Medieval Mermaid by Arelate Studio 

Medieval Mermaid by Arelate Studio

Copyright Nancy Spies, Arelate Studio, 2004.

Medieval Mermaid by Arelate Studio

Today’s selection was chosen by my five-year old nephew :)

Chart: This Arelate Studio chart is printed on the inside of a double-sided, folded A3 cardboard sheet. The design is whole cross stitch only, with large swathes of single colour stitching. However, the chart is printed so small that it is difficult to determine which symbol is used where.  This is a chart to read in good light only; I would strongly recommend making an enlarged working copy. Unfortunately permission to make a working copy is not listed on the chart.

Stitches: Pattern uses whole cross stitches only.

Materials: DMC stranded cotton. Stitched on 18ct “White” Aida.

Designer’s Notes: The ship is adapted from an 11th-14th Century pick-up double cloth from Krykås Church, Jämtland, Sweden. The mermaid is adapted from a 14th Century manuscript illustration. The fish are adapted from a 14th century painting, the Retable of St. Christopher.

Why I was attracted to this design: Like the designer, I was also a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism. I actually conversed with Nancy a few times on different forums about historical clothing, textiles and embroidery before she started into Arelate Studio and I left the SCA. This feeds completely into my love of the historic. Nancy even lists the exact source for each of the main elements in all of her charts.

So why haven’t I stitched it? I love medieval woodcuts and textiles and fibres and dyes. And I love the designs Nancy puts together here. What I don’t like is her use of DMC threads and white Aida fabric. Bright white fabric, the blue-white we see today is not the type of white we would have seen in medieval times. I would “feel better” stitching this on a warm-hued, ever-so-slightly off-white linen. It “feels” a more authentic fabric to me. Similarly a flat uniformly coloured thread was what dyed aimed for, but rarely achieved. Again I would “feel happier” substituting some of the subtle hand dyed threads such as Gentle Arts or Weeks in place of the uniform DMC.

And again as soon as I plan to do these kinds of changes, the pattern ends up back in my stash, the plans completely unrealised. I’m learning habits about myself writing this blog.

Where can you buy it? Arelate Studio no longer sells direct to the public, but she does have an official distributor, otherwise your LNS or ONS can still specially order it in for you. You should pay around $9.95 (US) for this design.

Discussion questions: DMC on White Aida feels too sterile to me for a piece that has such historical motifs. Yet this design does not claim to be historic or “authentic” in any way.  Arelate Studio has taken historical elements and used them in a modern medium, why shouldn’t she use modern-looking materials? In fact, uniform white fabric and uniform thread colour were what historical embroiders wished they could have used.

Is this my perception of “it looks like it should be old therefore it should be imperfect”? Why does it niggle at me? Does it niggle at anyone else? Is there anything similar that niggles at you?

7 Apr 2012: Haven’t gotten off my duff to work out thread and fabric choices.  Suggestions gratefully received!