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Embroidering a horse’s backside

In the end, I didn’t do anything to the jigsaw on Monday. Instead, I spent the day embroidering a horse’s backside!

Crossing the Channel

The story started years ago, when Chris and I were on holiday in Normandy and visited Bayeux. We naturally went to see the Bayeux Tapestry, and I was very taken with a kit I saw in the gift shop. It was for a full-size stitch-perfect replica of one of the scenes from the tapestry (technically, actually an embroidery), showing soldiers and horses in a boat crossing the Channel on the way to invade England. It was quite expensive, so we went to the coffee shop while I dithered about whether or not to buy it, before I succumbed to temptation.  It then took me several years to complete – each square inch takes me about an hour to embroider, and takes four passes – first outlining it, then filling in the block colour, then laying couching threads at right angles, and finally tacking down the couching threads.

Soon after I’d finished the scene with the boat, we went on holiday to Boulogne, where we found a superb embroidery shop in the old town. Unforgettably, it had the wonderful name “Les Mystères de Fanny”! The shop had a wide range of kits on sale, and I spent ages talking to the shop-keeper discussing which one to buy. Unfortunately, he didn’t speak any English, and my French is pretty rusty so Chris usually did most of the speaking when we were in France (his language skills in general, and French in particular, being significantly better then mine). However, Chris didn’t have the necessary technical vocabulary to discuss the finer points of embroidery technique so I had to get by with a mixture of appalling French and mime, before settling on another scene from the Bayeux tapestry. That was larger, and again took me several years to complete – it needs good lighting so that I can see what I’m doing, so I can really only embroider at the weekends or in the early evenings in the summer, preferably sitting in the window seat in the living room to make the most of the natural light.

Setting off to battle

By the time I’d finished the second scene, I was completely hooked and immediately ordered my next fix, buying it on-line direct from the manufacturer in France. This time it was a scene showing some Norman soldiers (you can tell they’re Norman because they’re wearing chain mail) setting off to the Battle of Hastings. From past history, I knew it would take me years to complete, but this one actually took longer than either of the others. That’s mostly because I spent lots of time on it when Chris was ill – especially when he was in hospital having chemotherapy or being treated for neutropenia. It gave me something to concentrate on and kept me too occupied to worry about what was happening. But then of course, after he died, I simply couldn’t face working on it as it brought back too many painful memories.

I didn’t so much as touch it for about eighteen months, but then I decided that there was just too much time (and indeed money) invested in it to date to just leave it sitting half-finished on the side. So when the evenings started getting longer again this spring, I had another go at it. I’ve been sitting in the window seat, with some loud music on the stereo, embroidering the horses and riders. By Monday I only had a few square inches of the yellow horse left to do, so I decided to make a big push to complete it.  I took it along to the framers this afternoon after work, and have already ordered the next installment from Bayeux Broderie. There must still be at least a dozen metres-worth of tapestry that I haven’t copied though, so I don’t expect to ever run out of scenes to work on!

{ 1 } Comments

  1. Catharine | 30 August 2012 at 6:39 am | Permalink

    These are STUNNING pieces of needlework. Wow!