Course news

•April 24, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Just an update, I checked with Marta, and the workshop at the international medieval congress in leeds is definitely open to non- delegates. So if you would like to come use the link in the side bar icon and speak to Marta.

And here is some gratuitous kitty spam

(un)finished on time

•April 23, 2014 • 10 Comments

This was a comissioned piece for heritage learning for the English Heritage site at Conisburgh Castle


It’s deliberately unfinished as it’s meant to be a work in progress belonging to the lady of the castle. The patron wanted a knight because this is a handling artefact for children and knights are exciting. I think it works because it will also allow discussion about the role of women in chivalric culture, and you could also use it as a springboard to discuss troubadours in Norman society.

It was actaully quite challenging to set out upon a piece I knew was to be left unfinished, for many reasons. Firstly, with this technique I would normally block all of the colour before working on the outlines. Instead with this I had to decide which bits to colour in and which to leave, and I decided that rather than leaving a line drawn upon the canvas to indicate those areas yet to be filled I would outline those areas in stitch (normally I advocate doing the outline afterwards as it’s much easier). So some of the horse’s mane is coloured in, but all of it is outlined, half the shield is filled, etc.

Leaving large areas of laid work uncouched wasn’t an option if children are to be allowed to handle the piece, as they would be too quickly pulled out of focus, but I did leave one tiny portion of the horse’s hind leg uncouched, which should be enough to illuminate the technique to those who are interested, but hopefully I’ve not left enough that is will get shredded!

I liked leaving his armour unfinished. At the Weald and Downland course one of the ladies (I am terrible with names) was working on a knight from the Bayeux, and we were talking about how the armour is shown using little circles of stitches on the canvas background. It wasn’t until I came to flick through and decided which knight to use for this that I even noticed they’re not all circles. Some are cross-hatched like this little chap, and yet others have an upright grid. I quite like the way this looks unfinished.

And yes, I deliberately chose a blue horse, because if this is used for children to talk about art in the medeival era it shows that realistic colours weren’t always used. To be fair though, I think the blue horses in the Bayeux are meant to be greys, after all we still call grey cats “blue” and proper grey is a devilishly hard colour to achieve with natural dyes.

Anyway, he’s off in the post now!

Something modern for a change

•April 19, 2014 • 6 Comments

I started making Gareth a shirt for his birthday back in February, and I almost finished it the day before the big day.

But then I couldn’t find either of the buttonhole foots for my machine, so he had to accept a late present to be finished once ebay had obliged cos Boyes didn’t have one.

Except once the foot turned up the bulb on the machine blew.

And obviously I popped to boys and bought a new one. One with a screw fitting

And obviously the machine takes a bayonet fitting bulb so I had to go back to boyes.

And then I was busy teaching workshops, aaaaaand a dog came in and ate my homework and the bus was late and…

Anyway, I finally got round to it this weekend


That’s not bad photography- he insisted I cut his head off cos he says he feels a bit rough, but I think he’s actually embarrassed to be seen with me. You can’t blame him really.

I bought the white fabric on leeds market. We both looked at it and thought it was cartoon bacteria, so we ought it would be fun to team it with insects, cos boys are made from insects and germs, it’s a scientific fact, that is. But then when I was cutting it I realised the edge said “under the sea”


I still don’t get it. I mean, I can see how the orange splogy thing might be an octopus, but the rest still look like microbes and bacteria to me.

Which might explain why it was four quid a metre.

Feeling guilty that his birthday present was two months late, I decided to make him a compensation shirt as well. We both like this one best

I found six types of cream and black print and experimented with a monochrome mix. He thinks it’s understated, bless him.

I didn’t tell him I was making this, because I thought he might whine about the florals. I find it’s sometimes best just to make things and then he doesn’t notice the flowers in amongst the rest. It’s the fine art of man management.

Gareth says I make pulling shirts, cos whenever he’s in a pub without me and wearing one, someone tries to chat him up. Last time we were in oxford he left me and went to bar to get me cider, and he reckons a girl in her twenties chatted him up. He seemed slightly traumatised.

There has to be a marketing idea in there somewhere…

Finished hood and some creative darning

•April 15, 2014 • 6 Comments

I wanted to use the double sidedness of the cloth for the hood by leaving the turned back piece around the face unlined to highlight the contrast. There was just one problem, well, two

Two tiny little tears in the fabric, right round the face, which I’d not noticed when cutting out. To be fair this fabric is waste, I bought the piece for the large brocaded dragon woven into the centre, which I made into a cushion.

Straight darning would have held it together, but wasn’t exactly attractive

So I took some of the yellow madder wool, and put a tiny circle of laid and couched work directly over the darn. This is about the size of my thumbnail.

Now, I’m more than ordinarily proficient at this technique, and risked working this small area in hand. However, I strongly recommend that if you try this you tension your fabric using a small hoop( and that is pretty much the only time you’ll hear me advocating the use of a hoop).

I did consider working another patch over the back, but in the end decided this would make the fabric too thick.


I then worked over the laid and couched patches with split and stem stitches using simple motifs from Saxon metalwork that are shown in Wilson. The book shows a small group of these motifs, and I like them because they always remind me of Japanese mon.


even more lutrel marginalia

•April 11, 2014 • 17 Comments

This one being a cow’s arsed bishop, or if you take the view that these are satyrs, a satyrical bishop.cows arsed bishop

And this time I took a progress shot to show how much life the white brings to these pieces

cows arse detail

dyes are, weld, woad, madder, cochineal, logwood and my compound brown

new courses

•April 10, 2014 • 9 Comments

I did promise I would make a post about some new upcoming courses at the Ashmolean this week, but apparently the bookings don’t go live until June, so I’ll do it with a linky then. They’re to tie in with the exhibition of the Feller collection.

In August there will be a one day workshop on medieval applique and day one of a three day opus anglicanum series (day one is drapery and design)

The others are September, October and November, and will be days two and three of opus anglicanum (faces, then goldwork and finishing) and a one day workshop on freehand blackwork.

A simple version of the Mammen vine scroll, and how to sew it freehand.

•April 8, 2014 • 12 Comments

I wanted some embroidery on the hood I made the other day, and settled upon the vine scroll from the mammen finds because it’s a fairly generic vine scroll design which will comfortably cover most of the early medieval period. ( I refer you to flinders petrie’s book on decorative patterns.)

I’m working this only about half an inch wide because I much prefer a subtle dainty band on a hood.

I started by sewing a wiggle in stem stitch along the edge of the hood. The first row of stitches is the only really tricky part as it’s easy for the needle to wander into irregular curves, but once you’ve laid down that first row it’s a breeze to follow along with the next two rows. I chose this yellow as it contrasts nicely with both the red and green sides of the cloth. The colour is a third wash madder and is actually my favourite yellow from the last big dye-a-thon because it’s such a buttery shade.


Once the curve was worked I first embroidered the upper curve of each tendril. There are ways of working stem stitch so that it is more deeply layered, almost becoming a slanted satin stitch, and I did this at the end of the curve as it flicked out a little


Next I worked the inner curve, again thickening the end


Next I put in the central petal with a thickened stem stitch


Then I changed colour to a woad dyed thread to work the simple bars across the joins in the tendrils. It was at this point that I realised I much prefer the band without the bars, but hey ho


And finally I worked back along with little groups of three slanted stem stitches to form the buds, using an Undyed thread this time. The 5p is for scale.


In other news the course at the Weald and downland museum seems to have gone well this weekend, although I’m now a bit knackerded from all the driving. Paulette, who’d attended the ashmolean course, came along for seconds, which was flattering.

We had the worst pub meal ever on the way home though, at the hardwick inn near hardwick hall.


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