Snow day, Stitch day

It’s a very snowy day today and it makes me wonder how a Tudor embroiderer would fare on a day like today. I don’t think a London embroiderer would have to deal with this volume (it’s been snowing for 18 hours without a break) but it would probably have been this cold (-6°C) on some days. There were different hours for journeymen in summer and winter but were there “it’s too cold for work” days or “I can’t get out my lane” days? Imagine the sights, sounds and smells in the 16th century city…

As I’m tucked up nice and warm in my studio, and the internet is still working, its a good day to post my progress this week:

In Tudor embroidery, the background and the figure would often be embroidered on two separate pieces of linen: the saint on one and the setting on another. Although the stitching has not survived in good condition the front and back images below are perfect illustrations of this technique. A close examination of the stitching on the back reveals that the coloured silk areas behind the figure is worked in surface satin stitch which keeps most of the silk in long stitches on the top of the fabric and very small ones on the back. Sometimes, when you can see the back of the embroidery, it is covered with paper. In this case it is a drawing that has been pricked for transfer. Unfortunately, the design is not decipherable. Before starting the embroidery I made the decision to work the angel and the surrounding area together.  This may have to change…

The background of many embroidered images is often pairs of filé (venice gold) couched in a diaper pattern with a coloured silk.  You can see this a bit in the tarnished filé stitched vertically around the figure’s head. Having done this technique before, I felt fairly confident that I could do it without practice and needing a break from experimental embroidery, I chose a basketweave and #3 passing couched with crimson silk. All was progressing smoothly until I came to the area behind the head and between the wing – far too narrow for the couching pattern I had chosen.  I had also stitched the filé horizontally… What I completed looks great but now it will all have to come out and something very different will have to be used.  So much for confidence!  Mrs. Zinkewich would have called it hubris…

Figures depicted on ecclesiastical embroidery are often found on a lovely embroidered hillock of green grass dotted with flowers and the occasional skull. I particularly like the one on the Vintners’ Pall. The problem with the feet had been solved with the scroll so the little green hillock wasn’t possible.  It would have to be a floor and because many of the saints are set in castle niches there are also some tiled floors.  This one is pretty sketchy but the one on the Fishmongers’ Pall is lovely at The next logical step was to embroider the tiles.  Drawing the tiles to a vanishing point was a challenge and then transferring the lines to the linen after the embroidery had begun was almost impossible but they finally look like they belong.  Each tile was filled with surface satin stitch to ensure I would have enough thread to complete them all.  Then rows of passing were couched across the area.  The individual tiles have to be indicated with a darker thread but I haven’t quite decided on just how dark or how thick, so that part will wait until more of the figure has been completed.

The long feathers came next and although I had experimented, I wasn’t sure which metal thread I should use.  I decided on one strand of #3 passing and filled in the silk but it just didn’t look right so I had to add a second thread to make a traditional pair. 

The little feathers were done in steps, first was to fill in the background colour.  Once again, I was using the Fishmongers’ Pall but I don’t have my own images and there is far too much stitching to determine how it was stitched.  I needed to see the individual feathers so the areas were filled individually using split and satin stitches.  Following layers were:  black silk for the “eye”; a pair of tambour for the circles; silver tambour for the rachis; saffron circles; black outline; the individual barbs; and sea blue for the inner circles.  When I’ve posted this, the blue will have to come out because I used too many strands and it doesn’t sit properly around the gold.  How far will I get by next Thursday?

One thought on “Snow day, Stitch day

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  1. Wow – great work and so intriguing how you go about it. By the way – your chat for Lynn Hulse was wonderful. Amazing how much you learned about individual broderers. I printed out my Angel – now to transfer it.

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