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Embroidered Pelican Cushion

Embroidered Pelican Cushion

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Published by sarahmichelef

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Published by: sarahmichelef on Oct 25, 2008
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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: “P
Alianor de RavenglasAbstractThis piece is a cushion with an embroidered top consisting of two sections from the BostockeSampler (which is dated to 1598). The center portion was charted by Lady Caryl de Trecesson inher work 
 Designs, Period 
; I charted the border from a scanned image of the complete sampler.In working the center portion, I added a bird to the upper right hand corner that had at one time been present. I also made some minor changes in order to enhance the symmetry of the piece.The embroidery was worked in silk on roughly 20-count linen using cross stitch and back stitch.The top of the cushion is “lined” with a tightly-woven cotton and the back is of the same linen asthe top. It is stuffed with scraps of fabric, yarn, and thread.BackgroundThe Bostocke Sampler 
is English and inscribed "Iane Bostocke" and "1598". The piece is linen with red, brown,green, blue, and white colored silk, and silver-gilt and silver thread, worked in crossstitch and 2-sided Italian cross stitch. There are spot motifs at the top and a variety of (mostly) blackwork borders at the bottom. The total size of the piece is about 17" by 15".Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
This sampler provides a wealth of late 16
-century embroidery patterns, both cross stitch and blackwork.
Figure 1: The Bostocke Sampler 
Hanson, C. (2002). Designs, Period.
King, D. and S. Levey (1993). The Victoria & Albert Museum's Textile Collection: Embroidery in Britain from1200 to 1750. New York, Canopy Books.
For this piece, I chose two sections of the larger sampler: the pelican and squirrel in a berry treeand one of the blackwork patterns to serve as a border to the central figure. The pelican figureactually served as my introduction to the sampler; I saw Lady Caryl de Trecesson’s chart of it in
 Designs, Period 
and decided to work the piece. Only later did I seek out images of the completesampler to find a border for the piece. I decided to turn the embroidered piece into a cushion because I have a strong preference for making things that are useful.Execution and ConstructionI worked this embroidery on roughly 20-count linen using Medeira silk floss. Each stitch (bothcross stitch and blackwork) crosses two threads. I worked the blackwork section using a backstitch, since the piece is not reversible.This linen is far from ideal for embroidery work; it is intended for clothing and has a fair number of slubs in it. I chose to use it for both modern and medieval reasons (which ultimately boildown to the same thing). Fine “embroidery linen” is quite expensive, both in the modern and inthe medieval eras. I was unable to find it at a price that I could afford, and I had this linen leftover from making a tunic. It seems plausible to me that embroidery in the medieval period mightalso have been worked on scraps left over from garment construction, especially by a person firstlearning the skill.For the central figure of this piece, I used the chart of the central figure found in
 Designs, Period.
Figure Two: Pelican and Squirrel in a Berry Tree, charted in
 Designs, Period.
I drew my color selections from a scan of the sampler itself.
Figure Three: Bostocke Sampler Detail
Upon examination of the photo of the sampler itself, I discovered that there had at one time beena bird perched on the upper right hand branch of the tree.
Figure Four: “Missing” Bird Outlined
I decided to reintegrate the bird into the design for a number of reasons. First, I liked the imagemuch better with another figure to balance out the squirrel. Second, I intend to use ravens in my personal badge and device, so adding a black bird (a raven) would add a personal touch to the piece. Once I had decided to enhance the symmetry in that part of the piece, I decided to do thesame within the tree; the lower left and right quadrants are identical in terms of the leaves and branches on the tree, but the berries were not symmetrical, so I made that modification.I realized very quickly that if I wanted to make a cushion with this piece that I would want to adda border to it. I examined a number of blackwork patterns both from the Bostocke Sampler andfrom other sources and ultimately decided that I wanted to stay consistent and use a pattern fromthe Sampler. I charted a number of these and ultimately settled on one that resembled chains indiamond shapes with flowers inside the diamonds.
Illustration 5: Bostocke Sampler Detail
My thanks to Elias Gedney for enhancing the digital image of the sampler to make the bird more visible.

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