Friday, October 17, 2014

A Wonderful Collection!

The Ashmolean Museum, in Oxford, England recently held an exhibition of a needlework collection they received as a gift. The gift consists of one of the word’s finest collections of historic English embroideries and was given by collectors, Michéal and Elizabeth Feller. In all 61 pieces comprise the collection which spans the seventeenth century. The exhibition, The Eye of the Needle, ran until 12 October.

Donor, Elizabeth Feller says that it is thanks to her mother’s influence, sewing and embroidery has been a meaningful activity throughout her life. The collection began with pieces worked by other people and consisted of small household items such as needlepoint cushions and went on to include samplers, panels and other items. All are steeped in English history and stories of the people who embroidered them.

Michéal and Elizabeth Feller are long term residents of Oxford and own a butcher’s shop in the City’s covered market.

The following description of the embroideries is from the museum website (

The pieces which have been given to the Museum are seventeenth-century embroideries which include dramatic pictorial panels, samplers, domestic items and costume pieces. These embroideries were made during one of the most turbulent centuries in English history, when religious and political conflict split families and the country. Beyond the opportunity for demonstrating technical ability, the embroideries illustrate the themes and concerns which occupied the minds of the young women making them. They often depict biblical stories at a time when religious issues, including the use of images, aroused great controversy. Similarly, during a period of increasing urbanization the pictorial pieces show idyllic country scenes with imaginary creatures and flowers.

Exquisite objects in their own right made with colourful silks, pearls, and semi-precious stones, the embroideries also reflect the religious, political and social concerns of the English Civil War period.


Besides telling a story and history of the period, looking at some of these pieces I wonder how they were created with such fine work and wonderful colours when the embroiderer had none of the modern equipment we today take for granted. Not for them the luxury of a daylight lamp right at hand or a magnifier. No super sharp steel needles; tiny needle threaders or set of Dovo scissors. These needle workers used crude tools and worked in poor light. Think what they could have achieved with the benefit of todays tools and lighting!

The following site has a link to two books showing these works in detail

Sunday, October 12, 2014

SAGANews Volume 35 Issue 4

I am getting close to my next deadline-October 15. That deadline is the last date I can receive anything for publication in the next issue of SAGANews. This issue has a winter/holiday look to it-why not it will soon be that time of year!

Yes, my mug says "What's a Deadline"
So, do you have anything you want to submit?
 Has your chapter done something special? That would go in Chapter Chatter.
 Has your chapter hosted a teacher-write about it to encourage others to host a workshop-that too is Chapter Chatter.
 Have you made something special? That would be a Member Showcase item- always nice to see someones pretty creations!
 Have you smocked outside the box using the Stitch Games? Email a photo!

Do you have any ideas or projects to submit for a future issue? It is really easy-just send an email to outlining your design, item or project and before you know it it might be in print!

Don't forget it isn't just smocking- we need heirloom sewing items, Wee Care designs, embroidery projects-just one stipulation they must be original.

I look forward to hearing from some of you soon!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Meet Wes

Hello my name is Wes!

I plan to take part in the Smock Across America challenge and will have my photo taken wherever I happen to be with my smocking! I hope that you are going to rise to the challenge too? Let us see how many towns, cities, states (and countries) we can cover between us!

Just have your photo taken with your smocking or heirloom sewing and if you can get the Smock Across America logo in there somewhere all the better! Then email the photos to saganews@smocking .org .They will be then be posted on one of the SAGA social media sites.

Of course, it would also be wonderful if you were teaching someone to smock in the photo!

I look forward to my smocking adventures and I hope to hear about yours too!

PS Yes, I am a boy bear, but boys can sew too!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

You have to be comfortable

Have you enjoyed seeing the sewing rooms of your fellow SAGA members? I know the blog has received a lot of visits.

 Today's sewing room photos show that comfort is a key to a some of you in your sewing room- whether it is a favourite place to sit and stitch......

or somewhere to recline and ponder your next project..... 

Wherever you sit and sew I hope you have enjoyed the posts on 'Where SAGA Members Actually Sew!'

Friday, October 3, 2014

Multiple Sewing Machines

I have shared sewing rooms that take you from one extreme to another; sewing rooms with a definite theme; sewing rooms to dream about.

This post shares a few more of the photos we received and these rooms contain multiple sewing machines and/or sergers.

 It is interesting how each room is very different, but that in every case, the machines are easily accessible.

There are more photos to share, so don't forget to visit often!

If you sign up to the blog as a member, you will receive notice of any updates- it costs nothing and you never know what you may see next!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

SAGA visits Paris

Well, actually, it was a SAGA member who visited Paris and took her SAGA tote bag with her.

Dian shared the photo with me while she was attending the SAGA Sewcation in Florida.

So, where will you be taking your smocking and maybe teaching? Take a photo and email it to and let's see how many places we can cover as SAGA Smock's Across America  (and the world)!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Hidden Treasures

Have you ever visited your local historical society? Maybe you have been on a school trip or been to a reenactment of a local civil war battle, but have you ever wondered what they might have hidden away in their collections?

I recently visited an historical society in a nearby town because they held an exhibition entitled ’White Linen and Lace: Baby Clothing from 1800-1950’, selections from the permanent collection.  The items, ranging from christening gowns to under shirts; bibs and bonnets to knitted socks and were beautifully arranged in a small room used for temporary exhibits.
Pintucked and feather stitched bonnet

Usually the items are hidden away in a storage room, along with many other pieces of local history. So where did the ‘collection’ come from? Well, the usual story as pieces came from local families who when a family member died, found grannies christening gown wrapped up in a trunk in the attic and no one in the family had use for it, so –oh yes, let’s give it to the historical society! The historical society then catalogued the items and noted the name of the donor, any known history and off into storage it goes with the many other items no one knows what to do with. 

Sometimes, as in the case of the exhibit I visited, someone decides to use some of the items and showcase a piece of local history, but many times the pieces are just stored and often forgotten about.  Maybe you could visit your local historical society and make enquiries as to what they might have in storage? You might find some beautiful pieces and encourage them to hold a display.  They may not have as many christening gowns or heirloom pieces as the exhibit I visited, but I am sure that there are other textiles of interest, such as ladies gowns, quilts, bed linens etc. that would make an interesting display. You might find that they just need a little encouragement from a member of the public and the idea that others would like to see these pieces.

If the historical society holds an exhibition, you could offer to have a Smock in Public Day to coincide with the event and maybe even offer to hold a learn to smock class. Even if they do not want to set up an exhibit, maybe they would let your chapter visit and view their collections? A great chapter programme and field trip! It is a great chance to see some wonderful heirloom techniques up close and get some inspiration for your own projects. The exhibit I viewed even had a copy of a magazine with some of the embroidery designs that were used on one of the gowns on display.

The designs in these books were stitched on the gown in the previous closeup
So, ladies, don’t just walk or drive by the building that contains your town/local history items and dismiss it as dull and boring, pop in and make a few enquiries as you never know what hidden treasures they may have!

This gown was stitched by the baby's grandmother sometime between 1870 and 1900.