Thursday, December 10, 2020

"QUEEN MARY'S GARDEN" © 2019 continues - Birds, Birds, Birds!


As I've mentioned several times, inventing a border for something that probably was never meant to have one has definitely stumped me for a while now.  I do have a habit of starting something I'm really exited about without thinking it through thoroughly.

In my opinion, this actual antique embroidery piece was never meant to have borders.  My guess is as follows:

This piece was only meant as a source of motifs to be teased apart and applied to large spans of whole cloth, often wool or something like velvet.  This enhanced whole cloth was used for decorative domestic items, such as bedding (spreads, valences, dust ruffles, and bed drapes), upholstery, wall coverings, religious alter cloths, and such.  

Bed drapes of heavy cloth made the sleeping environment much warmer, and certainly more private.  Beds of the 16th century were much larger than the king size beds of modern times.

While looking at the following two pictures, notice the smaller little motifs sprinkled between the larger floral, bugs, birds, and even a mermaid.  Can you find her?

The photo of our initial inspiration piece shows the first and last row a little chopped off, top and bottom.  Were the edges a little ragged when found?  Had some motifs already been removed and cropping employed just to clean things up for a photo?

Rows 6 and 7

Rows 1 and 2

Also if you look closely, the squares are defined by very faint lines that aren't very straight or continuous.  I think the lines are left from when the motif pattern outlines were softly inked.  A large grid was drawn, then each block was sketched out.

(Sorry, I know these lines are hard to see at this magnification...the lines are not seams, as it appears that leaf tips hang over into next block.

These motifs are really crammed together with no space to spare.  They were meant to be cut out and applied to larger domestic pieces of fabric, spread out with distance between them.  These forty-two blocks would go a long way to make many yards of ornate heavy material.

I've found a few good photos of tapestries on castle walls.  These are usually extremely large scenes, some being painted on a finer weave of fabric...most as decoration.  Maybe they were also employed to cover up the stone walls, add some interest, and perhaps a little warmth and protection from moisture.

Curated museum pictures and locations for castle tours are not always the best representation of what things looked like in Mary's time, the mid 16th century.  Later generations or owner/inhabitants added things and updated, like the crown molding.

OK, where are the aforementioned birds?!?  I see them flying toward us now.  Similar embroidered pieces from Traquair House have the same crammed together block style.   

There are two of these similar tapestries, one with random flower sprigs in the border and one with birds and beasts.  These randomly placed bird and beast motifs are pictured below.

These do not look like borders to me, but rather like more motifs to stitch and transfer to the larger works, along with the florals.  The finished birds, bugs and animals were sprinkled in between the larger floral motifs in a final large project.

The following piece is the same two borders, charted into a needlepoint project about 35 years ago.  This is a totally random arrangement of birds and beasts, only on two sides of the embroidered set of blocks (blocks to be revealed at a later date).

It is as if there was a little left over waste canvas after the floral blocks were inked.  The space was economically used to ink additional motifs.

So, here are some of my bird-brained attempts of trying to use bird representations from Mary's time to influence my birds.  I still need to insert the eye for a few of them, and I thought that three head feathers made this one look less like the Lock Ness monster.

(9th bird down in colored version)

I love how quirky the birds from Mary's time have been depicted.  It was all fine and acceptable: any shape, any feathers, any color, any size feet and legs.  These larger legs/feet are MUCH easy to applique!

(4th bird down in colored version)

See if you can figure out which birds in the following picture were inspiration for my next few birds.

My owl looks the Muppet Gonzo.  Hmmm.

I am not going to commit to any border ideas until I try a few more birds that I already have sketched.  I don't want the borders to be too silly for the floral blocks.  I kind of like the quirkiness of mocking incorporating the original 16th century birds, maybe also some animals and bugs.

Maybe a mermaid!

I think Queen Mary herself is going to make an appearance in her garden...

It has been fun to pick out fabrics for these guys from my stash.  I'm getting to use pieces that look a little like feathers.

In stitches,

Teresa  😏  

On another thread...

If you are looking for some comedic binge TV to watch while gift wrapping, licking Christmas card envelopes, or breaking coal into the proper sized lumps, I have found something that really 'gets my geek on.'

It is called "The IT Crowd," where 'IT' stands for 'Information Technology.'  It is about two guys and a new departmental manager who are supposed to solve computer and IT problems for a large corporation.  Of course, that is the least of what they 'do.'

It is on Netflix...I have gotten through three seasons.

It is a British show that started in 2006.  The Brits do my favorite kind of comedy!

Yes, I am married to a computer geek, so I am constantly hearing some of the snarkier lines from the show when Steve answers my computer questions.


  1. This quilt is going to be gorgeous, with or without birds or a mermaid. Maybe swapping teh white for yellow would make the owl less Gonzoy? Not that realism is the goal.

  2. Love your birds. They make me smile!!!

  3. Your quirky birds are so fun and colorful! I too like the IT Crowd.

  4. I was going to ask whether motifs meant for applique would have some space left around it for a seam allowance to tuck the edges under. Did they use raw edge applique in this time period?

  5. Huh? I love the birds on their own but ...... I still am gobsmacked at how you prep your pieces for applique. Stay safe dear girl.

  6. I love EVERYTHING about this project of yours! So very unique and wonderful. You have a gift for designing that I envy. Stay safe and have as good a holiday season as you can considering what we are dealing with at present.

  7. love the are getting close to being done....

  8. Your designs and your work are simply amazing! Thanks for the TV recommendation. I'll have to find "IT"!

  9. Those birds are so cute! If you don't use them in the border, then make a quilt with just them.


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