This group of closely packed people represent the large wave of immigrants to Toronto in the 1800s. The artist added more women and children to the design of the frieze at the request of the members of the Toronto Guild of Stitchery. Notice the different facial features of the people. Stitching the faces was a challenge which became the speciality of only a few members. They experimented with different thread colours and stitch directions. This group appear to be European but you will notice different nationalities in later scenes.
Toronto experienced two major fires which did extensive damage to the city. I stitched the flames using a technique from my days as a student at the Royal School of Needlework. It is/was called – stitching to a vein without a vein. Am not sure how well this worked but it was a technique change from split stitch . This is a snapshot taken while the piece was still on the frame.
The First World War. Canada sent many men to assist with the war effort despite the fact that it was a young country with a small population. The soldier in his tartan kilt is a masterpiece of correct detail and stitching. He was stitched by Coleen Darling and the members noticed that he looked remarkably like her husband even down his red hair. Please pay special attention to him when you go to see the actual embroidery. No photograph does him justice.
There were multiple fabrics used in panels and the frieze. As colour was so important the right ones were found in cotton, polyester, silk, satin and Ultrasuede. Ultrasuede was used in large areas of the panels and for the windows of the buildings. As it does not fray, accuracy of size and shape was achievable despite some pieces being the size of a thumbnail.
The sky and lake water in the panels are hand-painted silk. The threads in the frieze include Anchor, DMC, Cotton a Broder, Appleton’s and Medici wool.
Another peek at a panel being stitched. This is Doris Spurr who worked on the embroidery extensively and who is the narrator of the video that was made. This frame is the final one set in 1984.
At both ends of the embroidery are vertical panels showing the coats of arms of the city of Toronto. These are 6 feet high, are worked on tapestry canvas using a variety of canvas work stitches. Roller frames were used to hold the canvas and as a section was completed, the canvas was rolled forward to expose the next section. Even this part of the Embroidery was a huge amount of stitching. I have no close-up photos to show you of the vertical end panels so please look at them closely if you have a chance to visit the embroidery which is located within City Hall in Toronto.
There is lots more to share with you. The actual ‘stitcbing’ is only part of this huge undertaking.
More, in the next posting!
Heather Cawte says
These posts are fascinating, Ann – I had no idea this beautiful embroidery existed!
Ann Bernard says
Hello Heather, Good to hear from you and know that you are reading these posts. The years go by and it has been forgotten. Sort of, ‘out of sight, out of mind’. It was all so carefully thought out and planned and there were few, if any, problems during the stitching and construction. There are three more posts to come. How is the Stamford Bridge Tapestry progressing? I have not seen any progress reports lately.
All the best Ann