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Friday, September 22, 2023

Deerfield Embroidery


Deerfield embroidery was a style that developed in colonial New England, specifically the town of Deerfield and the surrounding area. It was a form of crewelwork using wool on linen, and the designs were stylized flowers and leaves, often shared with neighbors. 

In the late 19th century, the town became interested in its own history, including the arts and crafts of the colonial era, and two women -- Ellen Miller and Margaret Whiting -- founded the Deerfield Society of Blue and White Needlework. Its purpose was to document and preserve all embroidered works and patterns that they could, and also replicate the designs for their own use or for sale. Wool threads were harder to get at that time, so they used instead linen threads (of a much better quality than we can get today) but stuck to the mostly blue and white palette. Miller and Whiting were accomplished embroiderers who expected the best from their stitchers, and for several decades this artistic community thrived. 

With the Bicentennial fever of the 1970s came a renewed interest in all things colonial, and in 1976 Margery Burnham Howe published this book documenting this history of Deerfield and the Society and devoting a good chunk of it to patterns, stitches, and stitch guides. It's a wonderful resource.

So why am I interested in it? I grew up in western Massachusetts, and went to a private school right in Old Deerfield. We often visited the local museums and restored houses, and of course being little kids we were especially fascinated by the Deerfield Massacre. The first style of embroidery I learned was crewelwork, in a class at my school (every trimester we picked a Friday elective). All this to say, this book made me quite nostalgic.

I intend to buy my own copy (I got this one from the library) so I can stitch several of the patterns; Polly's Parrot in particular is calling to me. In the meantime, I stitched a badge with the logo of the Society, a flax wheel:

I don't actually like blue, so I picked the purpliest blues I had from my stash of crewel wool. The D is in satin stitch and the rest is in New England laidwork, aka Roumanian stitch. Several of the stitches were known by different names then, including buttonhole which was called the spike stitch. The Deerfield embroiderers also invented their own stitch, a variation of herringbone; I hope to learn and use that in the next project.

This book is well-worth adding to your stitch library.

Friday, September 15, 2023

Book Round-Up: I Forgot to Write About Several Books Edition

 It's been a tough year.

Sourdough by Robin Sloan: Lois is a computer programmer who feels lost until she learns how to make sourdough bread. This is not a typical return-to-simpler-things book, though;  Sloan is too smart for that. Lois uses her background in technology to improve the bread making process and joins a collective devoted to cutting-edge food production. It's an unusual book about the delight of making things, and the second one I've read with a sentient sourdough starter.

Better than Fiction by Alexa Martin: This, I'm sorry to say, was a disappointment. The protagonist runs a bookstore even though she hates to read, but instead of a novel about expectations, bookishness, and intellectual snobbery, it was a mediocre romance complete with sassy best friend, meddling aunties, cartoonishly evil antagonist, and secrets that didn't merit the angst they produced.

Emily Wilde's Encyclopedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett: I loved this "cozy historical fantasy" about a British academic dealing with dangerous fairies, skeptical townspeople, and an annoying colleague. I'm excited to read the next one when it comes out this winter.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Jewelry Photo Dump

 I've made a lot of jewelry over the past few months that I forgot to document on the blog, so here it is.

A gorgeous strand of amazonite from Allegory Gallery inspired me to do some knotting again. I added rose quartz, beryl, and faceted moonstone to make a very long necklace that can also be wrapped around my wrist. I don't wear pastel colors much, but this is a lovely combination:

 I don't know how I got it into my head that I needed a Prince necklace, but who am I to turn down an excuse for purple jewelry? The silver charm is one of a pair of earrings, and the beads are a strand of amethyst I got for free from Lima Beads's delightful annual Easter egg hunt on their website.

 While spending hours on the Lima Beads website I found a cute project for necklaces to wear together, so I made two to create a set of sorts with some other necklaces:

 Emily Wilde's Encyclopaedia of Faeries was a fun book with a beautiful cover that inspired me to embroider a pendant with wintry flowers and a sinister hand:

 Many years ago at a needlecraft store I picked up two knotwork pendant kits by Teresa Layman. One I made for my mom right away, and the other languished in a ox until recently. Soooo many knots. French knots, colonial knots, knots where I lost control of the thread ...

 I haven't made brick stitch earrings with fringe in decades, so that had to be remedied. I've included a picture of the first "draft," too wide and with the wrong size thread. More fringe earrings are in my future.

 Finally, a simple necklace I made with the African Christmas beads I can't get enough of:


Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Sue Spargo's Bloomed SAL



I started this back in May, when I was 80 days into the 100DayProject and desperate to stitch something new. For a few weeks, Sue Spargo demonstrated different embroidered flowers and stems, all done on a piece of wool felt. I used a smaller piece, so I only did one of each flower (and omitted a couple). This was a joy to stitch, so fun and pretty.

Some close-ups and in-progress pictures:

To finish it I backed it with a piece of cotton and did some "big stitch" quilting with pearl cotton that matched the felt; as you can tell, I didn't worry about even lines or precision. I was inspired to stitch the false binding closed with french knots, rather than slip stitch -- faster, more fun, and another way to add texture.


Love it! And now I get to put it away until next spring.

Friday, August 18, 2023

Hot Peppers

 Remember the cellini spiral bracelet I made ages ago? I decided I really needed some earrings to go with it (one can never have too many earrings). After browsing through the Cellini Peyote Freaks facebook posts, I settled on the "Pepper" beaded bead designed by Cath Thomas.

Because I wanted to use the same beads I used for the bracelet, I had to size up the called-for beads, from sizes 15, 11, and 8 to 11, 8, and 6. But the pattern also called for size 11 delicas, which would now be too small. Instead I substituted more 11s:

 I wish I had taken a before picture -- mid-process, the beading looked like a total disaster. But when I zipped up the two sides it all came together like magic.

But, I wanted the green to be more prominent. A brief discussion on facebook told me there was such a thing as size 10 delicas, so of course I had to buy some (such a sacrifice, going bead shopping). I'm even more pleased with the results:

As you can see, I also made a chili pepper, just for fun, using the called-for sizes. 


Friday, August 11, 2023

Book Round-Up

 Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh: This satire of "Bright Young Things" between the Wars is sharp and brutal, even laugh-out-loud funny, but as the book progresses it also gets bleaker (Waugh got divorced while he wrote this). I admired it, and I'm glad I read it, but I wasn't in the right headspace to spend so much time with vapid, superficial people. Warning: the n-word shows up a couple of times, which I was not at all expecting.

The Echo of Old Books by Barbara Davis: I'm mad that I read this. It has an interesting premise -- used bookdealer Ashlyn can pick up psychic impressions from books, especially the two she's found that tell both sides of an unhappy love story -- but it was terribly executed. The star-crossed lovers at the heart of the novel were snobby and insufferable, there was fatshaming and slutshaming (meanwhile the "slut" had the most interesting story, and the most integrity, of the bunch), the magic realism aspect was non-existent after the first few chapters, and, worst of all, the author wrote a terrible, offensive portrayal of suicide. I am mystified that this book is as well-reviewed as it is.

Anne of Windy Poplars by L.M. Montgomery: A palate cleanser! I adored the Anne stories as a child, but my paperbacks from the 1980s are falling apart so I'm treating myself to new, hardcover versions. I started with this one because it is my favorite and because it is the hardest to get, as it is not yet in the public domain. Montgomery really is an excellent writer -- perceptive, both clear-eyed about and forgiving of people's faults, and genuinely funny.

Once Upon a Prime: the Wondrous Connections Between Mathematics and Literature by Sarah Hart: Of course I'd be all over a book that unites math and literature. Hart displays both a deep enthusiasm for literature and math and a delightfully dorky sense of humor that made this a fascinating, engaging read. And now my list of books to read is even longer.

White Cat, Black Dog by Kelly Link: One of my favorite authors is back! The short stories in this collection are riffs on classic folktales. Link has a talent for this sort of thing, incorporating modern details like jazzercise, brunch spots, and cellphones while keeping the dreamlike fantasy, and even horror, of the original tales.

Thursday, August 3, 2023

An Early Start

 Disappointed that I didn't get to stitch any 12 Days of Christmas designs last December, I vowed to start early (February, I think) and stitch a few before summer ended. "A few" turned into "one," and that one was a large design (much bigger than I anticipated), but still! I have something to add to the collection!

 The design is from Gazette 94. It's a little too big to count as an ornament, but I love the colors.