Before getting into the Jacobean Embroidery, I thought you would like to see this piece of embroidery. It is labelled as neo-crewel period dated 1910. Courtesy of H.E. Kiewe. English Crewel Designs by Mary Eirwen Jones 1974 1SBN 1-688-00288-9. It makes me curious, more and more curious.
Early Jacobean Embroidery
The Jacobean period refers to the 17th century when the Stuarts, starting with James I and Charles I and II, ruled. They were the Kings immediately after Queen Elizabeth 1. There was a break in the Stuart line for Oliver Cromwell. It was an ornate period with lavish clothing and wonderful architecture. Early Jacobean specifically refers to the reign of James 1 in the first quarter of the century. The East India Company was at that time importing palampores into England which greatly influenced English decorative arts.
Palampores, hand-painted (stencilled) cotton fabrics from India, were influential in developing the traditional crewel work designs such as the Hindu Tree of Life pattern. Favourite embroidery motifs included exotic animals, resplendent birds, large ornate leaves and fantastical flowers. The timeless appeal of the Jacobean designs means that these motifs and layout continue to be used today though many of us now seek to arrange them in non-traditional ways. Embroidery was done on linen or twill fabric using wool yarn in bright colours. Many household items such as large wall hangings and bed curtains as well as cushions and pillows were decorated with Jacobean embroidery. They can be seen in museums and are illustrated in many books.
This is the second of the four corners on this Crewel Work sampler. In terms of technique, it is an exercise in Block Shading. This is not difficult to do but it is advisable to know how it is done to reduce unnecessary problems. We started with the green areas and progressed to the large turquoise leaf. The learning process is fairly obvious if you look closely. I love the pink and grey motif in the upper right corner. I also like how the green of the main leaf forms the stem of the turquoise leaf giving the whole design unity. The oddity in the piece is the bright blue in the lower left. It is not a mistake or a repair. We were given this colour to use in that position. I remember questioning it. These being the postwar years and a lack of replacement materials, I think that RSN was running out of the right shades of wool threads though it does add a little zing to the composition.
The dark brown area is Long and Short Stitch. We were told that Block Shading was a technique that was used before the development of Long and Short Stitch. I have no idea whether this is correct or not. And it bugs me not to know and understand the progression of stitching history except in reference to major shifts and developments. I hope that there is someone who knows the answers as I will be gratefully eager to hear them. Unfortunately, in this corner of the sampler the water damage from steaming is obvious. I greatly regret this as it is otherwise in excellent condition.
Any thoughts or suggestions you have will be greatly appreciated.
The next corner, Late Jacobean shows a progression in technique and a totally different design.