Sunday, 30 December 2007

Try again in 2008

2007 has been a loooong year. When I last wrote, Jerry couldn't walk.

Right after that I got shut out from the internet. Finally back on today. Very long story, and I'm not going into it.

Then Jerry's father died. Steven and I stayed here to keep things moving. Jerry also attended the funeral of an uncle while he was in the US.

We managed in spite of that to get moved as planned, and I came home to the new house after the final cleaning of the apartment to find a message on the phone that Dad had had a major stroke. He hung on for a few days, but then it was my turn to go off alone to a funeral.

Somehow in all of this the momentum behind the needlework challenge stopped. I have actually done several things since, but not as much as I had hoped, and of course I haven't been able to post things.

But 2008 will be a new year, and I'll try again.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007


Mariazell is I think my very favorite place in Austria. On Sunday we needed a day off from the moving, so we went to Mariazell.

Mariazell is Austria's major pilgrimage centre, and since the iron curtain fell, it has recovered a lot of its earlier importance for Eastern Europe as well.The Basilica there is absolutely beautiful. I've always loved it, but they have recently restored it, and the results are spectacular. The major difference is that they reopened windows, letting light in. At the same time they cleaned/repainted the walls and ceilings so that they are again white instead of blackened by candle soot. (They also no longer allow pilgrims to light candles in the basilica. Instead there is a candle grotto behind the church. Quiet and meditative last February, this week it was busy, and very hot. Every spot for a candle was taken. Or nearly so.)

When you enter the church you see the central chapel with the medieval wooden statue of Mary and the child, but if you go around that you see the lovely main altar. With the window behind it, and the gold and silver cleaned it is now visible and well worth seeing. The globe below the crucifix is again usable as the tabernacle. It is also a real globe, showing the geographical image of the world at the time it was made.

Even on weekdays you are likely to find a service of some kind going on. On Sunday it is not surprising that there was a Mass when I went in. I stayed for the rest of it, and it was just what I needed.

Afterwards I wandered about in the stalls that surround the entrance to the church selling candles, souvenirs, toys, ... I found one I didn't know before - one selling products from monasteries. I had a lovely talk with the shopkeeper, tasting some of the liquors, discussing the preparations for the Pope's visit in September, and generally enjoying myself. I left with three bottles in my bag. Do stop by 'Klosterschätze' at Stand 46 if you go. Much as I enjoy the stalls, it was nice having a change from the general run of them.

With my bag really heavy, I headed for a bench near the central fountain to wait for my menfolk. They had headed up the mountain on the cable car. Soon Steven arrived. He said that Jerry would be along soon, but was coming down the mountain on foot. Steven was full of the changes made to 'Holzknechtland' since he had last been there. He still loves the models of how wood was harvested in the region, and especially the working model with water and small logs. (See June 13). They had also gone up the Aussichtsturm - viewing tower and seen Schneeberg very clearly. Steven headed off to do some window shopping, and finally Jerry hobbled into view. He had fallen on the mountain and was in quite a bit of pain.

One of the other important sights of Mariazell is Pirker's. They make lebkuchen and other things for the physical needs of the pilgrims. Jerry rested from his adventure while Steven and I enjoyed the lebkuchen ice cream.

The best route from Vienna is Westautobahn to St. Pölten Süd and route 20 South. To get there by train take the train to St. Pölten and change to the narrow gauge railway. This takes a lot longer, but is a lovely trip, and highly to be recommended for the tunnels and views of the mountains.

The upshot of the day, unfortunately is that Jerry has a torn ligament in his left ankle. This week he is in a plaster cast. Monday it gets changed to an 'air cast' that should be more comfortable, and can be walked on, and even removed for bathing!

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Week 27 Project 14 Sampler

I finally finished the sampler last night! It's hanging in the stairway here at the apartment, but I'll move it to the house soon. I will also take a picture as soon as I unbury the camera from whereever it has gotten to. (Moving is creating real chaos everywhere. And I thought it was bad before!)

Anyway, it looks lovely. I really did finish the whole whitework alphabet. Not nearly as difficult as Linn made it sound - I found the border gave me more trouble. I changed a few of the letters - partly just becuase I thought they would look better my way, partly to fill up the two rows, as my sampler is a different width from hers.

At the bottom I added our new and old addresses in the first alphabet. That makes it a real momento of this year.

Thursday, 28 June 2007

Withdrawal Symptoms

We've had some fairly hefty storms recently. The worst was last Thursday. It was really hot, and the work in a neighboring apartment was getting on our nerves, so Steven and I left the flat around noon. I had arranged to show a few friends my quilt top - great occasion as that group hasn't done much together for over a year. Steven hung out in Jerry's office while I drove over to the shopping centre to leave the car there and do a few errands. Then I hung out in Jerry's office, too, until time for the Fete de Musique concert Jerry was playing in. Just before 5, as we were waiting for the concert to begin, the storm started. It was really something watching it from the top of one of the UN towers: Sand (or cement?) swirled up from the building site where they are putting up a new conference building. The street lights swayed back and forth. lightning flashed across the sky... And I had left the roof windows open.

We got home at about 10. Things could have been a lot worse. There was a lot to tidy up, of course. A large puddle to mop up in Steven's area. The sheet drawers are too full to close properly, and water had gotten in there, so ALL the sheets needed to go through a rinse cycle and then be dried. Some of the drawers on my sewing desk were also open - not overfull, but they stick, and I get too impatient to force them closed. Years ago, when I was pregnant with Edward, we travelled to England, and at one of the National Trust houses I bought some lavender scented drawer liners. Back then those drawers had clothes in them, and I enjoyed the scent while it lasted. Even after the scent was gone I left the paper in. It was pretty, and I had no good replacement for it. Well, when the paper got wet, it released much more scent than it had even new, only the past 20-some odd years did not do the perfume any good. What a stench! still recognizable as lavender, but not at all pleasant.

One of the first things I checked, of course, was the sewing machine, and at first glance it seemed to have stayed dry. Later I realized that there was water on the glass plate it sits on. So I unplugged it, and since Monday it has been at the service place. It was overdue for service anyway, and I had fully intended to drop it off there between the flat and the house, so this is only a bit early, but I can't say how much I miss it. It seems as if even the hand projects I think of to start all need a few minutes at the machine to start with. And I have sorted through all the pile of mending that was on the machine. Some of the trousers I should have mended for Steven don't fit any more. One pair was waiting for elastic in back to make the waist fit. Those are fine without the elastic now. See - the mending takes care of itself if you leave it long enough! But there is more mending that I found that I am just longing to do. I'm honest enough to admit that this great desire will probably fly out the window when I get my machine set up again.

Lat Saturday I was at an exhibit of fabric art postcards by customers of my local Patchwork shop. The store is called Exquisity, and the cards certainly lived up to that. There were lots of really great ideas, and I would like to work on some of those even more than I want to do the mending.

We got off very lightly though. Downtown the storm knocked a building crane over. Not only did it damage the building very badly that it was supposed to be helping repair, but it was in operation at the time. The driver did not survive. Trees and elecricwires were also down all over Vienna and the surrounding area.

Friday was another storm. We were out in the Wienerwald and got thoroughly wet, but again got off lightly - the lightning stayed a good distance away, the wids we experienced were bad, but nothing to what they were like other places, and the airport area had hail the size of chicken eggs, which we also missed. Barbara Streisand was in town, and her concert had to be called off Thursday night. Friday they went through with it, and they showed a bit on the news. 'I'm going to love you... come RAIN or come shine.' She looked wet. This week has been cooled and there has been rain, but no storms.

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Museum visit

We have long been curious about an outpost of the MAK near our apartment. But visiting the Geymuellerschloessl is not easy. It is only open on Sundays in the warmer half of the year. There is no parking nearby, and although it is close, that is still several blocks including SchafBERGgasse. Last Sunday we skipped church, and decided it was time we went.

I had heard that it was a lovely Biedermeier house, that it had original/period furnishings, that there was also a collection of clocks there, and that the gardens were lovely. On the basis of the furnishings I hoped for some great textile discoveries, and one of the first items we saw was a sort of wooden piggy bank for calling cards with a beaded panel in front. Lovely. We also noticed a few clocks before climbing to the main floor - including ones worked into paintings. Upstairs we were charmed by the rooms and their furnishings, but no more interesting textiles. But the clocks! Clocks for the day and clocks for the night (translucent faces for a light to shine through or mechanisms to have the time projected onto a wall). Clocks build into pictures. Some of those with moving figures built in. And even waterfalls built in. Big clocks, little clocks, clcks with music boxes, and more clocks, and more clocks. If you like clocks you need to see this place. If you don't really care about clocks, still go look at them. Only once. But do it that once.

The gardens are also lovely, and you can buy a picnic lunch. On first Sundays there are concerts at 11am with special tours. There is some modern art displayed in the garden. I don't get it, but perhaps you will.

I don't think that I will be going back, but I'm glad I went once.

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Outings - easy but fun hikes

A good way to introduce your family to hiking near Vienna is the Hagenbachklamm. It is a good, clear path. (You might be able to get lost, but you would really have to work at it.) The scenery is lovely - you follow the line of a creek through the woods, with some rocky outcroppings. Where needed there are wooden bridges. At the end of the Klamm is the opportunity for pony riding or for visiting a center for breeding birds of prey. Some of the birds we saw at Kreuzenstein came from here. 'Officially' the walk takes 45 minutes in each direction. That sounds about right. There are no proper playgrounds, but there are several places where earth 'slides', root 'ladders', and side trails up and over rocks or stepping stones instead of the bridges tempt the younger crowd. Also a mysterious stone doorway into the side of the hill. There are very few steps involved. I wouldn't do it just after a period of heavy rain, as parts look like they get very muddy. There were a few picnic tables.

We really enjoyed the falcon station. We were handed an information book keyed to numbers on the cages. The information was in German, but Latin and (usually) English names were included. The first bird we saw was an owl, who immediately turned away from us, raised its tail feathers and dribbled. But most of the others looked like they wanted to pose with their best sides to the camera. The aviaries are large, and had lots of green. That made it harder to see the birds, but it gave them a lot of privacy.

There is a fair amount of parking available at the entrance. There is also a back way in only 10 minutes walk from the falcon station. Drive through Klosterneuburg direction Tulln. The entrance to the Klamm is between Maria Gugging and St. Andrä. We saw mountain bikes and a twin buggy. Not my idea of fun, but possible.

OK, now you've had a taste of it and want something similar, but a step wilder. Try 'Erlebniswelt Mendlingtal'. This is a museum and two hour hike that shows the way wood was brought into the valleys for burning into charcoal for the iron industry. (The two hours does NOT include getting back to the car!) As the driving time is also about two hours each way from Vienna, this is a fairly major undertaking.

The wood was cut in the mountains, and somehow (often just dropped down steep side waterways) gotten to the small river. A dam in the river allowed the workers to send large amounts of water through at times to carry the wood down to the next collection point where it could be sorted and passed on, or used. The dams and associated engineering have been restored and replaced with the help of an EU grant. Twice a month there are regular shows of how this was done. We were once there when an extra show was being done for a group. Exciting! (First Sunday and third Saturday of the month.)

Much of the museum is concentrated at the lower end of the walk. Exhibits try to explain what jobs needed doing around the valley, and how the families of the woodcutters lived while their menfolk were up in the woods. Unfortunately, the commentaries are spoken, and the sound quality is awful, making the German quite hard to understand. A bit further up there is an old water powered sawmill. Then you hike past the various sites needed for the 'triften'. Other items along the path are an eating shelter and a flour mill. There are frequent commentary plaques with interesting information in German. At the top of the hike there are trout ponds. (Yes, there is an coin-op machine that sells a generous handful of fish food for .50).

The 'Herrenhaus' (squire's house) has been turned into a Gasthaus. We'd had a late lunch and weren't ready for eating trout, but the Apfelstrudel was really good. Children will enjoy the play ground there and the rabbit hutches. There is also an example of the branch and bark shelters the workers would live in on the mountain. Steven thought it looked comfy until we pointed out that more than one person would live in it, and that with all the hard work there were no washing facilities.

The walking is similar to Hagenbachklamm, but you are definitely going up hill, the path is often narrower, there are more wooden sections, often attached to the sides of overhanging rocks, more steps up to the bridges. The official word is that baby carriages don't work, but light buggies do. We saw a young child on a parent's shoulders. Another group had the buggy along - being carried in folded condition by one of the adults. About what I would expect from seeing the route. Comment about mud is also valid here.

Drive out the Westautobahn, get off at Ybbs and take 25 South to Göstling.

BTW If you want less walking, but still want to learn about the wood industry, there is an outdoor museum with models instead of the full size things if you take the cable car up from Mariazell. Hands on for children, but it might be a good idea to have spare shirts along for the kids in case they get wet. Steven loved it a few years ago. I enjoyed our first visit.

Week 24 Project 13 More Cards

Besides a few more unfinished cards similar to the ones mentioned before, I also finished two cards for special people: a wedding card and a baby card.

But mostly when it has been cool enough up here I have been working on the quilt. The top is done! I doubt that I will be quilting it soon, though. We have signed a lease on a house in Essling, and I think the quilting had better wait until we have moved. Having a big project lying around in the process during the move sounds like a recipe for disaster.

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Week 22 Project 12, SD Sampler

The day after I started making cards, a friend asked me to make a sampler for her. She needed a gift for a special occasion, and had an idea for something that would be very special - but it needed to be stitched, and she didn't have the skills for that.

We quickly came to an agreement, and decided that the sampler would include a monogram, the date of the celebration, and the Austrian greeting Grüss Gott that the friend knew from a trip to Vienna, and had really liked. The areas of text would be separated by rows of beading.

I had been looking for a chance to try out Jane Davis's Bead Embroidery: The Complete Guide which I bought in Vermont in January. Yes! I had to try out each stitch on a piece of waste band to get just the effect I wanted, but the book is just as good in use as it was fun to read. Another friend had sent me some Dinky Dye silks to try out, so I used those threads. As I had been promised, they are a real pleasure to work with. I also used some Swarovski crystals in the fringes.

The picture doesn't do the beads justice, but you get the general idea. I think the recipient will enjoy the sampler, don't you? I certainly enjoyed stitching it. (BTW, yes I have the permission of my friend to include this here.)

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Outings: Schlosshof and Burg Kreuzenstein

We've also been on a few outings.

On May 1, we went out to Schlosshof. We have been very curious to see how the renovations have been done. We have known the palace of Schlosshof just north of the Danube a the Eastern edge of Austria for decades, and while loving it's beauty, we were saddened by its condition. Not just age- like many such buildings, WWII and its aftermath were very hard on it. Prince Eugine of Savoy's lovely gardens had gone wild, the fountains in ruins... (Yes, the same Prince Eugene who also owned Belvedere.) When we read that not only was the palace itself being fixed up with a grant from the EU, but that original furniture was being found, and even the original working plans for creating the gardens, and that these also were to be restored, we were very pleased.

The gardens are not anywhere near being done, of course. But they are beginning to be again what they were meant to be. The palace itself is wonderful to see - and I hope they continue to leave the first room unrestored as a reminder. Also the home farm (Meierei) has been recreated, and the kitchen gardens are fun to wander through. There was also a small parade of the animals when we were there. Since then the orangerie has been reopened, so the work goes on.

There were too many visitors there the day we went, as a Vienna newspaper had just written about it. This didn't make any difference in the palace or grounds, however, we were not able to get a meal at the Meierei restaurant. There are nice playgraounds, mostly aimed at the younger set. There is also a petting zoo. Schlosshof is organizing several special events this year. Also stop at the smaller hunting palaces of Ernstbrunn and Niederweiden while you are in the area.


I'm a big fan of birds of prey, so it's rather surprising that we hadn't been to the show at Burg Kreuzenstein before. It has been running for 10 years now, and we have considered it many times, but never at the right time of day. Sunday we decided it was time to do it. We really needed a fun outing after the flea market!

The show at Kreuzenstein includes falkons, owls, a bald eagle, vultures... (all breed in captivity).
Having seen several other such shows, most of it is fairly standard, although I never get tired of seein these lovely birds. And yes, I do mean the vultures, too. They are special favorites of mine. Special to Kreuzenstein are the location - seeing the birds flying against the backdrop of the castle is really beautiful; the way the birds are flown very low over the audience. Choose a front corner seat if you want to duck a lot. We were front left, and Steven and I both felt the wings of the birds. The sportsteam at front right had to duck even more than we did. Of course, if you don't want to duck as much, sit further back. Back right probably ducked the least. And the special treat to the end of the show - an owl who no longer flies in the show is held at the exit for pictures and patting! Have you ever felt the feathers on a live owl? I have now. So soft!

Take the Korneuburg West exit off the Stockerau Schnellstrasse to get there. Most of the way is well posted, and you can see it, so it's not too hard to find. Do visit the castle as well, it you can handle stairs. I wasn't up to it this time, but we've done this many times before. Kreuzenstein is a real museum, having been put together out of parts of several buildings from around Europe in the late 19th century as many medieval buildings were being torn down. Of course suitable furnishings were also collected. For energetic people it also makes a nice hike from the Schnellbahn. At least you have the uphill behind you in the first half of your day. There is a gasthaus, but we haven't eaten there in decades.

Afterwards we went off to Illmitz to relax at the beach. Steven and Jerry say the water is still very cold. The sun was warm. Illmitzer had its usual good food. The baby geese are now mostly in adult feathers, just about half the size of their parents.

Week 21; Projects 9, 10 Cards; Project 11 Bags

I see I have not blogged for a month. Shame on me! But it is not that I haven't been stitching. In fact within an hour of writing that I wasn't being creative, I had realized that the offcuts from my quilt were perfect for small paper piecing projects, and that cards made with such projects might be a nice addition to our flea market table.

I've lost track of how many cards I made. I'll count the original cards as two projects - the first being pictures made by the piecing, the second a series of cards framing small images on the central bit of cloth. The piecework is nicely finished and sewn onto the card so that it can be easily taken off and used to decorate a shirt, or hung, or whatever. I also decided to make a few gift bags, both plain ones (I got some really cheap Christmas material from IKEA), and appliqued ones.

At the flea market itself, I sold one card. Three more were reserved, and I expect the buyers to ask me for them soon (but they may want to look at what I have made since, as several more are in the works). I have also sold one of the appliqued bags.

Anyway, between working like crazy to get a good selection of cards done, and sorting books for the rest of the table I was just too busy to blog. Or to get much more done on my quilt, for that matter. However I did go to the class, and I am at about the same place as everyone else. What's more, when the teacher saw the bit I had put together she exclaimed, 'Look! Someone got the borders right!' Now I need to find the discipline to work on the quilt, and not just the cards, even though they are more fun.

Monday, 23 April 2007

Eggs and more at Kittsee

The Web is great! Saturday morning Jerry was looking for something special going on to make an excursion of along with the wine tasting in Illmitz. What he found was an exhibit of Moravian Easter Eggs at the Ethnographic Museum at Kittsee.

The main collection at Kittsee is Folkart collected during the final decades of the Austro-Hungarian Empire to show the variety of customs of the Empire. The problem with the museum is that Kittsee lies off the beaten track, right at the eastern edge of Austria between the route to Bratislava and the route to Budapest. If you wait until you are passing by to visit the museum, you will only see it if you are deliberately tramping along the border. It's a small museum, probably not worth an extra trip from Vienna, but the drive itself is nice, taking you along the Danube, then through the old city gate at Hainburg. However as the whole area is only an hour from Vienna, it can easily be added to an excursion to the Roman site at Carnuntum Another possibility would be to connect it with a trip to the newly renovated palace at Schloss Hof a short way from the other end of the Hanburg bridge. Or use it as a cultural tag-on to a summer's day of swimming on the Eastern side of Lake Neusiedl.

But right now - and only until the 29th of April, they have a few hundred Easter eggs on loan from a Czech museum. Lovely eggs, new and old, modern and traditional, techniques ranging from painting with coloured wax, designs scratched out from a dyed egg, bits of cloth or lace glued on. Wire baskets formed around the eggs, Eggs done in 'plant batik' where a leaf has been laid down first, then the egg wrapped in onion skins and then boiled leaving a pale shadow of the leaves in a warm brown background. Wonderful eggs! If you like Easter eggs, even just these two rooms might be worth your while.

The main collection incudes all sorts of fascinating items: Stumps used as beehives carved with a picture of Samson tearing a lion's jaw apart - and the entrance for the bees in the lion's mouth, painted cemetary crosses from Romania, goat and horse costumes for processions, ceramics, decorated furniture, wood carvings, ...

And, of course textiles. One of the first was a few printing samplers- Strips of cloth with one design after another printed on them. Of the many embroidered items I particularly noticed a decorated kitchen towel - just a normal striped linen towel with rows of embroidery along one edge. There were many shirts of the several rectangles sewed together variety. I like these as they give so much scope for decorating each piece and also using decorative seams. Each is different, and even with similar ones I love looking at the individual touches of the needlewomen who made them. After the last few exhibits I have seen of ecclesiasical embroidery done either by professionals, or at that level of experitice and care, it was fun seeing things done with large stitches, with awkward stitches left in. The whole thing done either as showoff pieces or just for the love of colour and pattern. Remember - just the fact that someone had the time and materials to create a fancy embroidered shirt was show off of wealth. It said that the family didn't have to work hard from sunup to sundown just to survive.

My very favorite piece was a 'Sunday coat' for a woman. It was made of white leather with a sheepskin lining. I bet it was warm. But it was also beautiful. The outside was pieced, with major seams decorated by having folded lengths of other colours of leather worked in. The pieces themselves had fancy appliques of brown leather sewed on with tiny stitches. And between the appliques were various small motives in colourful satin stitch. And all of this on leather! The mind boggles. And here the stitches were small and regular. Wow!

At the moment I am working hard on my quilt and the sampler. Putting the quilt together requires a lot more careful sewing that I am usually good at, and for some reason I decided that I had to add the whitework bands from Linn Skinner's 'Beds of Roses' to the bottom of my sampler. Linn warned me that they are difficult. I'm not sure difficult is the word, but you can't afford a second of distraction. Not to mention that the satin stitch really does have to be properly laid. The fact that I am actually finding both restful, in the sense that I can keep my fingers well occupied without having to use most of my mind, says a lot about how hard the infection hit me. Although I am basically well again, My creative urge is only back to the extent of wanting to be doing, but not if I have to figure out what to do. It is lovely seeing the quilt top come together. It really is going to be beautiful. But I think it is a good idea to keep working hard at the finishing while I am enjoying it.

Monday, 16 April 2007

Crusader Exhibit in Schallaburg

I'm almost feeling human again, so Jerry, Steven and I decided to make use of the lovely summer weather we are having to go visit the new Crusader exhibit about an hour's drive from Vienna.

In terms of textiles, the quantity was minimal. However, the quality was great, so we won't complain too much.

First was a chausuble from the 12th century (German). Long arm cross stitch in silk on linen. Lovely work, and in places the fabric was quite close to the side of the showcase. In style it reminded me of the set that is at the MAK, but much more consistency within the piece. The whole cloth was divided up into rectangles (perhaps 20 - 25 cm) each of which held one or more figures. There were fairly narrow borders separating the rectangles. The linen was only visible where the stitching had worn away. The rows of cross stitch were only a few mm wide, all very even, giving a striped or braided effect.

Second was a hood or bonnet from the late 12th or early 13th century. Sicilian work. It is now taken apart and shown flat. Unfortunatly, it was at the bottom of a tall glass showcase, so there was no way to really see the stitching. The cloth had been stitched in an all over pattern of whirls, couched gold thread on red silk.

Third was early 12th century Egyptian. This was a small bit of plain fabric with a woven in border.

There were also a fair number of chain mail outfits, but I don't count those as textiles. Oh, yes, one later tapistry depicting scenes from the crusades. Not in the things from then, but with the items showing how the crussades have been depicted in later eras.

Anyone interested in medieval ceramics from the Near East would love the exhibit. There were lovely tiles and containers. My favorite had been first glazed in a soft turquoise. That had been covered in black, and the design scratched out.

There were several models of crusader castles and cities of the time that were nicely done. Steven loved those, and either commented on how dificult aech castle would have been to attack, or wished that he had the original to climb around in.

Many of the larger items on display were casts or modern representations of the originals. In some cases this was fine, but the two graves of arab leaders of the time were more theatrical props than anything else. I would have wanted good detail pictures of some of the decorations on the originals, I assume these were inlaid stone? and not paint on fiber board.

As ever, the items I really liked were not available as postcards. The catalog (German) looked interesting, but at Euro 29, more than I felt like paying.

Schallaburg is a lovely castle, well worth visiting for it's own sake. I didn't think the exhibit was very exciting, but neither was it so big as to get boring. If visiting with German-speaking children, get the children's guidebook before going in, and try to answer the puzzles as you go through. There are two side trips off the main route. Follow them when you see the signs. You'll come right back to the main exhibit. There are a few special events planned during the summer if you are into tournaments and such. Basic information on the crusades was given in both English and German. There is also a spectacular dragon playground. All in all a good family outing. Combine it with a drive through the Wachau.

Thursday, 5 April 2007

Week 14 Setback

I have been working on the sampler. Do you remember bookmark 2? I'm working on that band of the sampler now. It's fun to see how different it is to sttich with the other colour distribution. Obviously I think unconciously as a stitcher. The bookmark was so much easier! But I think both ways look super!

Nothing new this week. Sorry, but I've not been well, and creative effort has been beyond me. I do have a beading project started which I should be able to show you next week. Luckily, I'm ahead of plan, and there is a bit of leaway for weeks like this.

Saturday, 31 March 2007

Museum Alert

The news last night mentioned that an interesting piece will be on view in Vienna for the rest of the year.

The emperor Franz Josef married Princess Elisabeth of Bavaria in 1854. The ceremony itself was fairly private. Afterwards the embroidered parts of her gown were used to create a cope for the pilgimage church of Maria Taferl, where it was in use into the 1950s. Snce then it has kept been in the church treasury. It was not clear whether on display or not. This year the church and treasury are being renovated, and this piece will be on display at the 'Sisi Museum' in the Hofburg. From the pictures I saw it is lovely work in silver thread, and I am looking forward to seeing it. They said it would be in one of the side rooms of the museum.

Interesting note: there does not seem to be any record of what the gown looked like before it was cut apart. A call has been put out for anyone with private diaries that might include any information about this should let the appropriate office know. As only family and court members were present, and the journalists and public never got to see the gown, this is only possible for a few people to have.

Anyway, if gold and silver embroidery is your thing, and you are in Vienna this year, make a short visit to the Sisi museum after seeing the Imperial Treasury. BTW, many of the vestments in the treasury were probably made in a similar fashion. Not, of course, the major sets, but the simpler individual pieces.

Thursday, 29 March 2007

Thread Art

I saw an article about works of art made out of spools of thread in New Scientist magazine, and sure enough, there are lots more pictures on the web at

At first it kind of wows you: big copies of famous works of art made out of spools of thread then viewed through lenses that pull it all together. Then you realize that 5000 spools comes down to about 70 x 70 - a fairly normal size cross stitch pattern for a card. The only difference is the size of the coloured square of thread. And because the squares we use are so small the eye itself can turn the pixels into a picture. Not only that, but we can use various stitches and fibres and add beads, and our works can be easily mailed to friends, or hung on the wall in our apartments... OK Devorah Sperber is an artist. I'm 'just' a craft person. I think I like it better that way. And I use up plenty of thread my way, too.

Tuesday, 20 March 2007

Week 12 Project 8 Happy Birthday,Steven!

Steven wanted a mouse he can carry around. They use laptops a lot at school, and he works better with a real mouse. So I bought him a mouse and special thin mouse pad. (Whether there are technical problems is his worry, not mine.) My worry was how this mouse is going to survive in his pack. So I made him a mouse pouch. The pouch is quilted and the pad also acts to protect the mouse, so I think it should be safe. There is also a small pocket for Steven's Data stick, which also tends to get lost or damaged at regular intervals.

I've taken pictures, and should get them up soon. The camera and my computer don't talk to each other, so I need Jerry's help - it talks to Jerry's computer.

I'm not totally happy with the job I did of the sewing - I usually figured out how I should have done things about two or three seams further on, and I didn't frog it to make the improvements. I still think he'll like it. He was very funny when I asked him to help pick out fabrics for a mystery project. He didn't like picking fabrics without knowing how they would be used. And then I insisted on including a mouse print (the animal) I had, which also confused him. Tonight all will become clear, I hope. I'll need to make strudel, too.

Plenty of time, though. This weekend is the Seussical, and he won't be home before 8. He's the mayor of Whoville. And if you are wondering why the mouse pouch only got made this morning - it has to do with my being told on Saturday that he still hadn't brought in his black shorts for his costume. His black shorts? What black shorts? Steven! I managed to get a pattern and black cotton gaberdine before stores closed on Saturday, and he now has a very nice pair of black shorts. One of my next projects is to make him a second pair of shorts. I also bought navy gaberdine, but this pair I intend to spiffy up with a different fabric for the pockets and coloured top stitching. Watch this space!

BTW the sampler is making great progress.

Thursday, 8 March 2007

Hidden stitchery

One of the fun things for me is discovering needlework treasures where you don't expect them. Here in Vienna, if you go to the Schatzkammer, you know you'll get to see your fill of the Golden Fleece vestments. If you go to the KHM you can admire the way major painters interpreted the needlework that their sitters where wearing. The MAK has wonderful textiles on display. ... Yes, but when you go into the coal mine under the Technical Museum, you don't expect to have the long stretch of dark and claustrophobia rewarded by seeing a lovely sampler dedicated to St. Barbara. (Yes, It's lovely. No, I don't intend to ever visit it again.)

One of the other things I do is theology. Last night I attended a lecture at the Theological Courses of the Archdiocese of Vienna. (This is a wonderful organization that exists to train lay people. I learn Hebrew there, and enjoy the lecture series when my health allows.) The first question when arriving at the Kurhaus next to St. Steven's is where they have put the lecture. If lots of people are expected they use the big room right at the entrance. If fewer people are there, usually we are upstairs. This year the lift is being replaced, so that means climbing three flights of stairs, and like most old buildings in Vienna, the rooms all have high ceilings. It's a long climb. Last night we were in a smaller room, but on the ground floor. Missing the climb was enough reason to be pleased. But I'd been in that room before, and had nearly forgotten that an old antependium is hung in the corridor that leads to the room. Aaah!

Unfortunately there is no label, and I have not been able to find a date on the stitching. I would guess that it is about 100 years old. I would very much like to know more about it. I would also love a chance to get at it with needle and silk for long enough to stabilize some of the couching that is falling off. The rest of it is in very good condition. Also it is wonderful to be able to get really close without glass between me and the stitching.

The stitching is spectacular. The background is cream-coloured linen (? or cotton, but ecclesiastical things tend to use linen.) Some of the appliques are probably silk. The threads may be partly silk, but many are probably cotton. The parts I could study closely (the bottom fourth) used some goldwork techniques, but I don't remember seeing metallic threads.) Although the drawing is good, and the way the draperies are indicated is amazing, I am not impressed by the design of the whole. However, these things can look very different from a distance, and an antependium (altar frontal) can't be judged as close up as you are in a hallway.

The major figures are appliqued (after being embroidered?) There are also thickly stitched medallions that I would also assume were applied after stitching. Other stitching is done directly onto the background.

Most of the stitching is chain stitch, which changes to split stitch where a thinner line is needed. There is also a lot of couching, especially around the edges of appliques. Some areas have laid fillings. I think it must have been framed up before stitching and never removed from the frame. That's a favorite way of working these things, and I wouldn't dare move something with such long unsecured laid stitches off frame.

There are two towers stitched straight onto the background in very fine grey lines - they look like pencil drawings. They are too high for me to really examine the stitches, but they are tiny - under 2mm - and exquisitly accurate. If this is double running it is a lot neater than I can do it. (Never mind the stitch size which also boggles my mind.) However, backstitch would make the 'holes' more visible. And not split stitch either. I would like to get in there with a camera and take a picture just of one of the towers and try to copy it. But I'm not going to let my stitching be compared to whoever did this! I would use whipped backstitch with one strand to try and get the feel of pencil drawing.

Questions I would like to be able to answer:
  • Was all the stitching done for this frontal, or where pieces taken off of previous pieces?
  • Were the towers done by a different stitcher from the rest of the work? How many stitchers in all?
  • Were the individual drawings done by different artist(s) than the total design?
You will have guessed by now that I don't get a feeling that it all fits together very well. My imagination has a needlewoman being handed a framed up frontal, a stack of bits and pieces from a stash and asked to create a frontal out of them. All the pieces are wonderful and I enoy visiting it.

Tuesday, 6 March 2007

Week 10 Project 7 Bookmark 2

My black and red sampler has taken on a life of its own, and I had nearly forgotten that the whole point was supposed to be to have a place to try out the original colour schemes of historical patterns that I was modernizing.

I had to buy more of the red thread I am using, and saw narrow linen band in the shop, so I stopped work on the sampler long enough to make a bookmark from one of the patterns I am planning on using there soon. Even on the sampler I am planning to switch the colours - I am trying to keep to twice as much black as red. Since I am doing the alphabets in red, the other bands need to be mostly black. For the bookmark I have not only chosen very different colours, but also changed the way they are distributed.

This pattern is taken from 'Stickmusterschatz' by Irmgard Gierls (Part 2, p. 69). She says that it is taken from clothing on a painting by one of the old German Masters. The first thread is an overdyed floss by Needle Necessities (196). I had some problem deciding which thread to use for the contrast. I settled on Anchor 897. I'm quite happy with the result. I'll try to remember to show you the 'same' band from the sampler once I have stitched it. Originally the large diamonds, their decorations and the baselines near them are red. The centres there, the small diamonds and the swirls off them are black.

I have now designed my own Greek alphabet for the sampler. I found a nice Russian one online, and have given up on the idea of Hindi - There are just way too many letters. Anyway, It's coming along quite nicely. Actually it's getting a bit too big for my scanner already. Below the narrow band that you can barely see part of I have also started the next alphabet: that is a wide band in Assisi work with nice borders either side of the alphabet in negative.

Thursday, 22 February 2007


The two quilts are the biggest open projects . Steven's quilt is fun: Each block is different, and each block we have designed together so that the quilt will reflect his taste (over a period of time), as well as mine. The quilt will be 6 x 4 30 cm. blocks, except that the central 4 blocks are one big chess board. (In flannel so the flannel pieces will stay put.) The left hand column will spell STEVEN. The other blocks are a big medley of things. There is a Harry Potter block quilted in 'glow in the dark' thread that makes the moon really shine. An appliqued tiger with machine-embroidered jungle around it. A fish tank where the biggest fish has eaten a cat. A Paper-pieced puffin. A crazy square that uses all sorts of bits that Steven liked but somehow didn't inspire full blocks... The S is a lovely snake. We started with a copyart picture, Jerry changed the image to come closer to a real S shape, then I appliqued and embroidered it. One of the Es is a Pakman out of a bubble material that Steven liked. It's really high time I finished the quilt. Luckily I'm quilting each block as I go along, and also sewing some of the blocks together. When the final block is made I'll be able to bind it and be done.

The 3D quilt is mostly to have a quilt, and for the fun of sewing with others once a month. I do like the pattern, though, and have made one big change to the quilt as planned for the class - It has sashing that matches the block background. Except mine won't. Karen and I found a marvelous match in Essex Junction that will enhance the quilt, and my blocks will 'pop' visually as they wouldn't otherwise.

Then there are several samplers going. Right now I'm actively working on a sampler of 30 cm wide linen band trying out some of the bands in Linn's reprint books. These will be alternated with various alphabets. The first one is Latin alphabet in back stitch. I intend alternating the latin alphabet with others that are meaningful to me. That means Hebrew and Greek, of course. Also Russian. I ought to also try to do the Hindi alphabet I (supposedly) learned as a child. After that I could use a cursive Hebrew alphabet and braille, if I am still working on the sampler. The piece of band is 1 meter long, so the final length is more up to how long I feel like working on it. I'm sticking to red and black on this one.

IThe Hebrew sampler is near the top of the heap.

I am also working on a kit of the rose window of the National Cathedral in Washington DC. Dad gave it to me for my birthday, and it is proving to be quite a challenge. First I tried replacing the 16 count Aida with 32 count linen. Forget it. I can't see that well, and there is just too much thread counting becuase the bits of colour are so scattered. I think what I'm using now is 25 count. Much better. I bought new black for the background rather than risk running out and having the new not match, but decided to use the coloured threads. A risk, I know, but it's going to be fine. This kit had plenty of thread in it, even for a significantly larger embroidery. I do wish, however, that the pattern had overlap between the pages. I finally had to glue the sheets together, and the size is very difficult to deal with.

There is also most of a crocheted sweater lying around for me to work on. One of these ribbony yarns.

I'm also supposed to be working on Christmas stockings for Melissa and Cailan.

Is that ALL my WIPs? No, but it's the ones that I think have a chance of being worked on in the next few months. I'll try to report in once a month.

Week 8 Project 6 Steven's quilt

Actually not Steven's quilt yet, just another block for it. Nor does it really count yet, as I have to dig out the box of materials and quilt the block before it counts. The digging is what will take time.

I'm working on a 3D quilt with classes at my local quilt shop, and decided it was time to try and use the patterns I was learning in a different size. Steven and I went through my stash and decided to base this square on the chilli pepper cloth. The grey and orange were chosen to coordinate with that, and we decided to use the same background material as for the quilt.

I will quilt only a few lines in the flat bits. That means in the four corners, in the background triangles of the point squares, and the grey corners of the central square.

BTW the blocks for Steven's quilt are 30 cm (about 12 inches.)

Saturday, 17 February 2007

Thoughts on Quentel and Art Nouveau

I gave myself a treat last night, and looked through another of the books I got from Linn Skinner: This time her reprint of Hiersemann's reprint (1882) of Quentel (1527 - 1529).

Of course I am already working on another bookmark. (I'd better find a source of band I like here fast! I only picked up 4 of these when I was in the US. Mostly because the store I found them at had a lousy selection.)

The pattern I picked out was only one of several that I would not have hesitated at dating to the late 19th century. Very 'Art nouveau.' Of course I was aware that that period was also full of reworkings of historical patterns. How could I not be, living here in Vienna and seeing the Ringstrasse buildings so constantly. And I knew that William Morris had referred back to old traditions in his writings. But it did stop me in my tracks when in the middle of so many traditional blackwork patterns beloved of the sampler crowd there were designs that shouted Art nouveau at me. Even a border of facing birds that is very reminiscent of Morris's 'Strawberry thief'. I had never seen before how the old designs had been brought out and refurbished. Just a reminder that for all the refurbishing we do, good design is good design is good design; What is new is not in the basics, but how we interpret them for our own time and needs.

Speaking of Art nouveau: If you are ever in Bern (Switzerland), try to get a look at the ceiling of the Old Catholic cathedral there. The panels are painted with lovely Art nouveau floral designs. I had to laugh, though. After admiring a group of lilies, I moved on to the next panel. It took me ages to figure out what flower was being depicted: Edelweiss. But instead of being the little retiring squat plants they have to be to survive the Alpine heights, they were as tall and as full of the same foliage as the neighbouring lilies. Very fun!

Wednesday, 14 February 2007

Week 7 Project 5 Bookmark

This week I've been playing with a pattern out of one of Linn Skinner's reprints. This is taken from 'Pattern Leaves from Lessing & Lipperheide' p. 20. First a look at how the original would have been worked in two colours, and then the way I have worked it. I redistributed the colours and used four:

I started with DMC 4050. Then two colours chosen to match: 3849 and 3012. The fourth colour is one strand each of 4050 and 3849. This close-up shows that better. I'm also really pleased to have started filling up my little box of gifts again. it had gotten very empty, but soon I hope to have a few choices available the next time I want to take a little something along to a friend.

Tuesday, 30 January 2007

Week 5 Project 4 Cuffed shawl

When I finished the scarf I found myself with part of a ball of dark yarn, and part of a ball plus an untouched ball of the red yarn. I decided to try out using a larger hook on the yarn. First I worked a row of double crochet (in red), then for the next row I crocheted * 1 dc in each of next 3 dc. 1 Ch, skip 1 dc Repeat from * across ending with 3dc. I continued in a sort of chessboard filet pattern - the 3 dc at the end of each row, and then replacing the center dc of a 3 dc with a ch and doing a dc in the ch1 space. I love the airy, but warm (fluffy, with 18% mohair) fabric that resulted, and knew that it would make a great cuffed shawl. Of course now I was going to need another ball of the red...

The idea of a cuffed shawl is that you make a long rectangle - long enough to reach from one wrist to the other across your shoulders. Then you join the corners of each short end, making a cuff. When you put your hands through these cuffs, the shawl sits nicely across your shoulders. I love them. This one has the big red rectangle with sc in black along each of the long sides, and the cuffs also in black sc.

When Jerry left this evening to get Steven from scouts I was still crocheting. While he was gone I finished the crocheting, sewed in the ends with my new bone needle from Skinner Sisters . When he got home I was sitting here wearing my new shawl. He was surpirsed, and I am very pleased with myself.

One of the good sides of having to go to the US is that Linn Skinner could finally send me the books I wanted from her, along with a few other goodies. Linn is a good friend and a great teacher; one of my favorite thread people. International shipping just keeps getting more and more troublesome, so I try hard not to do it. This box might have been worth it, though. The bone needle made me feel like Ayla in Jean Auel's books, but besides that, it proved much easier to thread than I expected, and went through the threads like a dream. I love it!

Most of the books somehow fit into a suitcase, but two ended up in my carry on and got read on the plane. If you are interested in historical needlework, her new reprints are just super. I'm trying to figure out how to use the designs in the two I've read in ways that qualify for my challenge. The first design I want to use is credited to a Holbein portrait of Jane Seymour. NOT the Vienna one, but a very similar one, now attributed to his workshop, in The Hague.. Both seem to be based on the same sketch (also survived). The sketch doesn't show needlework around the cuffs. The two paintings do. The Vienna portrait shows a wide blackwork border, the Hague one a much narrower border that is mostly cross stitch. It's this cross stitch border I want to play with.

Week 4 Project 3 Denim Skirt

The second skirt turned out to be a real project, too. First I was going to just use a pattern I had bought. Then I decided to stay with the pattern, BUT first do the hem in scallops, following the embroidery on the denim. Did that, and it took a lot of time, but the results were well worth it.

Then I looked at the pattern, and realized that it was just two rectangles, and would waste some of the lovely material. Besides, my experience is that I need some of the bulk taken out of the waist. Mom and I discussed the matter, and we decided on one slit in back instead of two at the sides. So I sewed up the back, curving in a bit towards the top. I finished off the slit, and decided that there was still much too much bulk, so I figured out where the side seams would come if there were any, and made large darts there on both sides. Now I had enough space to still get in easily, but not a lot of extra.

The rest was easy. Iron in the channel for the tie. Make the tie. (Here I actually followed the pattern,a and made the tie in two pieces with some elastic in between.) Make buttonholes, sew the channel and thread the tie through. Now hem the whole thing by hand. Don't know when I last did that! But the skirt looks really good.

Friday, 12 January 2007

Week 2 Project 2 Bias Skirt

Yesterday I went out to a fabric store. The first skirt is almost done. I found this great linen/cotton blend with ruffles sewed to it all over, and decided to use a pattern for a bias-cut skirt. First, the extra ruffle down the front had to go. That made the extra V under the yoke look a bit wierd, not to mention that it was not going to cut well with the ruffles. So I made a piecework fabric and cut the V out of that. It looks good so far. I need to finish the casing for the waist elastic and the hem. I'll wear it tomorrow.

The second skirt is an embroidered denim. That probably won't count as a project. Unless I get carried away when I'm sewing it.

Thursday, 11 January 2007

Week2 Project 1 Crocheted scarf

I'm in Vermont right now helping my parents. Mom decided to try crocheting again after many years, so we both bought wool and hooks. What we bought is mostly acrylic, but has 18% mohair, so it actually feels nice, and is very fluffy. I liked some of the ideas in the books Mom bought - especially having slits all down the center of a scarf to pull an end through. But I don't like long chains, so how could I work from a short end and still have the slits? Another scarf in the book was split vertically into two colour areas, in spite of being worked from the short end.

Aha! If I worked that way, changing colours half way across each row, I could then decide to just go back and forth one side of a slit, pick up the other side and work up to the same height and go on as before.
Picking up turned out to be very easy - just do a slip stitch to pick up a loop before continuing in pattern. At the rejoin I work the dc to where two loops are on the hook. then I drop the working yarn, pick up the loop from the other side, yarn over with the new colour and through all three loops on hook. The only slightly tricky bit is being sure I start the next stitch in the right place. I want to try this with a less fluffy yarn when I get home. This fluffy stuff really covers any irregularities, and the scarf looks great. I also made one end pointed, so I have a choice between showing a square end or a pointy end.

I'll get a picture up when I get home. I've having a few difficulties with Mom's computer. Glad to be able to do this much here.

Monday, 1 January 2007

Week 1 starts

I've done some needlefelting today - just a few samples, nothing that I can use for anything really - unless I call the larger one a coaster. But it was fun. I wanted to show you, but am having trouble uploading pictures today.

Otherwise I worked on the avodat yad Hebrew alphabet band sampler. Very nice pattern, and I'm having fun playing with the threads. I'm using silks and metallics. Breaking some rules - I'm using Oliver Twist machine threads, and prefer using two strands for some bands, so have to double up a thread that is not meant for it. I quite like the way it moves in and out of a tweady look as well as changing colours. Lovely!

I leave for the US on Thursday. I'm taking my quilting with me. But that doesn't really count either - not until the whole quilt gets finished. But I suspect I can find ways of fulfilling the challenge even while travelling.