Saturday, August 24, 2019

Freehand Embroidery Update #1 - The Dubious Rabbit

Recently I had an interesting conversation with some fellow embroiderers, and we challenged ourselves to try completely freehand embroidery after a discussion about embroidery techniques. I have been spending a lot of time looking at extant pieces on Pinterest, trying to find my inspiration piece.

I found this interesting English embroidered cover on Pinterest and really liked the odd little animals. They are quite different to most of the other extant Elizabethan pieces I have seen. The cover is held at the V&A museum (c. 1600, Silk, silver and silver-gilt thread embroidered on a linen ground, Museum number T.53-1926).

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It looked to me like the maker was having some fun experimenting with different stitch types, colours and textures, and that seemed perfectly fitting for an experiment like this. (It also looks like they planned to put scrolling vines or linework in and never did.)

I particularly liked the rabbit - I liked the dubious expression on his face.

The ground fabric is mustard linen with no stabiliser. I decided to use grey linen thread instead of metallic because metallic thread can be challenging to work with and I wanted to focus on the process of the freehand embroidery and not have to wrestle with my threads.
Dubious Rabbit came out a bit thin looking, but I am happy enough with the result. Embroidering with no design marked was challenging and liberating at the same time. I had to concentrate much more than I usually do with non-braided stitches, and I found it much more tiring and time consuming. I already think it has been a useful exercise though and I'm glad I tried it, it has already made me more confident. 

The next step is deciding what other elements to add and then I will think about filling stitches. 
I already  think I will do his eye in black because I think the silver metallic eye looks a bit crazy. Maybe Dubious Rabbit is reeling from a bad smell. Maybe the bird above is to blame?! Who knows?! I'm getting a bit of a giggle out of this piece and I like to think the original embroiderer did too. We are joined across the centuries by our love of needlework and our weird senses of humour.

I really like the trees in this piece and I'm thinking of putting one in. Choosing which one will be the tricky part. I'm already planning a bigger project using these designs.

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