Somehow, we have ended up in March already! Yikes! I did manage to finish up blackwork with a few days to spare, and then promptly used those days to madly start on March’s work. Blackwork reveal next week! Tromping through the alphabet, we’re on to Canvas Work!
Canvas work includes embroidery such as needlepoint and bargello where the canvas is completely covered by the design. This is often rugs, cushions, or wall hangings. Sturdy things, usually done in wool. I spent some time asking other embroiderers for their favourite canvas works from period, and there was plenty of pretty needlepointed cushions and the like, but one friend is on a crusade about SCA period bargello.
Bargello is that zig zag flame pattern that we all know and love from bad 1970s textiles when it had a glorious revival. It’s also known as florentine work, or hungarian point, or flame stitch. It becomes quite popular in the 17th century but there is a single example with a firm date pre-1600. It’s located in the West Room of Parham House in Sussex, UK, an Elizabethan manor house built in 1577. The hangings are described as ‘16th century Italian wool wall hangings’. A whole lot of time with Google later, and I found a single close up shot: (in a gardening magazine of all places. Gardens Illustrated, November 2017)
With my inspiration piece decided upon, it’s time to look at how I actually want to go about doing this. I have a couple of potentially suitable canvases, and a wide selection of wool. I have both 18 count canvas (brown in the photo) and 22 count canvas (white in the photo), and experimented with various wools on each. 6” is not a lot of space to show much design, which makes every stitch count. Adding to the pros and cons of each is the choice of wool. The 18 count canvas takes tapestry wool well, which I already own in a variety of colours. The 22 count canvas takes a vintage knitting wool best, which I only have in white and would need to dye myself.
The next task was to manage to get something at least inspired by the extant piece charted up to have an idea on what I was going to stitch, and hopefully use how well the pattern repeat sits in the different count of fabric to decide between the two.
I printed out the garden magazine at about the right size to get approximately one repeat to sit in my 6” square. Because the photo is so dark, it was not the best print, but sharpie to the rescue to make it visible on the light box. I then could trace the general shape onto graph paper. That general shape got translated loosely into a charted version. Considering how the pattern translates, I expect that the original fabric was not even weave (i.e., not the same number of threads per inch in the warp and weft), which is interesting. Counting out how many stitches I’d have at 22 count vs 18 count, I’m happier with the slightly more stitches. Unfortunately, that means that my next task is dyeing yarn. Plot twist!