Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Coral Stitch

Coral stitch is featured as an outline stitch in the Queen Anne corner of the Crewel Work Sampler stitched at the Royal School of Needlework during the early 1950s. I have never seen this stitch featured in a Stitch Dictionary which has motivated me to share it with you. Coral Knot stitch is often referred to as Coral Stitch but this is different.

Place your fabric in a hoop so that it is taut. DMC Perle 5 was used for this demonstration.

1. Work from right to left. Bring the thread to the front at the start of the line. Take the needle to the back above the line with the thread in a loop as shown.

2. Bring the needle back to the front an equal distance below the line and within the loop as shown.

3. Pull the thread vertically up towards your nose.

4. And here is the tricky bit. Adjust the length of the arms by pulling the thread away from you in a horizontal direction and then towards you horizontally until the length of the two arms of the stitch are equal.

Worked in the traditional manner this is a 'squared stitch' meaning that the space between the stitches is equal to the width of the stitch.

Also, it is preferable to use a thicker thread and decrease the size of 'the square' so that the black line is completely covered. If you look at the Queen Anne sampler, you will notice that the squares are so tight that it is hard to see the construction of the stitch.

Here are some examples of using the stitch in a more relaxed and contemporary manner. These are far easier to stitch than the traditional style where it really shows if the stitches are not an even size and spacing. I like the circular placement and think that it would nice alternative to Buttonhole Stitch and is much easier to control.

What will this stitch do for you?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Queen Anne the fourth quarter. What is special or different about this?

Queen Anne (1702-1714) was the last of the Stuart monarchs. Although in poor health she was pregnant 17 times but only one child lived beyond infancy. Her great friend, Sarah Jennings, with whom she had a stormy relationship, married John Churchill. He had great military skill winning many battles in Europe including the Battle of Blenheim. A grateful nation created him the Duke of Marlborough and built Blenheim Palace for him. Located northwest of London and near Oxford, it is well worth a visit. Winston Churchill was born there.

Queen Anne's reign was noted for the development of the two party political system, the Union of England, Ireland and Scotland forming Great Britain among other achievements. It was a time of the building of mansions, private houses, lavish interior decoration and beautiful furniture. The furniture was smaller, lighter and more comfortable than previous styles; the cabriole leg (S shaped) is the most recognizably enduring part. This seems to be an appropriate accompaniment to the style of embroidery that we were told was current during Queen Anne's reign.

What we were told at the Royal School of Needlework was that silk threads from the Far East had become available triggering a whole different style of embroidery. These threads were not suited for portraying the Jacobean Tree of Life with all its fanciful and massive leaves, flowers, birds and beasts. Instead, linear and free form shapes better were better suited to the new style furniture and interior decorating. I do not think that the elements of this design represent anything or are symbolic of anything.

You will notice that the colours have become muted more like the Elizabethan colour scheme rather than the boldness of the Jacobeans. The parallel lines use negative space between the colours to enhance each one of them. The stitches used are puffy Couching, Long and Short Stitch, some Laid Work, and French Knots. The majority of the lines are worked in Coral Stitch which happens to be one of my very favourite stitches of all time. I have looked for it in books and never seen it anywhere. It does seem to be related to Coral Knot but is worked a little differently. No, it is not difficult. The effect is a light and open decorative line which works well both as a single outline and a spaced filling. I include the closeup so that you will be able to see it better. We stitched some lines in worsted wool such as the blue and green outer lines. The couching and long and short stitch are in Pearsall's Filoselle Embroidery Silk which is a 6-strand silk floss.

See also:
Sampler of crewel work stitches worked by Dorothea Nield, c.1930 in the Bridgeman Art Library. Creative Needlecraft by Lynette de Denne. Octopus Books Limited 1979 ISBN 1 85052 07. This excellent book is a good investment if you should be lucky enough to see it somewhere. Erica Wilson is bound to have it in her books though I am unable to tell you which one.

Notice the different design features and the different methods of stitching. Your comments are always welcome so please keep them coming. The next entry will be our first RSN sampler and, possibly, the second one also.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Late Jacobean

The latter part of the 17th century is the period known as Late Jacobean. The third corner of this crewel work sampler was stitched while I was a student at the Royal School of Needlework a very long time ago, a teenager. This is where we learned to shade. The red and pink of the pomegranate is parallel shading. Parallel rows of stem stitch are worked starting from the outside. Notice how the colour change is achieved. The rest of the items are all long and short stitch and we started with the central part of the large leaf. By the time we got to the smaller, outer leaves we had more of an idea on how to do this difficult stitch. The leaves that shade from navy through green to yellow are one inch in length for the smallest, and one and a half inches long for the leaves at the top of the panel. The method is 'stitching to a vein without a vein'. Notice the sharp points and crisp edges to these leaves. I did a good job of those and yes, there are technical tricks to achieve this.

Researching this design, the pomegranate is symbolic for fertility and abundance though there are different meanings dependent on the culture or religion.

We were told that the blue rose indicated the joining of the Houses of Lancaster and York which concluded the Wars of the Roses. These civil wars in the 15th century (described as long, repetitive and destructive) were between the Plantagenets (white roses) and the Tudors (red roses) and the politics were complicated. A combination of sick and incompetent rulers created widespread unrest with families divided and fighting each other.

Henry Tudor (became Henry V11), won the final battle which was horrific but ended the conflict. He was the father of Henry V111 and grandfather of Queen Elizabeth 1. As the Early Jacobean period occurred after the reign of Elizabeth, this blue rose indicates a period that was already history. The above stylised version of the uniting of these warring factions is really more congruent. I, personally, think that the blue rose is just a blue rose with no historical significance.

Unfortunately, the water damage from steaming is clearly visible in this quarter of the sampler.

I remain eager to hear your comments and ideas on the significance of these motifs. It would be great to be able to put more information into the provenance.

You can also go to annbernard.com to see more recent stitching.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Elizabethan Post Script

Before getting into the Jacobean Embroideries, I thought you would like to see this piece of embroidery. It is labelled as neo-crewel period dated 1910. Courtesy of H.E. Kiewe. English Crewel Designs by Mary Eirwen Jones 1974 1SBN 1-688-00288-9. It makes me curious, more and more curious.

Early Jacobean

The Jacobean period refers to the 17th century when the Stuarts, starting with James I and Charles I and II, ruled. They were the Kings immediately after Queen Elizabeth 1. There was a break in the Stuart line for Oliver Cromwell. It was an ornate period with lavish clothing and wonderful architecture. Early Jacobean specifically refers to the reign of James 1 in the first quarter of the century. The East India Company was at that time importing palampores into England which greatly influenced English decorative arts.

Palampores, hand-painted (stencilled) cotton fabrics from India, were influential in developing the traditional crewel work designs such as the Hindu Tree of Life pattern. Favourite embroidery motifs included exotic animals, resplendent birds, large ornate leaves and fantastical flowers. The timeless appeal of the Jacobean designs means that these motifs and layout continue to be used today though many of us now seek to arrange them in non-traditional ways. Embroidery was done on linen or twill fabric using wool yarn in bright colours. Many household items such as large wall hangings and bed curtains as well as cushions and pillows were decorated with Jacobean embroidery. They can be seen in museums and are illustrated in many books.

This is the second of the four corners on this Crewel Work sampler. In terms of technique, it is an exercise in Block Shading. This is not difficult to do but it is advisable to know how it is done to reduce unnecessary problems. We started with the green areas and progressed to the large turquoise leaf. The learning process is fairly obvious if you look closely. I love the pink and grey motif in the upper right corner. I also like how the green of the main leaf forms the stem of the turquoise leaf giving the whole design unity. The oddity in the piece is the bright blue in the lower left. It is not a mistake or a repair. We were given this colour to use in that position. I remember questioning it. These being the postwar years and a lack of replacement materials, I think that RSN was running out of the right shades of wool threads though it does add a little zing to the composition.

The dark brown area is Long and Short Stitch. We were told that Block Shading was a technique that was used before the development of Long and Short Stitch. I have no idea whether this is correct or not. And it bugs me not to know and understand the progression of stitching history except in reference to major shifts and developments. I hope that there is someone who knows the answers as I will be gratefully eager to hear them. Unfortunately, in this corner of the sampler the water damage from steaming is obvious. I greatly regret this as it is otherwise in excellent condition.

Any thoughts or suggestions you have will be greatly appreciated.

The next corner, Late Jacobean shows a progression in technique and a totally different design.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Conservation of Samplers stitched at the Royal School of Needlework

I am currently renovating the samplers I stitched while a student at the Royal School of Needlework and I am writing a provenance. We have one grandson, I reckon that I am the only person who will undertake this large and arduous task.

It has been obvious for a few years that these samplers needed attention. When I took them apart, I found that they are mounted on Masonite. To be fair and honest, this was long before any knowledge of acid damage to fabric and before the days of Foam Core Board.  Masonite was all that was available.

I am asking for your assistance with any information you may have on the origin or details of these designs. I am able to identify the techniques.

This is the third of my samplers and a photo of the first of its four sections. This is the information I have and I would welcome help in creating a provenance. In England, this was not a time when information was given or shared.  References to sources of information would also be appreciated.

Crewel Work Sampler 1951

Worked on Linen Twill fabric in Worsted Wool threads, probably Medici.

This was a most enjoyable sampler to stitch. Lots of variety, always something new to learn and the results please me as much today as they did then. I love the motifs and the colours. It is also undamaged by moths or loosened stitches. But, after removing this piece from the masonite board, I steamed the outer edges to flatten them before remounting. Being annoyed with the kettle steam which kept turning off, I resorted to steaming the edges over a saucepan of boiling water. The water marks you see were caused by the water bubbles.  I regret the damage this has done. (2012)

First Corner. Elizabethan.

We were told that these motifs are examples of Elizabethan embroidery but I have always had my doubts. I saw a picture of a crewel work sampler stitched in 1910 with included several of these motifs. They may have been taken from an Elizabethan piece of work but I dubious on the accuracy of this. My researches have told me that Elizabethan embroidery was mostly table carpets stitched in tent stitch of which there are well known examples in the Victoria and Albert Museum.   Black work stitching was also current having been introduced to England by Catherine of Aragon, Henry Vlll 's first wife.

The ability to achieve shading without mixing the threads or undertaking Long and Short Stitch is demonstrated here. Note the use of darning, particularly the colours used in the strawberries. Also note the circlet of six leaves within the other large leaf.  Some Laid work is included. The acorn base includes Trellis work which is a good way to secure Laid Threads.

The block pattern in the strawberry leaf was technically hard to do and one has to know the understructure to get this to work.

There is some Long and Short stitch in the butterfly wings. I think that the body of the bird is parallel Stem Stitch.

The next photo is an adaptation I made for a teaching sample.  It worked well and was within the abilities of all Intermediate level stitchers.  Some people were uncomfortable with the emptiness of the two corners but, I liked it then and like it now.

While designing the above sample, this adaptation developed.  It is too much work for students but I worked it myself.  Both of these are stitched in Medici Wool on linen.

If you would like more information about me, you will find it on my website  annbernard.com.

It is also included in the introduction to the book Stitching Idyllic : Spring Flowers.

The next blog post will be about the second corner which is Early Jacobean.