That Leaf is HOW big?

The Design in Question

One of the things I’ve been doing in this heat is reading out of print Victorian needlework books on my kindle — doing research for new crewel designs and new embroidery designs in general.

The other day i was happily bouncing through Ada Wentworth’s Jacobean Embroidery, its Forms and Fillings, Including Late Tudor, when I came across this description of a bed hanging or valance:

…measuring about 5ft. 8in. in length, and 1 ft. 8in. in width. Each leaf was about 22 in. long and 19 in. across.

I did a double-take. The length and depth of the work made sense to me, but the sheer size of each leaf amazed me. Crewel work today, even when “reproduction” work, is so much smaller in design? Can you imagine the detail and stitch variety available in just one of those leaves?

I’m going to need to reevaluate my understanding of this needlework genre. The largest leaf I have ever seen modernly is about 5 inches long – and that was considered huge. Working them so much larger, and in a heavier tapestry weight wool would make it much quicker to stitch a set of bed hangings than i have been imagining. I know the smaller designs existed as well – I’ve seen some of them. But my mind is still boggling from the idea of this scale… Maybe that shower curtain is in my future after all… I could use superwash sock yarn instead of crewel wool and it would be washable! …. hmmmm.

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5 Responses to That Leaf is HOW big?

  1. I feel compelled to leave a cautionary tale from my personal experiences embroidering with knitting yarn–if your yarn is at all stretchy, the fabric will be distorted at least slightly, and satin stitch will in no way lie flat, unless you are very very very very careful. Probably not using a hoop would be the best way to go.

    • Thank you for that piece of advice. It is definitely true that knitting yarn is usually stretchier than embroidery yarns, and it’s something that is good to remember! I’m curious, though… why would not using a hoop help? I’d think that I, at least, would be MORE likely to stretch the yarn stitching in hand…

  2. Well, I’ve never actually done this whole “not use a hoop” thing, but I would think then you could see the puckering as you go and try to adjust for it, rather than taking the hoop out to adjust it and finding out you’ve got to pick out all your satin stitch.

  3. You need to remember to stitch with a looser tension than usual. Try hoop and no-hoop and see which one makes it easier for you to check and adjust the tension as you go along.

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