Happy February!I feel sorry for February stuck half-way between winter and spring, kind of lost, just hanging around until something better comes along. Most of us are tired of cold weather and are counting the days until spring arrives bringing buds, nesting birds, butterflies and green lawns. February doesn't have time to do much - it numbers only 28 days. Every four years February is given an extra day - so we call that year leap year. On that extra day women get to propose to men. (Not this year!) February has one redeeming point - Valentine's Day - giving us a colorful plus to an otherwise dreary winter. Who can resist red hearts, flowers, and candy! Not me!
I hope you all enjoy your February 14th with your favorite valentine (and that can be your doggie or kitty!)
February also brings new books to brightened up long winter days and nights so this little month is okay in my "book".
Great News! The Art of Chinese Embroidery by Margaret Lee should be in the states and to me by the middle of February or so. This book fully illustrated with clear diagrams in full-color. She includes seven projects with full page color photos, and perforated full-size patterns. $44.95
By Margaret Lee
TWO WONDERFUL NEW BOOKS
For this lead article I usually pick an author or authors with a new book on the horizon but this month I discovered two new titles I fell in love with and couldn't chose which to feature. So I decided to write about both of them.
Hand Stitch: Perspectives - This is a Gem!
"I've been told that the most beautiful sound in the world is that of linen thread being pulled through a taut piece of cloth stretched on an embroidery frame." - Lesley Millar - from Hand Stitch Perspectives.
This book, Hand Stitch Perspectives, is a little off the radar. It's published in England, that's not so unusual, but it comes from a University publisher. As you've probably guessed I discovered this one by accident while looking for something else. And what a find! The forward is written by Joanne Hall, the editor of Embroidery Magazine, who writes, "All the contributors, most of whom have links to the embroidery area in Manchester School of Art, bring years of accumulated knowledge and insight to bear in their determinations of the reach of the potential of hand stitch. In short each offers a unique perspective. If the last decade has taught me anything. it is the exploration of new perspectives of all forms of embroidery, traditional and contemporary, past and present, it is a vital part of keeping the humble hand stitch alive. "
Who are the hand stitching stars of this unique book? Let me introduce you to them all: Professor Lesley Millar, Professor David Owen, Professor Tom Lundberg, Jane McKeating, Professor Alice Kettle, Kate Egan, Heather Belcher, Anne Morrell, June Hill, Dr. Melanie Miller, James Hunting, Ian Wilson, Dr. Nigel Hurdstone, Lesley Mitchison, Anne French, Tracy Gill and Sue Prestbury. The backgrounds and accomplishments of these artist are impressive and they each bring a new prospective to the subject of hand stitching.
I loved the section by David Owen, "The Mindful Hand", in which he explains how the eye and hand work together and the section by Jane McKeating, "Ground in Cloth and Thread", that, among many things, explains how the Fine Cell embroidery project works in England for prisoners in their cells. We are talking both sexes. 39 prison are involved, with over 400 prisoners working in their cells for 20 to 40 hours a week. The embroidery earns them money but the hand stitching also makes a real difference to their mental health and outlook on life.
I've read the entire book and found myself going back to so many of the illustrations and information I have stitckies throughout in the book wherever I discovered an AHA! moment. In the section, "The Past to the Present", Ann French quotes the famous, A.K. Kendrick, the first official curator in charge of textiles in the South Kensington Museum (now the V & A Museum, London) in the Museum Journal of 1909, he asked, 'But what can the museum to encourage embroidery?' I think we should also ask what can needle artisans do to encourage others to become part of the great art of needlework. This book is a start in showing off how wonderful hand stitching is. $55.00. Don't forget the 20% discount when you find the blog discount code someplace in this blog.
Anne Butler Morrell a writer in this book, has a small book of her own, The Migration of Stitches and the Practice of Stitch as Movement, a slim but interesting book about embroidery stitches and techniques have their origin in basketry, weaving and sewing. According to Anne, 'Such stitches are used with a variety of different fabrics and threads to achieve many different effects, both practical and ornamental. The stitch techniques are interconnected, their separation and nomenclature is for ease of identification. However, this closes off approaches that have been employed by makers of the very objects being classified. Understanding the use of stitch by changes in movement reveals the makers' creative use of stitches, the ingenious development of stitch with different fabrics threads and tools.' Enjoy her research into stitches shown in color. $18.00
This next book, Soutache: 30 Gorgeous Bead Embroidery Designs, uses hand-stitching in a gorgeous way: to create a jewelry-making technique that combines beading and fiber in a magnificent way using a technique called soutache What is soutache? This embroidery was first developed in 15th century France when trim was added to dresses and coats and also used in the creation of jewelry.
By the 17th and 18th century soutache had become an essential element of elegant attire. Since that time it has been in and out of fashion. The costumes of bull fighters uses much soutache. In this book ( I can't stop looking at!) the author, Anneta Valious brings us irresistible bead embroidery designs using technique of soutache as a trim, wide and small, for gorgeous large and small carbochons and other beautiful beads. Beware - if you open this book you will want to create these pieces for yourself and others. $27.95
The new book, Painted Canvas Embellishments by Michael Boren and Carole Lake- $34.95, is a best seller before it was even unveiled at the TNNA trade show. Congratulations to a great duo.
I was in the middle of the next article about Elizabeth I when the phone rang. It was Michael Boren. He called to tell me while he and Carole were teaching at the Callaway Gardens for the EGA, they discovered a box of their resource guide, Gloriana: Elizabeth I - Her Private Passions. 9 copies in existence! They offered them to me for sale. Of course, I said yes!
Now I can offer this book to you on a first come first serve.
Their guide went with a lecture they presented to many lucky people but this guide even without the lecture is a valuable resource of fascinating information about Elizabeth I with a great time line of that period. Michael Boren is a wonderful musician and an expert in the music of the Elizabethan era and includes a wonderful guide to recordings you might want in your music library. $19.95. Remember only nine are left in existence so first come first serve. (discount code: DGFB)
Elizabeth I - Her Kingdom and People
If you are into history especially the Elizabethan period I have two wonderful books to recommend: The Time Traveler's Guide to Elizabethan England by Ian Mortimer and Elizabeth's London by Liza Picard. These two books bow before great reviews. Both invite us into the world we would have lived in and the lives we would have lived centuries ago. Most histories focus on the palaces of the royalty and their lives but what about us, the common people? What would have life been like? We might have lucked out and been born into an upper class family of merchants but even then life, for the most part, was pretty horrid. The streets smelled like sewers for good reason, the streets were full of sewage, dead bodies could lie unclaimed for days, dead animals were pitched into the streets as were the innards from butcher shops. Crime was rampant. Food could be scarce. (Hope you like porridge.) Life expectancy was short. By the age of ten 21% of children died. At 50 you were considered very old. Yikes! If I ever think I have it hard I will remember what it was like 500 years ago.
Both books focus on the everyday life of the time. So how do they differ? Same time period but a different peak into this world. Kind of like hearing the story of the same trip taken by two different people. They both saw the same things but the observations take a personal focus. If you listen to both travelers you get a more complete picture of the trip. That's how I feel about reading these two books by two accomplished authors passionately involved with Elizabethan England. Pick either one - you'll get a great read or do what I did and read both. For all you passionate embroiderers yes, both these books include information on needlework, linen, wall hangings fabrics and more. Books of the time are included too. This made me happy since this was the golden age of hand-made books that for the wealthy were embroidered, bound with gold or silver and gems set in the covers. Today we're going to a temporary books on a machine.
In Picard's book
Mortimer does it differently.
On a positive note about this fascinating time period, it was the golden age of embroidery and handmade books bound in gold, silver, gems, many beautifully stitched. But the clothing of the wealthy especially royalty were more valuable than most anything they owned. Clothing was even asked for as ransom. Words cannot adequately describe the artistic handwork that went into making a garment. Gold, silver, embroidery, gems, fabulous fabrics and styles were used creatively to impress others with your status. I discovered a wonderful book that puts words into pictures that create an "aha" moment of what status was about.
Reynolds, Anna - In Fine Style: The Art of Tudor and Stuart Fashion -
This large volume in gorgeous color takes us on a clothing tour of the times by bringing together works by the most fashionable artists of the time and rare surviving examples of costumes. How were they made? How did they clean them? How long did it take to make an outfit like the one on the front cover of this book? How long did it take to get dressed in a costume? This book is a feast for the eyes you can enjoy any time you decide to open it and flip the pages. $75.00
Onto the Queen herself and Stitching
Speaking of Elizabethan stitching I've included a great book on embroidery of that era by Jacqui Carey, a great researcher in this field. In Elizabethan Stitches: A Guide to Historic English Needlework. Jacqui's detailed studies of 16th and early 17th century textiles and how they differ from today is now available to us. She found many errors in embroidery books published in the last 100 years on needlework of the 16-17th centuries. She discovered Elizabethan stitches have been obsolete for so long that they do not appear in stitch dictionaries. In her book, Jacqui provides a valuable reference source for those wishing to identify and catalog historic needlework, as well as providing practical how-to instructions. All stitches provided in this book have been found on surviving items, and case studies are used. Diagrams are used throughout this book to clarify stitch structures, and where possible the obsolete stitches have been compared to modern stitches. Step-by-step instructions offer a method for making each stitch, and a discussion on historical design shows how the stitches might have been used. Jacqui includes gorgeous color plates. $54.95. Use the Code: DGFB and get a 20% discount on this book or any other new book you have on your wish list.
Can't let Elizabethan embroidery go without including these two books of embroidery that was popular in that era that is still popular today:
Nicholas, Jane - Stumpwork: Medieval Floral - Jane is the Queen of Stumpwork and her many books on this subject are the best you can find on this style of embroidery. This beautifully illustrated book was inspired by the decorative panels and borders from the illuminated manuscript, Book of Hours, created by Jean Bourdichan for Anne of Brittany in the 16th century.
Jane chose eight flowers and interpreted them into stumpwork - all botanically correct. Five are worked as botanical specimens with their Latin names embroidered underneath.
One of Jane's lovely Medieval Flowers
The other three are presented as illuminated panels with richly colored borders embellished with gold thread and beads. Psst! Look for the insects she includes. $32.95
Messent, Jan - Embroidered Portraits: Ideas, Inspiration and Techniques - I have a copy of this book in my library. I know I will never embroider any of the amazing portraits Jan has created for this book but I love leafing through the pages. Embroidered portraits have been a constant through history including the Elizabethan era so I included this wonderful book in this list. Have fun checking out the famous portraits she includes. By the way, the portrait on the front cover is not Queen Elizabeth I as many people think but a famous contemporary of hers, Bess of Hardwicke. $35.00.
Want to read about Queen Elizabeth I? Here's some options.
Neale, J. E. - Queen Elizabeth I - Long considered the definitive biography of the great Tudor Queen, this scholarly and immensely readable book won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for biography and has been translated into nine languages. $16.95
Ronald, Susan - The Pirate Queen; Queen Elizabeth I, Her Pirate Adventures, and the dawn of the Empire - The author offers a fresh look at this famous Queen focusing on her uncanny instinct for financial survival and her superior intellect that propelled and sustained her rise, including her use of piracy to transform her realm into the greatest empire the world has ever seen. 16-pages of b/w photo insert. She was dubbed the "pirate queen" by the Vatican and Spain's Philip II because she employed a network of daring merchants, brazen adventurers, astronomer philosophers, and her stalwart Privy Council to anchor her throne. $15.99.
Ronald, Susan - Heretic Queen - This time this author focuses on the Queen's role in the Wars on Religion that tore apart Europe in the 16th century. This is a searing account of the dark underside of the Elizabethan golden age. This book was released in August of 2013 to acclaims. $16.99
Stevens, Dakota - Comparing the Movie Elizabeth: The Golden Age to the Real Life of Elizabeth I of England - I loved the movie - have watched it five time. My motto is: " I rather watch a great flick numerous times then a bad movie once." I've not read this book but I penciled it in on my to-read list. $21.95
Watkins, Susan - Elizabeth I and Her World - The author relates the extraordinary tale of how Elizabeth set out to capture the hearts of her people. In plays and pageants, in cameos and medallions and portraits, in the great country houses, their interior furnishings and their gardens, the royal image was specifically tailored to evoke devotion. To love Elizabeth was to love England. The author paints a brilliant picture of the young Elizabeth, skillfully recreating life as it was experienced in the great royal palaces and country houses of her subjects. The photography is suburb. $29.95
I had to include this book, Treasures of the Royal Courts: Tudors, Stuarts, the Russian Tsars edited by Olga Dmitrieva and Tessa Murdoch, in with this selection of Elizabeth I books since this is an invaluable resource of the Tudors and Tsars. This book was the result of an exhibit between the Victoria and Albert Museum and Russia. The book covers the time from a young Henry VIII in 1509 until the death of Charles II. Welcome to a world of grandeur that will probably never be seen again. This is a grand collection of the portraits (including miniatures), armor, weapons and of course clothing that has survived the ages. $45.00
Into historical fiction? Try Margaret George's Elizabeth I is considered one of the best historical novels ever written and received a string of great reviews and a run on the New York Times best-seller list. Margaret George tackles a complex subject, Elizabeth Tudor, England's greatest queen who has baffled and intrigued the world since her reign. But what was she really like? Lettice Knolly, Elizabeth's look-alike red-haired cousin, thinks she knows. Both cousins vie for power and the love of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester and the court is drawn into their rivalry and drama. This is a magnificent portrait of the elusive woman who ruled over the golden age of British history and culture - and the one woman she could not control. $17.00
And if you or someone close to you is into paper dolls:
Dover- Elizabeth I Paper Dolls - Elizabeth was a brilliant woman; articulate, musically gifted, and a master politician . Only a "mere" woman she was able to defy all attempts to steal her crown for over 40 years. Enjoy her in her magnificent costumes. $5.95
Thanks to the many of you who asked for Mystery Corner to continue and perhaps enlarge. I'm listening and hope you enjoy the selection of mysteries I've included. First I'd like to introduce you to author, Tessa Harris, who crafts the nifty Dr,Thomas Silkstone Mysteries about a 18th century English anatomist and pioneering forensic detective. Our author was born in Lincolnshire holds a history degree from Oxford University and since has worked with local newspapers and women magazines. Today she is regularly on BBC radio interviewing lots of famous people.