Today I completed the illuminated A that I’ve been working on for a couple of weeks and which got delayed somewhat by tendinitis – now substantially better.

It’s a fairly simple execution rendered in laid and couched, surface couched and split stem stitches, with some French knots.  As always, there are things that I’d change if I could – I don’t think we can ever let go and think of something as perfect, because the never ending drive for self-improvement and increased skill leads us to be analytical about what we produce.  That’s my excuse at least for asking my husband for his opinion incessantly; I shall have to be careful or he’ll want to be credited as a design consultant!

As for the inspiration for this particular embroidered letter, well that is a little complicated.   In essence, it is loosely based on an illuminated capital letter which appears in the Estoire del Saint Graal , Amsterdam Bibliotheca Philosophica MS 1, volume i.   Readers familiar with the Arthurian legend may more easily recognise this as the Prose Lancelot or volume i of the Vulgate Cycle, an important precursor to the more famous and accessible works of Sir Thomas Malory.  I picked it initially (no pun intended for those of you groaning at this point) because I just liked the combination of colours.  I saw it and my mind went to work.   However, once I was actually stitching it, I realised that my selection of this letter could also be seen to be symbolic of several aspects of my personal history.

– The colours are red, white and blue.   These are the colours of the Union flag of the United Kingdom, which is of course my country of origin.   They are however also the colours of the United States of America, which is now my adopted country.   As an aside, I still haven’t got over the fact that I can call myself a ‘legal alien’, though my husband has several times told me that I have insufficient tentacles to meet the widely accepted standard for aliens.  Clearly, I have continued room for improvement!

– A of course could stand for America (see above) but also for Arthur (as in King), the chap responsible for at least some of the raison d’être for Ars Quondam, which also begins with A.

I shall just have to assume that my subconscious is a lot more clever than I give it credit for.

Loosely based on an illuminated A in Amsterdam, Bibliotheca Philosophica MS1, vol i.


Riding the Gold Thread Rollercoaster

Now that my tendinitis is mostly resolved, I’ve been attempting to catch up with my latest project, an illuminated letter ‘A’ done in laid and couched work, plus split stem detailing.   The photo here is of the work in progress, but I’m hoping to have it completed within the next week.

Stitching this piece reminded me of the way I always end up feeling whenever I use gold threads.  It doesn’t matter what make or type of thread, the problems inherent with use of metals reduce me to a partially coherent wreck by the time I’m done.   While I’m finishing, I swear fervently never to use the stuff again, only to change my mind completely when I survey the completed piece.  Metallic threads are usually a complete pig to use but, undeniably, look lovely in their proper place.

I guess I could then say that I enjoy having used them, but not at the time I’m actually using them.  Thankfully, I am not totally addicted to adding ‘bling’ to my work.