its alternating left-right directionality, it might be long-armed cross stitch.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) in New York also has its own Spider Flower sample.  Accession number 09.50.1375 seen below in the museum’s photo, was purchased for the museum through the Rogers Fund in 1909.  This artifact is dated 16th century, and is sourced to Italy or Greece:

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Companion border?  Check – and again a totally different one accompanying the main design.  Intensely decorated voided spaces?  Check.  Spindly flower, meander, and barrel/wing-nut lozenge?  Yup.  This one to me reads as a likely long-armed cross stitch ground, with the plaited row appearance of that stitch.

And lest you think these things were only done in red – here’s in indigo example.

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I have quoted this image from the page of Mr. R. John Howe, private collector and dealer in textiles (it’s about half-way down the very long listing), in his report on an 2010 address given by Mae Festa, a noted textile collector, at the Textile Museum in Washington, DC.  Ms. Festa attributes the piece to 17th century Italy.  She calls it out ias being done in cross stitches and double running stitch.  I think the ground is long-armed cross stitch.

So.  What can we say about the group as a whole?

Mostly that it is of an undetermined and broad Mediterranean origin, with museums placing the pattern anywhere from Spain to North Africa, to Greece – with a time stamp ranging from the 1600s to the 1800s.  That’s a lot of wiggle room.

Why are the dates and places so imprecise?  That “Indiana Jones” era of private collecting, for one.  The identification on these bits often depended on the claims of the dealers who sold them to the original art patrons on tour.  Very few of these household linen fragments have been revisited in detail since museum acquisitions, and those happened between the 1880s and the 1930s.

With no detailed analysis, I can’t second guess the experts, but comparing these to other Moroccan pieces, and to others in the design cluster, then factoring in the conservative nature of traditional stitching, I’d say that it’s not impossible that such an easy to stitch design persisted for a very long time.  1800s – possibly, but I think these are sufficiently different from clearly dated ethnographically-collected Moroccan pieces of the 1800s to warrant speculation that they were done before that (or possibly elsewhere).  Early 1600s might be an optimistic stretch, though.

Why do I think this design is easy to work?  You’ll see…

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.
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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”.

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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.

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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!

A CURIOUS APPLIQUE TECHNIQUE

I’ve long been been fascinated by one type of pattern that shows up in a couple of modelbooks. It’s a strip design, done positive/negative, such that cutting down the center line would yield double yardage of the repeating motif.

Here are some examples, quoted from Kathryn Goodwyn’s redacted editions of Giovanni Ostaus, La Ver Perfettione del Disegno, from 1561 and 1567.

I have tried to use this technique myself, with very unsatisfying results due to the stretchy nature of the unsuitable fabric I was using, lack of sufficient stabilizer, and imprecise cutting.

But I’ve finally found a historical example, and it’s pretty close to one of the Ostaeus 1561 designs – amusingly enough, the exact one I tried and failed so badly to use.

CH-Band

The full citation for this piece is

Band, 17th century; silk, metallic thread; Bequest of Marian Hague; Cooper Hewitt, Accession 1971-50-47.

Compare it to this from the 1561 edition of Ostaeus (p.36 in this redacted edition):

ostaeus-2

As to technique on the CH band – it works just as I envisioned.  This is velvet, carefully cut and appliqued to a ground, with the cut edges covered by a couched heavy metallic thread.  You have to admire the efficiency of this method; not a scrap of that green fabric was wasted.

So.  Has anyone seen other examples?  Has anyone attempted the technique, either in fabric as shown here or (probably easier) glovers’ type very thin real or faux leather?