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  !  : )