Sunday, 14 May 2017

Mountstewart-A very specific personal challenge

On a visit to Mountstewart you never know what you may see. There has been a lot going on in the house recently with book catalogueing and visitors have been able to see this in action which I feel brings the house to life even more. As I have said before this place is full of treasures but we all have different interests and there will be things that attract one person and maybe not another. In all the years I have visited National Trust properties I am drawn to the needlework as this is something I have enjoyed from a very young age. However we have so many aids now adays with varieties of needles, magnifiers and daylight bulbs. We have to remember as well as unrefined tools there was very little light and even less natural light. There is a large amount of needlework in the house if you take the time to look out for it. It's probably easier to do this during the free flow rather than a guided tour so I recommend you do both so you get the history and then take the time to look more specifically. I found quite a lot of information in PRONI where tapestries were mentioned but it wasn't always clear which pieces. However this was a photograph of a piece that was commissioned. I imagine there are few reading this blog that have ever commissioned a tapestry of any type. The cost of labour would be colossal and I doubt you would even find anyone to do hand needlework of this type as it just doesn't pay. The piece I am most interested in however is in Lady Londonderry's sitting room and on the top of a card table. Maybe you can guess already.

With permission I have set myself a challenge to try and reproduce the pattern and stitch this item. Not everyone may notice this piece as it is on a table rather than hanging on a wall and the protective glass reflects other items in the room. I would like to produce a similar design for a wall that would be easier seen with non reflective glass. 

8th May 2017
My first day of my project in reproducing a needlepoint using Lady Edith's. I spent three hours. Make sure you look out for it when visiting, as it is in her sitting room on a card table and depicts the house, garden and some "ark characters".. three hours which I feel, having done so is as long as I could spend looking through a magnifier. I initially planned to make a colour chart but abandoned that idea fairly quickly as too many shades to try and replicate in small squares so it became a combination of colour and symbols. I used some printable graph paper which is set out in 16 square blocks. The original is approximately ten stitches per inch but I am planning 32 per inch. I will use 32 per inch Belfast linen as this will allow for the finer petit poin throughout the pattern as well as the gros point.
Difficulties noted:-
-poor lighting which is expected in a museum type environment in order to protect the items on display
-fading of threads over ?80+ years made it hard to differentiate between actual colour shades and deterioration by light.
-on close inspection some threads  look two toned. This maybe due to a thread mix or again fading. I will improvise as it will be my 'take" on the design. I am an amateur not a professional in this work.

I plan to use silk stranded  threads and have been liaising with the silk dealer.  Electronic colours are far from accurate but the best I can manage as too expensive to try out all their 1400 samples! 

The needlepoint is not completely square as  the four corners are cut out to fit the table. I have been unable to find any pattern for this piece to know whether it was square and altered to fit or made to fit. From what I have seen and read Lady Edith certainly had the skills to draw the plan, chart and stitch it but did she have the time. Again I have no evidence, as yet, to say if this needlepoint was started and finished solely by Lady Edith Londonderry.


Initially I planned to complete the chart, then choose he threads prior to sewing but again I have changed my mind on that too. I will choose threads and chart and sew as I go so I don't get bored.

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