Monday, April 11, 2011

A Needlepoint Collaboration

I've always had a thing for the corner of Aubusson tapestries! Maybe it's because they remind me of old map cartouches. Anyway, when my mother suggested making a needlepoint pillow in my choice of design, I jumped at the offer, and I instantly had an idea.

I thought it would be fun to design a pillow that looked as though it were made from a tapestry remnant! Aubusson style was one inspiration; the work of William Morris was another. Below is a corner of Morris' Angeli Laudantes tapestry, woven in 1894.

William Morris Textiles  |  Linda Parry  |  Viking, 1983
At the time of the project, I had a delightful Rex rabbit, and he was a most satisfying pet. I decided to incorporate him into the needlepoint. Though they're barely discernible in the photo below, he had three spots on his right side. Wouldn't it be fun to represent your pet romping through medieval underbrush?

I painted a design on illustration board, which served as a color guide for my mother. I then had the painting transferred to needlepoint canvas at a copier center. Some copier centers don't want to take that responsibility, in part because the design has to register squarely with the lines of the canvas. The center I went to did a perfect job, and the resulting canvas looked like it came from a commercial kit.

And here's my mother's work of art. You can imagine what a wonderful surprise this was on Christmas Day! As you can see, I incorporated the date and my mother's initials into the design.

One final note of interest. My mother was in her 80s when she made this, and the retina had detached in one of her eyes. This was all stitched with the use of one good eye.


  1. This is wonderful Mark, what a great project. I so love that a rabbit called Rex can be remembered as a "satisfying pet". How many people will remember me as 'satisfying' - very few I fear!
    Have a great week

  2. I love it! Actually, I covet this pillow. The fact that your 80 year old mother made it jettisons the pillow into the sphere of "truly special".

  3. Dear Mark, This is the most lovely story. I'm so glad that you posted a picture of your wonderful Rex. And the pillow your mother made for you is beautiful. The design is more than is outstanding.

  4. What an incredible story Mark! I also am enamored with Aubusson and William and Morris styles. The pillow is a treasure. I love how you worked in the date and initials. I think you are a true renaissance man!

  5. Fabulous!! What an amazing work of needlepoint art and how lovely you have this wonderful memento from your mother!!

  6. Thank you, all!

    Sharon and Gina, Rex was not the rabbit's name, but referred to the type of rabbit he was. I always thought that Rex was a breed of rabbit, but later learned that it denoted the softest grade of fur. The rabbit's name was Hopkins.

    Buoni and Stacey, I look at this every day, and it reminds me of my mother — and a furry friend — a double memento!

    Theresa and Scott, you know that getting such ideas out and on paper is half the fun!

  7. Mark, I love old tapestries and of course have been reading up on Arbusson, as they supplied a lot of tapestries in the form of art work chair coverings etc for many of the French Liners from the Normandie to the SS.France. My mother also inher 80's does tapestry as well. I love your rabbit and how you incorporated the design into the pillow.

  8. Thanks, David! I look forward to the sequels of the Normandie and SS France _ Mark

  9. For many years I did needlepoint of my own design, and found it rewarding, though very time consuming.

    I didn't know that needlepoint canvas could have something photocopied on to it. I painted the designs on the canvas with acrylic paint. A couple summers I made cushions of my own designs for everyone, and became so involved I ate and snacked less, and became rather thin.

    It is becoming more and more difficult to find old fashioned needlepoint shops that sell all the materials, the Persian yarns in every hue, and do things like make slippers and cushions from one's canvasses.

    I also greatly admire Aubussons. I hate to admit it, but some Chinese reproductions of them, done in needlepoint stitch, are very good.

    Charming post Mark.

  10. What an amazing gift from your mother on so many different levels. Incorporating something decorative and historical that you love, adding your beautiful rabbit, and including her initials .....and the fact that her sight was is just an incredible gift. Just found you through The Ornamentalist and love your blog!

  11. Thanks HCH Girl! I've enjoyed looking at your blog, too, especially your current posting on the secret eyes. Love your choice of favorite artists!

  12. Thanks, SwF - I believe I've seen one of your needlepoint creations next to a Corinthian capital end table. You've been busy stitching Greek key designs, haven't you? And very nice ones.

  13. Incredible woman, your mother!

    And I love the design. Clearly there's more than a bit of the artist in both of you...


  14. Thanks for visiting Pearl! My mother would have dmured at being called an artist, but in fact she had a great sense of style and design, and an innate sense of color.

  15. wow -that is amazing -and with one eye. Genius runs in the family I see!