When I began my project, one of the readers of The Unbroken Thread, Paula Guisinger, posted this comment:
“I am just delighted to see you start this project! I know you will find it a most enjoyable project to work on. I just finished 14 feet 10 inches of the embroidery done in two panels. It took me 4 months working 6 to 12 hours a day – becoming absolutely obsessed… I also used tracings from Wilson’s book and chose excerpts to tell the story; starting with Harold pledging his support to William to where Harold falls to his death under the lance.
I so wish you lived closer to Colorado USA. (grin) We could sit and chat about our choice of colors, what you choose to do where the tapestry was repaired, the different theories on the history of the piece and all the little decisions along the way. If you email me I will send pictures because it is always fun to see what others are doing.
Please post pictures of your work often!!!”
Right away I sent off an email:
“Hi Paula, Thanks so much for your comment on the blog. I am excited to begin stitching having spent the last hour going over the pattern with a pen so I can transfer it to the fabric tomorrow – I hope!
I’m curious about what threads and colors you used. Seeing photos would be great!”
Here is one of the photos that came back along with a fascinating account of her project.
Kathy, it is so interesting you are starting your project the same way I did with tracings from David Wilson’s book. It must be that we both love the look of wool on linen that makes our minds work the same way. For me the Bayeux tapestry was a must do. My English ancestors lived, and paid taxes, just south of Canterbury in Kent in the 1100’s so I like to fantasize they were there for the invasion and wonder if they supported the Saxons or the Normans —– tho I have no idea if they were English or Norman, or if they even cared who won the battle. It is just fun to think about.
I used Appleton crewel’s because I have pounds of the stuff. I like it for some of the reasons others don’t like it. I like the looser twist in the ply and the slight hairiness of the wool. Tho I must confess I used Medici crewel for the Latin lettering because it was finer and had a tight ply so I could get a crisp outline.
As for color choices: I spent days laying out colors, putting them together different ways, comparing them to the book, looking at pictures on the web – it drove me crazy. Then it came to me…. I had used those same vegetable dyes back in the early 70’s. (Oh my, I think I just dated my self.) So, I pulled out those old hand dyed wools and matched them with Appleton crewel’s . A few of the colors I did change: I had dyed a really bright red madder, keeping the temp. of the dye pot low with tin, and some really shockingly bright orange using alum and higher temps – they would not do. Appleton’s madder color was not right… so I used their terracotta. My blue/green I had over dyed indigo with some sort of yellow – perhaps dye weed, perhaps not – but it had faded to a really ugly yuck so I went with the 640 line of Appleton. All in all I am happy with my color choices, but perhaps they are off as I guess you can only really tell if you see the tapestry in person in natural light because every picture shows them differently.
The biggest problem I encountered was figuring out how I wanted the lay out to go as I wanted to tell the entire story in under 15 feet. I had to leave out lots of things I really wanted to do because of space – I mean, where else would you ever get the chance to embroider a naked man in his full glory. Also, there was the problem of making the borders flow from one scene to the other trying to keep them in character with the scene directly above, and keeping Latin correctly oriented to the scene yet still tell the story.
I so wish I could tell you that I used linen on my project but, the cost of several yards of nice embroidery quality linen was more that I wanted to pay, as I do lots of embroidery and already have a fortune in linen but not two pieces over 91″ long. So, I ended up using a cotton drill that was just wonderful to stitch on! It looks great but I still know it is not linen…
The embroidery panels are not framed yet and just straight pined up loosely on the wall as my husband is currently working on the frame. It will be mounted on twice painted plywood that is covered with calico and the embroidery laced on top of that. The glass will be spaced about 1/4 inch from the work. I am not worried about foxing from the wood because I did some embroidery 45 years ago that way and they still show no signs of foxing. The next two pictures I am sending are just showing the piece in progress on the frame. I make my frames to fit each piece of work so they are rather crude and disposable… but they work just fine. This one I made so I could roll the piece like you would do for a needlepoint. I was worried about lengthwise tension but I could get it really tight and had no problem with it getting looser while being worked.
I can’t wait for you to start and post on your blog. This will be such fun to watch YOUR version of the Bayeux Tapestry progress! -Paula
What an inspiration! What beautiful work! I wish with all my heart I could see it in person. I love how she’s put it together in two rows. I assume it’s for practical reasons – who has a wall in their home that’s this long? But I really like the impact it makes. When the frame her husband is making is finished and her tapestry is in the frame – it will be a work of art to be treasured forever – at least as long as the 1,000 years the real thing has been around!