Wednesday, September 26, 2012

End of the World

As we know it, and I feel fine (so far.) Regarding the Little Alien Schoolgirl sampler, I believe I've got this top corner figured out now and I'm sorry to report that it's a little ominous.  The long blue thingy with legs is obviously a sandworm. If you watch any of those outer space documentaries (Dune, Return of the Jedi, Tremors, etc.) you are aware that space is rife with them.

In doing some research, I found that other scientists had been trying to make some taxonomical comparisons between different types of sandworms, but it's all pretty sketchy. The exact breed/species of this one is unknown. (Graph courtesy of

Oh to know if the series of bars underneath is tied to the sandworm motif or was just placed in tragic arbitrary proximity. In attempts to decipher this motif, I started with the very simple idea that there were only two shapes used - a single vertical bar and a double horizontal bar. Given how many numbering systems use a similar one potato/two potato symbol, I substituted a number 1 for the single vertical and the "2" for the pair. So it could read: 2  1  1  2  1  2, or perhaps as paired numbers: 21/12/12.  This sequence of numbers might not have any immediate fear factor for those living in the United States, where we list our calendar dates with the month code first.  But most other places, including Central America (home of the Maya Civilization,) use the more logical "smallest division/bigger division/biggest division" method.

You've all heard about the Mayan calendar (not to be confused with the Aztec calendar that looks like circle upon circle of intricate symbols with a centrally placed God Dude sticking out his tongue) and that coincidentally (or not) it goes up to 21 December, 2012.

So was this sampler sent back in time to warn us that sandworms would be our ultimate undoing, and that the Mayans were privy to the date?  Judging from the date on the sampler, an awful lot of years ending in "12" have passed by the time of its stitching. I am actually somewhat embarrassed for Ms. Dala. Did we not learn ANYTHING from Y2K?  At some point in the future do we stupidly revert back to using two year date codes?

It's just like an odometer rolling around. Is it the end of the old pickup truck automatically one mile past 99,999? That's all that happens this December with the Mayan calendar. Our katuns and baktuns and the other Mayan calendar divisors all roll over. Are we so frightened that we start seeing coincidences everywhere? At what point do they stop being coincidences and become part of some larger conspiracy? Yeah, I'm sure those gold and green blocks must mean something else.

Not much time - you'd better get stitching.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Tiniest Reindeer

Check out the newest product from Gloriana Threads. It's called Tudor Silk and was created for mildly insane people. In a nutshell, it's 12-ply silk (like her regular floss) but it is twice as thin. What that means, is you can stitch over one on higher count fabric and get a very crisp design. This is my Holiday Magick chart done with 1 ply of Bellagio Red over 1 on 32 count linen. It measures 1.5" by 1". If I had used regular silk, those little single stitch open windows would be totally swallowed up by the puffiness of the stitches next door. You can, of course, do things like use 2 strands on 40 count over 2, but this over 1 is its forte.

Holiday Magick - stitched over 1 on 32 ct using Tudor Silk

So, about this little reindeer, while I'm here.  I was reading some really antique documents and came across some weird glyphs. The accompanying text said a person was  to embroider them with red silk on the garment warn closest to the heart and it would protect the wearer from evil spirits.  I did my own little mashup of the symbols, weaving the charm into this reindeer's antlers. It's all hocus pocus nonsense, or maybe it's the hokey pokey and it IS what it is all about.

So here is the original model for the chart. It was done using Gloriana's regular strength silk, 1 ply over 2 on 40 count finished as an ornament. I personally would rather stitch over 2 on fine count than over 1 on any count, but I wanted a teeny tiny version of this reindeer to make into a necklace.  I know there are a lot of stitchers out there who do a lot of work over 1 who are going to love this silk.

Holiday Magick - stitched 1 over 2  on 40 ct using regular Gloriana

If you're looking for either the silk or the Holiday Magick chart, contact your favorite LNS/ONS.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Manuscripts and Malibus

I'm back today from an exciting trip to the East Coast. I'll say a bit about the Baltimore trade show in a bit, but starting at the beginning of the trip I will tell first you about my trip to the Yale Library. I got in by plane, but rented a car to get around and then to take me down to Baltimore.  When presented the rental options, those of you who have watched Repo Man will understand why the obvious choice was the Chevy Malibu.
Those of you who have not watched Repo Men, are assigned to go do so. Due to re-designs of the model since the 1964 version, the trunk may have still been big enough to hold the bodies of four dead aliens, but it was not able to hold three big suitcases. I'm glad it was just my son and myself, such that the third could go in the backseat.

It was fabulous to hook up some of the staff there at the Yale library, particulary Dr. Ann Manisana,  and see the Voynich manuscript in person.  We were in strong agreement that the first large script in the Little Alien Schoolgirl Sampler was indeed a match to the script in the manuscript. We were unable to use the sampler in any way that would shed additional light into decrypting the manuscript.  Scholars there have been able to date the manuscript to before 1550 in our current time line, which only confuses attempts to date the sampler.

Dr. Manisana was also wonderfully helpful in being able to help put some context to another of the central motifs in the sampler. There is some shared imagery in various ancient cultures.  The Babylonian Tree of Life is pictured sometimes like:
This tree is sometimes flanked by creatures, ranging from the pair Adam and Eve, to these bird-like gods (shown below "fertilizing" the tree,) to fish-headed Assyrian gods. In different contexts, the tree was also referred to as a portal, or "door of life."

The six-legged beasts that I had thought simply were specimens of the native fauna, may actually be guardians of the portal or tree.  There is a world of difference between a domesticated six-legged reindeer or bull that might be a source of dinner and a guardian of the Door of Life!  Given such historical wealth of symbolism, I am concluding they are guardians. Whether they offer any fertilizer or not, is debatable.

On a similar topic of historic ancient manuscripts, I wanted to share a bit of purchasing I recently did.  A fellow historian, Nancy Spies, has published two volumes of motifs charted from ancient manuscripts.  These are wonderfully rich and so well researched. I had them on my wish list for several years and finally saw them in person on a visit to my friend Tasha.  I think they are going/gone out of print and are becoming scarcer to find. Amazon wanted $80 each for a copy.  I was able to get copies at the Scarlet Letter for the list price of $30 (no affiliation, just a pleased customer) and these were waiting for me upon my trip back home.  Rooting around to see if Nancy had been up to anything recently I came across a copy of an earlier work on historical cardweaving that I found intriguing and had to get.  So, if you are intrigued by these ancient manuscripts and historical context, I invite you to check out her work.

So many wonderful things to be rediscovered!  I like the thought of the ancient (and the future) images being perpetuated through the use of motifs in modern handworks.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

of Manuscripts: Mine and Yours

A quick post before I head off to Baltimore for the trade show and for a special visit/detour I've set up to see some folks about particular manuscript at the Beinecke Library at Yale University. It seems a portion of my reproduction sampler includes a script very like that on a certain antique document. The document was found in 1921 by Wilfrid Voynich, but it dates back centuries before that. Voynich found it *probably* in Parma, Italy, but there is much mystery surrounding the whole thing. Nobody has been able to figure out the document - read it, or guess it's origins, as it is all in this wacky script. Voynich thought perhaps it was written by Roger Bacon in some code, but again many varying theories exist. It's simply referred to as the Voynich Manuscript - you can read more about it here or on Wikipedia.
Little Alien Schoolgirl. Note the circled area.

Here is a snip of the Voynich manuscript.

Speaking of Manuscripts, A few years back I put out a chart for an illustrated manuscript called the Book of Ink Circles, which some stitchers coined the title BoInk.  Admittedly, this one I totally made up, although I encouraged folks to select colors on their own and to personalize the initials block.

Here is Julia's (@mizzelle)  version, made with HDF silks. She's been working on it off and on for a long time, so this happy dance has been long and coming. Congrats, Julia!
Julia's BoInk

And another version with a special story behind it.  John sent me this photo of his Book of Ink Circles. He started it around the beginning of the year when he started undergoing radiation treatments for cancer.  He commented that each small block was a mini victory and he loved how bright and cheery the colors were. I think this adds up to a very special major victory for John.  I'm wishing him good health and continued stitching success.
John's BoInk