It's been a while since I've written an update for the blog - a bout of double-jabbed Covid, delivering pandemic catch up tutorials, and an unexpected return to my former place of work have all rather taken their toll on my energy. However, a welcome break over Christmas has helped recharge my historical batteries and I thought I'd share a few ruminations with you all here.
Firstly, top marks and many thanks to the family member who bought me this surprise gift from Bothy Threads. Those of you who know me well, will already be aware of my many hobbies, including anything sewing, knitting etc. To combine this with my passion for History is a real coup - doesn't matter if it was last minute panic buy - it was perfect!
And it got me to thinking - so often we look at the Bayeux Tapestry for what it can tell us of the events leading up to and of the Norman Conquest of England in 1066. Is that really meant to be Harold, for example, with the arrow in his eye? Do we take the swearing on Holy relics section of the Bayeux Tapestry as propaganda supporting the Norman preferred version of legitimacy to rule, or as undisputed fact, or both? Primarily, the Tapestry (aka Embroidery!) can be seen as a historical document of a sequence of events, with all the usual caveats that one applies to analysing any historical source. But, of course, any historian worth their salt looks further than this. What can the evidence of the skills displayed suggest to us? What about the use of dyes and other materials - were they readily available or more rare items of considerable value? The artistic style used? Then there is the more 'non-tangible' side to historical evidence, the skills themselves.
I would suggest that such fine work could only be completed in good daylight and, I would guess, by younger embroiderers who still had excellent eyesight. What about the process and preparations for the design? Was there one supervising designer? Why was it constructed in that format? Today, if I want to create an embroidery pattern, I might sketch on to paper first and then use a computer programme to select colours, types of stitch, cloth etc. The skill and work involved in the Bayeux tapestry is beyond words.
Finally, what were the embroiderers thinking when they worked on the small but very significant section of the Bayeux tapestry that is shown in this modern day cross stitch kit? Did they believe the validity of Harold to be acclaimed Rex and regret for following events? Or was it just another commission?
Right, enough ruminating, I am going to find my spectacles and get cracking...