08 March 2019

Celtic Napkins



One of my "hidden talents" is needlework. I find embroidery to be rather calming once I get into it, and I can create something beautiful at the same time. I had picked up a dozen black colored, fine-linen Chilewich napkins from Macy's (they were on sale!) and decided then that I would embroider something onto them.

prep for a projectI am removing the tags from them and I want to make sure whatever I stitch is nice to view from both sides. That means being very particular on the kinds of stitches I use; it also limits what kind of stitching. Just can't go all willy-nilly and there is a high need for precision. I knew some of the napkins would be used for their primary purpose - during meals. I settled on keeping 4 of them for that. The other eight will be set aside for future musing.

I started researching what artwork I wanted to do. Considering my involvement in the SCA, I decided to do my personal device with Irish influence. However, there isn't much online for "Celtic Bulls" that is very medieval. A lot of modern artwork with tribal knot-work or sports, but nothing that really inspired me. Then I saw a panel from the Book of Kells which caught my eye. I could use this as inspiration for something "bullish" and yet be decidedly Irish in nature.

Book of Kells, Folio 032v, Christ Enthroned
Book of Kells, Folio 032v, Christ Enthroned.
The Book of Kells is a beautiful scribal work with the most intricate knot-work I've ever seen. It is believed to have been created in the 9th century, but anyone who does any research will quickly learn there is a lot about the Historic Irish that is debatable. I'll leave the arguments to academia - I just love the art.

Rather than patterning out what I want, I did "freehand" stitching using the folio above as an inspiration. I decided to use standard cotton floss in the Holbein (double-running) stitch which is popular for table linens and black-work. I will do four napkins as such with a main design at one corner, and knot-work along the edges. The other eight napkins will be done at a later time as... something. 

Front, or "proper" side of the freehand napkin.
Back, or "reverse" side of the freehand napkin.
This one worked up real quick, about a half hour overall. The stitching was quick, particularly when free-handing. However, I'm not completely happy with it. As all freehand work, it would be expected to be a bit asymmetrical, but I see too many flaws with it and my OCD-ness is tweaked. I won't rip it out, so I set this aside and started fretting with a pattern.


Am keeping the basic idea of the bull's head with a border, but am doing the border differently. Rather than a knot-border, am going to do a solid white band with silver detail worked in the same Holbein stitch with the Celtic symbols for the seasons and holidays. In the corner will have my personal Monkey symbol as well. Right now the order begins with the symbol for Eostry (or Easter), but I might change the order to being with Beltane (May Day) which is right at the time of my birth. I'll decide when I start stitching.

I'll make a new post with updates as to the work, any challenges I experience, and progress. I do know I'll be using a whole lot of thread for the border and that concerns me. Will see what happens when needle is threaded and put to linen.



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