The peacock I picked from the Bayeux tapestry as inspiration for a crewel project that will be part of a course later this year has been dignified, or rather undignified, with various monikers. Tanya Bentham refers to him in her latest book as an oven-ready chicken, and in a recent talk as a bit of a turkey. Mr Figworthy thinks he looks more like a dodo than a peacock. Now I’m rather partial to dodos – I love Dick King-Smith’s delightful book Dodos Are Forever, there is a Dutch series of comic books in which a resourceful dodo accompanies the hero, and Jasper Fforde, in his Tuesday Next series, created the unforgettable Pickwick (catchword: “Plock”). So I have decided to consider my Bayeux creature a dodo-peacock hybrid, who will henceforth be known as Do-Pea.
The Bayeux tapestry is about 50cm high, from which I calculated that the original peacock stands at a little under 8cm tall. Helpfully having worked this out after picking two sizes in which to transfer my modified outline, I was rather pleased that they happen to be about half a centimetre either side of the original size.
After getting Do-Pea transformed into a usable outline, the next thing was to decide on where to use what stitch (the original uses stem stitch filling as well as the more predictable Bayeux stitch) and in what direction; and the tail needed some work as even with the Bayeux Museum’s excellent high-resolution photographs it wasn’t very clear what the original treatment was – the stitching looks a little the worse for wear, and as I’m not trying to create a perfect copy I thought I might as well do whatever I liked the look of. I went for stripes inside a circle of dots. As I was undecided about whether to use circular stem stitch or satin stitch/Bayeux stitch on those dots and his head feathers I’m trying both (one of the reasons for stitching two models).
Incidentally, I picked two different fabrics for these two dodos: for the larger one a soft woollen fabric (the same that I used for Bartram the Rainbow Ram) and for the smaller some of the vintage Irish linen I inherited from my mother-in-law. It is the latter I’ve started with, in a rather pastel palette (bigger Do-Pea will be much brighter). Unfortunately the blue in this selection is rather too light for the outlining I had in mind, and the next blue I’ve got is the much darker one used on the other version, so I’ve ordered the shade in between (and one or two other colours, just to make the most of the postage you understand).
Until that turns up I’m working on the tail, which doesn’t use blue for any of the filling in. So far I’ve done the pale turquoise and the mid violet parts. What I particularly like about the Renaissance Dyeing wools for this sort of project is that they are not completely uniform in colour – there is some subtle shading along the skein, which which makes for a pleasantly medieval look. No purple or lilac is used in the Bayeux tapestry, but I think it works rather well; perhaps the Bayeux stitchers’ local needlework shop had run out .
By the way, I know some of the dots aren’t particularly regular, but outlining hides a multitude of sins and I want this to be a fairly relaxed project so I’m not trying to be super precise. And wonky dots may make him live up to his name more…