Tuesday 17 December 2013

The Steeple Aston Cope

This is my Angel Embroidery .  The design taken from the 14th century Steeple Aston Cope .
 Opus Anglicanum means English Work , English embroidery of the church .   
The Steeple Aston Cope , it is thought , was made between 1310 and 1340 .
A beautifully embroidered , long semi-circular cape that is worn by bishop or priest , maybe in procession or during a ceremony . For a Holy Mass or Feast day . 
Here is a link to a brilliant video made by the V+A Mueseum of a virtual reconstruction of  how it originally would have looked as a Cope .

Threads of linen and fine silk don't last forever . Beetles , woodworm , moths and mould .
 Seven hundred years of history . Wars , plagues , fire and floods , upheaval of the church and Cromwell's rampaging and plundering .

This precious treasure has been kept safe in the Church of St Peter and St Paul , in Steeple Aston for seven hundred years , either on the Altar or folded away in the Sacristy cupboard drawers .  
At some point in time , someone thought to make better use of it and cut it up to make an Altar Frontal and it must have been beautiful up on the Altar during mass .
  So for some time , it was left on display up on the Altar , but , it is said that the Vicar became aware that people were coming in and trying to snip off pieces from it . Shocking ! So he arranged for it to be kept safely , and sent it ,on loan , to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London .
  It was on display there quite recently in an Exhibition on medieval Opus Anglicanum  and now put away into safe storage . Good to know that it is being  kept safe for future generations to study and appreciate .

                                                    An Angel on horseback , playing a lute .

All of these pictures are of my embroidery interpretation of it and  my embroidery doesn't come anywhere near the excellence of the real thing .

 Opus Anglicanum was at it's very best during this period . Then came plague times and sadly these fine embroidery techniques were not passed down . 

           Look at the sweet expression on the horse's face !  I fell in love !
......and on a small scrap of upholstery fabric I drew it on with my pencil and embroidered him with cotton and silk threads , a few gold threads and seed beads .

 I began to stitch and as I stitched , I found myself meeting the minds and thoughts of the medieval hands that originally drew and embroidered it .

 I looked forward to any odd minute that I could grab to sit and embroider it .

I didn't think I would do so much of it , or I would have used a larger piece of material .

I enjoyed making the tiny tassels on the horse bridle and across his chest I stitched a kind of braid, weaving it as I stitched .
 The halo around the Angel's head I stitched with gold threads .
The lute has playable strings !

                In both embroidery and illumination , I love the medieval sense of humour !
 This kind of English Ecclesiastical embroidery is known as Opus Anglicanum .

  I am uncomfortable about putting it in a frame.  I don't think it would look right somehow .
 I don't think medieval textiles were ever made to be displayed the way we do today , hung in a frame covered with glass . 
 Wall hangings were hung just as they were and Church vestments , albs, copes and altar cloths were worn and then stored carefully away in oak coffers in the Sacristy of the Church or Cathedral .

 I ,m thinking of working on it some more , out onto the green fabric and maybe make a devotional piece of some kind .
I hope you have enjoyed seeing  some of my needlework  . 

 Update - here is a link to the V+A Museum's page all about the Steeple Aston Cope - enjoy !

Just in case you were wondering.......

 I embroidered this about twenty years ago and I originally posted it onto my other blog which is mostly about gardening and other more general things .You may have seen it there . I am now gradually moving all my embroidery posts over , to this , my Cornish Needlework Basket journal  .                
                                Debbie x

Friday 6 December 2013

Making Holly Wreaths

My thumb still sore from whittling  ....what was I thinking doing that yesterday , when I have so much to catch up on with  all the Christmas preparations .
  I always make my own holly wreath and a couple extra to give to friends .
Apart from prickling my poor hands all over..they really are so easy to make .
 I just keep it very simple , tying in two or three long  flexible strands  with string....wire if I have some ... weaving them together ..may be adding another branch or two . Sometimes I add ivy ....this time I just tied on some red  ribbon . ..and a long length of string to tie to the hook on  the door .......

.........or the gate !

The sun was shining this morning , so it was nice to be out in the garden doing a bit of tidying and making holly wreaths .

My broom needed a bit of maintenance , the tarred string I prefer to use doesn't last too long ...... a little gold thread and red ribbon should make it fly faster ..well I,ll give it a try !

                                                 Bibbity Bobbity Boo !

................. and then we switched on the Christmas lights on our little tree in the cottage window ......

......and only seven of the teeny tiny light bulbs came on ..tut... It will just have to do !  : )

Thursday 5 December 2013

Maritime thread winders !

 Back in the summer I had a go at carving a spoon , a couple of very simple crucifixes , a few nalbinding needles and a medieval lucet .  My father and his father before him were great carpenters..I could never be that good ! ...but whilst growing up just watching in the wings so to speak , I also love wood ....the look of it ...the smell of it and am having fun with it in a more humble way....the way of whittling !  So , along with what I,ve seen my father do , I am pretty much teaching myself .
 I have a simple sort of steel pocket knife which was easy to find in Wesley's hardware shop in Helston , it has replaceable blades , and folds up safely in my pocket .
I also invested in a treasure of a knife made by Ray Iles . It is curved for carving spoons .
 In the photo above .

 I am carving myself some jolly maritime thread winders in the shape of whales !

I make a little cut for the whale's mouth.... to catch and hold the end of the thread .It must all be smoothed with sandpaper and I really need to work on smoothing them some more .

I will use navy blue permanent pen to mark the whale's eyes on both sides Scrimshaw style...and give them a coat of " Traditional Treatex Hardwax Oil " which I bought online ...it brings out the beautiful natural colour of the wood .

 My tools.... and a few precious threads waiting to be organised .

How nice he would be wound round with blue thread , like a beautiful Blue Whale !
 He looks a little hungry ! : )

I could make a "Stargazey pie" of thread winders !  Actually  I need to make quite alot more to organise all my threads !      I hope you,ll be inspired to have a go at simple whittling . Keep warm ! x

Winter Whittling Me

I dont think that the weather will be anywhere near so bad here in Cornwall , as you are having up North . I,m feeling so sorry for you all up in Scotland where thousands are waking up to find they have no electricity.
We have been bringing in more firewood for our fire and as I sit whittling...I am thinking of you and pray it will pass over soon .
 I pulled this chunk of wood from the pile of split logs in the woodshed and with my little knife whittled into three not quite equal pieces . I do everything by eye and it really does not matter to me that these are going to be all slightly different sizes .

Whittling , whittling , whittling .... any ideas of what I might be making ?  Apart from a sore thumb that is  !  : )

Wednesday 13 November 2013

Needle case Completed !

With Christmas fast approaching , I have really been working hard to get this little project completed which will be a gift for my mother ....and I am pleased to show it to you here .

I had to unpick the little rabbits head and re-stitch it, not sure if you can see in the other photos I,ve been posting , but it looked more like a donkey , so I just unpicked it and made his nose a little shorter . I love the way ,that with this kind of needle painting , you can just unpick and re-model so to speak .
 This Stag turned out much sweeter looking than the other one (which looked more like a Moose ! ). Mum loves all God's creatures , I know she will love these  .

....I found these gorgeous little wooden buttons in Truro Fabrics Store  the other day and thought I,d sew one inside as an extra little surprise for mum  .
I used a simple botton stitch around the edge of the felt cover , stitched a blooming fiddly loop to hold the little glass red berry bead .

 I found some maroon cord to tie around the centre of the needle case... just tied a knot and frayed out the cord to make a simple tassel . I was very pleased to find lots of pretty colours within the opened out cord , see top picture .
 As I am writing this I realise that I haven,t stitched in the scissor holder ....oh...no !
  It wont take long to stitch that in ....but other than that here it is completed now and ready to wrap ,n, send off in time for Christmas .
         Hope mum likes it !  : ) and enjoys gathering all her sewing bits and bobs to put inside it .

Wednesday 6 November 2013

Little Jacobean Rabbit Pocket

So I finished the little rabbit and am now pencilling in and "roughing out " the pockets for the other needlecase. In the beginning I was going to just do some simple feather stitching along the top of the little pockets ,I didnt think I could possibly draw them well enough to embroider , but I pushed myself  and now I am going to unpick that yellow feather stitch .
 I wont have much more time today to stitch since I am looking after my two year old grandson this afternoon .......and belly dance classes this evening in Falmouth !

Wednesday 30 October 2013

Little Stag Pocket Completed

Here is the little stag , looking so much better without his tongue sticking out  .
 The St Jude Storm wasn't too bad here after all......and my greenhouse is still standing .

Little Jacobean Creature Pockets

A very useful book to have in your crewel needlework travel bag is " Crewelwork " by Jacqui McDonald from the RSN Essential Stitch Guides book collection.
 I have been dipping into it every now and then .... I have drawn with pencil, freehand, the stag and rabbit on pages 20 and 21.They are from a much larger piece of work in the Royal School of Needlework collection English 20th century .....and perfect for my needle pockets . Although a little clumsily drawn , it'll be fine for my guidelines , to stitch over .

I am looking after my daughters little dog and she has taken a particular interest in my needlework.....she thinks the Stags head looks a bit odd..like his tongue is sticking out !
  So I'll just have to unpick and do it again ....hmmph !

Sunday 27 October 2013

Crewel work Needlecase Construction Time !

 Next ... I took one old and totally rubbish hardback book and rip out the pages .
...and completely cover the cover with quilt wadding , not too thick as you can see.
I gathered together some pink upholstery fabric , some lovely ivory linen and cotton and cord ... made myself a nice cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit ...and then just sat looking and thinking about it .

                As a matter of fact , I went to bed and slept on it as they say .

Next day and I almost finished it and put together the other one ....and more French knots , maroon around the edge of the needle-case and sewn on tapes to tie into a bow with at the side . I have no sewing machine ,  smoke began to pour out from it when I last switched it on , cant afford another one , so everything I make is entirely sewn by hand .
 The thing is......... I am no good at measuring and calculating and any thing to do with numbers in general really.
 So , I  do everything by eye and instinct  making it up as I go along .
Next I will be working on the inside of the needle cases , little pockets and padding to hold my best needles .
 This is not a very good picture of it but I have pencilled on to the pockets a little rabbit and a stag....tonight ...while the big storm rises...I will be embroidering these ..quite possibly by  candle light  : )

Unpick those acorns !

  "Those acorns just dont look right ! " said my little helper  ...so I had another look and

 yep...agreed ....snip snip snip...lets get it sorted straight away . Then to rework them in a more mellow yellow than the "Heraldic Gold "....which was such a gorgeous colour but didnt really work .
Whilst I stitched , some of the petals fell from the dahlias in the vase and I was taken with the streaks of maroon on the yellow petals ,so lovely. I love how nature teaches me how colours work together .

I decided to rework the acorns with  layered satin stitch, which gives a raised effect that I am very pleased with .It wasn't going to be a Stumpwork piece...but there you go ....now it is !
   I know that if this was to be for a hanging picture I would have made the last layer be worked from acorn cup to acorn tip , but since this is going to get alot of use as a needlecase , I would be very sad , if they were to get caught or snagged on something  .

Friday 18 October 2013

Pearls !

 I changed my mind !  I found a couple of old necklaces in a charity shop and I thought
these light green pearls would be perfect for those peas in the pod .

                                             I just have to sew them on .
            Also I embroidered  the background with French knots till quite late last night .
                                Time to rest my eyes ..lets go for a walk !

The weather is pretty wild here today ...I thought I.d take you down to the beach , Poldhu Cove , to see the waves ! Wellies and water proofs !

Thursday 17 October 2013

A Quiet Day

 I,m having a quiet day , a gentle day today ....after last evenings two hours of belly dance classes......still going round in my head ! :)
  It is time I potted up the chocolate mint cuttings on my kitchen windowsill , put on some nice music and do some calming needlework .
  I am still thinking about adding a little gold work , not too much , to my " medieval owl" and have gathered a small hoard of gold threads . Maybe I will just do his beak and claws...I am still thinking about it...and relishing the moment..these things evolve slowly...and deliciously..and it is all so calming .
 I decided to do two simple needlecases of this design from A Schole-House for the Needle by Richard Shorleyker  ...that gorgeous 17th century book , we'd all love to find at a jumble sale or boot fair !
One for my mother who first taught me to sew and one for myself ...its time I had somewhere to keep my best and favourite needles .
  I am making it up as I go along as you often do with crewel work , choosing colours and stitches .
     Maybe I,ll add a little gold here too...... golden peas like coins in a purse .

Sunday 6 October 2013

Jacobean Fire screen close up

 Now lets have a closer look .  How many stitches can you see here ?
  Mostly beautiful long and short stitch  softly shading and gently flowing along leaves , petals , and stems.  Some French knots in these pink flower centres .

 Stem stitch ....crewel stitch . Sweet little butterfly ....symbol of the Resurrection , new beginnings , the after life , Heaven .
 No trellis stitch or couching ......some simple running stitch within this leaf .

 Although  slightly faded , I lose count of the number of different shades used here !

                    Some simple seed stitch within those typical Jacobean hills .

                       See how beautifully the curling leaf is worked .

                  Rich buttery yellow linen twill....a few small spots here and there .

   I only wish ( and let it be a lesson for us all ) that she had embroidered her name at the bottom .