Sailing, sailing…

Remember the song that went “Sailing sailing over the bounding mail”? That tune just kept running through my head as I was stitching these beautiful blue sails. Filling in the outlines was very like filling the sails with wind.

One of the things I’ve noticed while I was stitching and referring to the photos in David Wilson’s book is that the laid threads don’t always run exactly parallel to the top and bottom of the picture; sometimes the embroiderer has chosen to change the direction of the laid threads to reflect the shape of the things being filled.



In the little top sail pictured below the laid threads change angle in the far right of the sail. The couched threads also change sometimes according to the shape. Of course in the small sail below the couched threads need to lie perpendicular to the laid threads and therefore must change direction but it’s pretty neat how the couched threads line up and give the impression of a curve right next to the mast!


In the lower sail below, the couched thread had been put in at a slight curve on the original to accentuate the curve of a sail full of wind. At first I thought this might be accidental and due to lack of light or a sleepy embroiderer. On examining more of the photographs in the book, I decided that it was done deliberately.


The subtle change of direction of both in the laid threads and the couched threads gives more movement to the stitching. Clever people those 11th century stitchers!

One of the challenges I’ve had to work through is the very small areas of Bayeux stitch. The tracing I made is not the same size as the tapestry so some of the shapes are smaller than they are in the real thing. The little round areas on the top sail had only enough room for one couching stitch and one of two holding stitches. I’m finding it interesting that a simple stitch done over and over to fill a space can have subtle differences so the piece doesn’t become monotonous.

I’m looking forward to seeing the real thing soon and hope to get a bit more done before we leave! I’d like to have done one horse or one soldier to really feel the life in the piece. Not long now!


One thought on “Sailing, sailing…

  1. There is also the song “Sailing Away” by Chris DeBurgh. That is the song that popped into my head when I saw your post, I do not recall ever hearing the bounding mail song.

    Perhaps a lot of it was done deliberately, but we also have no idea how experienced the embroideresses were. It was likely done by a group of women of various ages, experience and talent. So it could be that some places it was deliberate, in others it was being taught or done by someone less experienced, but they did not fuss about it when it was not “exactly” what they wanted. We will never know exactly how they wanted it all to look. When I see museum pieces like that, I imagine that the 11th centuries idea of “perfect” embroidery was far different from the fussy “rip it out 10 times until it is perfect” notions that we have now. For all we know, you could be deliberately reproducing some mess ups. 🙂

    Also, we have to consider that their 11th century needles (and other tools) were likely made by a blacksmith and were not as smooth as ours, and steel alloys that we use for corrosion resistance did not even exist, and they had no way of making TINY needles, the ones that appear in museums are clunkers in comparison to our lovelies. If the ladies were aristocracy, they likely did have the best available, but best then, is far different than our best. I imagine that they would have killed their parents, pets and the mailman to get custody of the needles that we all toss in the recycling bin.

    When I see embroidered/stitched items in museums, I try to put the item into context, and not judge it by MODERN ideas of perfection. I have heard people look at century old quilts or whatever, and then say “I can do better than that”… Yeah, but can we do better than that using THIER tools and supplies? Could they do it as beautifully in the amount of time it took the original stitcher? I rarely attend quilt shows, because the “winners” are always the blingy-est entries, NOT the ones that actually required the most talent to be done as beautifully.

    Anyhow, I hope to see another entry on your recreation before your vacation!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.