Embroidered Monogram IBL with flowers


IBL monogram (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

Sun (though not really with any warmth), flowering shrubs (quince in the hedge, pink camellias and pale pink viburnums visible in next door’s garden), slightly lighter evenings and a temporary tendency to hibernation have meant this week has been quite productive with the needles and I’m almost tempted to to believe I’m catching up with my backlog. As you might have noticed this monogram is for a girl born in 2011! Some backlog! Oh well, better late than never, etc. A bit of jolly floral embroidery is always a lovely thing to do and though I did a detailed sketch, I found I kept changing things as things progressed and as  the mood took me. As well as this monogram, I’ve completed a couple of whitework initials, knitted all but the sleeves of a little cardigan and satisfied myself with a sample Fair Isle panel for another cardigan.

Detail of IBL monogram (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

Next week is full and there will be little time for hands on sewing. Monday and Tuesday we are in London for another appointment at Moorfields Eye Hospital where my husband hopes his eye problem is sufficiently stable for them to give him Botox to treat a long standing squint and double vision. This has worked brilliantly in the past and we are hopeful  it will again.

Detail of IBL monogram (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

On Tuesday, while he sees people in The National Gallery to talk about his research, I shall go to The Cloth House and wallow in looking at all they have to offer without being in a rush to catch a bus or train. I now need more plain white linen of a nice weight and handle for monograms and embroidered cushions. Sadly, places selling such a simple, basic, quality fabric are getting few and far between. I love John Lewis but am grief stricken at the decline of their fabric departments – dressmaking but especially furnishing. For years I bought their wonderful Appleby fabric – 55% cotton 45% linen (or it might have been vice versa). I’d wash it at 95 degrees C so it would shrink no more and from it I made blinds for all the rooms in my 6 bedroom London house and a box pleated valance for a double bed. (People knocked on the door to find where I had my blinds from. I sold them for next to nothing with the house – should have saved them and used them elsewhere.) Appleby also came in numerous lovely colours, which were tough enough for floor cushions yet smart enough for the sofa too. Appleby next came with 13 % nylon, but still mainly cotton and linen, which was just about ok. Then it disappeared altogether. At this point I moved on to Heavy Casement – 100% cotton, quite rough with a slub but so reasonable at £8 a metre. I made blinds for my daughter’s house out of this.  Now Heavy Casement too has disappeared but even worse, John Lewis seem to have no similar fabric that doesn’t have polyester. I do despair. The Cloth House is also great for hand blocked Indian cotton and I shall be tempted to buy some of this to cover scrap books and files for embroidery sketches. I may visit the big John Lewis but with a heavy heart. Hope the company’s new chair Sharon White has had time for some home sewing during her meteoric rise and can look at the relevant departments with a kindly eye.

Sketch for IBL monogram (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

Thursday and Friday we have this month’s U3A Art Appreciation which David does at The Wilson (Cheltenham At Gallery and Museum). I sent out numerous Christmas cards suggesting to old friends that they come over for one of these sessions and  combine it with lunch – wouldn’t you know it, more than enough positive replies came back such that we’ve had to suggest March’s sessions too!

Alternative sketch for IBL monogram Suzani style.

I still have an unadorned fourth finger on my left hand – which feels very strange – but last week we met up with the maker of the original ring who has taken away my engagement ring so a new wedding ring will fit along side it. The old one had been blessed by a priest who later became Bishop of Monmouth but has since retired. I’m wondering whether we should seek him out to bless the new one – or am I letting what amounts to niggling superstition get the better of me?

Tomorrow our spring like weather is about to break and we are forecast the most severe storm since 2013, far too prettily name Storm Ciara, which is the third named storm of the season.  We hope we can get to London.

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Embroidered Elizabethan jackets: mine and 2 painted


Elizabethan jacket modelled by daughter No 2 and hand embroidered by Mary Addison

How we pride ourselves on being observant and yet how often do we miss what’s right in front of us! Regularly, during my husband’s U3A art appreciation sessions in The Wilson (aka Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum) he shows slides of  paintings I am sure I’ve never seen before yet which he astounds me by saying they are at that very moment hanging in the galleries above our heads.  When you consider my passion for embroidered Elizabethan jackets – a passion taken as far as to actually make one myself –  it’s even more remarkable that I missed dear little Amy Seymour in her Sunday best. (Click on the link to take you to the first of 5 blogs about making this jacket, which I did whenI was 18.)

Peake, Robert; Amy Seymour; Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/amy-seymour-61967

Amy Seymour (1597-1639), the wife of Edward Parker, was painted by Robert Peake or one of his followers in 1623, when she was  29. Her splendid  jacket is unusual for the genre in that birds are more prominent than flowers among the curlicues of gold thread. The flowers themselves are indistinct – possibly including honeysuckle and those pink fringed pom pom daisies (though these could be cherries or roses). Amy is obviously partial to a nice bit of lace for she has double lace edged cuffs, gold lace around the bottom of the jacket and along the top of the arm where the bodice joins the sleeve, and the very finest of lace draped around her neck in the manner of a neckerchief, rather than the more usual turn down collar or even ruff which might well have topped such a jacket just 20 or so years before.  These jackets were fashionable across the turn of the C17th so it is the accessories that confirm the date of paintings like this. A ruff would suggest Elizabethan while an ornate lace edged collar  is firmly Jacobean. This makes sense as a highly decorated jacket would be a treasured possession, handed on in the family and dressed up or down with newly styled collar and cuffs according to the changing fashion.

British (English) School; Amy Seymour (1597-1639), Mrs Edward Parker; National Trust, Trerice; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/amy-seymour-15971639-mrs-edward-parker-101055

There is an almost identical second portrait of Amy, also by Peake or a follower and also dated 1623. This can be seen in Trerice, a National Trust house near Newquay. I don’t know which portrait was painted first but that there were 2 should come as no surprise for it was part of Peake’s job as Serjeant Painter to the court of James I of England (from 1707) to produce copies of paintings when required. However, lucky girl Amy seems to have another, quite different but equally ornate jacket. Where the Cheltenham painting has two pairs of bird at the front of the bodice, the Trerice jacket has two cartouches with mythological figures, one very obviously with Cupid and Venus, while the other has a muscular male figure – possibly Mars?. Gold Curlicues are less tightly coiled and distributed differently. The flowers look more like roses, which makes me think those on the Cheltenham painting may be roses too and that perhaps they were part of  some personal device specific to Amy.  On the sleeve a deer is clearly visible and above it sits what seems like a little ornate pavilion – most unusual. Lace on the edge of the jacket and on the cuffs seems different but the collar appears to be the same.  Apart from a slightly more wavy hairstyle, it’s the jackets that cry for attention. Did she say to the painter, Oh forget about little old me, just get my jacket right!

Elizabethan jacket: unicorn (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

Our U3A group wondered about the wrist cord attached to a ring on her finger. I read somewhere that this was a perfectly usual way of wearing a ring, especially if the ring is a bit too big and liable to slip off. (I should have done this with my wedding ring which, slightly loose verging on very loose in the cold, flew off my hand – I think – when I was sorting the recycling into the bins after Christmas. Hand made, curving to fit under my equally unique engagement ring, we are having to have a replacement made. I feel quite uncomfortable without it. So, next time I’ll have to go for the cord and wrist security device!)

Embroidered Elizabethan Jacket: Cornflower (hand embroidered by May Addison)

The painter, Robert Peake, like the jacket, spanned both Elizabeth’s and James I’s reign. In 1604, he was appointed picture maker to Prince Henry, James I’s  heir. He specialised in vibrantly coloured full length costume pieces, unique to the English painters at this time and epitomised in the jewelled miniature enamel portraits of Nicholas Hilliard. Peake’s paintings of the young prince are more dynamic and lively than the usual portraits of the time, yet already his semi naive style was becoming old fashioned and it seems his creativity was collapsing into the formulaic. Interestingly, court accounts show Prince Henry paid more for his tennis balls than for his portraits!(*see below) Prince Henry died in 1612 and Peake moved on to the household of Prince Charles (later King Charles I).

Embroidered Elizabethan Jacket: Stag 9hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

*In Mary Edmond’s book ‘Hilliard and Oliver: Lives and Works of Two Great Miniaturists’, we learn that in October 1608, Peake was paid £7 for “pictures made by his highness command”  while in 1609, the prince (Prince Henry) paid £8 for tennis balls in April, £7.10s in May and £8.10s in June.

Embroidered Elizabethan Jacket (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

IT has been a sad week for us, with news of the sudden death of a great and unique friend, Bruce Wannell, who I first blogged about here. Diagnosed with pancreatic cancer only in December, we expected him to live through till at least spring and possibly summer. Friends rallied round and a project began to get those who so desired to each write a short piece about him which he would then ‘edit’, happily going over the part he played in the lives of others, chuckling, tutting and footnoting his way through his few months. A great plan for the perfect death. Well, it didn’t happen like that.

The first many friends knew of his death was when they were rung by his cancer specialist (whose name I hadn’t recognised, so I googled her and discovered she was his doctor!). Womanfully and beyond the call of her professional duty, she was ringing news of Bruce’s death to all the many names in his mobile’s address book. I’m assuming Bruce hadn’t known her for very long but then again, it’s no surprise that he was still able to exert his charm and enviable power to delegate even on his deathbed. Well done Bruce! You will be greatly missed.


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