Earlier in the season, two young swallows somehow managed to become trapped in the stairwell of the haunted staircase.
Whilst it was worrying to see them stuck and trying to escape, it was also wonderful to watch their graceful flight and listen to them calling each other.
Then suddenly one was gone! It had flown at a weak point in the window, breaking the fragile lead and so pushing its way out.
The other was left perching on the window just looking.
It too was eventually rescued by a young lady from Vale Wildlife Hospital and set free to join the rest of the flight. She allowed me to look at it before she let it go.
I have never seen swallows at such close quarters before so decided to record the incident firstly with an oil painting, then a piece of stitched work.
A Dutch style falconry hood made from lead and steel wire, inspired by watching the falconry displays at Sudeley Castle on Tudor Fun Day.
I found it fascinating that as soon as the hood was placed over the bird’s head, it became immediately docile. Once hooded, the birds would sit quietly on their perches until required for flying displays and could even be carried about without fear of frightening them.
When I saw these hoods close up I was fascinated by their shape and construction. They are exquisitely made from finely stitched soft leather and each fits the bird it is for perfectly. They are things of beauty as well as function.
Being made of lead, mine would prevent flight by weighing down the bird rather than by calming it.
It is intended as a beautiful object, rather than a useful one.
When we use the term ‘blackwork’ it is usually assumed that we are referring to a particular style of needlework that was at its most popular in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries in England.
It became very fashionable during the reign of Henry VIII. At the time it was referred to as ‘Spanish work’ possibly because Henry’s first wife Catherine of Aragon is known to have brought garments decorated with blackwork with her from Spain. Although its popularity is attributed to Catherine of Aragon, it was known in England before 1500.
However, technically blackwork is any embroidery executed in a black thread on a white ground fabric so I have appropriated the term to describe a series of stitch work in which I have re-interpreted some of the pencil sketches I made at Sudeley Castle.
I wanted to keep the informality of the sketches so have used black thread as a mark maker or drawing tool, rather than trying to interpret the drawings using formal embroidery stitches.
Each drawing was transferred very faintly to the linen using tracing paper, and the stitched ‘drawing’ was done with constant reference to the original pencil drawing.
Here are a couple of examples.
Garden wire, rose stems, wire staples, garden twine
There are several small mesh purses in Emma Dent’s collection.
In the late 1800s, everything chivalric was all the rage, so chainmail-like coin purses that attached to a chatelaine were stylish accessories for Victorian ladies. I wonder if Emma Dent ever used any of them herself?
The purses in the collection are made from metal links in the same way armour is made. Machine methods for making mail were not readily available until the early 1900s, so the mesh for these bags is almost certainly hand made.
The mesh of my purse is also hand made. The links were individually cut from garden wire and linked together by hand. The purse frame is cut lengths of gilded rose stem, and the handle is crocheted garden twine attached using wire staples.
Instead of coins, the purse contains precious rose petals.
Sudeley is renowned for its beautiful gardens and in particular its roses.
But gardens do not look after themselves.
This purse represents the effort that goes in to keeping any garden, in particular a rose garden.
It is a tribute to the gardeners of Sudeley Castle.