It’s always useful to write about the embroidery and needlework products that one is interested in! I actually never have any “mercenary” motives when I write about the things I like – but I did manage to land a nice needlework kit for my birthday this year – the Bayeux kit I mentioned when I told you about the French Needle!
So, here I am, musing over this kit. The kit allows the needleworker to recreate a small section of the famous Bayeux tapestry – and I’ve since learned that there are many of these kits available, featuring different parts of the tapestry. I like the one I received, and I think I’d also like (eventually) one with ships on it. BUT – that remains to be seen! I’ll let you know if those sentiments change after working this kit!
This is the kit I received. You can see at the top of the picture the design printed on the fabric. The fabric is a sturdy cotton, and all the lines of the design are printed on it in black. In fact, it’s a lot like an almost-cartoonish-looking linedrawing of this section of the tapestry, and it looks strange in just lines – until you realize that it really is exactly what the tapestry looks like, minus the colors!
Besides the printed fabric, the kit contains wool for embroidering (seems about the weight of crewel wool, maybe slightly heavier) and a chart of the embroidery project, indicating what colors go where.
Note: there are no stitch instructions, really. The whole piece is supposed to be worked in Bayeux stitch, which is a laid and couched stitch. Even though there are no stitch isntructions, the kit should be pretty easy to work! Time consuming, but fairly simple.
What struck me as strange was the limit of browns. In fact, for the elements in the tapestry that seem “brownish,” there is only one brown and one rust color. There’s also a navy blue – apparently, some the horses are to be worked in navy blue.
See the dark horses? They look black to me, but apparently, they are navy blue. Check out their red legs!
Well, to get some better insight into the project before undertaking it, I thought I would drag out David Wilson’s book on the Bayeux Tapestry. It’s a nice book – besides getting the history of the tapestry and the story translated and explained, you also get very close up images of the entire tapestry.
And, in fact, in opening the book to the pages corresponding to my kit, I found a very helpful resource for working this kit. The individual threads and stitches are crystal clear! You can even see that the blue is really blue. Notice the color changes in the work. Apparently, the stitchers weren’t too concerned about color changes. When their thread ran out, it is surmised, they merely took up another color.
And the colors didn’t always match, even if they were the same.
Still, it seems to me that in this section, there is at least one more shade of a tannish brown color. I suppose that could have come about from fading and what-have-you, but even so, I’m thinking I might invest in one more color of thread before I work this kit.
In the original tapestry, no more than 8 colors are used throughout the whole piece. But I would imagine that dye lots would have provided slight variations within the colors, whether these variations were desirable or not.
I love the kit, and am looking forward to working on it … some day! In the meantime, I’ll keep an eye out for the opportunity to go thread shopping in person, to see if I can come up with one more compatible shade of tannish-brown.
If you want to see what the Bayeux Stitch is, you can check out Bayeux Stitch, Ancient and Modern (PDF), supplied by the Embroiderers’ Guild of the UK.
If you’re interested in these kits, you can find them at The French Needle – and if you want to order a different scene of the tapestry, you can contact The French Needle to find out what other scenes are available. Also, if you read my previous post about the French Needle, you can find out how to save 10% on any order during April.