Sunday, August 28, 2011

Parma Violet: Flower Power

From the beautiful 'Geranium' pink to this week's thread colour, 'Parma Violet'.  A colour with a long history with a flower back to the 1500's, and an association with one of the most powerful men in the history of Europe and the two women he loved.  If you Google Parma violet, you will be referred to; the famous violet flower, oil and acrylic paint colours, cupcakes, nail varnish, eye shadow and perfume.  This is a colour, that evokes the feminine, a colour that is still loved today.  But purple is not the most popular colour when it comes to clothing, and one that you either seem to love or hate.

Photo Courtesy of M.Pierre Barandou, Geraniums d' Aquitaine, S.A., Agen, France

Parma is a city in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy, built before the time of the Roman Empire.  Parma is known for its architecture, University and picturesque countryside.  It is also famous for its association with a flower the Parma violet known as a breed since 16th century, and cultivated in Grasse in the South of France, since 1868.

Empress Marie-Louise and the King of Rome, by Joseph Franque, 1812. 
Napoleon Bonaparte's, second wife Marie-Louise was the first one who distilled violet and made her personal and very own perfume. When Marie-Louise was parted from Napoleon by his deportation to Elba, she lived in Parma as the Duchess of Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla.  Upon her arrival in Parma, Marie-Louise personally controlled the selection of the Parma violet in the Botanical garden.  Light violet, the colour of the flower, became her own favourite colour. Along with the nuns from the Annunciata monastery she produced the essence from the flowers and the leaves of the violet, and succeeded in distilling a perfume that became her personal fragrance, its formula kept secret by the monks.

Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) in His Study at the Tuileries, 1812, by Jacques-Louis David
The delicate violet also seduced Napoleon who took it as his own flower.    
1808 Empress Josephine by Jean-Baptiste Isabey, from the Wallace Collection, London
  After his death a few violets picked from his beloved wife Josephine de Beauharnais' grave were found in his neck medallion.  I love this painting of Josephine, look at that wonderful ruff.  Ahhh ruff's it has been so long since I have made one.  After this post I am going to lose myself in making one.

So what more could you want than that, love and power, hmmmm chocolate, Champagne, diamonds ........ 

But how can we now translate this to a dress, and to be even more defined than that, a dress that could have been made and worn in Tauranga.  Well the answer is delightfully simple, a dress in the same colour from a pattern from the collection in the Brain Watkins House.

Image courtesy of the Tauranga Historical  Society
How does this dress, from a Maudella pattern qualify, apart from the fact that it is shown on the pattern cover made in the same purple shade as the thread?

Image courtesy of the Tauranga Historical  Society
Don't you love the green shoes?  But I digress, what seals the deal for me, is the fact that the model is holding a bunch of violets to her nose, and breathing in their evocative fragrance.  And of course it is spunky little dress don't you think, I love the little kick pleat at the back, fitted skirt and the belt tailor-made in the same fabric as the dress.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Bead work in an Arabian Chocolate Box

 Several years ago a friend gave me this chocolate box, Griffen's Arabian Assorted Chocolates.  I wonder what flavour the chocolates were, turkish delight maybe.

Inside the box was this flyer, for John Noble of Manchester who started an early mail order business for clothing in the late 1800's.

Interesting that one of the woman on the letterhead is dressed in Arabian dress, is there a connection with the chocolate box?

Also in the box were also these two bead work trims and loose beads that appear to have been from other trims that had come apart.

The back of the trim shows the heavy canvas fabric the bead work was sewn on, and the stitching used to attach the beads.  It appears the black bugle beads were sewn on one at a time, and the smaller seed beads threaded and sewn on in lengths.  The larger red beads also appear to have been sewn on individually with red thread.

The trims have a Art Deco kind of feel to me, and if this is so date to the 1930's.  Any thoughts from those with a better understanding of the history of fashion than I.

Recycling and repairing

 My husband's jeans had a hole that was growing and growing like a cancer in my soul.  It was getting a wee bit ruuuuude and the jeans were about to be thrown out.  The problem was they were still sturdy and stout in other places, and he still liked wearing them.

So I thought time to put your money where your mouth is and repair them in such a way that they become more loved and have more meaning.  So here is what I did.

A little patch on the back to add strength and durability, hand sewn on so that the stitches did not show on the other side.

And a rather naive fish with stars in the sky cos of all the nights he has spent out fishing.  Love you my darling.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Embroidery Students

Hallo my darlings, especially my embroidery loving darlings, who have been busy working away on their projects.

 Look at what this darling has done!  I am so proud of her, and I can't wait to see what her embroidery looks like when it is finished.  
 Here are some gorgeous pieces made by another student, although I think she has done embroidery before, but our little group has encouraged her to make these lovely gifts rather than going out and buying something.
 These are soft muslin baby flannels, so much nicer than Baby Wipes.  Aren't they gorgeous?
 And finally, (yes she has been a busy girl), this little scarf, made for a gorgeous little 1 year old darling.

With these lively embroidered flowers.  Well done my talented, creative friend, I love what you have done and can't wait to see what you do next.

So a quick message to all those involved in The Embroidery Project Number 1.  If you want to be illegible for the prize, you have until Wednesday the 31st of August to get a photo of your finished embroidery into me.  This first project will be judged on the execution of stitches, use of colours and tidiness of work overall.  Have fun!  If you haven't got my email address, to send the photo to, message me on Facebook and I will send it out to you.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Colour of Her Dress

The colour of thread that jumped out of the box and said, "pick me, pick me", this week was this luscious pink. Never a favourite colour, I find myself warming to pink and some some of its brighter hues and the way they sit against other colours.

This pink is named Geranium, a name that conjures up images of the Mediterranean coast, with the decks of plastered villas lined with pots of brightly coloured geraniums.   

Isn't it the most wonderful pink?

So what dress would the seamstress who owned the box of threads have sewn.  This 60's cocktail dress caught my eye, especially in the pink.

However I have noticed a definite lean in responses to my posts on: The Colour of Her Dress, towards the fabulous, rather than what a Tauranga seamstress would have had sewn.  This Blog is all about adventures and so I think, The Colour of Her Dress is going to shoot off in a slightly different direction as it appears to be where you want to go, and it is definitely where I want to go.

So let us start with this 1959 Cristo Balenciaga evening dress.
A delicious interpretation of our pink don't you think.

And another one from Cristo Balenciaga, also from 1959, but this time a dinner dress.  The draping is exquisite, such a shame to sit down to dinner on it.

As wonderful as the above dresses are, this colour's story has drawn me to Paris and New York.

 Maybe it is because the American woman who wore this dress worked in New York, on one of the most legendary films about New York and yet was to me, quintessentially Parisian. 

 And yet the dress she made famous in the film she worked on: Breakfast at Tiffany's, was not a pink dress, but this black dress.

 Both dresses were designed by the famous French designer, Givenchy, and yet the pink dress has remained hidden in the shadows.

Count Hubert James Marcel Taffin de Givenchy, born February 21, 1927, is a French aristocrat and fashion designer who founded The House of Givenchy in 1952. He is famous for having designed much of the personal and professional wardrobe of Audrey Hepburn,as well as clothing for clients such as Jacqueline Kennedy.  (From Wikipedia)

Nobody remembers the pink dress, and there is nothing I love more than the underdog, so lets take a closer look.
Here in a scene from Breakfast at Tiffany's, Holly has taken up with the dashing Brazilian Jose, and she is briefly seen in a beautiful hot pink gown (teamed with matching tiara!) which is a departure from her earlier slinky black dresses.

What fascinates me as a museum professional, is what happens to dresses like this, designed by iconic designers, and worn by fabulous movie stars.  The  hot pink cocktail dress actually worn by Audrey during filming of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, ended up in a big Christie’s auction for yet another round of Audrey Hepburn memorabilia. It sold for nearly ten times its estimated selling price of $20,000-30,000 US dollars. The winner of the dress was a European bidder who wished to remain anonymous. 

The same thing had happened with the black dress that had sold in a previous auction.  There too the buyer had wanted to remain anonymous, but it eventually came out that the dress was bought by the House of Givenchy.

And then the pink dress reappeared as part of an exhibition in the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, a museum located in The Hague, the capital city of the Southern Netherlands (also known as Holland).  The museum owns the world's largest collection of Mondrians and one of the largest fashion collections in Europe, in which all the great couture houses are well represented. The original pink Givenchy dress that Audrey Hepburn wore in Breakfast at Tiffany’s is just one famous item in the collection. It also includes earlier pieces that illustrate the history of couture: Worth, Poiret and Vionnet, who were forerunners of the famous couturiers who now define the look of Paris’s Avenue Montaigne.

The Gemeentemuseum Den Haag's website exhibition card reads:  Hubert de Givenchy, Cocktail ensemble: dress and jacket, Paris autumn collection 1960, silk, silk ribbon appliqu├ęs, sequins and glass beads, K 9-1988.1/2. Worn by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961).  The K 9-1988.1/2 number would be the catalogue number for the dress, so if you wanted to visit the museum and ask to see this dress, knowing this number would assist the Registraar to locate it.

Here is a detail of the decoration of the dress, I am not sure if the colours really work, and for me the dress is not an absolute stunner, I think it is the story that fascinates me more than anything.

So my darlings, let me know what you think, and I hope you enjoyed my detective hunt, into the life of a famous dress, that was pushed into the shadows and brought out into the light of fame once again for a short while, before it will be packed away in archival tissue and hidden in the safe darkness of a museum storage facility, waiting for another moment of fame.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Embroidery Project: Number 1

 This is my sampler showing all that I expect for this first project, 3-5 outline stitches.  So don't get put off by thinking your first attempt has to be too fancy, as you can see mine is not.

This is a simple running stitch, a really good one for you to do Isabelle.

 The pink one is a whipped running stitch and the blue one is a whipped backstitch, both stitches are illustrated on Mary Corbet's Needle and Thread website that I have previously given links to.

 Blanket Stitch around the edge.

Chain Stitch, I love this stitch.

 The filling stitch for this leaf is called lattice work, there is a video for how to do it on Mary's site.

 Do you remember this wonderful piece of embroidery I showed you a few days ago.

 Look closely at the flower in the centre.
 It has the same lattice stitch in the centre, with French knots in the centre of each lattice square.

So goodbye for now my precious darlings, and let us continue to be inspired by all that is beautiful around us.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Latest Greatest Trade Me finds.

 Hallo my embroidery loving darlings, I thought I would show you some of my latest finds on Trade Me.  Of course they are all embroidery pieces, which seems to have taken over my creative life at the moment, but there is tailoring and ruff making on the horizon.
Berlin work cushion: C1850 - 1870

This type of embroidery is often called tapestry, but tapestry is a woven fabric with an intermittent weft thread, however the term tapestry is still in general use today for work such as this.  

 If you want to see some really amazing modern day tapestry check out this workshop in Victoria, Australia.

The cushion above is an example of Berlin work. 

In 1804-5 a print seller in Berlin named Phillipson, published the first coloured design for needlework, on checked paper.

Berlin work was popular from the beginning of the 19th century to the 1870’s.                                  

The patterns were engraved onto copper plates and printed onto point (graph or squared) paper.  Each small square representing one stitch contained a symbol indicating which colour of wool to use.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         The patterns were hand-coloured using watercolour paint, following the symbols.  A small block of each colour was painted down the side of the point paper for reference when purchasing the wools.  Men women and children were employed to colour the designs, and were paid a pittance compared to the retail cost of the patterns in needlework shops.  Gail Marsh records in her book, 19th Century Embroidery Techniques, that “The German designs were sold all over Europe, Scandinavia, Russia and America”, but it would appear that they also made their way to New Zealand.  As monthly magazines and journals, such as The Englishwomen’s Domestic Magazine and The Young Ladies Journal, became more available, Berlin wool work patterns were enclosed as a free gift, but these designs were colour printed and of an inferior quality. 
The Berlin thread was known as Zephyr and was made from merino wool.  It was spun in Gotha Germany and dyed in Berlin.  The thread was lightly twisted, had a good loft and covered the canvas well.  It came in a good range of colours but was not strong, and needed to be used in short lengths.  Berlin work was often worked with tiny seed beads, along with the wool.

Unfinished cushion cover worked in a modern day interpretation of Old English Crewel embroidery.
 In the 17th and 18th century there was a great vogue for hangings, bedspreads, and large curtains, embroidered in wools on linen twills.  Many of the designs were inspired by work brought from the East by intrepid travellers who were establishing trade routes with foreign countries.

Can you identify some of the stitches?

I see chain stitch and stem stitch.
The little orange and yellow flowers are executed in a buttonhole stitch.

This lovely piece of canvas work, has been worked in a tent stitch, a simple diagonal stitch.

The verso of the canvas shows the original colours the embroidery was worked in.

See how the ends of the threads are threaded through the back of the canvas rather than knotted off.

So my precious darlings I hope you have learned a little something and read all the text, because you know how much I love book loving darlings.

References for this post: 

Weldon's Encyclopaedia of Needlework 
Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Needlecraft

19th Century Embroidery Techniques, by Gail Marsh