27 August 2010

Taking photos of ancient magazines

At last I took the big decision and bought a new camera. With the perspective of taking many hundreds photos of ancient magazines, I thought it was worth to buy one of my own rather that stealing constantly my daughter's one... So I took advantage of a special offer and I bought a Nikon Coolpix s570, 12.0 Megapixels. Not a professional model, but definitely better than my previous one! My previous camera was a Coolpix too, but an old model that was only 4.0 Megapixels, and the difference shows!
But taking photos is just a step of the process... Not the first and not the last, actually!
First there is the ironing. Yes! Old magazines have been kept folded for decades, and once unfolded look more or less like this:

Of course the lines around the folds are unreadable as the paper doesn't stay flat and they fall out of focus, and the whole page does not lay flat, making it difficult to take a good photo (this is also blurred because I was starting to learn how to use the camera :-) )
The problem is even more evident in the case of the large sheets with patterns such as this one, which should be lying flat:

The paper is very thin and more than a century old, and creases almost cut the paper in some points (light can be seen through!)
These sheets too must be ironed. Here is the same sheet; the part on the right  has been ironed a bit.


I used a medium temperature (I presume too hot will an iron damage the paper ... I suppose it isn't beneficial to paper fibres in any case, even just warm, but I'll do it only once, in order to take photos, and then keep sheets flat  so that they won't get creased again), pressing the iron rather that pushing it around as such old  paper is exceedingly delicate and the risk of tearing it is very high.
As I wrote, this is just the first step.
But then photos can be taken. I use a tripod, while placing the papers on the (just cleaned) floor. I use only the natural light, as I've never been able to make decent photos of the flash, and this is no exception...
Then I download photos on my pc, and I must edit them, Actually they don't need any important intervention, just (usually) a slight rotation as they are never perfectly horizontal (it would take more time to pay attention while taking photos than correcting this later!) , the discarding of all the unimportant details (my floor and some tripod legs that enter the image), and the balancing of the brightness/contrast (which is difficult because the paper is very yellowed by time and doesn't give a good contrast). I do all this on-line  with Picnik , which is free and very immediate for this kind of simple  interventions on images.
Then at last I can upload the final photos on Italian Needlecrafts! (I'll do it tonight)
This is the Pattern Sheet, after ironing...


Creases are still visible (ironing can't make miracles and delete century-old wrinkles...) but the patterns can be seen very well!

25 August 2010

Work in progress

I'm weaving again! I have a beautiful mohair yarn with some metallic in it, and I've decided to make a few small scarves with it...


The work proceeds quickly!

23 August 2010

Gli Arazzi della Battaglia di Pavia

Beautiful books about tapestries are rather difficult to find; even important museums often  dedicate only some tiny photos in their general catalogues to their tapestry collections... I couldn't find any about the big collection owned by the Vatican Museums, for example.
But sometimes there are exceptions! The tapestry series of The Battle of Pavia, for example, stored in the Museo di Capodimonte (Naples), is documented in a very beautiful book.

These tapestries were woven in the 16th century in Brussel, and are amazingly detailed. But what I like most, are their colours... Their vibrant colours make them look very modern  and underline every detail of the landscape or of clothing. Look for example at this knight, and at feathers on his helmet!

The confusion of the battle is shown in all its details and give us a report of the battling conditions of the time How uncomfortable such clothes must have been in battle!....

...And they didn't even help while in the water!

The book shows a wealth of details from all the tapestries, and (for once!) seems aimed at tapestry lovers, not just written by people who appreciate "tapestry as a painting", and try to describe it as such  (tapestry lovers will certainly know what I'm talking about: tapestries talked about  just in terms of the 'surface image', as if they were paintings, and completely missing the fact that they are a different technique).
An important part of the book is dedicated to the drawings used for these tapestries (I don't know whether they were the actual cartons or some preliminary drafts); they are kept at the Louvre Museum and it's very interesting  to see them along the woven tapestries.
This is a wonderful book for  those who love ancient tapestries!

20 August 2010

Il Ricamo

And this is another ancient Italian embroidery magazine!

It was totally a surprise...A wonderfully generous lady from the USA (thanks Trudy!!) sent me more than 50 issues of this magazine, because she appreciated the work I'm doing with 'Il Ricamo Illustrato' and she wished the same for 'Il Ricamo'...This way patterns won't be lost, for embroiderers and decorators all over the world.
Issues range from 1905 to 1912 (mostly from 1910 - 1911), so they are older than those of 'Il Ricamo Illustrato'.
I've already set up the page   to host all these magazines, but will wait for the return of my daughter (and hespecially, her camera ;-)) to start taking photos...This way I can be sure of making a good work right from the start. I've just uploaded the cover photo of the first issue, which is unfortunately incomplete...There are also a number of  loose sheets that will be almost impossible to collocate in the right order as only the first page of the magazine used to bear the issue date and number. Anyway nothing will go lost, and I'll find a way to place even loose sheets.
This first issue has a lovely Hardanger piece  on the first page; and it's amazing to see how much Hardanger there is in all these issues...I didn't know Hardanger (that was called 'Hardang' at the time in Italy! At least it's spelled consistently so in this magazine) was so popular in the first years of 20th century.

Maybe this will also be the occasion to buy a new camera  for myself, I've been thinking about that for a while but haven't resolved yet...But as I'll have to take many hundreds photos  (or maybe thousands!) in the next few months, probably it's time to do an upgrade in this field!

06 August 2010

Il Ricamo Illustrato

... I uploaded a new issue on my site, Italian Needlecrafts. This time it's No 23, dating 1st December 1926. Nowadays, December issues of magazines are all centered on Christmas patterns, but at the time it seems it wasn't so, and this issue does not show any difference in theme compared to the previous ones...
Anyway, for this issue I borrowed my daughter's camera (which has a better definition than mine) to see whether photos came visibly better...Well, the difference was so striking that I decided to repeat all the photos of the older issues too! So I'm practically starting the work again...But this time even the smaller details will be seen well.
This is my favourite pattern of this issue:

It was obviously meant to be embroidered as cutwork (and maybe I'll try it...) , but it's very similar to patterns of Assisi embroidery (and maybe I'll try it as an Assisi pattern too!).
It's also very remindful of  patterns I drew from Tuscan architectural details and collected in a PDF booklet  ('Patterns of mythical creatures from Medieval Tuscan churches'), so I wonder whether this too comes from a similar source...

05 August 2010

Holiday moments

Now that I'm back to my everyday life, I'm trying to put some order in the photos I took during my holidays.
Actually, I tend to take photos of *everything* I think I could find at least slightly interesting, often in multiple copies  'just in case' (as my digital camera is rather old and its screen is so small it's difficult to judge the quality... Then when I come home with several hundreds photos, I'm presumed to make a choice  and keep only those worth to be preserved, but..Oh, well, it's so difficult to make a choice! So in the end I tend to keep everything, after all  hard disks are cheaper and cheaper...
So here are a few snippets from my holidays, the rest will be on Webshot in a few days...

My tent ripped by the wind! The glorious Quechua 4.2 XL , on its 6th holiday, didn't survive the strong Mistral winds of Camargue, and we had to spend almost the whole holiday with the  roof flapping like a flag. But it wasn't that bad; it rained only one day and we could see the sky all the time, and it was nice...

Another moment: the Roman Theatre in Orange. I can't tell the disappointment we felt when we entered it and discovered that the scene wall, the only one in Europe still preserved from Roman times, was almost completely hidden  by the scene prepared for the 'Tosca' that would be played in a couple of days... It was a huge painting stuck in the stage as if an invisible hand had dropped it from above, and looked miserably out of place in the two thousands year  old place... The overall impression was a cross-like between a sinking Titanic and a giant advertisement for a perfume... :-( Even the lady in the painting seemed to wonder why they had placed her there...

Only glimpses of the Roman background could be seen... We'll have to return.

But of course not all the places were disappointing! My children and I returned to the Musée Departemental Arles antique, which is magnificent..Never pass by Arles without a visit to it!

It's large, well lighted the collection is well arranged and well explained...In addition they allow taking photos, which is always appreciated :-) and almost never possible in Italian museums.

(Some Roman weights for looms and other tools for textile crafts.)

Right out of Arles there is also this bridge, famous for having been portrayed by Vincent van Gogh ...It doesn't work anymore as a bridge  (even the road that passed on it  doesn't exist anymore except a few meters on either sides), but  now it's a  monument.

We went to the Cathédrale d'Images  near Les Baux de Provence, this year's spectacle is about Australia, and it's an explosion of colours.

But the most curious image comes from the past, from Saint Siffrein in Carpentras....
It's a ball surrounded by rats that are gnawing it from every part.

This 'boule aux rats' is present in several other French churches too,  and there are various interpretations of it, but its symbolism has mostly been lost. Some theories and a list of other churches containing similar sculptures can be found here (page in French, but it can be translated by Google)