Sunday, March 22, 2020

"Queen Mary's Garden," - fake names and false claims...BLOCKS 8, 9, 10, 11


Yes!  More blocks for "Queen Mary's Garden."  It has been fun cranking up the brain and thinking about all this again.  It's amazing what the brain can do during long car trips.

I mean, we are all on some degree of house arrest with this horrible Covid 19 virus.  It gives me an excuse to ponder the important things in life...

...like, what the heck is up with the flora nomenclature of this early 17th century stitchery?!?



I look through the motifs above and there are definitely things I recognize, like tulips, daisies, lilies, and pears.  But then there are some completely wacko items.

I read that even though the "Herbals" were being illustrated and published at the end of the 1500's, early entries weren't in color and perhaps not quite true representations of shapes and attributes.

Then, of course, the man whose job it was to draw the thin, black outlines on the canvases might not have been completely accurate in his interpretation.  This is what Mary and her merry stitching group had to work with (most of the lines are already covered/outline-stitched in black).



It was probably just like getting a coloring book and a 64-count box of unused Crayola's (with a sharpener)!  Yahoo - lets make up some flowers!

And certainly Queen Mary, her close ladies of the Court, and attendants were not familiar with many of the flowers depicted on the waste cloth.  The herbalists sketched plants and flowers from many places, not just Scotland.

When they tent-stitched the flowers, more often than not they picked colored silks that they liked or what would fit well with colors nearby, not what actually appeared in nature.  And the blooms with which they weren't familiar just gave them more license to use any color desired.

Well, I thought that I would be really smart and try to identify all the fruits and flowers and get the colors as accurate as possible.  Well, you can guess how that went.


Look at the 5th row down, 5th column over...I had no idea.  I looked online trying to find out what it was and failed.  Then, of course, being frustrated, I changed the color to something I really liked to make me feel better (blue is my favorite color - not enough blue flowers in nature).


So, the Genie is out of the bottle, my friends.  I felt free/justified to just start making things up...even names.  I decided that even though there aren't tiny leaves drawn at the base of every bud, I would name it with a real flower's nickname, hoping that the bud looks like this?  Absolutely crazy.

I call that block "Baby Blue Eyes."

I was really close on naming the next one (6th row, 3rd column.)  But then the leaves didn't match up.  Oh well.  I'm still calling it "Marguerite Daisy."



Then heck, I thought I recognized pears (although the ones on this stitchery looked a little too much like boobies).  I redesigned the pears, brightened up the drab colors with unnatural blue blossoms, and noticed, again, the leaves weren't correct (row 2, column 1, "Concorde Pear").



So now I just don't care.  In Michigan I had some little dwarf lilies like the next one, but the leaves are supposed to be blade-shaped (4th row, 2nd column).  I call it, "Little Dwarf Lily."



I did a great deal of "research" today (wink, wink), and I have come up with real names/varieties, nicknames, or completely made-up nonsense.  Oh, it took thought...I had to pick names that would work in the early 1600's (no "Georgia Peaches").  I tried to pick varieties that grew in Scotland, Britain, France, Spain, or Italy...not easy to do since some motifs are tropical, and unspoiled shipping was impossible with tropical growing regions.

So now I finally have 49 mostly CRAP names, but it was a fun exercise.  I have gone back and named the other 7 blocks you've seen...enjoy the nonsense where it happens...it will only increase from now on.

I'll never tell.

In Stitches,
Teresa   :o)

On a personal thread, it is good to be home.  Steve's Dad died, peacefully, nine days ago in PA.  Late Stage Parkinson's is supposed to feel like being in a body that is becoming evermore rigid and entrapped, and accelerating.  Swallowing became impossible, followed by the inability to get enough breath.  Every time I would come home to AL for a few days, I would return to PA only to notice faster decline, which was really a blessing at that point.  Thank God for morphine and the encompassing love of his three kids and spouses.

Getting ready for the auction, we found letters that had been saved (someday, our kids and grand kids will be presented with a flash drive containing our emails and passwords to our social media apps).  We all read letters on our "shifts" and re-told funny times we all shared.  Steve, David, and Sue saw a whole, beautiful side of their parents and grandparents they had never seen.  Everyone got to share everything they wanted to say.

I missed that with my parents.

Then the virus emerged.  I was supposed to drive from PA to Atlanta, picking up Steve from his pre-arranged flight, and we were to go our little actress daughter's opening of the play "Helvitica."

Well, he definitely wasn't going to fly, so we drove south together.  The show closed before it ever opened.  We were there on opening night, and they, quietly, did it for friends and family.  It was so good!  I feel so sad for them.  Somehow, they videoed it the next day to stream on UTUBE, with permission from writers, etc.  They all worked so hard, and this virus has hit a terrible blow to all small-venue arts all over this country.  Really, to everyone in ways we have not thought of yet.

AND she got laid off, of course from her barista job at an ultra fancy dessert/coffee establishment ($15 per slice or serving of dessert, then there's the coffee).  BUT, she is holed up with 2 roommates she loves, has provisions, and texted me today that 'she is constructing a new character for D and D gaming'.  NERD!!

Her roomie Joe still has his job at a pizza place, for pick up only, for now.  So, he brings home a pizza every now and then.  They try out recipes, hold Katarina's emotional-support-cat, watch movies, etc.  They understand how serious this all is...but they are just having a ball, in quarantine.  Depending on age group, everyone will have different memories/experiences from these terrible times.

Memorial Service will be postponed for a few months...will have to go back for our tool auction and house emptying, but everything is off for now, so who knows.

Be safe out there and just treat it like a sewing retreat.  If husband/family becomes a little much, just a fake cough or two...


Wednesday, February 26, 2020

"QUEEN MARY'S GARDEN © 2019" Continues - BLOCKS 4, 5, 6, and 7


She's still alive!!!  Not Mary Queen of Scots, but me!  More on me later...

I feel like I need to "reintroduce" my introduction to this current applique project, "Queen Mary's Garden."  Just a quick recap of the first three posts.

I am recreating an early 17th century embroidery piece into an applique quilt.  The piece appears as motif blocks embroidered very close together, worked on loosely-woven waste canvas with a tent stitch (like modern day needlepoint.)  



There is not even enough of a margin between the motifs to cut the "squares" apart.  The ladies cut around all parts of the flowers, fruits, leaves, and stems (leaving just the barest amount to turn under). 

The motifs were then appliqued onto a larger fabric piece, often overworking the appliqued edges with more decorative embroidery stitches.

These motifs were called "slips" due to the Herbals beginning to be published at that time.  These books contained sketches and descriptions of herbs, flowers, plants, and trees.  The "slip" is where the plant sample was cut from the plant, removing it before sketching. 



Larger motifs were most likely applied to bed drapes, larger outer garments such as capes, and wall canvases.  Small ones were used for garments and accessories.

Ha!  Applique!   

Even though the beautiful embroidered "sampler" I am using as inspiration appears planned as a wall hanging, experts are doubtful of that conclusion.  The motifs are so close together, perhaps to make the size of the canvas smaller to fit on the frame.  Also the outer edges are raw and there is no stitching covering the background waste canvas.

Someone had the job of drawing representations of the sketches from the Herbals onto the waste canvas.  He inked them on in black, then they were outlined in black silk on the ink, and worked in colorful silks to fill.  

The early Herbals were black and white...ladies filled in colors that pleased, not necessarily colors that were actually biologically accurate.


Lighter lines are ink, darker lines are silk stitched.

Filled with tent stitches.  Background waste canvas left unstitched/unfilled.

Whole piece.  Notice there are extra flowers crammed into empty spaces.
They took advantage of every inch of waste canvas.


My inspirational embroidered piece was stored away and unused for some reason, along with other pieces, as below, full of the same motif repeated several times.  Being stored away from sunlight kept the colors fairly vibrant for 400 years.
Before I fell off the deep end last year, I had blogged about the  first three blocks.  They are pictured below, followed by four more.  I tried to describe, in a grid pattern, which motif was my inspiration for each block (referring to above photo). 

"Damson Plum" (3rd row, 2nd column)

"Lazy Lily"  (7th row, 1st column)

"Honey Belle"  (1st row, 5th column)


"Bleu Columbine"  (1st row,  3rd column)


"Country Rose"  (1st row, 6th column)


"Rain Lily"  (7th row, 2nd column)

"Sugar Snap Peas"  (4th row, 6th column) 

I was very faithful to reproducing each block...for the first couple. Some design changes had to be made to accommodate using fabric applique rather than embroidery.  The bottom row is cut off, probably due to the photography, so I guessed on much of the content of those blocks.  

I decided there were some flowers that were too similar to others.  I have also taken some liberties, changed colors, invented colors...I even added more blocks!

The original piece contains 42 "blocks."  I have added another seven to make it 49 blocks, 7x7.  I wanted more fruits!  There are still other blocks I want to add, and may. 

Maybe as bonus blocks. 

I am making patterns of these as I go along, just in case anyone was wondering...   :o)

I'm still contemplating borders, as this piece has none.  I am studying other linens and art from the early 1600's for this.  Little hearts and swags will not do!  I am also trying to decide how much space between the blocks...a sliver, or more?  I'm not planning on sashing.

Finally back in stitches,
Teresa   :o)

On a personal thread, for the curious, WHERE HAS SHE BEEN?  I have really appreciated all the emails of concern.  I apologize for not answering in a timely fashion and causing worry.  

It has been a difficult year, which has made me isolate and focus on one step at a time.  Eyes and finger have been unusable for some time, so no sewing, typing, holding a pencil, playing piano...no fun at all.  Thank God for the occasional puzzle!

  • Riley graduated from college in the spring, we got her moved to Atlanta in the fall.
  • I had double cataract surgery, and am having trouble going from being extremely near-sided vision to a little far-sided.  I can probably thread a needle at 20 feet (if my arms were longer), but I need so many different reading glasses for anything closer than 10-12 feet.  Sewing, piano and computer require three different strengths.
  • I had a second surgery on my "Weasley-bite finger."  I had high hopes before, from the surgeon, but results were not what was predicted.  Instead of being bent at a 90 degree angle as before, my right index finger is at 45 degrees.  I will have to work hard to keep it from scar contraction back toward 90 degrees.
  • My father-in-law in PA is suffering from advanced Parkinson's.  He's had to go into a facility...three years of one aide per shift at home was no longer enough to help him.  Clean out of his home, auction in a week or so, and then on the market.  Plus we've been spending a lot of time visiting with him at his new home.  He is in hospice care.  Steve has been there since Christmas, since he has the ability to work from anywhere.  I have been back and forth, coming home for short bursts to check on the property here.
This is the same kind of thing most everyone has been or will be going through.  It has been a gut punch for me.  It has been almost 6 years of life-altering events.  But I have hope for the future.

See ya soon...really!






Wednesday, April 17, 2019

"QUEEN MARY'S GARDEN" © 2019 Continues - BLOCK 3


When Mary Queen of Scots was born in Scotland in 1542, the country was predominantly Catholic.  Being named the next in line to the Scottish throne at the age of 6 days made an already difficult political situation even more uncertain and confusing.

Scotland was trying to stay autonomous, England wanted to consolidate power, France was helpful to Scotland and was an enemy of England, and Spain was on the edges, threatening or supportive as it suited their needs.

Intrigues, alliances large and small, and regional differences in Scotland, England and France made strong, unified states difficult.  The pro-Protestant movement was quietly growing in England and France and Scotland were mostly Catholic.

The flower of our third block is one of the many in this project that is ambiguous.  While the newly-published Herbals of the time offered more accurate depictions of plants and trees, those drawing these on canvas for embroideries were influenced by whimsy and their own skills.



Canvas preparation only provided outlines.  The stitcher would choose colors themselves to match their own whims and desires.  

This makes guessing the name of the flower and their intentions even more difficult to tease out.



I have called these Yellow Bell Flowers for now.




I have to admit that I, too, have taken some liberties with many of my blocks concerning color as compared to the original sampler.  One problem...blue is my favorite color.  True blue flowers are not as plentiful in nature.  

Turns out that I am making some whimsical choices as well!



Since I am still making blocks and choosing colors, final block placement will have to wait.



Here are the first three!




In stitches,
Teresa  :o)

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

"QUEEN MARY'S GARDEN" © 2019 Continues - BLOCK 2


Hello!  I am like a member of the ferret family..."pop goes the weasel!"  I come to my senses, realize that it has been a long time since the last post, then "POP," here I am!

"What has she been up to??"  I've been learning some important lessons.

1)  I've learned that poison ivy is not just a short, annoying growth around your ankles...it can be an invasive vine that covers beautiful hardwood trees.  Who knew? And it is just as toxic in the winter when you can't look for the three leaves.  I have been trying to free some beautiful oak trees, so I've been miserably itchy, ugly, and on steroids (not to mention, in a really CRAPPY mood for the duration).  I have been "rough and tough and hard to diaper."

2)  I realized that my annoying double vision has less to do with the quality of the current pair of glasses, but caused by cataracts.  The cataract in one eye took me from -13 to -18 in my right eye in the matter of months. Hopefully there will be surgery between Riley's college graduation and blueberry picking season.

This may have also been messing with my perception of color and my opinion that none of my camera choices take good quilt block pictures.  Hand sewing has been a very tough task due to fuzzy and double vision.

3)  A wet, windy winter has meant a lot of removal of downed limbs and trees.  I'm also coming to the realization that a lot of the maintenance of this sibling-shared legacy property is going to fall to me and my husband, who still works, so...to me.  

4)  Learning to deal with Father-in-law's continuing to decline from Parkinson's in the Philadelphia area.

5)  Coping with changes around doses and kinds of "crazy drugs" - still trying to find the right cocktail for me.  Some dull my creativity, which is unacceptable and frustrating.  What a roller coaster!

I know you all have a similar list, bless you, so let's get down to business with Queen Mary!



This is a little 5 x 8.5 inch booklet I ordered from England after seeing the above picture on the Internet.  The small, pamphlet-like  pages were published in 1984 by Traquair House, which is where the "slip" stitcheries were found and some are displayed.

The best picture, and only one in color, is the cover.  Oh, how I wish more pictures could have been taken, especially close ups!  I have ordered a few really old, falling-apart books on Amazon that have a few of the same pictures, mostly black and white, and a little more of the history.

Margaret Swain, the author of the booklet (now deceased), saw several pieces when touring the historic great house, Traquair, in Scotland.  She loved embroidery and stitchery.  There was interest in these linens as stitchery patterns.  In fact, several slips were charted for needlepoint in the 1970's.  

They may still be for sale through the Traquair House.

Image result for traquair house embroideries


Reproduction of a Traquair House (Scotland) tapestry by Phillipa Turnbull

Here is an antique slip, trimmed, the edges turned under, ready for stitching on a large bedding or apparel piece.

Embroidered Slip (England), 17th century | Objects | Collection of Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

The color on this piece is pretty good...probably put away, out of the light, in the early 1600's until it was needed.

I have used an arrow to point out my first block attempt below.  I posted that block last time.  I wasn't sure what kind of fruit the block was meant to be (as they look reddish-orange), but I made mine purple plums.



I chose to make some of my plums with 2 fabrics, hoping to represent some perspective...not sure if I succeeded.



And now, BLOCK 2 - Orange Cosmos


The rows on top and bottom are cut off, so I had to do some guessing to do on this one...



As they are stitched, I have been placing them on the design wall in no particular final setting.  I will trim the blocks so that there is a small strip of blank space between them.  They will not be touching and on top of each other, as in the original utility sampler.



Some of my blocks will have reverse-appliqued leaves, like below.  They can be worked with the centers appliqued "on top," or even as a solid leaf if wished.



I tried to make leaves or stems that were in the background darker than the foreground, again for shadowing and perspective. 


Mary Queen of Scots, did stitch this kind of flower/fruit slip in later years, but mostly as a young lady.  As an older royal, she had a small team of ladies who made the more utilitarian items while she and her smaller circle worked on medallion wall hangings (I will show some of this work soon).

She was quite the clothing and fashion maven.  Most of the info on her that I have found has been inventories of her gowns, clothing, and bed linens. 

She had a smaller, close group of ladies, including Lady Bess of Chadwick.  They traveled with their lady to and from houses and castles while Mary was under house arrest by her cousin Catherine, Queen of England.  

There could only be one Queen, and Scotland was to be ruled by England and the English cousin rather than Mary, who also had claim to the English thrown.

On to the next block!

In stitches, 
Teresa   :o)


Wednesday, December 12, 2018

My new project..."QUEEN MARY'S GARDEN" © 2019 - BLOCK 1


Image result


Mary, Queen of Scots was born in Scotland on December 8, 1542.  Her parents were King James V of Scotland and the King's second wife (from France), Marie of Guise.  She is pictured above at age seven.

Of all six of his children, Mary was the only child to outlive him who was legitimate of birth.

At the age of six-days-old, Mary's father, the King, died.  As he had been on his death bed at the time of her birth, he never even saw his new daughter.  Nevertheless, at six days of age, Mary became the Queen of Scotland and the newest ruler from the House of Stuart.  A Reagent would rule in her place until she was older.


Mary was sent to school in France, where she was taught many things including embroidery and other textile arts.  She loved needlework and had quite a talent for the beautiful variety of complicated and expressive stitches.  

She was a lifelong fan of embroidery and would come to lean on her artistic abilities through her life as a kind of coping mechanism, deriving much enjoyment from its employment.

OK...so what does all this have to do with quilting?

There was quite a bit of detailed, formal...and to my eyes...fussy embroidery done in England at the time.  Oh, it was amazing workmanship, but quite ornate and what my husband would call "crusty."  The elaborate apparel of the royals was adorned with this high quality workmanship...as were furnishings, tapestries, bed curtains, and religious textiles.





(OK...I couldn't help myself.)

The Tudor era was drawing to a close, the Elizabethan era was rising, and the Jacobean era was on the horizon.

OK, again...what does all this have to do with quilting??



It would be very hard and cumbersome to embroider decorative motifs on very large expanses of fabric for large skirts, sleeves, and undergarments.  This was even more of a problem for wall tapestries and coverings, not to mention the elaborate curtains, panels, and valances that provided privacy and warmth for those fancy beds in cold castles and great stone houses.

Motifs were stitched on evenly woven linen, carefully cut out, edges turned under, and appliqued onto the expanses of silk, linen, wool, etc.

YES!!!  It was APPLIQUE!  THAT is what it has to do with quilting in my eyes.

In the early 1500's, the first "Herbals" were being published more broadly.  These were the first serious book collections of plant, flower, and fruit drawings.  The drawings came from woodblocks.

Women had this flora outlined on linen with black ink, the outline was covered with black silk thread stitches, and the stitchers would fill in all the areas with very fine colorful silk and gold/silver thread.



The flower on the left has had the outlines stitched in black except for the bottom right blossom and leaf veins where the lighter ink lines are still visible. 



The flower on the right has been filled with tent stitches.  The black and white photo makes this difficult to see.



It is also hard to see because the piece looks so "busy."  They filled every space with a blossom, bug, or animal, in all orientations. 

As the linen was evenly woven, their simple stitches were meant to fill the design.  They used a "tent" stitch which we would probably call a "half-cross" or "needlepoint" stitch (also "petit-point" if used on finer-gauged linen).

This is better...a Mulberry slip...




In the detail below, I love how there are ink mark mistakes...they will be covered or, most likely, cut away to prepare the motif for turning under and stitching in place.

You can really see the weave and 'quality' of the linen waste cloth.



In the "Herbals," drawings were made from the kind of plant cutting that you would propagate, so they had roots or a cut stem/branch.  Gardeners called these cuttings "slips."  

From the Tudor Pattern Book...



See the "slip" at the bottom of the stem?



A piece of linen would be crammed full of inked pictures.  If the linen was small enough, the stitcher would not be stuck behind a frame to stitch, perhaps.



Very few of these embroidered efforts went unused.  If there were spares, they did not age well.  Some were found that were associated with Mary, Queen of Scots and her small group of ladies...quite beautiful ones that were stored out of sunlight.  It is not known what they were meant for...the number and variety make fancy bed curtains more likely.  Due to the care taken in their storage, they are quite wonderful and can be seen at Traquair House in Scotland.

One piece containing seventy-two bunched up slips is the inspiration for my new project..."QUEEN MARY'S GARDEN."  The four slips pictured above represent only a small part...it is terribly overwhelming to see all seventy-two, touching on all sides...

I have spent numerous hours drafting these blocks!  While trying to maintain their authenticity, I have made a few changes and additions.  

(There are some things that don't transfer well from embroidery to quilting, and vice-versa.)

I have no idea what most of these flowers and fruits were meant to be, but I don't think it really matters.  It is written that they used whatever colors they wanted, not necessarily the color(s) God intended.

Here is BLOCK #1...



"JUICY PLUMS"


I made my medium fruits plums, as some of the fruit drawings could be absolutely anything!

Every time I post a block, I will give a little more history and project details.  I find Mary, Queen of Scots to be fascinating.

And wouldn't you know...a movie came out last weekend about her relationship with Queen Elizabeth 1 of England, her relative.  Do I have good timing, or what?!?

And yes, there will be a pattern available at some point...getting smarter and working on it as I go.   :o)

In stitches,
Teresa   :o)