It’s 200 years since Anne Bronte was born, she was the youngest of the Bronte sisters and wrote two novels, Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall before her untimely death aged 29. Until recently her literary work has been overshadowed by that of Charlotte and Emily, however The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is now seen as one of the first major feminist novels.
In the New Year there will be an exhibition in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, which is where Anne died. Each exhibitor was given an actual page from a vintage copy of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and had to produce a piece of work, of any medium, inspired by that page and the same size as the page!
I’ve just finished my piece!
I got page 215, it didn’t start off very inspiring as it was mainly about a disagreement in a drawing room. I was getting a little concerned as to what I could do! I finally read to the last paragraph on the page and found my inspiration…
I saw him pacing down the park, in the comfortless gloom of the damp, cloudy twilight
I sketched a basic picture of parkland with hills behind, my original plan was to frame the picture like a window, but that soon went out the window as too fiddly! I pulled out my batiks, thinking I could use them as a base, but before I made much of a plan I pulled out my box of textiles, looking for organza and the like to layer the design.
In the bottom of the box I saw some tweed and suddenly had a bit of a light bulb moment! The colours were perfect for the twilight scene I wanted to create and as Yorkshire was the centre of the woolen industry for many years it seemed apt to use it for this piece. Anne would have been very familiar with wool and tweed cloths.
I laid the tweeds in place and blanket-stitched them together, cutting away the excess behind. I trimmed it to size, I was a bit worried it might fray as I was working on it but it didn’t at all.
With the background in place I ‘just’ had to embroider it, it took me ages to pick threads and stitches. I started with the tree using a chenille thread. I found if I couched it it looked a bit like leaves, it gives quite a nice texture.
I embroidered the hills with overlapping feather stitch and a curving chain stitch. I was particularly pleased with the strip in the middle, I found some quite springy thread, a bit like a very fine ric-rac, in green/purple/grey, I positioned one length, letting it curve as it wanted, tacking it down with fly-stitch in a variegated DMC thread, once I’d secured that strip I folded the thread back over the strip and made a second row overlapping the first, and then a third row, going over one final time with a thicker fly stitch. I think it looks really effective.
Another area I’m please with is the grass of the parkland. I wanted to indicate a path, but I didn’t want a dominating line. I decided to have a mown path through the grass. I used straight stitches in three shades of green and various sizes to show the grass, getting lighter and smaller in the distance. I left the path plain. I used a variegated thread to do some french knots, the ones at the front have three wraps with two threads, they reduce down until the ones in the distance have just one thread and one wrap.
For the cloudy sky I used a circle of organza for the hazy moon and stitched two rows of feather stitch to show clouds.
One of the most difficult things with this kind of embroidery is knowing when to stop! I was thinking of adding beads and all sorts, but I decided it had enough with the embroidery.
My next job was to decide how to mount it. I found a muted quilting cotton which worked well as a background. My original thought was to embroider the words from the book, but I couldn’t reduce it enough to fit it in with the room available. In the end I embroidered the name of the book and added my page number to the top.
I blanket-stitched round both pieces and bondawebbed the embroidery to the backing. It was finished!
I’m really pleased with how it’s come out, I’ll put it in the post tomorrow and look forward to seeing the exhibition in the New Year.
The exhibition is going to be at Woodend in Scarborough in January, dates to be confirmed. Lindsey, the organiser, is also trying to publish a book of all the entries, the mock-up looks beautiful! She’s funding it with Kickstart, this is a bit like crowd-funding. She needs people to pledge to buy a book, or a print, or a couple of postcards in order to be able to go ahead. If anyone is interested please follow the link to the Kick-starter page.