Friday, February 28, 2014

The Survivor

"Divorced, beheaded, died.  Divorced, beheaded, survived."  This little chant helps tweak the memory as to the fates of Henry VIII's six wives.  Here we have the survivor:  Katherine Parr.

Katherine's mother, Maud, was a lady-in-waiting to Queen Catherine of Aragon when she gave birth to her daughter, so Henry's sixth wife was actually named for his first.  Katherine had been widowed twice by the time she married Henry, and after he died she married Thomas Seymour.  Her fourth husband was the brother of Jane Seymour, Henry's third wife, but Katherine died from complications of childbirth just like her late sister-in-law.  It sure was a small world in the Tudor court!

The inspiration for this adaptation is a portrait that hangs in London's National Portrait Gallery.  Katherine's French hood has been stitched with black Petite Very Velvet, Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #002 in a stem stitch, and white PVV and Wildflowers "Cinnabar" in tent stitches.  Her hair was worked with Burmilana and her face in DMC cotton floss.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Kathryn Howard - Finale

Henry VIII's fifth wife, Kathryn Howard, is finished!

To create her fur stole, I first stitched the area in basketweave with some "vintage" DMC Medici wool.  Carefully covering the stitched area around the stole with some cardboard, I started roughing up the wool with a nap brush until I was satisfied with the fuzzy effect.

Her necklace was stitched with Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #002 and #3503.

The tassel was worked in a variation of braided knitting over three threads rather than the usual two.  The crosses created a pocket, into which I popped a French knot with the red metallic.  It's not a coincidence that the same metallic threads used for Jane Seymour's jewelry were used here, too.  Historians have noted that in a portrait of Kathryn, her jewelry seems strangely similar to that worn by Jane.  They concluded that the jewels reverted to the king after Jane's death, and he subsequently gifted them to his fifth wife.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Kathryn Howard - part three

Kathryn's dress is completed, worked in a Nobuko stitch with four strands of DMC floss #434.  Only her fur stole and jewelry remain to be stitched.

Yesterday, I finally made a trip to my LNS for reinforcements.  So when Kathryn is finished, I can go back and add the little details necessary to complete the two other wives.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Kathryn Howard - part two

The yoke on Kathryn Howard's dress, as it appears in the Holbein painting, is quite raised and distinctive.  To convey that look, I began outlining with DMC #5 perle cotton #434 in a stem stitch.  I then filled in this area with a variation of Scotch stitch, working the over-two/over-three/over-two sections with DMC floss #434 and skipping the two over-one stitches.  Going back with Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #052, I added a single tent stitch in the open areas.

For her sleeves and underskirt, I used one strand of Wildflowers Granite in a diagonal mosaic stitch for the sleeves and a mosaic stitch for the underskirt.  A row of slanted Gobelin stitches over three threads created the hem.  I'll go back later to fill in the line down the middle of the underskirt to form the elaborate tassel which hangs from her waist.

Monday, February 17, 2014

"A rose without thorns"

Those were the glowing words Henry VIII spoke in reference to his new, fifth wife, Kathryn Howard.  The king had been wifeless for three years after the death of Jane Seymour from complications giving birth to the long-awaited son Prince Edward.  Enter Anne of Cleves, who didn't exactly tickle Henry's fancy and was lucky enough to be sent packing home with just a divorce.

The flirtatious 19-year-old Kathryn raised the spirits of the middle-aged, gouty king but the honeymoon didn't last long.  Within 18 months, she was accused of promiscuity, sentenced for treason and executed at the Tower of London.  She was buried in the same church on Tower grounds where her cousin Anne Boleyn had been interred after her execution for the same offense.

My interpretation of Kathryn as shown here is also based on a portrait by Hans Holbein that hangs in London's National Portrait Gallery.  Like her cousin Anne, she wears a French hood, but by Kathryn's time the style had been modified so the stiffening around her face only reached to ear-level. Like that of the other wives, the black veil has been stitched in basketweave with Petite Very Velvet.  The white band is studded with Smyrna crosses and the color of the outer band, worked in tent stitches with DMC floss #434, coordinates with her dress.

 The white insert to her bodice was worked with alternating stem stitches and Gobelin stitches over two threads and is also studded with Smyrna crosses.  Lots of work to do, so back to stitching!

Friday, February 14, 2014

A Valentine for me

Before the holidays, I started working on a little baby gift for a friend's new grandchild--a 3-D block that spelled out "Baby" and incorporated  the child's initials.  Just for fun, I decided to take the 3-D concept one step further and created a birdhouse for myself that's called "Love Nest."  And it's all stitched just in time for Valentine's Day!

As you can tell by the photo, I just love the color pink!  The roof was worked in a horizontal diagonal cashmere stitch with Watercolours "Flagstone."  The love birds were worked in a satin stitch with Vineyard Silk Classic "Bright White," while all the greenery was stitched in French knots with Impressions #5061.  Except for a little Kreinik metallic for the lanterns flanking the front door, the rest of the birdhouse was stitched with DMC cotton floss. The "roofing materials" were all I needed to purchase--the rest of the threads all came from my stash.  A very economical Valentine's present for myself!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


Jane Seymour's overdress is now finished and, like her underskirt, is a pretty close color match to the Holbein portrait.

This area was worked in a diagonal cashmere stitch with three plies of DMC floss #729.  While worked on the diagonal, this stitch isn't that directional--as your eye travels, you can see the little rectangles marching up from bottom left to top right as well as in the opposite direction,

Jane's just about finished, A.B.T.B.--All But The Beads.  Since I'm beadaphobic, it may be a while before the trim on her English gabled hood and jewelry are added.  Until I'm in the mood, there's another wife awaiting my attention!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Adding some color

Jane Seymour now has sleeves and an underdress.

These areas were worked in a framed mosaic stitch with three plies of DMC cotton floss #920, a pretty close match to the color in the Hans Holbein portrait.

Besides its diminutive size, the framed mosaic stitch offers additional flexibility when working with even- and odd-count thread areas.  The sleeves, for instance, are eight canvas threads deep, while the underdress is an odd number in width.

I added some "gems" to Jane's necklace and waist medallion in cross stitches using Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #3503.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Not-so-plain Jane

A feature of Jane Seymour's costume that I found particularly attractive in portraits of her was the stole she wore over her court dress.  The same design was used to trim the front of the dress.

To replicate this patterned material, I worked both areas in a double stitch with Impressions #1139.  The first pass of this stitch, essentially a series of oblong cross stitches over two threads, leaves a hole that is then filled in with a single cross stitch with the same thread.  Instead, I filled in the holes with a tent stitch using Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #002.  The left side of the trim has been worked in the first pass only to show how the pattern is established.

Using the same Kreinik metallic, I worked a stem stitch around her neckline and the little locket hanging from a chain.  Braided knitting forms the cuff at her wrists and the edging of her overdress.  The medallion hanging from her waist was worked in a satin stitch.  The trim along the edge of her sleeves was formed with individual cross stitches using DMC floss Blanc and #310.

On to the sleeves and underdress!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Another wife for Henry

While the Anne Boleyn canvas takes a back seat, awaiting a trip to my LNS for more supplies, I've begun work on Jane Seymour, Henry VIII's third wife.  This design was based on two portraits I found, one called the Dynasty Portrait by Hans Holbein and the other The Family of Henry VIII by an unknown artist.  Both works are in the royal collection at Hampton Court Palace.

Unlike her predecessor, who favored a headdress in the style known as a French hood, Jane wears an English gabled hood.  The portion framing her face was stitched with Petite Very Velvet V643 with a veil of black PVV.  Her hair was stitched with two strands of Burmilana and her face, neck and hands in DMC cotton floss.

Right now, poor Jane is looking a little plain with solid blocks of color for her court dress.  But I have plans for filling in those areas, so stay tuned!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Anne Boleyn--Part Three

Anne Boleyn has a dress now, filled in with Vineyard Silk Classic "Lipstick" in the Nobuko stitch.  Her underskirt was worked with three strands of white DMC floss in an oblong cross stitch.

A word about scale:  at four and one-half inches high, these cylindrical ornaments fall in the category of "smalls."  As such, they call for stitches which are small in scale.  Court dresses worn during the time of Henry VIII were constructed with very elaborate and heavily-patterned materials.  By using small patterned stitches, like Nobuko and oblong cross, you can simulate the weave of a fabric without overwhelming the small figure.

I've got a lot more work to do on this canvas, and need to make a trip to my LNS for more supplies.  So in the interest of progress, I will start work on another wife for which I have most of the threads.