Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Bayeux Tapestry Stitch

The Bayeux Tapestry is one of the most easily recognizable pieces of textile art in the world.  It is disfigured at its farther end, has been mended over the centuries, and is mistakenly called a tapestry when it is technically a very, very long embroidery.  It tells the story of the Norman Conquest (1066) in an almost leisurely manner, not omitting the background to the struggle and small incidents whose characters are now lost to history.  Bordering the top and bottom of the work are a cast of fantastic animals, real and imaginary, as well as the Latin text to guide the observer through the action.  Click on this LINK to see photos of the tapestry.

The scenes are pictured most charmingly in wool embroidery, utilizing a surface satin stitch, couching stitch, and miles and miles of outline stitch.  There is scarcely another stitch to be found anywhere on the more than 200 feet of the canvas.

It is this surface satin stitch, surrounded by outline stitch and tied down by narrow bands of couching, that have come to be called "Bayeux Tapestry Stitch," and this stitch was the object of the Freestyle Stitch Study at our February meeting.

This is my sampler, where I tried several different types of yarn/thread, and worked the steps of the stitch in the center of the sampler for future reference (I always need a jog of the brain to jumpstart a stitch I don't use every day).

Seen up close and personal, the texture is really interesting:

And by experimenting with metallic thread, I discovered that even that hard-as-nails medium can be used in a Bayeux Stitch-- though I will admit to a bit of heavy breathing before I had all the ground stitches in place (it is wedged in between the hot pink on right and the unfinished green on left):

There are many contemporary uses for the less-know embroidery stitches.  I am making it my mission this year to go back and resurrect some of these interesting stitches and try them in various weights of cotton, wool, silk, and linen and see what variations might be possible and how they might be incorporated into my work.  And I'll bet you thought I made a New Year's Resolution to lose weight or exercise more!

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