Monday, 24 December 2012

Lindisfarne Beasts: bird outline and tail

Happy holidays!  I hope you have a joyful and peaceful time, however and wherever you celebrate.

Just a quick update before I get back to my own preparations. Adding the colour to the birds is coming along nicely. I've done the outline strip, in Madeira 0511, for one bird:

Then his tail, in the same red:

The outline of the second bird:

And his tail too:

Now I need another bright colour for the necks and legs...

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Lindisfarne Beasts: colouring in

Time to start adding some colour!  I want this to be quite bright and colourful, which before anyone points it out is quite anachronistic for the period, as bright pigments weren't available then.  My excuse is that this is my interpretation, not a scrupulous historical recreation.

So with that out of the way, I can make a start.  I haven't planned a colour scheme - unusual for me, as any regular readers will know (I always plan everything!) - but will just see how things go.  For no particular reason, I've started with the birds' bodies, and have picked a deep blue stranded cotton, Madeira 0913.

First one, worked in split stitch:

and then the other:

Hmm, what to do next?

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Lindisfarne Beasts: second bird - and all the gold

Things are coming along well, and I've now finished all of the gold outlining (inner and outer lines) for the second bird.

Outer neck and head:

Leg and foot:


and tail:

Then the same again for the inner line.  First the neck and head:

The leg and foot (which looks even more squashed up than the first one.  It should be fine with the colour added - I hope!):

and the body, complete with feathers:

That's all of the gold done - next time, we can start to see some colour!

Monday, 3 December 2012

Lindisfarne Beasts: first bird outline

Adding the inner line for the bird gives it a lot more detail, though to start with it's much the same as for the dog.  First we have its neck:

The its leg and foot:

This was a bit fiddly and looks rather cluttered at the moment, but it should (I hope!) become clearer when the colour is added.

Finally, and making the most difference, there are the feathers:

Now onto the second bird.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Lindisfarne Beasts: first bird outline

The birds are similar to the dog in that they also have inner and outer lines to be stitched, and in the same metallic gold chain stitch.

Starting with the bird on the left, here's its head and neck:

Leg and foot:


Half its tail:

And the other half:

The inner line adds a lot more detail than it did with the dog, so we should see quite a difference next time.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Lindisfarne Beasts: all the dog

The dog is done, or at least his outline.

First the inner line of his front leg:

And then his neck:

The first of the birds next.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Lindisfarne Beasts: most of a dog

Just a short post today, to bring you up to date with progress.

I've now finished the front half of the dog.  I forgot to take a photo of his separate front leg, so here's all of him in one go:

You might just be able to make out in the marked-up design that there's also an inner line drawn on.  This is going to be in gold too, and I've done the back half inner line too:

Just the front half inner line to do, then that's the dog done.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Lindisfarne Beasts: half a dog

Time to start stitching the gold outline for the beasts themselves, starting with the dog.

As before, this is in the Gutermann metal thread, worked in chain stitch.  First, a back leg:

And his tail:

And the rest of his back end:

The other half of a dog next.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Gutermann metallic threads

Firstly, apologies for not having posted in ages - I've had a few non-embroidery things to do recently, so poor Lindisfarne Beasts has been rather neglected.  All being well I should be able to get back on with it now.

Following my last post, I had a query about the thread I use - why don't I like it?

The thread in question is this stuff:

It's made by Gutermann, as you can see, and comes in a range of metallic colours, though I almost always use either the gold or silver ones.

It's entirely synthetic, being 70% polyamide and 30% polyester. It consists of a bunch of very fine colourless fibres and two very narrow strips of a metallic tape.

Here it is with the end fluffed out so you can see the fibres:

All this makes a nice sparkly thread, but it has one big problem: the metallic tapes have a tendency to break.

This can often happen where the thread passes through the eye of the needle, but it can - and does - happen anywhere along the length of the thread.

Here's a typical example:

You can see how the metallic section has snapped and bunched up, leaving the other fibres in tact.

Once this has happened there is no point trying to carry on - just finish off the thread as best you can and start again with a fresh length.  This happens a lot, and so leads to a great deal of waste.

So why bother?  Because, despite everything, I like it!  Or rather, I like the effect I get with it, rather than the thread itself.  I use chain stitch in this metallic thread in a great deal of my work as an edging, defining areas of colour, either filled in with stitching or around appliquéd pieces.

To be honest, I have no idea what Gutermann expect a stitcher to do with this stuff - it's a pain for hand stitching, but the thought of allowing it anywhere near a sewing machine is terrifying.  Can you imagine what those broken bits of metallic tape could do to its innards?  I can, and it's not pretty.

I also have a fondness for it for reasons beyond how it looks when used.  I first came across it in the haberdashery section of a department store about 20 years ago, when I was first getting seriously interested in embroidery, but was still very much finding my way.  I was looking at it, trying to decide whether it was what I wanted, when another customer pointed out that there was an offer on: buy any three reels and get a free storage box.  This tipped than balance, and I bought it.  But I also got chatting to the lady who'd spoken to me, and she said she was a member of the Embroiderers' Guild.  There was a meeting that Saturday - why not come along?  So I did.  I've been a member ever since, I became Chair of the branch, I have learned so much from the speakers at meetings and from the always enthusiastic and ever-helpful members of both the branches I've been in.  Without the Guild, and that chance meeting (hello Roz, if you're reading!), I doubt very much if I'd still be sewing, let alone having developed my work in the way I have.

And I still have the storage box.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Lindisfarne Beasts: marked up and gold

Last time, I'd got half of the design traced on my improvised light box.  I've now got it all traced:

and then the fabric stretched onto a frame:

Time to start the embroidery!

You're not going to be too surprised to hear that gold is going to feature here.  All the outlines are going to be worked in chain stitch using Gutermann metallic thread no. 24, starting with the outer rectangle:

I'll do the dog next.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Lindisfarne Beasts

Next year, the Lindisfarne Gospels are coming back North.  From July to September 2013, the Gospels will leave the British Library and be on display at Durham Cathedral.

The Gospels, one of the great treasures of Anglo-Saxon art, are reflected in several of the Cathedral's textiles, and in the lead-up to the Gospels' arrival the North East Region of the Embroiderers' Guild are holding an exhibition in the Galilee Chapel inspired by them.  Entitled Lindisfarne: Faith, Inspiration & Stitch, members are invited to make items for display.

The exhibition starts in May, which is less time than you'd think, so if I want to produce something I need to get a move on.  I'd been wondering what to do, when, while looking through old designs hunting for something quite else, I came across this:

Much like the White Horse design, I drew this a long time ago for completely other purposes, but it's perfect for what I need now.

These beasties - a dog and two birds - were inspired by the intricate interwoven animal designs on the magnificent cross carpet designs in the Gospels, especially this page.

I'll be using my favourite techniques to stitch it, but first things first - I need to transfer it to fabric.  I want to work it directly onto fine linen, so a transfer is out as they always smudge.  I decided the simplest and most practical approach is to trace it.

I don't have a light box (I really ought to invest in one), but improvising with a sheet of Perspex with a torch under it seems to do the trick.

It's a bit fiddly and is taking a while as I can't afford to rush and make mistakes, so this is progress so far:

Over half way, at any rate!

Monday, 8 October 2012

Textiles in Durham Cathedral

Recently, Durham Cathedral, which does not normally allow photography inside, held an open evening for amateur photographers to come along and snap away. I've already posted about my photos of the Cathedral itself, but said at the time I'd hold back the ones of textiles for a separate post following a textile tour of the Cathedral I was booked on.  Well, the time has come!

A couple of caveats, however: the tour turned out to be of the various pieces made by the Cathedral Broderers since 1980, not all the textile collection as I'd expected, and secondly, the real treasures, including some amazingly rare Anglo-Saxon embroideries, are not currently on display due to building work, and I wouldn't have been allowed to photograph them even if they were. I hope you can still enjoy the items I did get to see.

There is a fine display of the Broderer's work in the Chapel of the Nine Altars. The pieces here were designed by Leonard Childs and Malcolm Lochhead, though I'm a bit unsure which of them was responsible for what, so apologies for that.

Firstly, there's the altar dedicated to St Margaret:

and a set of kneelers in front of it:

I haven't got them all in shot, but there are three, reading 'Wear', 'Forth', and 'Danube' - all rivers associated with St Margaret.

Additional kneelers are with a set of pews facing the altars:

There are a whole series of them, each featuring the names of saints with altars dedicated to them in the original Nine Altars. I particularly like these as I'm always interested in lettering and calligraphy in embroidery, and I think the way the designer (Leonard Childs, I think) has incorporated the saints' names is very effective.

Another kneeler, this time in front of an altar to St Hilda:

This is also part of a set of three, featuring the names of three towns - South Shields, Hartlepool and Whitby - associated with her.  The altar itself has a particularly beautiful, and deceptively simple, frontal:

In the centre is a large altar, with a spectacular frontal and panels, featuring the wildlife of Lindisfarne:

Immediately in front of the Chapel is the Shrine of St Cuthbert, which contains two large batik hangings by Thetis Blacker, of St Cuthbert:

and St Oswald, whose head is buried with St Cuthbert (I'm afraid I don't know what happened to the rest of him):

Over the steps leading into the shrine is something that might look familiar!

Another piece by the Broderers is a pulpit fall in the choir, with motifs based on designs from the Lindisfarne Gospels:

The High Altar and the other altars in the main body of the Cathedral just had plain covers at the time rather than embroidered frontals, so nothing much to see there, though there were some other interesting pieces.  None of these were made by the Broderers, however, so I'm afraid I don't have any information on them at all.

There was a rather nice processional banner for the Mothers' Union:

A hanging banner evidently commemorating a connection between Durham and Lesotho, in southern Africa:

And a large processional banner, but this time entirely secular in origin:

There was a long and proud coal mining tradition in North East England, and the annual Durham Miners Gala was a huge event in its heyday, with banners from each colliery paraded through the city.

Finally, into the Galilee Chapel, and a kneeler designed by Joan Freemen by the tomb of the Venerable Bede, also based on the Lindisfarne Gospels:

And an old and beautiful altar frontal in silk:

I don't have any information on this at all, I'm afraid, but it's just stunning.

If you're ever in the North East of England I can heartily recommend a visit to Durham Cathedral - it's well worth it.