Friday, June 30, 2017

Mary Rowe's Sampler

Having completed the final episode of A Year and a Day in the Life of Goody Imagination Prymm, and now working on a revised, more unified form of it, I have to keep my hands busy, along with my mind.  Stitching is a great way for me to contemplate my writing...a different way to immerse myself in the subject.  So I have recently begun a small sampler that could have been done by Mary Prince Rowe, accused Gloucester witch of 1692.  Many folk believe that all the accused in the Salem Witch Trials were from Salem, yet more were actually from neighboring towns, such as Gloucester and Andover.  I found Mary to be particularly interesting because she was accused (along with her mother and daughter) but released after spending some time in the Ipswich jail (like Goody Prymm!).  As I work on this fictional stitchery of hers, I'll add more information about her...and share how her sampler reflects her experiences...

You can see below I've taken a piece of very nice white linen, 35 count, and dyed it and stained it in a black walnut bath.  To add to the "aging" process, I used sandpaper on it to give it a rougher, more worn appearance.  After I complete the sampler, I may dye it yet again, stitched threads and all.  Perhaps an onion skin bath?

Mary lived to be 65 years old, from July 19, 1658 until she passed away March 3, 1723, so the border I've chosen to stitch is an historical possibility, as the earliest known American sampler with this particular border is dated 1721.  This photo is of Margret Palfrey's (Boston) sampler, dated 1739, from Betty Ring's American Needlework Treasures (now out of print), and shows the border I am planning to stitch. I like the little oak leaves in the curves, though they are a bit difficult to decipher in this picture.  I'm also using similar color threads...

I will need to choose a verse that would reflect Mary's life experiences, as well as a sampler motif or two...but whatever I choose I plan to use historically accurate possibilities!  Well, mostly. ;)

Update:  An interesting fact about Mary Rowe is that she came from a very prominent, wealthy family; in fact, all of the nine accused Gloucester women had, or were trouble makers (Mary's mother was known to have a sharp tongue), or were relatives of the accused.  I've begun the "snaky" part of the border and have stitched in two little oak leaves so far (I originally thought they were pine branches), so sweet, but also symbols of strength.  I think a 63-year-old woman can be sweet as well as strong, which is the age I'm envisioning her having stitched this.  The colors, I think, are soft and feminine.  There is very little information about the person of Mary Rowe, so my sampler will reflect my concept of her..."Innocent But Unafraid," which is the Rowe family crest motto and, come to think of it, is a perfect phrase to stitch for a person who had been unjustly accused of witchcraft!

Update:  Uh, oh.  Houston, we have a problem.  but not really, as I think this was fairly common. You can see in Margret's sampler below that the border was off.  'Course, she was only 13...most of the samplers of this time period were done by girls between the ages of 4 and 17, 13 being the average age (according to Glee Krueger's New England Samplers to 1840)...but there are a few in existence that were done by boys and older ladies, in my mind our Mary Rowe being one of them.

In Mary's sampler, I tried to balance it out a what will I do to make it less glaring?  Why, work in a motif on each side.  I'm thinking almost bare branches of bittersweet in the two lower corners (and continuing the border at the bottom).  This sampler has taken an autumn turn, and I imagine that Mary, in the autumn of her life whilst stitching this, and having been imprisoned in the Ipswich jail for several months decades before, had bittersweet memories of enduring that experience and yet surviving it.   Autumn is a soft and reflective season to me...that's what her sampler is becoming...

Update:  I've completed the border.  Although many borders of this type have another inside stitched row, I felt as though this sampler is simply too small for that, measuring a demure 8" x 71/2".  The shape is squarish, as samplers of the early 1700s became more nearly square, as opposed to the preceding generations, those samplers being long and narrow.  As I intended, I have begun stitching the branches of bittersweet in the lower corners, and I really like how it is turning out.  In the photo on the left you can see the DMC threads I've chosen.  Initially I had intended to use the pumpkin color for the orange, but as the berries were so very tiny, it really called for a more intense orange/yellow.  Next I will need to decide what picture I will stitch at the bottom, below which will be "Innocent But Unafraid."   Mary's husband Hugh Rowe was a seaman, so I considered a ship.  But now I'm thinking about a bridge of sorts (this sampler is about her, after all), which has all manner of symbolic significance.  The story relates that Mary, along with two others, were accused of bewitching the sister of a Lt. Stephens.  The three women were crossing Ipswich Bridge on their way to the gaol, having been arrested, and an old woman who met them was immediately thrown into convulsions.  They were charged with "committing wickedly and feloniously sundry acts of witchcraft upon the body of Mrs. Mary Fiche of Gloucester" (The Historical Collections of the Topsfield Historical Society, vol. XI, 1906).

Update:  I've been waffling on what to stitch.  That's how my creative process goes...I often have to ruminate for some time before knowing what it is that I want to do.  I've nixed the idea of just the bridge.  Rather, my Mary Rowe will be reflecting on the graces she was given and the blessings that she has.  At 34, she was arrested and put in the Ipswich Jail on September 24, 1692, then released on bond, then arrested again and imprisoned once again in the Ipswich Jail.  There she stayed until December after making an appeal to the court for clemency from the harsh conditions.  The Ipswich Jail, like the Salem Jail, was damp, cold, and rat and flea place for a human being.  So, at  the age of 63, Mary will be stitching her home...something she so missed while imprisoned. There will be trees perhaps...and definitely some crows.  Why crows? In samplers they often symbolized death but they were also symbols of hope. I rather like that dichotomy.  In the picture on the right, I've made more progress on the house. I'm considering having all the windows dark, except for one.
The trees will be shades of fall, I think. Notice that the body of the house is done in half stitches. I saw that on an antique sampler, which quite struck me. There really are no rules in stitching...(boy, that is really one sloppy chimney there...).

Update:  Traveling to far-flung places was a grand adventure, but it is so good to be home.  I couldn't wait to pick up Mary Rowe's sampler here's the latest.  House completed, along with one window of light (always a good sign).  Outside, there are green, thriving white pines...and one gnarled dead tree, a grim reminder of what could have been for them, given the dark fate of so many in 1692. I have yet to stitch the crows...that will come this afternoon. Then on to the letters and numbers, some of which will have significance in the form of initials (not just Mary's)...

Update: I read somewhere in that, in English folklore, there was a parliament of crows in which three crows presided over a larger number of crows and would sit in judgment over the fate of another crow. The verdict would sometimes result in a crow's being set upon by all the other crows. Well, the parallel for Mary's case (and the other accused witches) are all too obvious...hence, I chose three crows.  They seem to be casting their eyes past Mary's house...

Update:  I've begun stitching the lettering in the style of 1600s...and I initially began using one thread over two but, given the diminutive size of this sampler, I reduced it to one thread over one. VERY tiny indeed, but appropriate.  And I couldn't help but draw my inspiration from this incredibly small stitching of one over one in Cawdor Castle in Scotland, on the right.  Yes.  That's stitching, not writing.  WOW! That linen had to be at least 45 sorry it's such a poor photograph...

Update:  I've decided that Mary would have stitched the names of the so-called "Gloucester Witches," she being one of the nine. The first I have stitched is Esther Elwell, who came from a prominent family and also married into wealth. Her mother, too, had once been accused of witchcraft, but it is not known when. Interestingly, Sarah Jessica Parker is descended from Elwell. Esther, also known as "Hester," was accused along with Rebecca Dike and Mary's fifteen-year-old daughter, Abigail Rowe, of witchcraft by seventeen-year-old Betty Hubbard, and of murdering their neighbor Mary Fitch, who actually came down with a mysterious illness. Luckily for them, the court dissolved before their case was taken, and they survived the Salem Witch Trials.  Both Rebecca and Abigail came from prominent, landed families. Do you detect a theme here? It seems no one was immune from accusations. Esther died September 6, 1721, at the age of 82. I would like to stitch all their names in the colors of autumn leaves and bittersweet vine...

Update:  I've added Mary Rowe, Elizabeth Dicer, and Joan Penney's names in one section, as they were in the Ipswich Jail together. Elizabeth Dicer was a local woman (Salem) who had been fined thirteen times for calling Mary English's mother a "black-mouthed witch and a thief." Apparently, it was best to have held one's tongue in those harrowing times. It's still not a bad idea today! Joan Penney had numerous squabbles with neighbors over land and had been brought to court a number of times for such crimes as wearing a silk scarf and "breach of the Sabbath" after she carried bushels of corn on her way to church. No wonder Goody Prymm preferred living on the edge of the woods, eh? As far as the sampler is concerned, you may be wondering why Joan's first initial is an "I" rather than a "J." You stitchers of historic samplers already know this...that many early samplers do not have the letters "J" and "U" (see the word Gloucester?) because they were not part of the early Latin alphabet, so "I" was used for "J" and "V" was used for "U." The letter "s" was often replaced with the printers "s," which looks like an "f." I chose to stitch the "s" backwards to add a bit of innocent charm to Mary's work. I placed a dime next to the lettering so that you could see how tiny the stitching of one over one can be. I

Update:  I've worked the last of the accused Gloucester witches' names. There is Margaret Prince, mother of Mary Rowe and grandmother of Abigail Rowe, known for her troublesomeness.  And there's Rachel Vinson, the widow of William Vinson whose first wife had also been accused of witchcraft. And finally Phoebe Day, related to fellow accused witch Sarah Wildes, who was hanged for witchcraft on July 19, 1692. Next I shall stitch under these women's names "Innocent But Unafraid," and will probably do a bit of embellishing here and there. What shall I make this stitchery into?

Update: I've almost completed the "Innocent But Unafraid," except I had to leave out the conjunction "but," as it was not going to fit. No matter. The two words alone get the message across. I only have to stitch a "D." It's foreign looking, isn't it. Like Latin. :) On one side of the middle crow I will stitch "16" and on the other "92," the year of both their accusation and release. The morning light is very bright this morning, really showing off the gold thread and the lovely textures. I lost my needle in the carpet (arrrgh!) and have been using a larger one, very difficult when stitching one over one, but I'm managing. I'm sure I'll find the needle at some point, haha!

Update:  Finished stitching the word "Unafraid" and added the 1692. That date had to be in black. And then I decided to add one more crow, this one flying away---free---the three parliament crows looking on. It filled a space but also communicates Mary's feelings of this ordeal. Now I will add the fictional year in which she would have stitched this (probably 1722, the year prior to her death), along with her initials, and perhaps one more small motif...

Update:  No need for any motifs...'tis finished, at least the embroidery part.  The M is a bit off, but that's because of the unevenness of the linen weave to figure out what it will become. I hope to make a needle roll, or some such thing...

Update:  I've almost finished the entire piece, making it into something functional. Now I just need to find the perfect little button, attach, and make a loop! Will post again soon with the final results!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Leaving

Goody Prymm had fallen ill and taken to her bed, something that, in all her seventy-one years on this earth, had never happened before.  For two days, Remember, carefully following Goody Prymm's sage advice and instruction, had tried the use of herbs to restore her to health, but the fatigue and chest pains persisted until finally, on the second day, the young girl sent for John Dane, Ipswich's chirurgeon and physician.  After a thorough examination, Doctor Dane shook his head and soberly informed Remember that there was nothing further that could be done---that the best Remember could do would be to stay close by and see to her comfort as best she could.  With that, the good doctor departed, leaving Remember to attend to Goody Prymm.  All the remaining day, Remember kept close by her side, providing what sustenance Imagination would take and talking softly to her of good things.

When the dark night had finally descended, Goody Prymm's breathing became more shallow, and she seemed to slip into a dreamlike state, Remember holding her hand all the while...

Yes, the moon is waning gibbous...a releasing of the old...oh!  the cry of the wewes, yes, that's what the Wampanoags call them that announce the coming change....death!... Tansy! did you hear them? run!  the black pool reveals the coming's so cold, so cold in this lonely place...and it's so black in here. I'm no witch! Mercy, bless you, dear...why, it was only a poppet for a lonely child! poor child...losing her mother and father when so young and tender.  now losing your own little one...why did you do it, Remember? I never had can be mine, though! those amber two bay candle flames in the velvet night...did you see that shooting star?  oh, black bobbin lace is special, made only for the most important occasions...

Remember stoked the coals to keep warmth in the room and returned to Goody Prymm's bedside. There she kept vigil throughout that dark night, gently and lovingly dabbing the old woman's forehead with a cool herbal compress, watching her as she lay motionless, in a deep place where Remember could not go...

We have to cut the branches while they're still green.  yes. that's the way. the soil must be enriched with herring. oh, kittens like fish.  Smoke? yes, you can bring her home. it's beautiful, Samuel, a perfect place to raise a family. it's a perfect day for spring soup! how I love the, too? we're cut from the same cloth, we are...I gave her the beautiful red-dyed material. buried it with her. don't worry about the baby! the calf is grown enough to survive's a difficult journey, Samuel...I don't know if I can do it...this place is so different...oh, I miss my mother and grandmother!'s a boy! and twins!  why couldn't know you'll have to set him free...set him free, Remember...

Some time, in the wee hours, at that moment when Remember had dropped off to sleep still gently clasping the old woman's hand in hers, the spun thread broke...and the wheel slowed to a stop, never to turn again.


She awakened to the sound of birds and morning sunlight streaming through the diamond paned window, its light casting a pattern across Imagination's bed.  Remember sat up with a start and, looking at Goody Prymm, now very still, Remember's eyes slowly softened with the realization, and she bowed her head and wept.


Goody Minter, now Goody Cooper, and Longing came to assist with the preparations, Goodman Cooper fetching a rough fieldstone to be used as a marker.  Not having been Puritan, nor Anglican, nor even Catholic, Goody Prymm would be buried on her own property, there at the edge of the woods she had so loved.  Ever since she set foot on these shores so long ago and so far from her Lancashire home, she had walked a solitary path---her path---one of healing and mercy and compassion for all those she met.  There would be no minister in attendance, only the few, and a quiet breeze whispering through the great white pines in the bordering woods.  Somehow, the Indians knew Goody Prymm had passed over, and had brought gifts in the night to be buried with of honor for this woman of great manitou.  Remember too would add her own gift, a piece of black silk bobbin lace she had only recently completed, with which she had intended to surprise Goody Prymm...but which would now be placed in her hands, the hands of the woman who had loved her and taught her so much.


Throughout the following week, many Ipswich folk stopped in to pay their respects, Remember greeting them as would a grown woman, with grace and appreciation.  When the dwindling visitations had at last stopped, Remember sat down in front of the great stone fireplace where the two of them had so often shared their thoughts and dreams as they happily stitched and spun and drank their herbal teas.  Patting the soft ball of grey fluff purring in her lap, Remember reflected on the joys they had many joys! and marveled at how two people could come to love each other so deeply in such a short span of time.  Goody Prymm had left her everything---the land, the house, the gardens---all she owned in this world.  As always, Imagination had been right.  Everything Remember would ever need was right here.  Then rising, she turned to Nightfeather's enclosure and, unhitching the woven top, scooped up the now fully healed crow and walked outside to the gardens she and Goody Prymm had planted and nurtured together, and then out toward the woods.  Stroking his sleek black-purple feathers and murmuring to him a few soft and secret words, Remember held Nightfeather to her cheek one last time and then, lifting him to the heavens, let him go.  Up, up he flew, his black silhouette stitching a joyful pattern of freedom in the blue sky!  She stood awhile watching and smiling and, finally turning to go, stopped in her tracks, as her eyes happened to cast to the edge of their woods where she saw the small fleeting shadow of a black rabbit stop, sit up, and then finally disappear.


Remember eventually had a proper tombstone made for Goody Prymm to replace the crude stone marker.  There she often visited, leaving small gifts of nature, things Goody Prymm loved.  To this day, if you go looking, you will find Imagination Prymm's tombstone still there where every winter, in late February, the tiny white blooms of hundreds upon hundreds of Snowdrops peep their heads out of the snow, stretching all the way back and further back into the woods, to welcome the coming spring.

© 2017 Nancy Duncan


Saturday, June 24, 2017

Green Witch's Report: Midsummer, or St. John's Feast Day

My Sloggers runneth over on this traditional Midsummer Day, also known as St. John's Day.  Although late at night on the 20th (at least in my part of this big world) officially ushered in the Summer Solstice, today is the traditional day of Midsummer celebrations and St. John's Feast Day.  So I thought it fitting on this stormy day that this little green witch don her rain jacket, grab her camera, and head to the gardens.  You will not see any pictures this time, though, of the critters that inhabit my gardens, as they have wisely sought drier places, of which I have no clue. Good for them.  Stay dry, little friends.

The thyme is going crazy, the English thyme in particular (look at the little lake in front of it!).  The picture you see here is only half of the patch out in my rose garden.  Oh.  My poor roses.  Of 15 varieties, most of which were antique, only four survive.  I don't know what happened...but I believe it had to do with the trees around us, growing and growing, not allowing them the right light, whereas the middle part of the garden struggles in the constant, searing sun.  So one at a time, little by little, most of them died.  It's interesting how a garden changes with time.  The lemon thyme out front (see below) is clearly happy, and brushing my hand over its wet foliage leaves a fresh, lemony-thyme scent on my fingers.  That would make a nice lemon thyme bread....hmmmm...It may be the perfect day for baking...

Oh, my.  My rain barrel also runneth over...

And my gutters...

Speaking of roses, it's time to prune my White Lady Banks climber.  See those canes jutting out!  I have to prune this prodigious grower all throughout summer and autumn, else it will literally grow over my tiny house!  Truly, I speak no falsehood here!  There is no pruning until after it blooms its one time of the year in the spring.  Only one time, you exclaim!  Yes, but it's worth it, the tiny lemony-fragrant white blossoms covering the plant, which, after it blooms, serves as a nice bower on one side of my front porch, my comfy chair snuggled back in the corner next to it.  I like to take refuge there with a nice glass of white wine and just observe my gardens.

The gold lantana is abundant right now (see below on the right)...and laden with sodden flowers from this rain.  When it is dry, it stands up beautifully.  In the late winter, after it has long gone into its dormancy, I having left its dead leaves and stems for the wildlife to use as they will, I merely break the stems off at ground level and rake away the dead leaves to allow the new spring growth to enter the scene.  No need to use shears for this woody plant.

Other yellow blooms coming on the scene are those from my tansy (on the left, below), which is growing like crazy (I don't use the expression "growing like a weed," as there are no such things as weeds).  Tansy was called "bitter buttons" by the early Colonials and was said to alleviate arthritis. My tansy is juuuuuust beginning to yield its buttons, which will be dried and used in my autumn wreath.

Other golden flowers beginning to bloom are my black-eyed susans, some of which have self-sown on the other side of the garden, only they are a variegated version better able to handle the strong sun over there.  Plants adapt.  My!  It looks as though I took that picture at night, with the darkened skies and the shadow of the Three Sisters...

The last of the yellow blooms is the Mexican mint marigold, which has yet to bloom.  In my last report the center of the plant looked as though there were offspring all around it.  Now it is all one and will yield tiny, unassuming but VERY sweet-smelling flowers...also great for drying and adding to my autumn wreath.

Pink flowers are present, too.  Here are the pink salvia in my butterfly garden and the Mexican oregano in the front gardens, both beloved by the hummingbirds which visit to imbibe.

And there are white blooms, too.  A small crepe myrtle tree in the rose garden is bursting with buds that will hang beautifully above my Marian statue, surrounded by semi-precious stones and shells.
The crepe myrtles are especially beautiful this year.  The vine to the right is my Sweet Autumn Clematis which will bloom in September tiny white bursts of fluff with interesting seedheads.

Last is my plant which I have a love/dislike for, the blue mist plant...dislike because it is soooooo invasive, requiring me to constantly pull it up as it encroaches on my other plants' territory which, if not controlled, would choke them out and take over the entire garden!  Little tyrant.  I love it and grow it, though, because it is a wonderful oasis for migrating monarch butterflies in late summer, early autumn.  When those travelers visit my blue mist patch, it is truly magick and well worth the constant battle.  An understated little blue flower which must be heaven for butterfly-sipping.  See the one tiny bloom?  Soon it will be covered with them.  Ah.  The promise of a garden...

It's a New Moon on this special day...propitious for resting and planning new ventures!

Why not enjoy this St. John's Day, Midsummer Day, rain or shine, and find the time to relax and meander in a garden?  You'll be richer for it.  Yes, you will.

© 2017 Nancy Duncan

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Full Mead Moon

Goody Prymm was up early, entreating Remember to help her prepare for this important day.  She was feeling especially good---much better than of late---and wanted to go to the woods.  Remember was holding the now-healed crow, feeding him some fruit gathered from the small orchard  trees out back and asked Imagination what was so special about this day.  Why, this was St. John's Eve---Midsummer's Eve!  A time for gathering herbs, which would be at their most potent, and wildflowers, too!  It was a day and night of celebration, one she would not soon forget.  Hearing these things, Remember quickly placed Nightfeather back in his enclosure, Goody Prymm giving her a look of remonstrance, as he was fully healed now and should be set free.  Remember shifted her eyes away and ignored the old woman's silent reproach.  She had grown attached to the bird, as Goody Prymm had cautioned, and did not want to let him go...not just yet, at least.

So they gathered their baskets and filled them with the herbed bread prepared the night before, some cheese, and elderberry wine that Goody Prymm had traded for dyeing Goody Coffin's linen, Goody Prymm also tucking colorful strips of ribboned cloth in her pocket. Out the door they went, stopping first in their own gardens, Goody Prymm instructing Remember to pick specific herbs for this day:  St. John's wort, hyssop, sage, mint, basil, parsley, rosemary, lavender, and feverfew.  She did not speak of their healing properties this time; rather they simply enjoyed the plants' sensual aspects.  With each bunch they picked, the herbs released their aromas, full and strong.  Then the two headed to the meadows and finally to the woods, where they would pick meadowsweet and various wildflowers, and cut small branches of rowan, oak, fir, and pine.  The day was exquisite for walking and foraging in the wild!  This was Goody Prymm's day, her gait more spritely than usual and a healthy flush in her cheeks.  It was as though she were the herbs they harvested, full and strong, and at her very best.

Their baskets overflowing, they walked the now-familiar path to the black pool, a favorite spot for them, as it was always cool and restful.  Sitting down on the old log, they took out their fare and began to eat, the elderberry wine sweet and potent, a perfect accompaniment to the herbed bread and cheese.  And then they dined leisurely, taking in the day, Goody Prymm sharing things she never had before.  Tomorrow the sun would be at its height and then, just like that! magickally begin to weaken; it was a turning of sorts, the first trace of a seasonal change.  In her grandmother's day, they would decorate using oak leaves and holly, while her mother would visit shrines and holy wells and springs, dressing them with flowers.  All sorts of folly occurred on this eve and day!  Ramblings in the local woods, even wheels of fire rolled down great hills!  Remember listened, her eyes wide with wonder as she tried to picture these things in her mind.  Goody Prymm continued with stories of rites and spells, so to speak, performed to help women get married and have children, adding that it was said that such a night "set many cradles a-rocking," her stopping and smiling wistfully at the thought.  Coming out of her revery, Goody Prymm said now it was time to weave flower wreaths for their heads!  Here her ancient hands seemed deft at forming her wreath, fingers no longer stiff and slow, and Remember emulating her methods of twining and winding, adding her own sprays and colorful combinations according to what pleased her.  And this was why Goody Prymm brought the colorful ribbons!  As they worked, Goody Prymm recited a poem, soft and low...

"Yes, you are here in the soft buzzing grass.
Yes, you are listening among the flowering gardens.
Yes, you are shining from the most royal blue sky.
Yes, you are granting me what I wish tonight.
Grant me a healthy life with high purpose,
A true true partner to share my joys and my tears,
Wisdom to hear your voice giving me guidance,
Wealth to give to others as you have given to me."

And she wondered who Goody Prymm was thinking about as she spoke the words, a soft smile on her lips.  When they had finished their Midsummer wreaths, they gently placed each other's wreath on the other's head, all smiles and grins at their creations, Remember exclaiming that Goody Prymm never looked more beautiful than on this day!

They spent the remainder of the afternoon, talking and sharing while weaving a great wreath of oak, pine, holly, and fern that they would hang on their door when they returned home.  The woods were alive with magick that day, verdant and lush, colorful mushrooms growing on the ferny floors, the dank scent of greenness all around them, the dark pool gurgling with its clean, cold water.  Before they knew it, it was time to head back as Goody Prymm announced that the gloaming was at hand...that time of "betwixt and between," the time right before nightfall.  Gathering their now-empty baskets, Remember placing their door wreath around her neck, they walked the path leisurely to their home, looking, for all the world, like woodland fairies with their flowered head wreaths.

When they arrived, Goody Prymm instructed Remember to gather kindling and wood for an outdoor fire, while she placed the Great Midsummer Wreath on the batten door.  Stepping back, admiring their work, Goody Prymm smiled at the distant memories it evoked.

Soon night had indeed fallen, just as it promised, and a Full Moon rose in the sky.  The fire blazing now, Remember brought out their chairs to enjoy Midsummer's Eve, while Goody Prymm went inside to retrieve a special treat.  Upon her return she was carrying a vessel that she said contained mead, a rich honey ale that she had been brewing for a year. The Full Moon in this month had many names...Herb Moon, Strawberry Moon, and Honey Moon being but a few.  But for a Full Moon to occur on this night was a rarity, and special indeed, Goody Prymm choosing to call it a Full Mead Moon.  Remember had never tasted mead, but that first sip was like sipping the nectar of the sweetest meadow flowers in the world!  Goody Prymm laughed at the young girl's expression and then cautioned her to sip very slowly and enjoy the night.  As they sipped their mead and watched the fire, Goody Prymm told her that this was a time to acknowledge the wild things of this world...things that can be enjoyed, yes, but cannot and should not be tamed or controlled, Remember not replying but knowing full well what she meant.  Then Imagination changed the subject and talked about their head and door wreaths being symbols of seasonal cycles...and reminding the young girl that everything in this life changes...and to appreciate even the dark times when they come---and they would come---because such times make a person stronger and yet more appreciative of life's transitory and beautiful moments.  Then she playfully recited a poem from her childhood:

"St. John's wort doth charm all witches away
If gathered at midnight on the saint's holy day.
Any devils and witches have no poem to harm
Those that gather the plant for a charm."

At the owl's cry, Goody Prymm said it was time to toss their head wreaths into the fire, signaling the end of Midsummer's Eve.  Each removed the wreath from her own head, Remember somewhat reluctantly, and then threw them, one at a time, into the fire, the smell of burning herbs and flowers perfuming the night air around them with their earthy scents.

Afterwards, they lifted their cups and toasted one another, honoring each other's strengths and beauty, and drank in the moment.

***With a nod to "Summer Solstice Mythology:  Midsummer Night," from Arthur George's blog Mythology Matters, June 19, 2015; and "Celebrating Midsummer," from Waverly Fitzgerald's blog School of the Seasons, 1998.

***The first poem is from Zsuzsanna E. Budapest's book, The Grandmother of Time.  

© 2017 Nancy Duncan

Friday, June 16, 2017

Remember Me

I just couldn't stand it.  My hands were itching to begin another piece...all day long yesterday and the day before I stewed about it.  Today, though, I awakened with renewed fervor...and know the bones of what I will be working on...

The Crow in flight.  My drawing is sketchy :) but the stitching will be more detailed.  Mostly stitched in that deep black...but with shades of deep blue, the way you see a Crow's feathers in the light.  I may use silk thread for the black, as it has a sheen to it...

The blue reminds me of this early, early morning sky, a Waning Moon peeping through the branches of the Three Sisters...I often awaken before the light of day.  I see things that would otherwise be missed!

I'd like to incorporate outstretched arms at the bottom of the piece...but my vision often does not line up with reality.  We'll see.  Whose outstretched arms do you think they would be?

Update:  So I've whip-stitched the edges so that the linen does not unravel.  I think I will be making this design into a small pillow, primitively stitched around the edges with my own drop spindle handspun linen thread, and stuffed with fresh straw.  Would Remember have done it that way?

Just like I did with the rabbit on the Tombstone tympanum, I traced my Crow design directly onto the linen.  Can you see his spirit there?  I almost feel as though this is cheating...that it should be done freehand, but that is very difficult to do for me, having learned that lesson from stitching the Black Rabbit that way on Goody Prymm's sampler.  All turned out well, but had it not, well, that would've been a lot of ripping out and a loss of black silk thread, and perhaps even destroying the linen in the process!  Some of you might recall GP's sampler, earlier on in the Goody Prymm series...

A note on the linen for this new piece.  It is 35-count "Anne Boleyn" from The Primitive Hare.  It makes a beautiful ground, especially for black thread.  I have stitched a blackwork piece using this linen, as well as the Besom Hanger that I designed.  One I sold and the other I gave away.  I will keep this one for my Goody Prymm pieces collection.  See how nicely the Crow stands out against that linen.  Can't wait to add the blue accents!

Update:  This  morning...a little "storm stitching," as it rains and thunders!  Lovely way to pass a summer morning...Why, you must be thinking, "How slow she is with her stitching!"  Yup. Slow and quiet and easy does it this morning...gotta fill in all those spots.  Don't know why but, when I was at University, I had no problem sitting still through three-hour lectures.  But when I embroider, I must get up and move quite often, else I get too "antsy."  Notice, too, that I'm using an embroidery hoop now.  Although I really enjoy just holding the linen in my hands unadorned with a hoop, here you can see how important using one is.  For one, the linen was beginning to pucker, this being a satin stitch fill-in.  Also, by stretching the linen more tautly, the gaps reveal themselves...gaps that will need to be filled in.  The hoop (now vintage), btw, was my mother's, made of a different wood...rather pretty, and always nice to use something of hers.

Update:  The gaps are being filled that I've gotten some obligations out of the way, I can really set about finishing this piece, which must be done for next week...can you imagine why?

I added some purple silk accents (not blue, as in the story Remember strokes his "black-purple feathers").  The accents really aren't so pronounced as they appear in this picture (though I wish I had used only one thread for the accents, as opposed to two)...but it does look as though I need to do some touch-ups, especially on the tail feathers.  After those reparations, on to the lettering!  What will it say?  "Remember me."

Update:  I've begun the lettering, poring over these two iconic books (you veteran stitchers know what I'm talking about)...

...and decided to go with the same lettering as I used in Remember's sampler.  Those of you who have been Goody Prymm followers from the beginning will recognize it.  Although Remember could read, she could not write (as was common for many during this time), so Goody Prymm taught her her letters through stitching a sampler!  I think it will be Remember's signature from now on.  Yes, that's little Smoke atop the e and the m.  :)

Update:  This morning I've been drop spindling flax, which I intend to use to sew the little pillow together.  I must admit I had to review the process, as it has been a while since I've spindle spun flax. Ah, yes!  It must be spun counterclockwise.  Why?  Supposedly because that's the way the plant grows toward the sun.  Also, spinning "z twist" makes the bast fibers adhere to one another more strongly.  The first photo is of the flax strick (or part of it) that I used.  I was told that it is antique, found hanging in a barn in Kentucky, according to the Smoky Mountain Spinnery shop owner where I purchased it.  Charming idea, certainly.  The second photo is my flax water container.  It's a tiny gourd that has been hollowed out and wrapped in handspun flax, which can be hung on the spinning wheel, if that's what is being used to spin.  I just set it on a nearby table.  The old spinners of days past would use their spit.  I prefer the water.  :). The wet also helps the fibers to adhere.  Wool (as opposed to flax) is a protein fiber and has its own interlocking properties and so does not need moisture.  The third picture is my spinning caught in action.  Just look at me go, lol!  Dance, little spindle, dance!

This last picture is what I've spun, a nice little "cop" there on my spindle (now you know why, in fairy tales, the maiden is "flaxen-haired").  I may need to spin more.  I will let it rest on my spindle for a day or so and then see if it is usable to sew my pillow together.  As in all things, my spinning got better after a little while, although earlier some of the linen thread was quite thin and uneven.  Threading it through the linen and backing will determine its "staying" power.  We shall see!!

Update:  Today I prepared the two sides of the pillow, the back side a rough, dare I say, "cheap," linen, which I soaked in a brief dye bath of black walnut to soften the starkness of color and the linen itself.  Then I stitched the three sides, outer sides out, so that the flax thread would be seen.  I stitched a very primitive stitch, almost Indian-like, although that is just my personal impression and certainly not based on any historical understanding.

It went quite well, though I must admit there were a few "breaks" in the flax thread which I had to mend.  And.  Get this.  I did end up using my saliva as I stitched because it helped to keep the thread together and move smoothly through the materials. I just licked my fingers and gently twisted the thread on my needle all the way down to the knot.  Why didn't I use a water pot?  It was much more efficient and effective to stop and twist the thread periodically while wetting it myself.  No worries.  This little pillow is mine anyway...not to be sold, lol!  But I truly understand the old ways now.  I get it.

Today I stuffed the little pillow with fresh straw and sewed it up!

The final product....

© 2017 Nancy Duncan