Change of Plan

I wasn’t totally pleased with the sketches for the sleeve design and I got distracted while looking for more inspiration.  The images from Pellegrino’s La Fleur de la Science de Pourtraicture et patrons de broderie reminded me that a cushion was also on the list of potential projects for this period.  The pattern book was published in 1530 in Florence and dedicated to Francois I (notice the beautiful design on the embroidery near his shoulders) however, it is very possible that it was in use in London by the middle of the decade.  Many of the designs are similar to the Holbein drawings in the BM.  They are lovely flowing scrolls of stylized foliage in what is often described as “arabesque”. 

There are hundreds of cushions listed in Henry’s inventory but once again for the most part they aren’t described further than the type of fabric and that they are embroidered. The Henry/Anne honeysuckle/acorn valance in the Burrell Collection is worked in an arabesque design on white silk satin with shapes of cut black velvet sewn on.   I went back to the list and found an entry that could be developed to a finished project: “Item one Cusshion of white Satten enbrawdered with a cut of carnacion vellat fringed and tassaled with silke.” I just happened to have white silk satin and some lovely crimson silk velvet on hand and all I needed was a design. 

I surveyed some of the same type of cushions in the inventory and determined that 30 inches by 20 inches would be an appropriate size.  The sizes of the cushions in the inventory are all written in 16th century measurements like “one cushion… in length iij quarters di of a yarde and one ynche and in bredthe di yarde and one nayle”.  By today’s standard of measurement, that would be approximately 31½ inches by 20¼ inches, but the cushions average about 18” by 27”.  The image below is of a panel of cutwork in the V&A: there is no size given but you can imagine it as a valance on a Tudor bed with hangings and cushions to match.

I had been working on the sleeve design for a while so I took a break and did a little stitching instead of going back to the drawing board.  Having been fortunate to have studied the valance at Meg Andrew’s in the fall, I knew there would be a linen support for the silk.  I had purchased some coarser linen for just such a purpose at the re-enactor’s market in Warwick, and I decided to frame it up and attach the silk so it was prepared to receive the design when it was ready.

I chose a few potential designs from the Pellegrino and to draw the pattern this time I went to work on the computer.  Once again, it is never as easy as I think it will be: first I had to determine the approximate size of the appliques on the extant embroidery so the finished cushion would have the same overall appearance as the extant examples.  I resized the image of the HA panel so it would print the actual size and it turned out that the shapes were smaller than I’d imagined.   I would have to make sure the shapes on the pattern I chose were similar in size and coverage.   I tried a number of examples from the pattern book and finally settled on one that looked about right. I worked up a full design but wasn’t satisfied with the end result so I began work on another.

I cut and paste and rearranged and finally realized this pattern was not going to fit the shape of the silk I had already framed up either and if I wanted to use it I would have to adapt the design.  There were three repeats and to centre them on the silk a meant removing some of the lines and shapes on the sides to fit within rectangle and still look like a complete design.   Just when I thought it was done, I realized that some of the shapes were too small and fiddley to be cut from the velvet so they had to be combined into a single larger shape.

Next step, transfer the pattern to the silk.  The pattern repeats had to be printed out to size so each sheet of paper had a complete section.  Only one half of the pattern had to pricked because it could be flipped to complete the other side. I used pencil so it wouldn’t show much and probably wear off if I went off line.  That done all the little shapes had to be cut out.  I traced the pattern shapes onto a sheet of vellum and noted the number and orientation needed. 

I had used the same type of velvet for the Broderers’ Crown so I knew the pile would be a nuisance.  The back of the fabric was painted with diluted PVA glue to ensure I wouldn’t get lost in fluff and the edges would not fray.  I’m not sure what they would have used in Tudor times but gum Arabic or rabbit glue has been suggested in various publications.  Each pattern was traced onto the back of the velvet and cut out.  And this is where I am now… can you spot the errors and omissions?

4 thoughts on “Change of Plan

Add yours

  1. À cushion! What a great idea. Looks really good so far, was able to identify omissions but errors???

  2. I’m not going to look for errors or omissions. I am just going to enjoy the beauty so far and imagine how gorgeous this is going to look when finished.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

Up ↑