Saturday, August 10, 2013

New Designs

For the past several weeks I have been busy putting the final touches on the charts for three new designs, and late last week I breathed a great sigh of relief when I took them off to the printer.  The designs are scheduled to be released through Norden Crafts at the St. Charles Market, August 22-24, 2013, and you can ask your favorite needlework shop to pre-order them for you.

First is an original design, Evergreen Friendship, which I have dedicated to my wonderful friend Mary.  We met in the summer before our junior year in high school over 50 years ago, and she has been my dearest friend ever since.

The verse I chose for the sampler is one which was popular in autograph books in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
Evergreen Friendship

The model is stitched on 32ct Pecan Butter linen by Lakeside Linens and is stitched with 6 colors of Gentle Arts Sampler threads, one of Weeks Dye Works, and one of DMC.  The stitch count is 133 wide by 113 high and the design size is approximately 8.3 inches by 7.1 inches.  It stitches up quickly, and would make a great gift for your own best friend.

The next design is God Bless My LNS, a little tribute to Local Needlework Shops everywhere.  (Where would we be without them!)  I have dedicated this to my beloved LNS, House of Stitches in La Porte, Indiana.  Linda and her staff have been providing stash enhancement opportunities to area stitchers for over 26 years, and for the past few years have also been doing the same for stitchers all over the world through their website

God Bless My LNS

The model was stitched on 30ct Straw linen by Weeks Dye Works. using ThreadworX overdyed cotton No. 1154 “Bradley’s Balloons”, which contains a delightful rainbow of colors.  Since only one color of floss is used, it would be easy for you to choose your own favorite floss and linen colors if you prefer a more subdued color scheme.  The stitch count is 67 wide by 67 high and the design size is 4.5 inches by 4.5 inches. It stitches up in no time at all and will fit nicely in a standard 6-inch by 6-inch frame. 

And last, but far from least, is the Ann Leech Sampler, a reproduction of an 1827 English sampler, one of my very favorite samplers in my collection.  I adore the bright colors and the wonderful assortment of motifs in this sampler.  It was a joy to chart and stitch.  Here is a photograph of the antique sampler:

Antique Ann Leech Sampler

 The antique sampler was stitched with silk and wool on a linen fabric that has a thread count of approximately 28/30.  The sampler measures about 12.75 inches wide by 16.5 inches high.  Even after 186 years, the colors are amazingly vibrant with very little fading.  Most of the stitching is over two linen threads, with only the lower case letters in the verse and the signature areas stitched over one thread.

The verse on the sampler is from “Pilgrim’s Song”, an early Methodist hymn.  The words were written by English clergyman Robert Seagrave (1693-1759?). and first published in his in his ‘Hymns for Christian Worship” London, 1742.  There is a wonderful website where you can read the words to the entire hymn and at the same time hear the lovely melody:

Here is a photo of the reproduction model:

Ann Leech Sampler Reproduction

 The model is stitched on 29 count Natural Glenshee linen using 18 colors of DMC floss.  It has a stitch count of 178 wide by 254 high.  The design size is approximately 12.3 inches wide by 17.5 inches high, which is a bit narrower and a little longer than the antique sampler. 

The DMC colors are almost perfect matches for the colors in the antique, and the Natural Glenshee linen gives an aged look to the reproduction.  And stitching the over-one areas are a breeze on Glenshee.


Finally, I’d to share with you a "gift" that I found in my backyard the other day.  This lonely, lovely little petunia somehow managed to seed itself and grow in an arid crack in the cement in front of my old barn-like garage.  I had no idea it was growing there, and finding it in bloom was a surprise that made my day! 

Bloom Where You’re Planted

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Happy Mother’s Day!

First of all, I want to wish a Happy Mother’s Day to mothers everywhere!  I hope  you are all blessed with children as caring and thoughtful as mine.  And I hope you will excuse me for indulging in a tribute to my lovely mother, Martha Duke Borg. 
Mom and Me, Winter 1945

As a child I knew I loved my mother and that she loved me, but it wasn’t until I was older that I realized what an extraordinary person she was and what a special childhood she gave to me and my brother and sister.

Martha Elizabeth Duke was born in January of 1910.  She was over a month premature and since there was no central heating she was kept warm with hot water bottles and blankets.  In spite of her precarious beginning, she survived and soon grew into a normal healthy little girl. 

Martha Elizabeth Duke in 1912

My maternal grandmother, Hazel Whitcraft Duke, being an artistic woman, imparted that trait both genetically and by example to her children.  Since child care was rarely an option, Mom recalled spending time in her mother’s millinery shop before she was old enough for school.  And in order to keep little Martha out of trouble, her mother taught her how to make miniature hats which were proudly displayed in the window of the shop.  Many decades later, Mom made a little display recalling those miniature hats of her childhood: 

By the time Mom was 8 years old, her mother was struggling as a single parent to raise Mom and her 6 year old brother Bill.  My grandmother was a rare bird in those days—a career woman.  It wasn’t easy, as you can imagine, especially when the Depression came along.  Grandma began as a talented milliner, and late worked for a company that established hat shops in department stores throughout the Midwest.  This necessitated the family moving to a different town or city every year or so.  (At one time they lived in Waukegan, Illinois, and Mom remembers knowing Jack Benny, whose father owned a haberdashery shop near where Grandma worked.)  Contrary to what you might think, moving frequently brought this family of three even closer together.  Mom often recalled all the fun they had as a family, even though there was rarely any money once their basic necessities were met.  Laughter didn’t cost a cent.

As Mom grew up, she learned to make her own clothes, designing the patterns herself.  She loved to draw and paint, and her goal was to become an art teacher.  By the time Mom was a teenager, the family had settled down in La Porte, Indiana, where Grandma worked for a local department store in various capacities, eventually becoming the head buyer for the ladies’ wear department.  To illustrate what a modern woman my grandmother was, beginning in the 1930s she was flying to New York on buying trips, rather than taking the train.  As an article in the local newspaper on the occasion of Grandma’s first trip by airplane stated, ”It was her first flight and was most thrilling, but of course Mrs. Duke has to become air-minded because her son, Bill, is a recent graduate of the Boeing School of Aeronautics in Oakland, Calif., and is now connected with the United Airlines.”  (He later became the head mechanic for American Airlines at Midway Airport.)

Here is a photo of my grandmother, Hazel Whitcraft Duke, boarding a United Airlines passenger plane at Midway Airport in Chicago on August 24, 1934, for her first airplane trip to New York.  Looks a bit primitive, doesn’t it?

As soon as my mother was old enough to get a work permit, she began working every day after school, and on Saturdays at the department store.

My Mother, the Flapper

After graduating from high school in 1928  (Wouldn’t it have been fun to come of age in the “Roaring Twenties”?) she had saved enough to enroll at the Art Institute of Chicago.

       Two of Mom’s watercolors done circa 1929-30 while a student at the Art Institute

She attended classes at the Art Institute for close to two years, living in a boarding house for girls and waiting tables for her keep.  But then illness forced her to drop out of school, and she returned to La Porte and resumed working at the department store, contributing her income to the family.  About this time she met my father, and after a courtship of 7 years, (trying to outwait the Depression?) they were married.  Mom was 27 and Dad was 29.  There were no wedding photos, but this is one of my favorite pictures of them at that time.

Bernard and Martha Borg, circa 1937

Now her job was being a housewife and mother.  Time were hard—the Depression was still going strong, and then came World War II with its own set of difficulties.  From her earliest years, Mom was able to make something out of nothing.  The old adage:  Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without” could have been written by and for my mother.  I must admit that at times while growing up, I was embarrassed by this frugality—I didn’t realize  then that it was fueled by necessity. 

Mom taught herself to do everything--upholster, make slipcovers and curtains, as well as our clothes, do carpentry, plumbing, and fix just about anything that needed fixing or make anything that needed making.  She found time to be involved in our school functions, and she was a girl scout leader for many years.  I well remember one time she had our entire girl scout troop making Christmas cookies on card tables throughout our house.  Can you imagine the chaos, not to mention the mess, with cookie dough everywhere?  But it didn’t faze Mom in the least.

In spite of her busy home life, Mom never lost the art “bug”, though, and throughout the rest of her life she never stopped learning new things about art.

In the early to mid 1950s, with all three of us settled in school, Mom taught at a community crafts program, teaching any craft that the adult students wished to learn.  Often she had no background in a certain craft, so she taught herself how to do it, frequently without any instruction books to help her.  She would keep a couple of lessons ahead of the class, both learning and teaching at the same time.  In the storeroom of the community center, she once found an old table-sized loom in pieces.  Never having done any weaving before, she still managed to put the loom back together, taught herself how to “string” it, and learned to weave throw rugs so that she could teach her students yet another craft.

In our small town, there was no place to buy craft supplies, so to make it easier for her students to acquire what they needed, Mom acquired a retail sales license and opened “The Craft Shop” on our small back porch.  It was crammed full of supplies for crafts like basket weaving, pottery making, copper enameling, bead weaving and other bead work, sketching, painting, and plaster casting to name just a few.  With that wondrous back porch to keep us occupied, my younger brother and I were never bored, nor were the neighbor kids!  We were always able to find interesting projects to keep us occupied.

After her family was grown and Mom and Dad were “empty-nesters”, Mom became interested in crafts that were popular in the 1970s:  Apple-Head Dolls, Cornhusk Dolls, etc.  She found a market for her doll creations and they were sold throughout the country for several years.

She then became fascinated with the beautiful Russian Faberge eggs and taught herself the art of decorating goose (and other) eggs.  She became so good at it that she was invited to join an exclusive national Egg Art group and she and Dad attended shows all over the country.  The creations of all the women in this group were astoundingly beautiful.  What set Mom’s pieces apart from the rest, though, was the fact that aside from some of the more basic embellishments, most of the materials that went into Mom’s creations were “found objects”, bought at garage and yard sales.  She managed to combine them into pieces that rivaled those that had cost hundreds of dollars to make.

The egg shown below is one of my favorites.  Mom sliced a goose egg lengthwise into 8 sections.  (Can you imagine trying to do that?)  She then hinged the sections together,  and inserted on the fronts and backs of the center six sections her paintings of songbirds, finally added gold braid and other embellishments.
This is the closed egg resting on it’s side.

This is one side of the egg when opened up

And this is the reverse side


 Another of my favorites is made from a chicken egg nested inside a duck egg, which is nested inside a goose egg.  Notice the birds and the tiny flowers—all of which were handmade by Mom.

This shadow box is very special to me.  Nearly everything in this little kitchen scene is made from eggs—the pot-bellied stove, chandelier, wall pocket, fruit bowl, coal scuttle, “salt-glazed” butter churn, and all the little knick-knacks.  And the blue striped “wallpaper” is leftover fabric from one of my maternity dresses!


This is my darling Bird Girl.  Mom made the cornhusk doll and all the birds and other animals that she is feeding.  This fragile beauty lives under a glass dome, which I removed so that I could get a better photograph.

Mom made hundreds of egg creations over the years and sold most of them.  She made many Christmas ornaments, cake toppers for wedding cakes, and very elegant Faberge-like items.  She made a lovely Victorian clock out of a huge ostrich egg, and an elaborate perfume container out of a beautiful black emu egg.  Unfortunately, I do not have good photos of those stunning pieces.

Some of the joy went out of Mom's life when my father passed away in 1995, But in spite of that, she was unstoppable.   Even  well into her 80s, Mom continued to take art lessons, belonged to a local art league, and exhibited and sold her oils, acrylics, and watercolors.  She was living proof that you’re never too old to learn.  Sadly, about this time she developed macular degeneration, which affected her eyesight.  But that didn’t stop Mom!  She continued to do lovely paintings and create unique greeting cards until the last year of her life.

  Mom painted this when she was in her 80s.  It is a scene showing a walking trail in a local park.  In the lower right corner of the frame, Mom inserted a photograph of her and my father which was taken at that very same trail some 60 years earlier.


Even after her eyesight began failing her badly, Mom stayed creative and kept a positive attitude, saying that her art became more abstract as her eyes got worse.  Above are some of the greeting cards that she made in her late 80s and early 90s.


 Martha Duke Borg in 2003 at the age of 93

Until the last 8 months of her life, Mom lived independently in her own home, and even after she became ill, she was able to remain in her beloved home with a live-in caregiver.  And perhaps it will come as no surprise to you that Mom had designed that home herself, over 40 years earlier.

My mother passed away in 2005 at the age of 95.  She had been in less than perfect health much of her life, and I know she never expected to live even half that long.  When we celebrated her last birthday, she was surprised when we reminded her that she was 95 years old!

I know I'm biased, but I think my mother was a truly remarkable woman, and I miss her every day!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

2013 Nashville Market Releases

I can't believe it's almost time for the 2013 Nashville Market!  I had hoped that my Ann Leech reproduction would be ready in time, but unfortunately I'm still plugging along on the model.  So Ann will have to wait until another day!

The two C Street Samplerworks designs that will be released at the Nashville market are Heavenly Paradise and Elizabeth Girling.

An Original Adam and Eve Design

The Heavenly Paradise model was stitched on 28ct Light Espresso linen by R&R Reproductions, using Weeks Dye Works and DMC floss.  The stitch count is 105 wide x 93 high, and the design measures approximately 7.5” wide x 6.6” high, when stitched on 28 count linen.  A variety of stitches are used, including Cross-both over two and over one, Satin, Round Rhodes, Double Leviathan, Rice, Smyrna Cross, and Round Eyelet.

The verse is from a poem by Thomas Campion, an English composer, poet, and physician who lived from 1567 to 1620.  I found the quotation in my 1937 edition of Bartlett’s Quotations, and it fit in perfectly with the Garden of Eden theme.  Recently I have found that several sources quote the poem as “ wherein all pleasant fruits do flow.”  But I’m going to go with my trusty 1937 volume and stick with “grow”!

A Reproduction of an 1813 English Sampler

The Elizabeth Girling model was stitched on 28ct Claire's Classic linen by R&R Reproductions, but if I were going to stitch it again, I think I'd use Lakeside Linen's beautiful Pecan Butter linen, which was not available at the time.

The stitch count of the reproduction is 96 wide x 152h, and when stitched on 28 count linen, and the size is about is 6.9 inches wide x 10.9 inches high.  That is very close to the size of the original sampler, which measures approximately 6.6 inches by 11 inches.


Elizabeth's sampler apparently was never framed, but was hemstitched and basted to a heavy laid rag paper of the type which was used in the 18th and early 19th centuries.  If you look closely, you can see a little loop at the top.  It is a buttonhole loop, and it's grubbiness tells me that Elizabeth's sweet little sampler was displayed proudly for many years.

Now that these two charts are all packed up and ready to go to Nashville, I am going to concentrate on finishing the Ann Leech model.  This is a reproduction of a delightfully colorful 1827 sampler which is loaded with fun-to-stitch motifs and borders.  I have researched the stitcher, and it appears that Ann was born in 1814 in the village of St. Bees, Cumbria, England Check out the St. Bees website to see what a picturesque and interesting place it is! 

Hope you all have a wonderful Valentine's Day!