To Bayeux or not to Bayeux, that is the question

There is a lot of Bayeux stitch in my life at the moment, which is at least partly because my enthusiasm for different techniques tends to come in waves. I usually have quite a few projects on the go of various types, but every now and then one technique captures my imagination and I’ll want to stitch lots of designs in that technique, whether other people’s or my own. In the past year I’ve read a lot about the Bayeux tapestry which piqued my interest in the style, and so when Bartram the Bayeux Ram came along he was a great way of having a play with the stitch. Being able to do so with a friend was even better, and we have now both finished him – we’re very pleased with our flock of two!

My Bartram Trina's Bartram (with beady eye!)

When we next get together we’ll lace the two Bartrams over foam board ready for display. By the way, I finished mine at the very first Cake & Craft held in our new church building. As the name implies it’s just people getting together to do some craft and eat cake, and we had a lovely time. One lady had brought her sugar work, another a small weaving project, and there was also plenty of knitting, crochet and stitching. As the one organising it (and therefore in charge of making the teas and coffees and cutting and handing round the cake) I didn’t get a lot done myself, but I did manage Bartram’s final curl.

Another Bayeux presence in the Figworthy household came about because of my intention to rectify the inexplicable absence of Austin Sevens on the tapestry, in honour of the little car’s centenary this year. For the first model, a Chummy like the one Mr F and I went on our honeymoon in, I chose the wrong fabric. It was a lovely linen but the weave was too open, and although it looked just about OK it was difficult to stitch accurately. Not one to persist with non-enjoyable stitching I abandoned it.

An abandoned Chummy

Quite apart from the bad choice of fabric, it also took too long – remember, this was meant to be a quick stitch project to offer as an activity for the non-car-enthusiast partners during the week of Centenary celebrations. So I tried one of the other models in a smaller size, and for the moment without the accompanying text (as it takes a lot of time, and is probably only funny to those who know a bit about the tapestry anyway). At my first go I managed to misread my own colour plan and made the blue stitches too short. Sigh. Unpick, restitch. For the wheels I studied the tapestry again. Surprisingly, I could only find one cart, but that did show me that the wheels were worked in eight parts of straight stitches. They look suitably wonky for a hundred-year-old car, but the whole thing still takes too long.

A Bayeux Box Saloon

Even so, I was not yet ready to give up on some Austin-Seven-themed stitching at the Centenary. Outline only then? In that case the wording would definitely have to go, as it wouldn’t be in the style of the Bayeux tapestry any more. A shame, but heigh ho, if that’s what it takes to make it doable, that’s what I’ll do. And it turns out that an outlined Austin Seven (a 1937 Ruby, in this case) looks quite attractive! But it still takes too long…

An outlined Ruby

I had to admit defeat. Still, I was enjoying these little projects, and as I had already transferred both the sporting Nippy and another Chummy, I thought I might as well stitch them – the Nippy in a primrose yellow typical for that model, and the Chummy in turqoise, the closest I could get from stash to the colour of our honeymoon car. The latter is still in progress, and I had to decide what to do with the lettering as the black Appleton’s I have is so thick and rough (see the roof of the Box Saloon – and I actually went over that with fine scissors to remove the worst of the sticky-out fluff) that I haven’t a hope of producing legible writing in it. Stranded cotton would work, but has too much shine compared to the wool. However, you may remember that I acquired a whole set of unmercerised, matt flower threads recently, and among them there is a black which looks just about the right thickness; I’ll let you know how I get on!

A primrose Nippy A Chummy in progress

So is the Chummy the end of my Bayeux binge? You won’t be surprised to hear that it isn’t, but my next project could have been a bit embarrassing if I’d been any slower in designing it. You see, I’m working on some projects for a 6-week course I’m planning, the first three weeks of which will revolve around crewel embroidery. In those three classes I want to introduce Bayeux-style embroidery, Jacobean, and modern crewel, and for the Bayeux class my inspiration came from some of the intriguing creatures in the margins of the tapestry. There are dogs, birds, fish, mythical creatures, and what must be a camel designed by someone who’d heard about camels but had never actually seen one.

Bayeux creatures A Bayeux camel

After some deliberation, and briefly considering some smiling horses’ heads sticking out of the boats in one of the scenes, I settled on a pair of peacocks, and of the pair particularly on the rather chunky one with the circular tail (who Mr F says looks like a dodo).

A pair of Bayeux peacocks

You will understand my dismay when, on a visit to Tanya Bentham’s blog, I found a video of her stitching the other peacock, with a comment that it was a companion to the circular peacock which was in her latest book – the book I actually had on pre-order! Fortunately I hadn’t received it yet, and therefore hadn’t seen what her treatment of the peacock was; I decided not to read the book until I had completely decided what my peacock would look like, and I heaved a sigh of relief when I did read the book and saw that our interpretation of his tail in particular and of some other parts as well was quite different. Phew. Now I just need to stitch mine smiley, and to do it I’ve ordered some Renaissance Dyeing crewel wool. You see, I would like the students to be able to work with some nicer wool than Appleton’s on at least one project, but my favourite Heathway Milano is rather too expensive if I want to keep the course kits a reasonable price; the Renaissance Dyeing wool works out at about a third of the price per metre. I haven’t quite decided which of these colours I’m going to use – I want to keep the palette fairly limited, as in the original – but I’ll have fun experimenting on the two sizes of peacock I’ve transferred!

The start of some Bayeux peacocks

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