Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Knit-free Mondays

I recently started Springboard, a women's development course. The main impetus is to help me develop my career, but the first meeting has mostly just motivated me to get my free time organised. First things first.

The programme is all about identifying what kinds of activities satisfy you, determining your goals, and then setting (and following!) progressive steps to achieve these goals. I already know what activities I find satisying (knitting, reading, embroidery, gardening, blogging, traveling etc...), I just need to find time to do more of those activities. Since I'm not one to sit around doing nothing, I don't actually have any spare time, so I've come to the conclusion that the only way to carve out more time for other activities is to stop knitting so much. Hence, knit-free Mondays.

During a usual weekday I can spend up to 5 hours knitting, so if I stop knitting for even one day, that would give me a good chunk of time to accomplish other goals. Like my New Year's resolutions.

So, on my first knit-free Monday this week I dragged out the Bayeux Tapestry embroidery section that I started back in 2007. This is actually my second Bayeux Tapestry embroidery. The first section I completed in about 6 months - but that was before I started knitting. My husband convinced me to do another one for his future office, and I started with good intentions, but soon set it aside when I became a knitting addict (convincing myself I had plenty of time as my husband wasn't likely to get an office any time soon). But now it is four years later, and he is applying for full-time academic posts, so it really is high time I finish - it just wouldn't do for him to start a new job without a section of the Bayeux Tapestry for work!*

Here Duke William and his army came to Mont St Michel.
And here they crossed the river Cuesnon.
Here Earl Harold pulled them out of the sands.

For those of you not familiar with this amazing textile, the Bayeux Tapestry is a nearly 70-metre long embroidery depicting the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England, featuring William, duke of Normandy and Harold, earl of Wessex, later king of England, and culminating in the Battle of Hastings (1066 and all that). It consists of some fifty scenes with Latin captions, embroidered on linen with woollen yarns in six colours. It  was probably commissioned by Bishop Odo, William's half-brother, and made in England in the 1070s. It is now exhibited at the Musée de la Tapisserie de Bayeux in Bayeux, Normandy.

I purchased the embroidery kits at the museum, and they are also available online from Bayeux Broderie. The kits include the printed linen fabric, wool and a plan, though I referred to a book to make sure I got the colours right. The embroidery instructions were not included, but I'm familiar enough with embroidery techniques and managed to muddle my way through.

Later on, while we were living in Normandy, I met an expert in the technique, which the French call Viking embroidery. I discovered I had done my first embroidery in reverse order - you are supposed to do the outline, or stem stitch first (making sure you put the needle through the hole made by the previous stitch), then go back and fill in with couching, or laid work. The embroidery on my second section is much better (and more authentic) as a result.

closeup of embroidery techniques

After I'm done with the big panel I'll have to finish up the Bayeaux Tapestry alphabetaire which I also started (unfortunately not all the letters seem to match their associated image, but it is a sweet little thing nonetheless).

At least they got C is for Chameau

And for the days I am allowed to knit, I've started another of my New Year's resolutions - my first lace shawl design.

Lace swatch in Old Maiden Aunt grellow merino/silk 4ply

If I'm really successful with this time management thing, maybe I'll actually be able to accomplish all of this year's resolutions and add new ones for next year. Like designing a quilt with the quilting fabric I bought at the V&A Quilts: 1700 - 2010 exhibit.

Limited edition collection of 18 printed quilting fabrics

On the other hand, do I really need yet another hobby?

* My husband studies ducal Normandy and the ecclesiastical history of northern France in the High Middle Ages. So the Bayeux Tapestry, and Normandy references in general, are pretty de rigueur in our household.