top of page

The Original Illuminated Embroidery WIP - Gothick (The Design)

(originally published 6th January 2016)

Greetings one and all, and a Happy Noo! Now that we've come to the end of the William Morris Illuminated Letter, I thought it would be nice to go back to the very beginning, and take you step-by-step through 'Gothick', the original (and I thought 'only') design for a week-long class called 'Broderie Illuminati' several years ago. I will be re-stitching this design over the coming months, in order to build a kit which will go on sale as soon as the whole thing is complete.

The very first illuminated embroidery design I did was based on several mediaeval English manuscripts - I didn’t know then that I would be creating many more alphabets!

Designing Gothick

As I assumed this would be a one-off project, I researched a number of English manuscripts from the Middle Ages, many of which can be found at the British Library.

Designing Gothick

Within these pages, I looked for repeating themes, colours, and styles. I wanted to create a design that brought together the best of several sources.

Hastings Hours c. 1480

I've always loved these manuscripts, and learned calligraphy when I was in my teens - the amazing detail and richness of colour always takes my breath away!

Hours of Catherine of Cleves, c. 1440

I also like the idea that the original illustrators often used the margins of the pages to make jokes and tell rude tales, hiding their fun and games in plain sight!

colour matching

I love matching colours with threads, and my DMC swatch book really gets a hammering when I'm working out which shades are closest to the source image.

colour matching

Just as I was looking for recurring themes and subjects in the manuscripts, I was also trying to build a 'universal' colour palette. I narrowed down the vast amounts of possibilities later, but in the early stages I found the colours as inspiring as the manuscripts.

Belluno Herbal, early 15th century

Many of the illustrations were highly stylised...

Culpepper Herbal, c. 1553

...while others were specific and precise.

Huth Hours, c. 1485

Some images were even '3D' in effect - the dragonflies above are almost flying out of their own picture space.

the first full letter, nearly ready

Most people don't realise that I design all 26 letters for each illuminated alphabet I create - I may only work one as a prototype, but the other 25 are available too! I work out the details on one letter, and then determine which bits are important enough to repeat across all the letters, and which bits are more flexible, depending on the shape of the letter. Then the letters themselves are designed, and the 'illumination' added to each individual letter as best suits the overall shape. Hard graft, basically! :)

Hours of Anne of Brittany, early 16th century

The Hours of Anne of Brittany gave me the idea for a snail...

Hours of Anne of Brittany, early 16th century well as the strawberry plant!

I shall enjoy re-stitching this lovely design, and will be taking LOTS of work-in-progress shots along the way - the instruction booklet for the kit will be a photographic guide, of course!

Here's to a 2016 full of stitches!

Love 'n Stitches,



52 views0 comments

Related Posts

See All


bottom of page