Friday, August 4, 2017

Stitching the Jacobean motif. . . . . .


I promised to show you this, my crewel embroidery piece 'Tree of Life' 
started and completed in the mid 1970's. I recall it took me perhaps a couple
 of years, picking it up now and then between family and work commitments
when we lived in Massachusetts. 

I bought it as a kit - complete with the skeins of wools in beautiful colors,
 printed Belgian linen, and stitch instructions - offered by one of the most admired
 American stitchery women ever, the late Elsa Williams. After a lengthy search
 I've managed to find this article on her which I found so interesting.
 Some of her kits, now classified as 'vintage', are still available online.

I didn't have my crewel piece framed until later when we moved here to
 North Carolina in 1977, choosing framing and hanging on the wall over a pillow
 or chair seat cover thinking it would last longer with less wear and tear. 
I'm amazed that the colors have not faded at all, however admit I've never
 displayed it on a wall with bright light or direct sun.


Jacobean embroidery refers to styles that flourished in the reign of 
King James I of England in the first quarter of the 17th century.

This is one of many depictions in the pattern of the Jacobean motif named
 'Tree of Life.'  It was popular for curtains and bed hangings - remember those?
 They draped four poster beds to keep out the winter drafts in those
 cold British castles and country mansions. Ms. Williams' designs
 for this motif were unsurpassed.

The term Jacobean is used today to describe this design for furnishing
 and is characterized by fanciful plant and animal shapes, stylized forests,
 and exotic plants arising from a landscape or terra firma, worked in a variety
 of stitches with two-ply wool yarn on linen.














A chart of crewel embroidery stitches and techniques via the Internet.



  
I doubt I will ever do another intricate and somewhat complicated embroidery
 such as this, my eyesight is not what it used to be for close-up stitching. 
I do love it though, recall how I enjoyed creating it, and am proud that
 I did produce this special piece of handwork when I was in my thirties.
 I hope it will be considered an 'heirloom' of sorts, and will be kept and
 admired by a family member some day in the future.


28 comments:

  1. Mary what incredibly intricate work, and so beautifully done. It should be an heirloom.

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    1. Thanks dear friend - I'm sure you remember how we little English girls were taught to do such creative things, sewing, knitting, drawing, gardening etc. Today it's sad when I see even older girls who can't sew on a button!
      Mary x

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  2. This is so gorgeous! You did a fabulous job on this. I admire your talent.

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    1. Thank you so very much. Just wish I had the good eyesight - and a lot of spare time - to take this up again. Maybe come winter when I must have something creative to do. I guess I could get one of those magnifying glasses I've seen sewers using!
      Happy weekend - Mary

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  3. It is beautiful Mary. I didn't know it, but now I am a Jacobean fan.

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    1. Donna, I recall how much time this took - I worked for a doctor in Massachusetts then and would take it with me to the office to do a little on my lunch break!
      Mary -

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  4. Replies
    1. Thanks so much dear - hope you are managing in the heat out your way!

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  5. It is absolutely beautiful, Mary. What a lot of work!

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    1. . . . . . . . .but it kept me out of trouble, haha! Actually I was totally wrapped up in learning those stitches and wanted it to look really beautiful despite being my first try at crewel work. I think I succeeded, because once it was completed, then mounted for framing, I recall being so pleased with my efforts over such a long period of time.
      Hope all is well dear H and thanks for stopping by.
      Mary x

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  6. Very accomplished and totally lovely work, Mary. You must be very proud of it.

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    1. Thanks Patricia - I recall being so happy when it was completed and I was definitely pleased with it after so many hours of work!
      Mary -

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  7. Dear Mary, You must have done a lot of crewel embroidery in the past. Your work is exceptional. So even and the work laying so flat and the complicated stitches so expertly executed. So glad you shared your artistry with us.

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    1. Thank you Gina. This is the only piece of actual wool crewel embroidery I've ever done so it was a learning process! I had always done regular embroidery with the silky floss, even when a child, so was familiar with many of the stitches, my mother being my teacher back then. I still have a few of those pieces such as tablecloths and tray cloths, all on Irish linen. So my dear, whilst you were painting I was stitching - lovely memories formed in childhood kept our hands busy . . . . . . . . and they didn't require a phone, haha!
      Mary x

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  8. This is wonderful Mary! You did such lovely work. Think of you all the time and I do not want you to give up on me. Many times I am going to call but realize that it is too late. I have had a number of health issues and just do not get things like that done. Please greet Bob for us.

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    1. Sandy, with think of you and Jim too and were just saying how we hoped you are managing in the current hot weather out there in the Pacific Northwest!
      Life is busy and the time flies - but hope we can catch up with you sometime in the future my dear.
      Thanks so much for stopping by here - you made my morning!
      Hugs - Mary

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  9. Mary, This embroidery is absolutely exquisite!! I'm so impressed!! The colors are so pretty and rich. This is definitely a treasure that should always be well-cared for. I like the Jacobean fabrics and designs; our foyer wallpaper is a Jacobean design.

    My mom used to do crewel embroidery back in the 70's, and I have a few of the pictures she made for my grandparents. This makes me want to find a spot to hang them now. Thanks for sharing this and have a good weekend. :)

    Denise

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    1. I'm so very sorry that your Dad is facing such a serious surgery Denise - my thoughts and prayers are with him and your entire family.
      Thanks for taking time to leave a lovely comment, I hope you will display your family pieces of crewel, especially as they were done by your mom. Bet your wallpaper is beautiful too.
      Thinking of you and hope all goes well.
      Mary -

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  10. That is a lovely piece. I did some Jacobean crewel back in the 70s from a kit. Mine had a deer. I gave it away...wonder whatever ultimately became of it. Yours looks like perfection.

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    1. Yes Vee, there are many Tree of Life depictions with animals at the bottom, especially deer. I wish you still had yours - but hopefully someone is loving it and displaying it in their home. Remember how long those stitches took to get the shading perfect - I must have had much more patience back then!!!!!!
      Happy weekend - Mary

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  11. Oh my! That is beautiful Mary. I love all of the colors!

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    1. Thanks Penny! It is colorful but as I'm adding more color in the decor lately I wanted to display some these personal things such as mother's pottery and my needlework. Needless to say, it looks like my white 'shabby chic days' are perhaps over???

      Hope your weekend is lovely - we're back from our quick coastal visit - and now have lots to do around here including an evening in the gazebo with friends tonight and then perhaps a brunch out tomorrow! Never much time to just do nothing - but perhaps that's a good thing and keeps us going, haha!
      Mary x

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  12. Oh Mary, what an exquisite work of art! A real treasure of your hard work, to beautify your home. Just love it! Loved hearing about the artist as well. Beautiful design and colors!

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  13. Mary, this piece is absolutely beautiful! The colours, the design...just perfect!

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  14. I asmire anyone who has the skill, Patience and creativity to make something so beautiful!

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  15. Simply magnificent, Mary! Your work is flawless - or appears that way! ;-) I am a great fan of Jacobean patterns and have had them, in some form, in every home. My mother made a crewel piece in the 70's, however it is of a brown/orange/yellow stylized owl that was popular at the time. Made into a pillow that has been used and tossed about a great deal over the years...perhaps I should rescue the work and frame it instead? Not as timeless as your design, but a keepsake none the less. Thank you for sharing this!

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  16. Your crewel embroidery piece 'Tree of Life' is truly stunning. I am sure it will become a much treasured family heirloom. Have a wonderful week.

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  17. You are going to have to specifically bequeath to someone as I am sure it will be valued for decades, if not centuries to come. It is truly an heirloom. UTTERLY gorgeous. I love your photos too. So impressive that you did that! It must have taken a lot of patience.

    That article on Elsa Williams was fascinating too. What a life. I think I have actually read about her before but learned more here.

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I would enjoy reading your comment - thanks so much for stopping by.

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