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The Illuminated William Morris Part 1 - The Design

(originally published 16th July 2014)

Ahhhh, Illuminated Embroidery and the Annual Love Stitch Summer School - this project has become something of a 'trademark' event with me, although it was never meant to be!

Four years ago I decided that I wanted to run a week-long leisure course which would challenge the students a bit, and would give me a chance to explore a design/technique in more depth than I usually have time for in a typical weekly class.

Soft String Padding for CutworkSo in that first year, I designed an Illuminated Letter, a project using gold work, silk shading and other mixed 'freestyle' surface stitches, based on a general idea of what typical English manuscripts featured - flora and fauna, delicate colours, a gothic font.

Felt Padding for Chipping 10 lovely students joined me for a week in Bristol, and then a repeat week at Hampton Court in London at the Royal School of Needlework, and we all had great fun. The idea of a longer, more complex project was definitely a success!

Trying out the embellishing stitches in a corner of the fabric first!

At the end of the week, I suggested that the next summer I might try a course on embroidered portraits - stitched miniatures in fact - and had already started gathering some GORGEOUS books on the subject. Did you know that the art of miniatures was a development from the drawings/portraits in illuminated manuscripts?

Rough 'notes to self' on what I've used for which stitches... HOWEVER, the idea went down like a lead balloon, as they say, and everyone wanted me to do another letter...


...and so began the now four-year-old tradition of offering students a set (ish) design each year. The second design was based around the Book of Kells, and featured a Hound and a Hare, endlessly chasing each other around a golden letter and an Or Nue'd Celtic knot. The third design was inspired by the Sherborne Missal at the British Library, featuring its enthusiastic depiction of English songbirds.

Whipped Chain... This year's design has been a bit of a departure in one way, and a return to base in another. Unlike the 2nd and 3rd designs, which were based on a specific manuscript, this year's design has been inspired by William Morris. Like the first design, this one doesn't copy any particular subject, but pays homage to several.

Stem Stitch Interestingly, the first and fourth designs have been the most widely liked! I must admit, there is more scope for creative fun doing it this way, and therefore the design next year is another 'homage' - to the incredibly beautiful practice of Japanese Embroidery, and all things Eastern. I'll be posting WIP (work-in-progress) pictures of that design after this series of the William Morris project.

The main vine structure stitched - the feel of the design begins to emerge!

I've improved my method of building kits based on these designs (all hail the Apple Mac), and the Morris design will be available as a kit/booklet/alphabet in the early Autumn of this year.

I hope you enjoy this series, off to stock up on the caffeine now...

Love 'n Stitches Kelley

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