Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Whatever Thy Hand Findeth to Do.....

Do It With All Thy Might

  I have been enjoying this week stitching a bit on my trinket box~ things have settled a bit, Satan has left the building (that blasted soie ovale), and I am making progress on the stumpwork panels for my little trinket box. Lion is nestled between two roses made of lots of tiny little detached button hole petals. He is sitting majestically on his drizzle stitch mound...more on that in a little bit.  I finished him and something was bugging me, he just didn't look 'right'...but I couldn't put my finger on what was bothering me about it...until my daughter came in and told me he looked like Billy Ray Sirus with a mullet.... ahh YES! THAT was it~
  I added a bit of fullness to the sides of his mane and like him much better now. What is really fun too, is that his eyes move from side to side, so while a person isn't looking, I can just slide my finger across them, and he appears to be following them with his eyes~ freaked my husband out~ HA!
 The technique I used for the mound and his mane I have always thought of as Drizzle Stitch~ but when I tried to look it up online, all the drizzle stitch I could find was funky looking bullion bumps~ NOT the look I wanted. Early 17th c embroideries have these wonderful gnarled mess of loups for mounds and trees and such~ so I fiddled with my thread a little and came up with a way to get that look~ its super easy and fun to do and really gives a great texture~ made a little video if you want to try it!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas Blessings~

To You & Yours~ I Wish You a Very, Merry, Christmas~


Saturday, December 20, 2014

First half 18th c Cool Weather Baby Wear

   Keeping Baby Warm

  I affectionately refer to these three pieces as my 'Three Amigos', as they came to the Museum together from the same family. Each one a little larger than the other~ for siblings or same child  I cannot say, but they are all precious!  Any 18th c baby items are rare, and even more so ones of color in something other than plain white linens. All are stitched with the tiniest of perfect little stitches, and all are wadded to keep baby warm in those drafty 18thc dwellings.  Most likely made from scraps of silk from Mamma's own gowns.

 They are all quite small, sized for a child 1-1/12 yrs old I would guess. A person could argue they were doll clothes, but I doubt that, unless the dollys were all sloppily fed in their day~ each have the usual organic  drooling/food staining to the center fronts up under the neckline~ most apparent on the pink jacket in the photo both above and below here. The arms of both are shaped, with each having slit, lace trimmed cuffs. All are back opening, which was the normal for baby things of the era, and close with silk ribbon ties
 The pink jacket is a hand quilted cotton candy pink silk lustring, a fine tissue silk~ bound in emerald green silk ribbon with back ties of the same. It has a lining of plain unprinted linen
The tabs of the shaped cuff are not wadded, with the lace stitched on thru all layers
 When held up to the light, one can see the seeds from the cotton wadding within
 The finely brocaded cream silk is the most elaborate~ in both fabric and construction design. The sleeves are long and shaped at the elbow, with elaborate shaped turn back cuffs. This shape of fold back tab was very fashionable in women's mitts during the time.  Additionally, the sleeves here are also edged in lace
 The back of the turn back is a complementary pink silk, and here you can also see the tiny piping on the edge
 Pink silk ribbon ties down the back, hiding a fabulous block printed linen lining.  A slight tear at one station where a ribbon was attached reveals a fine wool wadding here, much thicker than and not cotton like the pink jacket has.
The red and black block print linen lining  looks pristine and nearly new from being protected inside the jacket
Lastly, a little sleeveless waiscoat~ also back opening..... wadded but not quilted with red patterned stripe printed linen lining. I love the china yellow silk ties~ the color compliments the pink perfectly.  I can't help but think how warm these would have been on baby, just bundled up snug as a bug in a rug!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Christmas from my Daughter

A Christmas Biscuit
  A gift from my daughter for Christmas!  She bought her a little girl, and, well, a person just cant have one she gave me this little fellow~ I named him Biscuit.  He is a chihuahua and terrier mix,  just 7 weeks old today, born on the 28 of October.  
Tried to find him a coat in town, but no one had anything small enough, so I bought a pair of socks and made him a lil make do jacket. Did we need another puppy????  No. But golly, who is going to say no to a gift of Love on Christmas?  

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Demon Thread of SATAN be GONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Lord Have Mercy & Deliver me from Soie Ovale!

    Oh. The past few days have been torture...'self induced torture' to exactly quote my husband. I have been working on my trinket box here and there, when I get a few spare moments between Christmas orders.....and every. second. with. this. blasted. maddening! Pure torture!  If you have not yet tried to stitch with Soie Ovale~ a flat filament yourself. Dont! Its the most God Awful thread on the planet~ to be sure spun straight from Satan's own fingers!!!  So what to do with it????? Burn it!!
   I am not a quitter, but I gave in~ yes, my name is Rachael, and I am indeed a quitter. I cannot hang. I cannot endure another second working with this horrible thread. I had planned to work the entire trinket box in ovale, because, well, I didn't like it and wanted to make myself like it. Nope. Not happening.  I got the two little end panels done and quit! Thats It! Im done! I would rather lick the pavement after a rodeo parade than ever thread this thru my needle again~ e-v-e-r.
  Why. Well for those of you who have not tried it, I will try and contain my utter frustration and explain....
It snaggs on everything~ and I mean everything! I even wore surgical gloves! If it wasnt snagging on a microscopic piece of skin on my hand, it was snagging on my slate frame or the silk satin background fabric...yes~ it even snags on such a soft fabric!!!! I use a handmade Japanese needle so the eye wont cut the fibers, and every other stitch the blasted stuff would come out of my needle's eye so would have to rethread....knots...horrible! It is very difficult to get it to lay flat, even with a laying tool and making sure to not twist my needle as I pull it thru.... and I find it really bulky!  I'm not stitching anything particularly small, and felt that a thread half the thickness would have been better~ forget trying to separate a strand~ not happening. I hate it. period. You will get no good review of it from me!  Blaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh.
   I was in tears yesterday~ it looks so hideous! Too much negative energy~ just thinking about working on it would put me in a bad mood~ and a bad aura will show up in your stitching!  I first wanted to rip it off the frame and throw it out in the dirt and stomp on it~ really!  But all that swearing...and I did swear...a lot...  and the time it took to get this pathetic little panel finished...I will use it~ a badge that I did not totally give up.
 I couched gilt Elizabethan twist round little bit of it, and I do like how that sparkles~ its (the Elizabethan twist) is pretty~  
 Oh and what else have I learned.....dark background~ NEVER again!  I know I don't like to stitch on black, that caused me to nearly go blind a few years ago...thought that the emerald satin would be OK~ nope~ I cant see a thing~ cant see the black design lines I drew on, cant see my needle as I bring it up thru the fabric...this whole thing is horrible!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, December 08, 2014

A Little ol Driver...So Lively & Quick....

No~ It's Not St. Nick!

  But, being the Christmas season, that is what I am saying to myself when I see this last piece of the glass cake decorations.  What a marvelous achievement ~ there is so much going on! A precious pup has run away and is absent from the left side of the horse, but other than that, the piece is Divine~ all made from glass~ the animals, the tack, the reigns, wheels of the carriage~ even the whip!
The longer ones looks at this piece, the more you cannot help but love and admire it~ from a technical point of view, I cannot make out where the lampworker held the pieces to make them~
Everything here is in motion~ there are no lifeless statues. The dog is running~ with legs fully outstretched.  The horse with mane and tail whipping from the wind and legs at a gallop in front of the driver, who is not sitting but standing in the carriage and seems to be 'mid whip'....they must be on their way to a very important celebration!
 If you look closely, you can see part of the horse's harness connecting to the center front of the carriage~ no details were left out! Its just fantastic and utterly amazing that it is not a broken pile of rubble!  I think it is obvious it is my favorite of them all~

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Sweets for your Tree & Tummy~

 Molded Gingerbreads for the Tree

 Forget about the same ol gingy's and their sweet lil gumdrop buttons~ this year, fill your home with the sweet smell of baking gingerbreads.....the entire season long!  In addition to pressing out gingerbread cookies with my springerle molds, I make them as ornaments for the Chrismtas tree as well~ ornaments that you can actually eat~ yum!   Make up your dough a day ahead of time at least, and store in the fridge in an airtight container or zip bag~ be sure to squish all the air out of there!   I like my gingerbreads heavy on the nutmeg~ and only use molasses~ no corn syrup!
  There are a few tricks to getting a good impression with springerle cookie  molds, but don't worry if you don't have any~ you can get out your regular gingerbread man cutter and use that too.
  After your dough has rest at least a day,  its time to press them out~ don't bother to  preheat the oven tho, because these will set at least 24 hours to dry before baking~ it helps to set the impression in the top of the cookie.  Gather your springerle molds, flour, foil, spatula, rolling pin,knife, pastry brush, something like a skewer with a pointy end to make the hanger holes, dough and a parchment lined cookie sheet. Do you really need parchment??? yes.

 I like to roll out my dough on foil~ use a generous amount of flour so the dough wont stick to it~ after I roll out the dough, I take a really thin spatula and slip it under the dough all the way around to be sure its not stuck. With a pastry brush, brush flour into your mold~ you want a light even dusting not only in the deepest areas, but the flat parts as well~ the flat parts are what end up sticking the most. Make sure the deep areas are not filled with flour~ brush all the excess out, then give the mold a tap on the counter to get any last little bits out.  To get really good impressions from the springerle molds, I never press the mold into the dough!  I cut a piece of dough out the size of the cookie mold, pick it up with the spatula, and flip it over onto the cookie mold~
 The dough is pressed into the mold upside down~ I just take my thumbs and press evenly, starting at the bottom and working up to the top~ don't go back and forth or you could get double impressions.  A sharp knife is drawn round the edge in a downward slicing motion, to remove all the excess dough form around the edges of the mold.
  Carefully flip the mold over in your hand, and starting from the closest edge to you, give it a start by just slightly peeling the dough off the mold at the very edge~ once you do this gravity will do the rest for you~ be patient here~ don't go trying to pull it off or it will distort or tear!
 Pressed cookies are placed on a parchment lined cookie sheet~ don't forget to use your skewer and make a hole in the top for the ornament hangers!  These need to set in a cool dry place for at least 24 hours.
  Be sure they are safe from pets and snack snicking husbands.....
 Once dried, cookies are baked~ I bake mine at a low 300 degrees, and because I like them crunchy, will cook them about 15 minutes. If you like a bit softer cookies, cook them about 10-11 min.  I made a couple of sets of the 12 Days of Christmas for the tree, and then let the girls press out normal cookies from their favorites. They have finished baking in the photo above~ letting them set a whole 24 hours to dry helps them to keep crisp designs~ tho bolder ones always come out better than the really intricate springerles.

 They smell so Heavenly!
 There is nothing more fun than asking a guest if they would like to pick an ornament to eat off the tree when they come calling, tho I do like to watch the children drooling over them as they get closer and closer to the Christmas Tree~ if you have pets, be sure to hang them up high enough that they cant get to them.

  As they age they get crunchier and crunchier~ ohh some of the best cookies you will ever eat!  If you would like to try and make some of mine~ here is the recipe~
3&1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp nutmeg
3/8 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1&1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup molasses
4 tsp water

Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl with a whisk. In a separate bowl, mix the oil, water and molasses until its thoroughly integrated.  Pour the wet bowl into the flour bow and mix well with a spoon until a stiff dough forms~ I use a folding motion with a big spoon~ don't use an electric mixer!
 Put in a sealed zip bag in the fridge for 24-48 hours.
 Press cookies then let dry 24 hours before baking.
 Bake cookies on parchemnt lined cookie sheet at 300 degress f, for 10-15 minutes, depending on how crunchy you like them.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Of Pups & Strawberry's

To again revisit the early collection of lampwork glass cake decorations we acquired earlier this year, I start with one of my favorites~ it will need much work to restore. It was originally on a long glass spike like the cupid arches,  but just the nature of the thing made it impossible to display any way but standing straight up and down (more on that later)~ so to display it, the thick glass rod it was on was snapped off and it was then very sloppily glued to a scrap chunk of wood. They were not careful how they broke off the spike, and left a long tail, so the center was drilled out of the wood for it to fit...but then, it must still not have fit very well, as they used the broken glass rods as props to jet in underneath of it all around, to help keep it up on its hideous base. The whole lot was then absolutely smothered in an animal base glue, that will have to be soaked off slowly. YUK!

  and Oh! The wee pups! There are two sets of dogs in the set~ both pairs are on their own footed bases. I Adore these two ~ their bodies made from pink and white opaque glass, they have little black spots and ears~ just look at the detail around the eyes~ I wonder if they were made to resemble actual living dogs~ right down to their red collars. And just look at those pointy tails~ so delicate, but not as delicate as their wee legs~
This once happy chap, looking to me like an English Spaniel.... has sadly lost  their mate~ one can see bits of the four legs still attached to the base where it once stood. He, or she, is amazing~ an absolute amazing example of early lampworkers art!
And yet, another container of strawberries~ this one in a pink accented pedestal base. The berries each carefully made from red/pink glass and firmly attached within the vase.  But why strawberries???? Why would strawberries excite me and make me think of a wedding? Well~ let me explain.
    In Flowers of the Renaissance by Celia Fisher, (page 149),  The 17th c representation of strawberries was such that  “The white flowers and red fruit stood for purity and for Christ’s redeeming blood. The three parts of a strawberry leaf reflected the doctrine of the Trinity, that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit were distinct entities joined in one God”.  On the  flip side, in the 17th & 18th c some felt strawberries
 represent lust and temptation...their inclusion could be a reminder to resist temptations and remain faithful~
  all  would befit a young couple just getting married...... not to mention, wild ones were plentiful and hardy.
 Here is another view of that gorgeous vase of strawberries on that hideous wooden chunk.  Imagine my surprise and absolute amazement when I realized that none of them are connected or attached to the vase~ which would explain why they would have to always be upright to display and not loose all the pieces~
 Can you believe it?! All of the berries and leaves have had their stems drawn out into long spikes that stick down into the vase~ the vase itself like a huge frog.  One can remove them all and rearrange to their liking~ each so delicate, each a work of art in itself.

 *a frog was a cover that could be placed over a vase or container, with cross cross net/wires or holes in the top, that flowers could be placed thru to keep them in place in a floral arrangement