Hestor’s journey continues (WIP)

Poor Hestor is still riding through water towards his castle: it has been ten days so far and I’m afraid that he won’t reach his destination for at least another two weeks, not least because I want to use the proper 18k gold thread I’ve now sourced from overseas.    There are quite large areas for underside couching, so this will prolong his ride while I wait for it to arrive in the mail!

I was musing about on the internet the other day, as you do when you’re procrastinating because your hands are tired and need a break from the repetitive motions of sewing, and I found a website that seemed quite thoroughly to berate embroiderers for daring to work with either stranded embroidery cotton or pearlised cotton, deeming these the stuff of children’s friendship bracelets and pasta picture ornamentation.   ‘Real’ or ‘serious’ embroiderers who aren’t still committing the heinous sins listed as embroidery ‘mistakes’ apparently don’t use these.

Obviously silk floss will have a more luxurious appearance, greater lustre and offer a wider range of hues from which to choose.   In some pieces this not only matters, but influences the outcome a very great deal.  I think, however, that to write off the full range of threads available is premature.   For example, I look at Hestor developing under my hands and I don’t dislike him for being made of ‘friendship bracelets’.   It’s a style choice.    I love working with real silk (and have a huge package in the mail currently, you’ll probably hear the whoop of joy when it arrives), but pearlised cotton imparts a texture which, when used with split stem stitch, just seems right for some projects.    It has a property that reminds me of the impressionist paintings of Van Gogh: each stitch is visible, like each brush stroke, while not detracting from the whole.

That’s my sentiment anyway.  I know there’ll be people who see my work and disagree, but that’s the thing about art.   It engenders feelings in those who behold it – at least, that’s the hope – but nothing says that those feelings have to be the same or that everyone will agree.

Meanwhile, I’ll just be happy if Hestor gets to his castle in one piece and that I manage to capture something of the spirit of the original Arthurian illumination in the process.

Hestor rides through woods and water to a castle



My current project (no pictures yet of the work in progress, as I am loathe to share it at so early a stage) is based on an illustration in the manuscript of Lancelot du Lac (Royal 20 D IV, f150v, British Library).  If all goes well, I hope to have first pictures of the incomplete work within the next week.

Meanwhile, I have to admit that there is something very therapeutic about seeing a work progress from screen or book to drawn artwork and thence to the fabric cartoon.   ‘Painting’ in the colours with stitches feels less like constructing the art and more like revealing, needle puncture by needle puncture, what was somehow already there.

Let’s hope that I am as optimistic about this piece once I’ve attempted underside couching for the first time!