Sunday, February 10, 2013

Needlework Notes from Mackenzie House

Don't you long to have one of these to hold your knitting yarn? Last weekend my friend Mark and I visited Mackenzie House, a former home of the publisher and 1837 Rebellion leader William Lyon Mackenzie. Because of his newspaper publishing history, there's an antique printing shop in a rear addition to the home. This is used there (as you see) to hold a ball of twine, but apparently every knitter who goes through expresses a fervent wish to have one just like it. (In my case, it would go a long way towards solving the problem of cat attacks.

This "slipper chair"(a term for a low, armless upholstered chair) is one of the few original pieces of furniture in the house. It was needlepointed by Janet "Jennie" Mackenzie (1829-1906) sometime in the mid-19th century (the house has been restored to an 1860s appearance). She was a daughter of William Lyon Mackenzie who married Charles Lindsey, a newspaperman and biographer of Mackenzie.

I'm not crazy about the design myself, but I'm wondereing whether the colours might have been different when it was made 150 years ago. I'd like it better if the greens were less brown and drab... which perhaps they were. It shows a date palm and other tropical foliage; apparently Egypt was in vogue at the time. The pale blue background is worked with beads, which must have taken ages to do!

I do think the pleated green velvet edging is a clever workaround for getting the needlepoint to fit nicely over the curved edges of the seat. I'm pretty sure it would have been brighter back in the day. I wonder whether "Jennie" did the upholstery herself. It's held up very well!

Photo credit: Mark D'Aguilar

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