Saturday, April 12, 2008

Volmaakt en Volbracht

Fitting, that the tulips were in bloom.

The chart for Dutch Beast (which includes the extensive blathering on historical origins of motifs, explanations of these mutated motifs, references to obscurata, etc.) will make its sale debut at the Online Needlework Show, which starts April 16th. This is a "wholesale only" event, so stitchers who want to get this chart should hint loudly to their favorite LNS or ONS. Retail price will be $18. I'll make it available in the Ink Circles on-line shop on May 1. This delay is not to tease my customers, but is to keep our LNS in the action. I'm certain that Vikki Clayton will make a silk packet available with the colors of her silk I used, but I will also provide a DMC conversion with the chart. BTW, fabric is the absolutely lovely "Vintage Navy Bean" 40 count by Lakeside Linens.

This has been a joy to share with you. I thank everyone for their enthusiasm and wonderful comments. I don't think any of you will ever look at a Dutch Sampler quite the same way. Best of luck explaining the giggles.

Happy Stitching,

Friday, April 11, 2008

Finally, The Original Sin

Perhaps I have been postponing this entry because I don't want it to end, but my story has to end before you can begin making it yours.

Where does a story begin? Although cross stitch samplers don't date back to the beginning of the human race, some believe that human story began with this pair. Amazingly, the Bible, the Torah, and the Koran all agree on this point. Can you believe it? (Or, in official Cockney rhyming slang: Can you Adam and Eve it?)

From the time samplers did appear on the scene, this pair has been immortalized as a motif symbolizing good and evil. Criss Cross Row has an entire web page devoted to Adam and Eve Samplers - twenty one different designs at the time of writing this.
This particular one is by Samplar Works and features all of the key elements in their simplicity: a man, a woman, a snake, and an apple.

Eve was, of course, not the only woman to be totally hosed over by accepting a nice juicy apple. We all know how history repeats itself. I couldn't imagine trying to document the untold fates of various women who accepted one too many "Poison Apples" (1 part Absolut, 1 part Apple Liqueur). And you all recognize this hag, "Take it Dearie!"

I live in Washington state, over on the dry-side where we have acre upon acre of apple orchard, in many varieties that you have probably never heard of. The Washington Apple Commission has been trying for years to sue Disney for maligning our poor state fruit. In attempts to smooth relationships (or avoid Apple related lawsuits), Disney has put Steve Jobs on the Board of Directors. The Commission is now working on their case against the bible. For more apple lawsuits, read here.
So here she is, Snow White, along with the seven donut heads. By the way, this is an ongoing debate in the Netherlands as to the proper naming of the dwarves. Some factions strongly upholding the English monikers of Doc, Happy, Grumpy, Sleepy, Sneezy, Bashful, and Dopey. Dutch Disney authorities have been promoting the translated names: Doc, Giegel, Grumpy, Dommel, Niezel, Bloosje, and Stoetel. (Perhaps Grumpy and Doc didn't translate well.)

I got to wondering whether dwarven donuts were similar to donettes (a registered trademark of the Hostess company), but I could get over the 6-to-a-package vs 7 dwarves incongruity. I was much relieved to find on the Hostess web site that donettes came in larger packages. So we can refer to these guys now as the seven donette-heads.
And something else I learned, quoting Hostess,"Hostess didn't create the world's first donut — credit goes to Dutch bakers perhaps hundreds of years earlier." That is our ever-present network of coincidences in action.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Four Virgins Too Many

Another biblical parable leads us to today's motif. You may have seen this parade of ladies and wondered what exactly was going on. Here are two versions found on antique samplers:

The ladies are always divided into two groups of 5 each, and there is usually some matronly figure in the middle. You will have to take my word that they are virginal - it's hard to represent that in cross stitch. It seems five of the gals never caught on to the importance of proper prior planning and have let their lamps go out. As the ten wait for the (singular) bridegroom to arrive to take them to the wedding, only the wise girls have brought along extra oil to keep their lamps burning (you can see the jerry cans beside them in the lower version). When the suitor finally ambles in after midnight, five of the girls had gone back into town to get more oil since the wise virgins refused to share. The bridegroom heads out with the girl scouts and the others are left out in the cold. I do not know what activities ensued between the unchaperoned suitor and his five wise virgins. (Everybody sing: Five girls for ev - ry boy.) I don't think that an embroidered depiction is appropriate. This is all supposed to be a parable for the Second Coming and you can read more about it in the wikipedia.

Besides the scores of painting and sculptures, this motif has been a popular one for samplers in many lands. Once again Julia Line of Long Dog Samplers has made an outstanding rendition of of a classic motif in her "Wise and Foolish" sampler (on the left). On the right is a Norwegian version by Lucy Lyons Willis with the foolish virgins sobbing into their hankies.

Rather than cross the bounds of good taste and show what troubles five foolish virgins could really get into, mock thier ample hips, or introduce the Energizer Bunny or AAA roadside assistance, I decided an animal stand in would be a good plan. If it were but two virgins (one wise/one foolish), I could have used cows to created by own rendition of this "pair of bull".

So, that is when I came back to my thinking of what else shows up on these samplers in great numbers.

If my sampler had been wider, I could have done Four and Twenty Blackbirds: Twelve Wise and Twelve Foolish.

This has been the penultimate installment of the Chronicles of the Dutch Beast. Check back for the Final (and Original) Sin.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

How Do You Translate 'QWERTY' to Dutch?

Given enough monkeys typing randomly on American-English typewriters , they would eventually reproduce the complete text of the Dutch Beast blog entries. In other countries, our familiar 26 letter alphabet might not be enough to do the trick. Most modern alphabets owe their root to the written script that originated in the Canaanite region in ~1800 BC. (Yes that is the same Canaan that brought us Joshua and Caleb.) As languages diverged and developed, letters were added and changed. One of the ways sampler historians date and place sampler is to look at the alphabets and take note of what they see... and what they don't see.

In doing the research for the alphabet motifs that I would use on this sampler, I wondered idly about the minimum number of letters ever seen on a sampler. This side track led to my Hawaiian Mandala Sampler, which celebrates those twelve little letters that the Hawaiian Monkeys would have on their keyboards.

Today we get the Beast's Tiny Alphabet that goes along with the Big Honkin' Initials. You probably weren't expecting a J, but you are also being deprived of your Q, V, X, Y, Z (at least initially). Hey, where did that V go?

For those of you that are readers, I must share with you this fun book I've read that called "Ella Minnow Pea: a progressively lipogrammatically epistolary fable." An isolated society worships the gent that penned the phrase about the quick brown fox. As the ceramic tiles bearing the letters in that phrase fall one-by-one, the government officially bans each letter from all usage. It's a nice fable about out-of-control totalitarianistic government and free speech, but also entertaining to decipher as the characters creatively try to communicate using fewer and fewer of our 26 letters.

You may have noticed that I snuck in this fountain motif below the alphabet. Fountains are not terribly common, but certainly they show up on many Dutch samplers, commonly with birds. Then again, the Dutch have sprinkled their birds liberally onto the samplers. Yet, I don't think I've seen a single cat on one. That must be what has led these birds to their false sense of security. I've slipped this short paragraph into the text here, hoping not to cause a big stir. You see, I am anxious to see whether the cat gets dinner or ends up taking a bath. Shhhhh...

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Airspeed of an Unladen Eagle

Every school child is taught that Benjamin Franklin argued for the turkey to be the American national bird. Despite the eagle's less "noble" characteristics, it somehow beat out the competition. I haven't noticed the turkey prominent on antique samplers, but eagles abound. The Ben Franklins of the world must have saved their energies for other battles because the popular eagle pops its head in on the crests, flags, and coats of arms around the globe: from Nigeria to the Phillipines, from Mexico to Poland.

As with all creatures, as some point a mutation occurs. The eagle sprouts a second head, and contrary to logic, this dual-headed beast seems to thrive. This is not to be confused with the American Double-Eagle ($20 gold coin) which is quite rare, or the "double eagle" three strokes under par for a single golf hole, which is even rarer if you insist on witnesses. Earliest 2h eagle sightings were back in the 20th century BC with the Hittites, but the beast really took off with the rise of the Byzantines.

The two heads sometimes represented dual sovereignty, but many countries adopted this motif merely because, "It looked way cooler than that ordinary eagle," as one spokeman stated. The town of Berg en Terblijt in the Netherlands uses this fine black 2h eagle on their coat of arms.

Naturally, the 2h eagle motif shows up in many antique samplers such as Zeeland 1763 by Permin. Looking through my stash and WIP pile, I see it is also making many appearances on modern samplers that feature antique-style motifs such as Paradigm Lost (left) and Renaissance by Long Dog, etc.

Ripley's Museum boasts a 2h magpie. 2H snakes, turtles, and common farm animals abound. The BBC share this picture of a three-head/six legged frog (don't let him near your stitching!). There are mutant examples all over, but one must wonder why the 2h eagle rose to the level of respect and ubiquity it has, when the rest of the 2h menagerie is written off as freaks? National Geographic has a nice article written about the difficulties a typical 2h organism would face, particularly with feeding itself.

Hey 2h eagle has gotta eat, right? So if this is a video showing that a golden eagle CAN carry away a red fox, then why are these eagle stories all just Urban Legends? (Probably the part of the story about the husband cheering just out of range of the sobbing wife.)

"¡Yo quiero Chihuahua!".
And for those chihuahua lovers out there that might be offended, just add a few stitches in the tail area and say it is a cat... Unless you are also a cat lover. In which case you can improvise independently.

Monday, February 4, 2008

That's My Name and I Am Proud of It!

Ever wondered if your name would translate into something really embarrassing in a foreign language? How about your initials spelling something that was a real *PITA*. The baby name guidance of today is quick to warn parents to check that little sweet pea's initials will be as pleasant as that new baby smell. But how were the Dutch of 200 years ago supposed to know *WTF* the acronyms in today's English venacular would be. *LOL*

Really stupid, really real discussions abound on baby naming forums for some prime examples of parental cruelty or ignorance. The silliest name I ever personally encountered was Mrs. Olive Green. She went to our church when I was small.
I wonder if the LL Bean monogramming department ever had to turn someone down? I can certainly envision a worker calling his coworkers over to share a good chuckle. I know the DMV certainly does screen their custom license plates. And remember this embarrassing NFL moment? Does the International English Honor Society think they totally escape ridicule by using their little greek letters? And with text messaging rampant among our teens, new acronyms are becoming popularized every minute.

Imagine finding a steamer trunk in your elderly neighbor's recently deceased great-aunt's attic. Inside is the most beautiful antique sampler you have ever seen. The trunk even has the documentation to help date it back to 1750 (I probably need a few more "greats" in the timeline to make it work). The only catch, her great aunt's great-great-grandmother that stitched it was named Anneke Saartje Smit. Oh yeah, they were from Friesland, in the northern Netherlands, home of the Big Honkin' Initials.
Well, fortunately, that is not the sampler of current discussion. (And anyway, traditionally the Dutch did not actually use middle names in that time period.) Sampler 1761 reproduction by Permin is the Queen of the Big Honkin' Dutch Initials. Another fine Friesian example. Now here is a wonderful success story of a trunk in Lilian's Aunt's Attic that has a much happier ending.

However, my Dutch sampler did need some initials. I rely on the tussenvoegsel to give me a third inital and enough material to hopefully stir up a giggle, but not too much more. Bestina's last name was "van Drachten." So, here we are so far (the size of the crop represents the finished size more or less - we ARE getting close):
Enough little donuts to keep a powder sugar mustache on Homer Simpson all week.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Would It Really Be Better on a Ritz?

The pelican is the ancient symbol of sacrificial service, the mother bird ripping open her breast to feed blood to the little pelican chicks. Yeah, I do that all the time for MY kids. Our friends in Louisiana surely recognize this motif. It's on their flag, although it wasn't until 2006 that officials decided it wasnt gory enough and added the three drops of blood.

This is probably the easiest old sampler motif to identify, as it is very popular. Without knowing what you were looking at, you may or may not have been able to deduce what the birds were doing due to the cross stitch pixelation resolution. Now you know. Only one of the 8 species of pelicans is found in the Netherlands, but judging from the variation in pelican appearance on samplers you would think you could fill a zoo.

  • Renaissance by Long Dog
  • Permin Sampler 1749.
  • I could go on, but so could you. Consider it a scavenger hunt challenge for you sampler enthusiasts.
So what do pelicans actually eat?
Fish! Not exciting, actually, we all knew that.
Pigeons! See the video.
Puppies and Babies? NO we don't buy that one, but it was a good try.

Did they ever think to ask the pelican offspring? Did the Blood Commission run a series of pelican adverts.... "Blood, it's whats for dinner."

What would your little pelicans prefer? (I'm glad mine outgrew the happy meal phase very quickly.)

On the Dutch Beast, we shall be serving up a simple brown bag lunch. If the kids don't like it, they can trade with their table-mates.