Bateau Bayeux update

All of the outline stitching is now finished on the Bateau Bayeux project. It looks good and I’m excited to begin filling with Bayeux stitch!

I think I mentioned that I was saving the faces and hands of the sailors/soldiers for last. The faces I didn’t find so difficult but the hands were a real challenge. The expression on the face of the man in the photo below who’s looking to the back of the boat, seems to be pretty happy with how things are going. His right hand, however, seems quite a mess. When I looked at the photo of the original in David Wilson’s book his hand isn’t well stitched either. it’s badly stitched, however, in a different way. Since the shape of the hand in the photo was odd, my tracing was odd and consequently his hand is odd.


These two guys crack me up! They are look forward in the boat – to where they are going – and neither of them looks too happy. The man with the tiller looks likes he’s doubtful they’ll get to where they’re going!  The standing man has another one of the more odd hands in the picture doesn’t he? The horses look much more comfortable about the boat trip across the channel than either of the men!


The figure on the prow of the boat is one of my favorite parts of this scene: he looks proud and his hair seems to be waving in the wind. I wonder what the boat itself must have looked like. The sailor right behind the prow is a bit uncertain about their chances of landing.  The sailor behind him looks very French I think – it’s the hat and his moustache!


Here is the entire scene completely outlined. Once all the areas are filled with Bayeux stitch the whole thing will look very different. I’m enjoying looking at it now, in it’s more simple form, before I begin to fill it with stitching.

I’ve left the text until the entire piece is finished. It’s stitched in dark blue thread and the dark blue sometimes leaves a bit of color on the fabric if I rub it so, to keep the ground fresh, I’ll do the text at the very end.

S0161558As I’ve been stitching, I’ve been trying to imagine I was one of the original embroiderers. How would I have felt if I’d been an English woman stitching the story of my country being conquered? Would I have talked with the others as I worked? Would there have been enough light to see my work? Would I have imagined the stories of the soldiers as I worked, the way I am imagining those stories today? Would I have wished I was stitching a different scene?

What about you? What would you have been thinking about as you stitched over 1000 years ago?

7 thoughts on “Bateau Bayeux update

  1. I think the Bayeux Tapestry really does signify “The Unbroken Thread”. A steady line of embroidery workers down through the ages – 1000 years. There is something comforting in that.

    When I worked on my piece I wondered what season the original was worked. If it was summer did they take there work out on the lawn on warm days…. if it was winter did they take turns sitting by the fire in a long hall? I also thought about how much work had already been done before it came to the embroiderers hands. I sort of felt sorry for all those people because they work in the background and never get credit for all their hours of labor. The flax growers, the weavers, the spinners – and as to the dyers, the gathering and drying of plants, the chopping of wood for heating the dye-pot etc. etc. Even today, I wonder how many hands it takes to bring me that embroidery thread I hold in my hand.

    • Hi All!

      I am loving this discussion! It IS the Unbroken Thread in action, isn’t it? I, too, would be thinking of having enough to eat and my family being safe. Considering all the people who produce the the materials we use to embroider has interested me not just in the past but today as well.

      Paula, can you tell us please the size of your piece please?


      Liebe Grüße,


  2. What would I have been thinking about 1000 years ago while embroidering? Certainly not the lack of perfection in the sailors hand. 🙂 I would more likely be thinking about the health and welfare of my family. How well/awful the planting and harvest was going etc, and maybe the weather, for crop and health reasons, not how embroideresses 1000 years from now would view my embroidered sailors hand. 🙂 I doubt they thought too much about how people in a millennium would view their work, maybe how the neighbors or visitors to their home would view it, but they didn’t have a future oriented way of thinking like we do sometimes, especially not about something they would likely be doing to keep busy.

    I suppose what the embroideresses were thinking of depends on their origin. There are three or four theories, but no one knows definitively who is responsible for that work of art so we can only speculate for now. However, who is to say that any of those theories is the correct answer, it could be something completely different. Though, if they were Norman ladies then pride in their mens conquest would have been part of their thoughts. If it was a Saxon group of ladies, likely with a bit of heartache that their men received the short end of the stick by the Normans. Though, only one of the theories I heard of were that it was done by Saxon ladies, not Norman ones. Though, the fact that the Normans would be more proud of their conquest than the Saxons would have been of the subject, makes me more inclined to believe that it was done by Norman women. Again, just speculation.

    Kathy, if the original artists stunk at embroidering hands, it is okay that your version has a stinky (no offence, not your fault) hand also. 🙂 I like the tapestry for this reason, it is not all perfect and I doubt they yanked out areas of their work over and over for one (tiny) less than favorable area. I am sure they did at times, but not as much as some perfection oriented modern crafters. Personally, I would not worry about it if they did not. 🙂

    I am inclined to believe this because back then, even dye lots didn’t exist and they had to buy the floss 100% hand made, and I doubt that they would be inclined to waste too much of it, trying to perfect every little area. I mean hands at the pther end of the boat are slightly better. For all we know, they got thier most experienced stitcher of hands to do those hands and that is as good as it will get for that sized pattern. If it was life sized, maybe the hand could be improved, but we can only go so far when it is smaller than a dime. Finer (skinnier) floss might have helped also, but I am sure that what they had was limited, (and probably bulkier than ours) because it was done by hand and not by machine, and likely not as “standardized” as ours. I expect it would be a lot harder to spin every single batch exactly the same than it is now.

    Anyhow, LOVE the project, looking forward to next weeks episode of Bateau-Woman! (Bat-man theme plays)(snicker)Oh, and all the spots, makes me imagine that they are spreading smallpox. 😛 hehehe

  3. Kathy, my piece is 10 1/4 inches. In Wilson’s book the size ranges from about 10″ to 11″. That was another layout problem, getting it all the same size. I believe much of the size difference, in the original, has to do with mending and distortion of the fabric. It will be interesting, when you see the piece in person, to get your opinion.

    As for your fingers, they look just fine to me! After all, our Wilson tracings are about half the size of the original and some of the full sized fingers are REALLY strange. I love how some of the index fingers are very long when the designer wants you to look at something – not lake a cartoon – but stylized and drawing your eye to the person who is almost talking to you. Since the words were probably added at a later date it makes you appreciate the original designer’s story telling ability.

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