Time for a Cuppa

photo of me on training walkTime to join me in a cuppa. My goodness it’s been a busy week with the sale. I’m looking forward to taking a little breather as I send off the last of the orders! I’ve closed the online shop and will be re-opening the store in the first week in December.

Now, you may be wondering why I don’t just close off the sales for the templates and still keep the stitch worksheets going? Well, as I shared with readers, Jerry and I are going off on a bit of an adventure. We plan to walk the  Camino de Santiago which is a 500 mile (800 Kilometres)  pilgrimage walk from St Jean Pied-de-Port in France to Santiago in Spain. It will probably take us about 5-6 weeks to walk it. Other travels involve seeing friends in the UK and Europe and visiting a few places we have not been to previously. Before we head off overseas we are taking a road trip across Australia. The two trips mean we will be away a good few months.

I don’t know how reliable my access to wifi will be, particularly while walking the Camino de Santiago. And for a good part of our trip we will be staying in ancient monasteries for whom electricity is a novel idea… So it wouldn’t be fair to keep the online shop going. I can’t guarantee that I can get to your emails or messages quickly so it is better all round to have a clear timeframe for the shop being offline.

Take a Stitch Tuesday  (TAST)  will continue. I have prewritten a post for each week and they are scheduled to be published each Tuesday. When I can I will be checking out what people do , as love seeing some of the inventive ways the stitches are used.

As I travel  I will share textile related adventures on Pintangle. I am travelling in Holland, France, the UK, and Basque country in Spain who all have amazing embroidery traditions. I will stay on topic (ie textiles) as I think that although people say they want holiday photos they are being polite, but if you are wanting more of my travels and travel sketches I will share them on my other blog Tones and Tints. Jerry who is far better travel writer than I am,  will sharing his photos and trip experiences on his blog  The FogWatch  I pinched his photo of me on a training walk ( above). All of the blogs have a ‘follow’ function so you can get email updates delivered to your inbox as they are published.

Well thats all from me for the moment I am off to agonise over what art gear I am taking (I am trying to remember that this stuff has to be carried…)

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TAST on Break


The Take a Stitch Tuesday stitchers challenge is on holiday! We are taking break over the Northern Summer before returning with the next 50 stitches in the series. TAST is due to start up again on Tuesday the 16th of August.

People can either play catch up if needed, or take some time out. If you want to carry on stitching chose a stitch from my stitch dictionary and experiment a bit. Share what you do as people would love to see it I am sure. Join the  TAST facebook group.   All stitchers are welcome and lots of people have fun hanging out there.

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A Brief History of Embroidery Samplers

history of embroidery samplers Many new hands to embroidery are not aware of  the rich history of embroidery samplers.  Samplers are often percieved as nostalgic decorative pieces associated with interior decoration. In the past they have been a method of recording information about stitches, a way of learning stitches and before paper was plentiful a way of recording patterns. This brief history of Embroidery Samplers touches on the rich history of embroidery samplers that is hinted at in commercially produced patterns. Many stitchers enjoy working antique reproduction samplers, others work some samplers that depict Family trees, and commemorate events, such as weddings or births. Alphabet samplers and growth charts are also popular or samplers that record an life event, a right of passage, or some aspect of lived history. The function that samplers perform has however changed over time. One thing that remains constant however is that hand embroidery samplers have always been a record of stitches.

The word exampler or sampler is derived from the French éxamplair, meaning a kind of model or pattern to copy or imitate. The Latin word exemplum, meaning a copy, was, by the 16th century, spelt saumpler, sampler or exemplar.

Before printed pattern books, embroidery designs were passed from hand to hand, many travelling through Europe from the Middle East. The recording of patterns and motifs on fabric for future use was not only needed to learn the stitches but it was also an essential method of storing information. This stitched reference resulted in the creation of a sampler. New patterns and stitches were avidly collected and exchanged. Early in the history of embroidery samplers patterns were placed in a haphazard way over the cloth. These samplers are now referred to as random or spot samplers.

The collection of patterns accelerated in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. There are a number of factors that may explain the sudden explosion of the enthusiasm that  associated with recording patterns at this time. In the late 15th and early 16th centuries needlework decorated clothing and furnishings. The craft of embroidery was restricted to the wealthy due to the high cost of materials and that by the early 16th century needlework had gained importance as embroidery displayed wealth and status. In the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries there was also a strong revival of interest in all forms of decoration and a sudden increase in travel at this time.

Jane Bostock sampler at the V&A

Jane Bostock sampler held in the collections of the V&A. Image © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The earliest surviving sampler which is signed and dated, was made by Jane Bostocke who included the date 1598 in the inscription. You can see more of this famous sampler on the V&A website here. However the earliest documentary reference to sampler making is recorded in 1502. The household expense accounts of Queen Elizabeth of York record that: ‘the tenth day of July to Thomas Fisshe in reward for bringing of concerve of cherys from London to Windsore . . . and for an elne of Iynnyn cloth for a sampler for the Quene’.

Band samplers what are they?

Anna Buckett sampler

Anna Buckett sampler 1656 held in the Met Museum collections

English samplers of the sixteenth-century were worked in a long narrow ribbons. The width being 6-9in (15-23cm). The length was determined by the loom width of the woven linen cloth. The Anna Buckett sampler dated 1656 is an example of this type of sampler. This sampler is held in the Met Museum collection and if you visit their site you can see the details by clicking on the image

Since fabric was expensive, band samplers are often totally filled with designs. To the modern eye they can appear crowded but sampler devotees love the visual textures these patterns can create. We know that these samplers were valued at the time of making them because they were often mentioned in royal inventories and bequeathed by will.

Modern interpretations of samplers are often worked in cross stitch alone. This was not always the case, band samplers of the sixteenth century often combined different stitch traditions such as Blackwork, Assisi work and complicated bands of whitework and open-work. The samplers of this period display such a high standard of work it is believed that they were created by expert needlewomen. Excellent use of a large variety of stitches worked in silk and metal threads produced beautiful designs. Geometric patterns worked in as many as twenty different colours were combined with spot motifs of flowers, animals, birds, insects, fish, and frogs.

Some of the numerous stitches used were Hungarian, Florentine, tent, cross, long-armed cross, two-sided Italian cross, rice, running, double running, Algerian eye and buttonhole stitches. Colour schemes with a large number of shades were created by twisting together strands of two different colours.

The demand for printed patterns for needlework was eventually exploited commercially and the first printed pattern book arrived in 1523, printed in Augsburg, Germany, by Johann Sibmacher. Similar books then appeared from French and Italian presses and finally in England from 1587. However pattern books were not readily available and samplers continued to be made as practice pieces and for reference.

During the 17th Century, a very simple border was added to the sampler to surround a number of randomly placed motifs. The band sampler, however, remained popular; the bands consisting of geometrical and floral designs in repeating border patterns. By the middle of the 17th century, alphabets were included in samplers. It has been argued that this indicates that sampler-making was becoming more significant as an educational exercise. Borders had also become more elaborate. From about 1650 moral and religious inscriptions were often added. Around this time samplers became signs of virtue and achievement and the teaching of needlework in schools was actively encouraged.

Samplers of the 18th and 19th centuries were in complete contrast to the random spot and band samplers of earlier times. During the 18th century, samplers took on the proportions of a picture. Symmetrically placed motifs of birds, small animals, flowers and trees were arranged to produce a balanced picture. Samplers, having lost much of their utilitarian function, had become ornamental, and were displayed as a record of achievement.

Stitching the alphabet began in the 17th century. By the 19th century, samplers were well established as vehicles for religious instruction, geography, English and mathematics. School girls produced needlework exercises of almanacs, mathematical tables and maps, as well as numbers and letters.

map embroidery sampler

A sampler stitched as a map held in the V&A collections. Image © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

From about 1770, map samplers were worked. These samplers were considered an excellent way of teaching geography although most were inaccurate, because the children copied and drew the outlines themselves. Traces of the rich history of samplers can still be found in commercially produced patterns which idealise the values of the past. Under Victorian ideology, women, when embroidering for their own pleasure, were accused of vanity. The notion of embroidery as a ‘vain’ and merely decorative occupation undermines the expressive power of embroidery. Today, hand embroidery is still defined as a leisure-time activity. Their making was also a reflection of the growing interest in foreign travel.

Although Medieval embroidery involved both men and women in guild workshops, and was considered to be equal to painting and sculpture the Victorians re-wrote the histories of the craft. Victorian historians meshed history with ideologies of femininity and inferred that embroidery had always been an inherently female craft. Understanding this recast view of  history of embroidery is crucial to understanding how twentieth-century attitudes to the needle arts were shaped.

Over the centuries the reasons for working samplers have changed, as have the design sources. The print media, for instance, influenced sampler design with the increased circulation of engraved illustrations. In the past, old herbals had been a design source. With the rise of the middle class, and the consequent spread of formal garden design, knot garden patterns became a strong design influence on samplers.

Today the internet has influenced the development of samplers and how they are designed. Enthusiasts have used the technology to teach and inspire others to use hand embroidery stitches and of course many stitchers use a sampler to learn so although they may interpret the stitches in  modern manner they are in fact very much working in the tradition.

needlework band sampler on exhibition

I hope you have enjoyed my brief overview and history of embroidery samplers. If you want to see my own band sampler which is a quirky project I have fun with. As I write this my sampler is nearly 100 feet long. That is not a typo – as it is made of different strips of fabric that are stitched together to form one long strip. You can read about how it came to be made and why and its details on the Sampler FAQ page Here you can see my band sampler exhibited in 2014 at the Embroiderers Guild ACT exhibition. You can get a sense of how long it is as you can see I trouble fitting it in the frame!

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Crazy Quilt Block 93 Pattern and Hand Embroidery Details

Crazy Quilt Block 93Crazy quilt block 93 is possibly one of my favourites. If you are a new reader to this site the I Dropped the Button Box Quilt is set with blocks that are arranged by colour in diagonal lines.  You can see the quilt  in the on the CQ details FAQ page.  My challenge was to have all the crazy quilt blocks reading properly while also pulling everything on the quilt from my stash! I did not want to buy new fabrics and items for the quilt.

As usual you can click on the photo of the block to see a larger version.

Crazy Quilt Block 93 patternCrazy Quilt Block 93 Fabric content:

Piece 1: Soft furnishing polycotton
Piece 2: Soft furnishing polycotton
Piece 3: Soft furnishing polycotton
Piece 4: Soft furnishing polycotton
Piece 5: Polycotton
Piece 6: Cotton covered with wide brocade ribbon
Piece 7: Tafeta
Piece 8: Soft furnishing polycotton

Item Count: 

As regular readers know I set myself a  personal challenge when making my I dropped the button box quilt.  I wanted to use 2001 unique pieces of fabric, lace, braids, charms, buttons or ribbons as it is a Y2K quilt.  I am using this series to check the count! This  item count list it the items to date that have been documented in this series of articles.

Fabric: 8
Lace, braid and ribbon: 4
Buttons and charms: 8
Total items on this block: 19

Total tally of items on the quilt so far: 1778

Crazy Quilt Block 93 free Pattern

Crazy Quilt Block 93 pattern

How I hand embroidered the seams on Crazy Quilt Block 93

Crazy Quilt Block 93 detail 602The first thing I always notice on this block is this vintage button. It sits on a seam that has been decorated with buttonhole stitch. I varied the height of the arms and added a seed bead on the longest arms.

Crazy Quilt Block 93 detail 603The next seam I covered with a band of lace. At the base of the band is line of Herringbone stitch worked in a hand dyed cotton perle #5, that is couching down a thin ribbon. I added seed beads for further embellishment. Along the top I used Pistil stitch arranged in a fan worked using cotton perle #5 thread.

Crazy Quilt Block 93 detail 604Feather stitch  is one of my favourites. You will see me use it again and again. This sample is worked using cotton perle #5 and I added some seed beads to the arms.

Crazy Quilt Block 93 detail 605On this seam I covered it with lace and picked out the pattern of the arches in back stitch. I used cotton perle #8. Along the base of the lace I used detached chain stitches arranges in a small fan with a seed bead at the base.

Crazy Quilt Block 93 detail 606The last is a cluster of vintage buttons that I placed over a brocade ribbon that was secured to the block using Herringbone stitch.

I dropped button box quiltThis article is part of a series that offers a free block patterns from my crazy quilt called I dropped the button box while also documenting each block which are listed on the CQ details FAQ page. You can read more about the quilt there.

Have you seen my Crazy quilters templates?

As a stitcher who loves crazy quilting I designed these templates with other crazy quilters in mind. With my Crazy Quilters Templates you can create hundreds of different patterns to embroider on your stitching and crazy quilting projects. They are easy to use, totally clear so you can position them easily and they are compact in your sewing box.

Crazy Quilt Templates set 1 you will find here 

Crazy Quilt Templates set 2 you will find here