Wednesday, December 12, 2018

My new project..."QUEEN MARY'S GARDEN" © 2019 - BLOCK 1

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Mary, Queen of Scots was born in Scotland on December 8, 1542.  Her parents were King James V of Scotland and the King's second wife (from France), Marie of Guise.  She is pictured above at age seven.

Of all six of his children, Mary was the only child to outlive him who was legitimate of birth.

At the age of six-days-old, Mary's father, the King, died.  As he had been on his death bed at the time of her birth, he never even saw his new daughter.  Nevertheless, at six days of age, Mary became the Queen of Scotland and the newest ruler from the House of Stuart.  A Reagent would rule in her place until she was older.

Mary was sent to school in France, where she was taught many things including embroidery and other textile arts.  She loved needlework and had quite a talent for the beautiful variety of complicated and expressive stitches.  

She was a lifelong fan of embroidery and would come to lean on her artistic abilities through her life as a kind of coping mechanism, deriving much enjoyment from its employment. what does all this have to do with quilting?

There was quite a bit of detailed, formal...and to my eyes...fussy embroidery done in England at the time.  Oh, it was amazing workmanship, but quite ornate and what my husband would call "crusty."  The elaborate apparel of the royals was adorned with this high quality were furnishings, tapestries, bed curtains, and religious textiles.

(OK...I couldn't help myself.)

The Tudor era was drawing to a close, the Elizabethan era was rising, and the Jacobean era was on the horizon.

OK, again...what does all this have to do with quilting??

It would be very hard and cumbersome to embroider decorative motifs on very large expanses of fabric for large skirts, sleeves, and undergarments.  This was even more of a problem for wall tapestries and coverings, not to mention the elaborate curtains, panels, and valances that provided privacy and warmth for those fancy beds in cold castles and great stone houses.

Motifs were stitched on evenly woven linen, carefully cut out, edges turned under, and appliqued onto the expanses of silk, linen, wool, etc.

YES!!!  It was APPLIQUE!  THAT is what it has to do with quilting in my eyes.

In the early 1500's, the first "Herbals" were being published more broadly.  These were the first serious book collections of plant, flower, and fruit drawings.  The drawings came from woodblocks.

Women had this flora outlined on linen with black ink, the outline was covered with black silk thread stitches, and the stitchers would fill in all the areas with very fine colorful silk and gold/silver thread.

The flower on the left has had the outlines stitched in black except for the bottom right blossom and leaf veins where the lighter ink lines are still visible. 

The flower on the right has been filled with tent stitches.  The black and white photo makes this difficult to see.

It is also hard to see because the piece looks so "busy."  They filled every space with a blossom, bug, or animal, in all orientations. 

As the linen was evenly woven, their simple stitches were meant to fill the design.  They used a "tent" stitch which we would probably call a "half-cross" or "needlepoint" stitch (also "petit-point" if used on finer-gauged linen).

This is better...a Mulberry slip...

In the detail below, I love how there are ink mark mistakes...they will be covered or, most likely, cut away to prepare the motif for turning under and stitching in place.

You can really see the weave and 'quality' of the linen waste cloth.

In the "Herbals," drawings were made from the kind of plant cutting that you would propagate, so they had roots or a cut stem/branch.  Gardeners called these cuttings "slips."  

From the Tudor Pattern Book...

See the "slip" at the bottom of the stem?

A piece of linen would be crammed full of inked pictures.  If the linen was small enough, the stitcher would not be stuck behind a frame to stitch, perhaps.

Very few of these embroidered efforts went unused.  If there were spares, they did not age well.  Some were found that were associated with Mary, Queen of Scots and her small group of ladies...quite beautiful ones that were stored out of sunlight.  It is not known what they were meant for...the number and variety make fancy bed curtains more likely.  Due to the care taken in their storage, they are quite wonderful and can be seen at Traquair House in Scotland.

One piece containing seventy-two bunched up slips is the inspiration for my new project..."QUEEN MARY'S GARDEN."  The four slips pictured above represent only a small is terribly overwhelming to see all seventy-two, touching on all sides...

I have spent numerous hours drafting these blocks!  While trying to maintain their authenticity, I have made a few changes and additions.  

(There are some things that don't transfer well from embroidery to quilting, and vice-versa.)

I have no idea what most of these flowers and fruits were meant to be, but I don't think it really matters.  It is written that they used whatever colors they wanted, not necessarily the color(s) God intended.

Here is BLOCK #1...


I made my medium fruits plums, as some of the fruit drawings could be absolutely anything!

Every time I post a block, I will give a little more history and project details.  I find Mary, Queen of Scots to be fascinating.

And wouldn't you know...a movie came out last weekend about her relationship with Queen Elizabeth 1 of England, her relative.  Do I have good timing, or what?!?

And yes, there will be a pattern available at some point...getting smarter and working on it as I go.   :o)

In stitches,
Teresa   :o)


  1. Love the history behind your design! This quilt will be incredible when completed and will make a beautiful family heirloom.

  2. You know I love this project! The movie is on my list, even more eager to see it now. Beautiful work, my friend.

  3. I. Love. This. !


  4. You are so creative. I really enjoy looking at your projects-very inspiring!

  5. Oh how wonderful! I cannot wait to see the rest. You have really done your research! My daughter's name is Mary Stewart (after her grandmother) in honor of her Scottish heritage. I just love this new venture!!

  6. Oh, you're killing me girlfriend! Can't wait to see this one as it progresses. Stay warm.

  7. Wow, that embroidery is amazing! I'll enjoy watching your quilt come to life! I have my eye on the movie also :)

  8. This looks wonderful....cant wait to see it progress!!

  9. You never know what a reagent will precipitate. 😉

    Looking forward to see the quilt evolve.


  10. Thank you for sharing your thought and design process. It is going to be very interesting, exciting and inspirational to see your progress. What a quilt it will be!!!

  11. How very interesting. A project I look forward to following you on. Looks like you have been inspired and back in the groove again.

  12. I'm looking forward to seeing your new project develop. I never thought much about the embroideries on the old tapestries and other large fabric items before. Other than "gorgeous" or "wow, how long did that take!?!". I know they were various embroidery techniques, but as to how it was done - not so much thought.

  13. Wow! You know your Scotland history. This is a fascinating post. Your quilt will be gorgeous, I know, because yours always are! Can't wait for the next installment.

  14. Not seen you post for a while - hope you are ok? It will soon be Spring and then some wonderful warmer weather on the way :)

  15. What an interesting post. Thank you. I love your first block for this quilt. Are you working on the second one? I look forward to following you.

  16. Do you read Phillips Gregory??? OMG. You MUST look for her books. I get them on audio CDs and listen while quilting or sewing. I love this era and Gregory writes abou all the women.

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