I spent most of the day in the textile study rooms, almost dizzy with the quality of stitching in virtually every study frame. It was sometimes hard to concentrate on one item. . . knowing there were so many others just waiting. . . each more beautiful than the last.
What I probably ended up most taken with, though, were the items that helped me answer the question I think all stitchers have looking at some of this exceptional work: How the heck did they DO that?
As I browse through my photos, the items I keep coming back to are ones that seem to allow a little peek into how the work might have been done. And of course, perhaps it's JUST POSSIBLE I'll absorb a little something that will let me begin to approach the quality of work on display.
Here's a photo of one of my favorites -- a partially stitched mirror surround. (Do you find yourself taking some comfort that there are antique UFOs? I do.)
Looks like the stitcher just walked away, doesn't it? Her threads are still parked waiting for her return. And look how bright the colors are. I wonder why the piece remains uncompleted. I hope it was for a happy reason. . . maybe the young stitcher got married and left this piece behind. . . or maybe she was a young wife and didn't have time to stitch after having her first child. I don't like to think of sadder possibilities.
I LOVE the fact that we can see the drawing our anonymous stitcher began with and how she chose to complete some of the motifs. Just look at the detailed drawings of the main figures (which according to the V&A label are Venus and Paris)! Interestingly, a fair number of the completed motifs (like the flowers and leaves next to Venus and Paris below) are tent stitched slips. . . which is a not-too-difficult technique.
But just look at the quality of the needlelace in the rocks surrounding the fountain! Not easy. . . no, not easy AT ALL! I wonder what type of fabulous clothing our stitcher would have created for the figures. . . how she would finish the faces. . . and hands!
I do hope to print out some photos and compare the drawings to some photos of completed similar pieces to possibly understand more how similar pieces of clothing were constructed. So the piece provides a little "how'd you do it" insight. . .but frustratingly little.