‘Seeding’ is used mostly for filling in backgrounds. ‘Long and Short’ is used for people and animals and to give muscles and movement.
The style of embroidery used is most closely related to that of crewelwork. There are about seven or eight basic stitches which are used to make the tapestries. These stitches, however are employed to describe shape, volume and movement rather than the more traditional application of crewelwork techniques. Having decided that the effect of the stitch was more important than the stitch itself it was agreed amongst the embroiderers to refer to the style we use as ‘needle painting’. They are adapted as needed to blend colours and stitch direction.
To create a tapestry we first of all take the original cartoon panel, which then stays with the stitchers as a guide for stitching. A sheet of large clear acetate is placed over the painting and the images are traced by hand with a fine marker. This traced acetate is then taped on to a light box, which is a large box with a glass top and a fluorescent tube running through it. The linen is cut to the size of the panel and pinned over the acetate. When the light is turned on the image is projected onto it and the images are drawn on with a pencil. It is then ready to be stretched on to the loom, and then the hard work begins! The top and bottom borders are traced and stitched separately and sewn on to the main panel afterwards.
The process involves the study of the cartoon, analyzing of shape and movement, choosing of the right shade of woollen thread and the consideration of the type of stitch, it’s direction and size. 500 needles have been used – the points do get blunt as they stab through the Jacobean linen twill fabric which was chosen due to its sympathy with the woollen thread and it’s durability. We expect the tapestries to be around for hundreds of years to come! The different stitches and colours are used to give direction and movement to the panels. ‘Seeding’ is used mostly for filling in backgrounds. ‘Long and Short’ is used for people and animals and to give muscles and movement. ‘French knots’ and ‘Bullion knots’ can be used for hair.’Satin stitch’ is used to outline. Stitches can be ‘gapped’ to allow different coloured threads to blend together to get the colour they need. All the work is done from the front of the linen. As you can imagine the work is very slow and painstaking, but certainly worthwhile and very satisfying. It takes approximately 1 hour to stitch 1 square inch! The stitchers would only stitch for about an hour at a time and then take a break. Four people at a time can work at the loom. It can take anything from 3 years to 7 or 8 years to complete a panel.