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 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.