Friday, April 26, 2013

Threads Magazine and Smocking

Smocking is making a comeback!

                    Cover of current issue of Threads - #167
     My newest issue of Threads Magazine (#167) arrived in the mail today - I had been anxiously awaiting to see..................  there are many great articles, including one on sewing in France, along with names and addresses of many shops that sewers and stitchers would be interested in.  The article that I was really looking forward to is an article called "Smock a bodice - Delicate stitches pleat fabric for shape and texture". 
     Last month in Vogue magazine, there was also an article on smocking.  (Thanks, Barbara Meger, for the heads up!).  When I was looking through the last issue of Threads, I noticed in the 'In Our Next Issue' that smocking was listed.  I got in touch with the editor's assistant (who was lovely) and told her about Smocking Arts Guild of America, and what a wonderful reference we are to anyone who loves smocking.  She agreed that would be useful information to include in the article, and while she couldn't promise anything...
     As soon as I got it out of the mailbox, I flipped through, found the article, and there it was - "for more on smocking, visit Smocking Arts Guild of America (SAGA) at"

                             Back cover of Threads #167

     One of the neat features of Threads is the back cover.  In each issue, they take an incredible garment (can be because of design, embroidery, details, etc.) and give a whole view of the garment and an up close view of the garment.  Many years ago (and I am dating myself here), the back cover picture was of a pleated piece from Sarah Douglas.  The detail that made it so incredible was the way she pleated it.  She started with a regular piece of fabric that was on grain, but as she pleated it, she torqued the fabric left and then right so that when it was finished, the PLEATS were in a zigzag pattern.
     A plug here for Threads.......... I have a LOT of magazines!  I hate to throw them away and love them for ideas, reference, and eye candy.  Unfortunately, I don't have room for as many magazines as I'd like, so I have had to pare down.  One of the things that I really like about Threads is the options that they have for their subscriptions.  They do have the option of e-subscriptions (ipads, kindles, I  think).  They also have Threads Insider, which is an additional $12, I think, but you get emails every couple of weeks with 'extras' - the last one was a picture tutorial on how Kennith King lines his jackets.  Well worth the money!
     Threads has really good construction instructions (can anyone say 'conjunction junction'!), that are perfect for those of you who want to incorporate smocking into clothes that you make for yourselves!  Smocking is not just for children!!!

Go out and get yourself the latest copy of Threads - you won't be disappointed!  I am personally cutting out the article on Sewing in Paris for my Bucket List folder!

Happy Stitching,

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Lady Evelyn Murray

           Beautiful Embroidery
               stitched by
           Lady Evelyn Murray

     As I have been posting the different alphabet monograms on Pinterest the last week (I am about halfway through the alphabet now), I started thinking about all of the beautiful embroidery I have been able to look at over the years, and Lady Evelyn Murray came to mind immediately!
     She was born in 1868 and lived at Blair Castle, which is in Pitlochery, Perthsire, Scotland. 
     More about the castle later in the post, but several years ago, on one of my trips to Madeira, we also went to Scotland to take a Whitework class from Bunny Bryson.  One of the days in Scotland, we traveled to Blair Castle for a tour, and then a 'behind the scenes' tour of some of Lady Evelyn's needlework.

     This is one of her chests of drawers that she bought to keep her needlework in.  Lady Evelyn was not the typical young lady of her day.  She had a habit of focusing so intently (obsessive is the word that comes to mind) on something that all else was forgotten.  In her late teens, after a bout of illness, she focused on Gaelic and over a few months, gathered over 240 Gaelic stories and legends from the locals around Perthsire, which comprised the book Tales from Highland Perthsire.


     As her behavior became more odd, she was sent to Switzerland to rest, but depression set in.  Her parents sent word for her to return home, but she moved to Belgium and lived there for most of the rest of her life.  It was here that her obsession with needlework began.  She collected pieces of needlwork of the highest quality, but her own skill surpassed the pieces that she collected.  The picture above shows one of the chests that she had to store her collection in.

     Her masterpiece is called "the British Arms", which took 7 years to complete.  It is stitched on glass cambric background, using sizes 250 and 700 cotton thread, and the dimensions are about 15" by 18".  This is the piece that is used on the cover of her book.  Ihave seen the original and it is stunning.  I had to laugh, though - when we were there (about 1996), it was sitting on a a little easel on top of a pile of books in the gift shop!
     We were also able to go an a behind the scenes tour and see many other piece in her collection - some that she had stitched,and some that she collected.  There were a couple of 'practice' pieces that she stitched before (or as) she stitched on this piece.

                         (sample of pique' embroidery by Lady Evelyn)

     Another occurence that had us speechless at first, and then laughing later..........  the docents that helped us in the archives were lovely, and so excited - not only to show off all of the beautiful embroidery, but to a group of women who truly appreciated the work and the art!  They were very careful - the put on their white cotton gloves and very carefully lifted the glass tops of the display boexes - we were in awe as we were looking at everything and drinking it all in.  Then (and this is the knock me over with a feather part) they very neatly took off their gloves, picked up the embroidered pieces and handed them to us to look at!
     Stunned at seeing them pick up these antique masterpieces, we quickly asked them why they took off their gloves, and shouldn't we be using them before we handles any of the pieces?  They quicly replied that they were not worried about the embroidered pieces (we ladies all had clean hands, right?), but they wore the gloves so they didn't accidentally cut their hands from the glass covers of the  display cabinets.

     Lady Evelyn did all types of needlework, including needlepoint lace and bobbin lace, as well as whitework and applique'.

     She moved bcack to Blair Castle at the start of WWII, and died in 1840.  Most woung women in her time were expected, if not forced, to marry and raise a family - she was in a unique position, as her father did not require that of her.  He continued to support her as she lived in Belgium focused on her needlework obsession.  All I can say is lucky for us that she was allowed to study and create her masterpieces of perfection!

     Blair Castle is a beatuiful place - it is avaliable to tour and it hosts weddings and events.  If you ever have a chance to visit, it is well worth the time.

     Many of the furnishings are original, and the family still stays in the private quarters, leaving the main building for tours, etc.

     You can see to the left in this picture the family quarters.

     Some of the reference books available in the Gift Shop.  The local town is not too far away and has wonderful shopping and a very nice kilt store!  On the hour at Blair Castle, a man in a kilt would come out and play the bagpipe...........oh to see a real Scottish kilt!  On our tour, we were looking through a case full of memorabilia, and lo and behold, there was a crest from Murray State University, in Murray, KY (my alma mater!).  Seems that Murray, KY was named after one of the House of Murray in Scotland - a nice little surprise.

     Lady Evelyn's Needlework Collection book - unfortunately it is OOP - wonderful book if you can find a copy.

Here is a link to a youtube tour of Blair Castle:

Well, this is all the time I have for reminiscing right now!  I know I am subbing in Kindergarten tomorrow,and I am not as young as I once was!  Hope you enjoyed this!

Happy Stitching,


Friday, April 12, 2013

Embroidered Alphabets..........

                    Monograms and Ciphers
(Cipher is one letter, Monogram is more than 1, usually 2 or 3)

     April showers bring May flowers........... but alas, no rain in southern California!  I love to sit and stitch in the rain, and when I lived in KY, TX, OH, (we moved around a lot when I was growing up), there was always plenty of springtime rain!  I did not really appreciate it until I moved to CA and then there wasn't any!
     Even though there is no rain, this week I have been sitting and stitching.  I am working on my class projects for my new class proposals.  For once I am early (deadline is June 1, which is still 7 WEEKS AWAY!!!).  The project that I just finished is called Monogrammed Memo.


     It is made out of a gold silk dupioni with a gold and white striped silk dupioni for the pockets on the inside. 

     The inside is also made out of silk dupioni - a gold and white stripe pattern.  I also used the strip to make piping for the cover.

    My initial on the front has several different types of embroidered flowers, all made with bullions.  When I started working on this, I pulled out some of my antique embroidery alphabet books.  I have about 20-30 of these books.  They are all French and printed in the early 1900s, with all different styles of alpahabets.

     I scanned parts of one of the books that I thought i would share with you.  Here is part of the cover - you can see 3 different styles of alphabets'

     This one of the pages - you can see 4 more alphabet styles - along with border designs that run along the side of the page.

     More and more............sometimes it may be the same style, just a different size.

      This alphabet is a bit larger, with no floral accents.

     Even larger alphabet, this time with floral accents. 
Hmmmmm........even as I look at these again, I am starting to get itchy, stitchy fingers!  May be one of these days when I have a bit more time, I will start some sort of alphabte challenge - maybe a different style each month?  Maybe a different letter?  You can't see me, but heavy sigh...........I still wish I had a few more hours each day!

    I am pinning a ton of embroidered monograms over the next week on Pinterest!  Follow me on Pinterest and you will see them as I post them.  I am working my way through the alphabet - I finished A-E tonight and will work o some more tomorrow.

Happy Stitching,

Monday, April 1, 2013

Priscilla, April, 1921

          I am sitting here, looking over at my sewing machine and itching to sew, but I am in the middle of running the mock registration for the SAGA Convention (yes, it opens on May 1, only a month away).  I need to take a break, and since I don't really have time to sew, I thought this would be fun!

                  Remember when.......

     Not really, but I do love looking through these old magazines!

     This is a Modern Priscilla Magazine from April, 1921.  This was the Good Housekeeping of the day, with articles covering needlework, housework, garndening, style, fiction and of course, advertisements!
     One of the articles is about crocheted and tatted edgings. 
     Here are some of the tatted edgings that they showed - an edging and 2 different insertions - absolutely gorgeous!


     Two more examples - again, an edging and an insertion, that are used in camisoles

and slips.  Again, gorgeous work!
     This article is a How to - instructions on how to make your own dress form at home!  No duct tape back then!

     A very cute little advertisement for Wright's Bias Fold Tape, still sold today.  There were also ads for Campbell's Tomato Soup, Fels-Naptha soap, Crisco and Mazola corn oil, among others.

     For the modern woman, 2 days of recipes to host meals for 6 Adults.  As you can see, this is a woman who watches her pennies - the average cost per meal per person is a mere 17 cents for one day, only 14 cents for another.

     Here is a handy dandy little notion - as you can see, it is made to hold different colors of thread for your sewing and basting needs!

     More helpful information.  It seems that inferior fabric is not just a problem now.  I have copied over the cotten and linen info.  There are 2 sets of test - those you can do in the store, and those that you can do at home.

     Inferior threads, sizing added to 'cover' inferior weaving, tests for mercerization...............some of the things to watch out for.

     The same information for linen.  It is nice to know that we always look for fine quality in fabric!

     Finally, a few examples of patterns for sale for cutwork designs.

I hope you have enjoyed this stroll down memory lane!  I will be going though my stash to share more of these treasures as time goes by.

Happy Stitching,