New trestle supplier – M.R.S. Embroidery!

Quite a few months ago I received an email from a woman whose business is called “M.R.S. Embroidery”. What a delightful name, I thought! She was writing to tell me about a project she’d been working on which she thought might interest me and my readers. Well, it did! She had some more tweaking to do before she was ready to go public, but now everything is up and running, so it’s time to tell you all about it!

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Magda Rose Skilleter (hence the M.R.S. – her initials!)  lives in West Sussex, literally at the foot of the South Downs National Park in a tiny village. She is, like us, a passionate embroider and needed as good, solid set of trestles. Like many of us, the space in her home is limited and having a pair of trestles set up all the time just wasn’t desirable. No matter how large our homes are, if we don’t have a designated room for our embroidery, a pair of trestles will become part of the decor – whether we want them to be or not! They take up a lot of space, even when we take off the embroidery frame and push them together. So, she decided to create trestles with removable feet, thereby allowing the trestles to be stored flat against a wall, behind a cupboard or in a closet.

The trestles are made of solid beech wood. Screws are used to assemble them with wooden plugs hiding all joins, so they are sturdy as well as attractive. The frames come assembled and the four feet come separately within the box ready to just pop on.

Each half of the pair of trestles, without the feet on, is 880mm wide x  875mm high x  50 mm deep.  Double the depth of 50mm to get the total storage requirements i.e. 100mm when standing a pair together. Each foot is 410 mm wide x 81mm deep.

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Her partner, Nick, cleverly came up with a design they are justifiably proud to sell.  The feet are designed in such a way that they will simply slot on and pull off, so there are no unsightly screws or bolts required. They have also decided to hand wax the trestles so they are smooth to the touch. They experimented with varnish but felt the finish was slightly grainy to the touch and they much preferred the feel and depth that wax gives. Although waxing takes slightly longer than varnishing, they have decided to do this step themselves to keep the costs down.

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A pair of trestles will cost £300, excluding p&p.  Trestles will be available for shipping from the end of January 2017. You can place an order anytime from now on and can contact her via her email address (below), or via her Facebook page. At present payment is made via PayPal. She is willing to ship worldwide and will provide a quote on the shipping costs upon request.

If you’re interested (and I am!) you can contact her via her email address which is mrsembroidery2 (at) gmail.com

 

 

Opus Anglicanum Weekend – Part 2!

On Saturday morning it was pouring rain so I took the underground to the V&A to see the exhibition with alert eyes and fresh mind.

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The exhibition is wonderful…truly amazing and, as an embroiderer, humbling. We all strive to create beautiful work of the highest quality, but this level of skill is truly unbelievable. I had purchased a small magnifying eye glass so I would be able to see the piece up close. Some of the silk split stitch embroidery was so fine I could barely discern the individual threads or stitches even with magnification; the expressions on the faces were so life like; the goldwork so delicate and perfectly executed.

At lunch time I met one of my students from the Trevelyon’s Cap course who had come to London for the exhibition and the lecture on Saturday afternoon. We had a wonderful time talking about embroidery and life in general until it was time to go upstairs to the theatre for the lecture entitled “Opus Anglicanum Unpicked”.

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The lecture, complete with movie screen sized images, examined the materials, techniques and design; the patrons and artists involved; and the extraordinary images depicted on them. Exhibition curator Glyn Davies spoke on Curating the Garden of Delights – the Wonder of English Medieval Embroidery, V&A course director Sally Dormer, spoke on Sacred Stories: The Iconography of Opus Anglicanum and former Senior Curator of Textiles for the V & A, Jennifer Wearden, on Opus Anglicanum: materials and techniques.

It was fascinating to hear about the negotiation process  that makes it possible to borrow pieces from diverse collections for this exhibition. Lighting and displaying the pieces was also discussed. All of us were impressed with the metal forms created by a special team to display the copes without drapes or folds so all the the embroidery could be seen.

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The images of Opus Anglicanum and what their meanings were to contemporaries was discussed in detail,  with connections between images on embroidered textiles and manuscripts of the period being made. Embroidery was not created in an artistic void just as it isn’t now.

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There was then a thorough and delightful lecture on the materials and techniques. I didn’t know – before the lecture – that all the gold thread created in England during the period of Opus Anglicanum would have come from coins or other gold objects that had been acquired and melted down as there were no gold mines in England at that time. Imagine the long process required to make a piece of gold thread!

For those of you who cannot come to London, the exhibition catalogue is so much more than photos and descriptions of the pieces. There are chapters that cover much of the material from the lecture. If you search online, you can easily find videos about how to do underside couching and high quality images of the work itself.

What I came away with, after a weekend of Opus Anglicanum, is wonder at the ability of people in 1250 to create these masterpieces. They were truly inspired. And so am I!

 

Opus Anglicanum Weekend – Part 1!

I’ve just come home from two days in London focused entirely on embroidery. Not just any embroidery, but a once in a lifetime exhibition on Opus Anglicanum!

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Friday I flew into London very early and caught the Underground to South Kensington where both my hotel and the V&A Museum are located. After dropping my overnight bag at the hotel, I walked up Cromwell Road to the V&A under bright, blue skies – what a treat! Once I was inside, it took only a few minutes to walk up a short flight of stairs to the Clore Study Room in the Learning Centre, where the workshop  was held. The talented and delightful Sarah Homfray was our teacher for “Opus Anglicanum: Introduction to Silk and Gold”.

We came in to find a large table set up for us, with a kit hoop and lamp at each place. At the front of the room was something I’d never seen before in an embroidery class – a large screen upon which the live image of the embroidery frame on the table directly underneath was being projected for all students to easily and clearly see.

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What a brilliant way to teach embroidery to a large group of 20 students! We could sit in our chairs and watch or gather around Sarah and still see in detail what she was doing.

We began the morning with a short introduction and brief history of Opus Anglicanum, which was really interesting. Then we moved into our practical work. We spent the rest of the morning learning how to use split stitch to create the fine details of the face and hair that make Opus Anglicanum so exquisite. Many tiny, tiny stitches. We all wondered how in the world the embroiderers in 1260 had, 1. the eyesight to see these tiny stitch and, 2. the needles fine enough to create them!

The image below is the project on which we learned the techniques and it is small – only 6.5 cm or 2 1/2 inches tall. The hair is done with a single strand of thread in split stitches. I stitched pretty much all the time we had and that’s as far as I got!

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The afternoon was focused on the two different goldwork techniques used predominately in Opus Anglicanum; surface couching and underside couching. Surface couching wasn’t new for me but the underside couching was a new technique and the technique I’d come to learn.

The gold thread is laid on the top side of the fabric. The needle is threaded with a linen thread (stronger than silk or even today’s cotton/poly according to Sarah, who tested many threads to see what would work best). The working thread is then brought up from the back through a ‘hole’ in the linen created by the weave, over the gold thread and back down through the same hole in the fabric. The working thread then is pulled firmly so a small bit of the gold thread is pulled through to the back of the fabric.

The working thread is visible only from the backside of the fabric, never on the front. Since all the stitches are on the backside of the fabric and covered with a lining, the gold thread is more secure. The points where the couching thread pulls the gold thread to the back side of the fabric create a pattern in the gold thread visible from the top. This pattern also serves to add flexibility to the goldwork, making it possible for the large copes to be worn more comfortably, since they can drape more easily.

Sarah told us that, after she had done some underside couching with gold thread, she had a far better understanding of the work involved in creating some of the magnificent pieces in the exhibition. The gold thread we used wasn’t real gold (cost considerations!) and was thicker than what was used for Opus Anglicanum. When I went to look at the exhibition, I was stunned at the amount of work I saw. Having learned the technique first, I had a much deeper understanding of what I was seeing.

Something completely unrelated to the workshop or the exhibition was the opportunity to see this amazing piece of sculpture which was above our heads in the classroom.

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At the end of the day I was tired and, after a nice cup of tea and a scone with one of the other lovely students in the class, I went to see the exhibition for a short time (we were given tickets to the exhibition as part of the class – what a nice surprise!) and then back to my hotel.

Next time – the exhibition and the lecture.