Monday, July 23, 2007

Nuts to You, Dog!

Meet the Toaster, a fine canine specimen embodying all of those traits that define dogness. I showed Toaster a picture of the "Tree of Life" motif that decorates many samplers from many nations. He immediately became excited and needed to be let outside.

From the dog's perspective, the tree icon brings about strong mental images, for even the domesticated dog is a hunter and the tree is a rich hunting ground. In both the yard and in the samplers, we sometimes see the tree filled with birds, but when the dog shows up the birds take wing. However, if we fill the tree with chattering squirrels, the dog is endlessly amused. The squirrels are treed long enough to be captured in silk, along with the watching and barking hounds below. What more fitting way is there to portray the "Tree of Life, According to Dogs".

The white dog on the left is Toaster. The tan dog on the right is Gunnar, who belongs to Carrie (of Carrie's Threads) and who is equally squirrelly when it comes to squirrels. I fully expect stitchers to customize this motif to represtent their favorite pups.

In case you were wondering, here is how the overall project is going, this being the lower right quarter.
I should also point out that I do not condone violence against squirrels. I am very thankful that Toaster has yet to even come close to getting a paw on one of these. And it am terribly repelled by the notion that eating squirrel is considered normal in some places. (Haven't they heard of the Mad Squirrel version of Mad Cow disease?!?) Normal enough so that it has even made the folk music headlines. "Squirrel Heads in Gravy" is one of the classic fiddle tunes that our local mountain dulcimer group plays. You can download our sheet music for this song here (honestly!) Catchy little tune.

Now, I wouldn't consider my job complete if I didn't do a little research into possible Dutch implications and coincidences. Are you aware of the Squirrel Rescue Foundation of the Netherlands? It is apparently the only organization in the Netherlands of its kind, AND the only entity that can legally transport and care for the red squirrels there. Dutch squirrel populations are in decline and the government takes that very seriously. I am quite sure postal regulations would prevent me from sending a crateful of critters from my backyard over to Amsterdam, but at least these eight little silk Dutch squirrels will be preserved. (Actually, there are more than eight in the total design but the dogs haven't found them yet.)

Friday, July 13, 2007

Monkey Shines

A small offering this week, but we need plenty of small motifs to fill in the nooks between larger spots.
What Dutch sampler could be complete without the spinning monkey? Although upon first viewing, many of you may not have known what that rather scary looking motif was. The one at right is from Permin's Dutch Beauty. I was enlightened on this whole monkey symbolism after reading a lovely historically-based article in the fall 2006 issue of Sampler and Antique Needlework Quarterly. It's a nice magazine with another stunningly ugly example of that monkey on the issue's cover (it looks like he is wearing a bright red pullover). The monkey typically represented mischief and lechery - the folly of man. In the motif, s/he is usually seated in a chair and hand-spinning flax or something from a distaff. Yes, that really is supposed to be a monkey! In the end, I had to add the ugly ears to my monkey to keep it from looking like a cat on the bicycle.

I am a knitter and a spinner and distinctly recall the conversation I overheard a few years back in a yarn shop that inspired my version of this motif. Two women were talking about this "great new spinning class" they were taking. How the instructor was such a cute guy (!) and how much they were learning. Without blatently eavesdropping, I tried to learn more, but it just wasn't making sense. It was this final confusing remark by one gal that left me with a deep sense of being led on and tricked. She mentioned that she wished the Court Club near her would get their own spinning class so she wouldn't have to cross town. Doh! Even in a yarn shop, "spinning" meant bicycles and not wool.

Perhaps a slight bit of an anachronysm here, as the bicycle wasn't invented until 1817, but it seems perfectly fitting to have a bicycle on a Dutch sampler. The Dutch lead the world (save for China) in bicycle use. I was simultaneously impressed by the Dutch and disgusted by my own country's statistics. I guess the speed skating can only get the Dutchmen from place to place during the winter months.

Needless to say little Monkey Shines liked the retro look and opted for the orange Schwinn with the mustache handlebars. She had them remove the sissy bar (it interfered with her tail) and had them upgrade her to a banana seat.... which she promptly ate.

I did also want to thank everyone who has left such nice comments here and on various forums. I'm glad you are all sharing in my fun, because it wouldn't actually be any fun without having someone with whom to share these jokes.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

The Races of Man

Don't send the ransom money... I have escaped. It's taken a bit longer to get this latest update posted - I guess everything moves a bit slower in the summer heat. Or maybe it was because I foolishly chose color placement in this motif that had me changing thread colors every six stitches. Seriously, I have done entire samplers with fewer color changes! I am, nonetheless, happy with the results and would do it again.

One of the reasons for all the color changes was to ensure diversity. The name of this motif is "The Races of Man" but its not the kind of race you might assume. A classic motif in many samplers (shown above right) depicts the Ages of Man. The Dutch clearly had some secret fountain of youth going, as each of these steps represents a decade in a man's life and most samplers with this motif show 9 or 10 steps (although sometimes the 10th figure is horizontal or ~morbidly~ inside a casket).

Now, five of these little guys seemed plenty for my sampler, lest they completely overrun the bottom row and squeeze out much funnier visual puns.

So where else might we see several little dutch pesons in a pyramid formation? - At the 2006 Winter Olympics awards ceremony! Nine medals: All in Speed Skating. According to the wiki entry, the Dutch have won 75 of their 78 Olympic medals in the Speed Skating department (and the other three in figure skating.) Take note that my medalists are sporting the ubiquitous ringlets in shades of gold, silver, and bronze.

This speed skating trivia fact answers a looming question regarding Dutch samplers - Why are the people always wearing jodpuhrs (see the Mark and Dave motif for some classic Dutchman's Breeches action)? Answer - All Dutchmen are speed skaters and have thighs the size of tree trunks!

Now for that second question - why are they wearing those funny hats?
This is most easily seen using our bronze medalist above. Use your finger to cover up his little pointy hat - He looks just like Larry Fine. Eek. Quickly remove your finger to put his hat
back on.

PS. There is nothing funny about that flower pot.