Two magnificent wallhangings will be displayed at our 50 Year Celebration event. The project was the idea of Baroness Jeanne de Robin of l’Île du Dragon Dormant. Each wallhanging shows the arms of the King or the Queen surrounded by the personal arms of our first 100 Kings and 100 Queens. The Royal Line begins at the top left of each wallhanging and proceeds clockwise in a spiral. The overall size of each panel is 54” by 60”, and the personal devices are each 2” wide by 2.4” tall. The individual motifs and the entire backgrounds are embroidered in convent stitch, a self-couching technique, using silk for the small elements and wool for the larger ones. When you view the wallhangings in person, look closely for the details you can’t see from a distance. The Kings’ panel will be displayed in its nearly complete state. The Queens’ panel still has more work to be done, and Baroness Jeanne encourages everyone to put in some time on it, whatever their experience level – she would be happy to teach the stitch to all who are interested in trying it.
In the course of designing the wallhangings, Baroness Jeanne collected the personal arms of our Royalty, and has made her list available for reference here.
The Gazette staff posed questions which Baroness Jeanne was kind enough to answer:
Q: When did you come up with the idea for this project, and when did the work actually start?
A: The project started in April 2010, with the arms of Countess Alethea, but the concept was very nebulous. The genesis of the project was I wanted something small to embroider during my commute to work, but that was part of a larger project, so that I wouldn’t need to think up something different every 2-3 weeks. It wasn’t until 2011 that I sat down and actually planned out the wallhangings and realized how big a project I had embarked upon.
Q: Did you originally plan to do all the work by yourself, or did you always intend to involve other stitchers?
A: In mid 2011 when I properly planned out the project, I had 9 alternate plans. Plan E was to involve other stitchers if the wallhangings hadn’t progressed sufficiently. In October 2016 I opened the Queens’ wallhanging to other collaborators.
Q: How many different people have worked on it?
A: Over 50.
Q: Do you have any idea of the number of hours invested into this project? How about an average time to complete one device?
A: I made a conscious choice at the beginning not to count hours, though it’s in the thousands. The individual arms vary considerably, depending on complexity, but I would say 12-15 hours is a good average.
Q: How many devices were lost and had to be replaced?
A: Ouch. Old wounds. 17 devices were lost at Panteria. I lost one of Brion on the bus last year, and I either miscounted or misplaced a Gregor. There were also a few kits that went out and were lost track of (or lost by USPS).
Q: How many Royals do not have registered heraldry?
A: Twelve, though several of them use a device that is not registered, and several others use something other than their registered heraldry.
Q: How much linen and silk and wool have been used to make the two wallhangings?
A: A lot? I bought the thread on 1/2 lb spools, with 1lb for the purple wool. There is about 1/4 a pound left on the purple, and a fair amount of the Queen’s left to stitch.
Q: Have you paid for all the materials yourself?
A: Yes. A few tax returns went into the purchase.
Q: How do you hope the wallhangings will be used after the 50-year celebration?
A: I’m hoping the Royals will travel with them and continue to display them.
Q: What have been the biggest challenges of this project?
A: The biggest challenge was tracking down the heraldry. My goal was “the arms as used at Crown Tourney”. Many of our Dukes registered their arms years (decades) after their reign. Some registered as close a variant as was legal, but continued to use their original device, others changed devices over the years, sometimes multiple times. The Laurel Archivist was very helpful in tracking down the original submissions, but the artwork on some of the submissions from the 60s and 70s look like they were drawn by me.
Q: What stories can you share?
A: My regret was I didn’t write down the stories that were shared with me, and several of those people have since passed on. Unfortunately the ones that have stuck in my memory are not suitable for public consumption.
Q: What advice would you give someone who might create something similar in another 50 years?
A: Advice? I could probably fill another entire article with advice!
- Get help. Even if it’s a solo project, get someone to bounce ideas off of, keep you on track, cheer you on.
- Invest in high quality materials and tools. If you can’t afford them, hold a fundraiser. Cheap materials can detract from the final product, no matter how skillfully executed. Cheap tools add time and frustration to a project. Ask for bulk discounts; if you don’t have the volume required, see if others will go in with you and split the cost.
- Avoid a hard deadline if possible.
- Set soft targets/ milestones and celebrate the achievements.
- Modularize the design into parts that can be worked independently, even if you’re working alone.
- Take progress photos. Document your design decisions.
- Use a tracking tool. It could be a project journal, or a spreadsheet, or a to-do list.
- If it’s a group project, designate a project coordinator, they don’t have to be the chief designer, just someone organized who can keep track of all the various parts.
- Publicize the project, repeatedly, through multiple channels.
- Create an online discussion group, preferably one that can host pictures.
- Hold project workshops days.
- If workers are geographically dispersed, designate regional deputies.
- Solicit feedback and progress photos early for take home work.
- Check in regularly with workers.
- Keep track of who contributed to the project.
Reporting by Lady Phaedra and Mistress Ygraine from the Gazette staff.
Designs and Tyger photo by Baroness Jeanne de Robin.
Other photos by Mistress Ygraine of Kellswood.