Thursday, 3 November 2011

St Katherine’s Hair is Complete

I think I could grow to like short posts after all…


Religious Embroidery Influencing Standards of  Domestic Embroidery

I forgot to mention last time that the reason I am taking a ‘little’ wander into the concerns of Opus Anglicamum work is that during the dissolution of the monasteries, most religious embroideries were in fact cut up and distributed amongst the nobility of the land. 

This meant that as girls thereafter, were no longer sent to convents to learn, mainly needlework – most wealthy households had access to extremely elaborate examples of fine needlework that they could examine and learn from.  These chopped up items were often made into cushions. 

The pieces that were not distributed in this way were hidden by the nuns, often for centuries, until they felt it safe to bring them out again.  


Hollie Point Hair Complete

I finished her Hollie Point hair and smoothed out her face a bit more.  The chin still needs some work but I shall leave that for now as I could go too far in trying to reintroduce that essential shape.

The face and neck are one inch in length and less than that in width.

Hollie Stitch hair complete

Hollie Stitch is extremely similar to Trellis Stitch when worked over a cord row.  Maybe this is how Trellis Stitch progressed into the vocabulary?


This is how you do Hollie Stitch


Left Handers would work it from Right to Left and visa versa for Right Handers. 

The thread is wound round the thumb and the needle is taken in a  downwards direction, first through the previous row of silk, then under the gold cord row, then finally into the loop that is round the thumb.

In this way it is like DBH but with an extra twist.

Descriptions of the stitch make it seem really fiddly but once you get your head round the orientation of all the interconnecting bits, it is actually a very smooth stitch to work. 

Working this small meant I had to use a Crewel Needle and of course the hazard with that is that when you go under the final, thumb loop of working thread, you can end up splitting it.  This seemed to happen once every 10 stitches or so.  The only solution for that is to carefully pull it out.  Also, you end up scratching your nail unless you slow right down for the last part.

Things like that don’t bother me, as long as the end result is what I am after and scale wise, I think I was right to use this stitch.

Hollie Stitch hair close up

I tried to use standard Detached Buttonhole for the hair, but the stitches became too compact, and in so doing the visibility of the gold was lost. 

I’m now ready to start the crown, so naturally I am a bit nervous.

I will practice it first, not for too long though, as then I will be in danger of growing bored about making the final version. 

Stylistic References

Because the picture I am working from is quite blurred, I’m looking at images of Celtic jewellery in this book to help me.

The Celts by Frank Delaney

The origins of the Saxon Hiberno style begin with the influence of the master Celtic Goldworkers and the absorption of this aesthetic in to the Germanic style.  All of this is quite strange really when you think that the Celts were originally a Germanic people as well.  But the really important thing to remember about ancient Celts is that we are discovering more and more now about how closely linked they were to the ancient Greeks, who of course were  supremo master goldworkers and in fact did regular trade with the Celts before they settled in Britain.

Neil Oliver made the point recently in A History of Ancient Britain that the standard of work that was achieved by Celtic goldworkers in England at the time the Snettisham Hoard was made, exceeded anything else that was being produced anywhere in the world. 

The emphasis of Frank Delaney’s book however, is primarily Irish and the pages dedicated to the Book of Kells particularly, are the reason I bought the book.  He does not spend any time on the Snettisham Hoard.

My main fascination with Celtic jewellery is obviously The Snettisham Hoard, which was only discovered in around 1946, not far from where I live. 

I also learned only recently that the really unique thing the Celts did with their Goldworking was that they altered the chemical structure of their artefacts. 

This sounds so strange when you first hear it and kind of mind-boggling really, but what that simply means is that they melted their gold together with silver and copper, then beat the living daylights out of it, until all the silver and copper particles ended up in the core of the structure and the gold rose to the surface.  Hence they could make whopping great torcs that were not solid gold or gilded, but consequently immensely strong and remained forever bright gold. 

Yum yum !



  1. I remember watching that programme - fascinating, wasn't it!

  2. It really was!

    I'm halfway through watching an excellent programme on The Celts by Channel 4 btw, you can catch-up with it on '4 on Demand'.

    Turns out they were better at goldwork than the ancient Greeks. I honestly thought it was the other way round back in 6th Century B.C.E.

    I'll have to add something about that...