Friday, 19 August 2016

The Island, A Study in White Work, part 1

I visited Blenheim Park several times to photograph potential subjects for my piece for the Celebrating Capability Brown exhibition. I had considered focusing on a tree or group of trees but my attention was constantly drawn to the Island and its reflection in the lake. I walked all around the lake taking photographs from every aspect but, of course, none of mine could match up to the professional photograph that Blenheim Palace had provided us for inspiration.

© Blenheim Palace
The Finest View in England

I printed out an enlarged and cropped version of the image then outlined the individual trees, the shape of the island and the reflections with a black marker.

Before I traced the design onto my fabric, I washed the linen to remove the dressing and pressed it while still damp to eliminate any wrinkles.

I planned to do some pulled thread embroidery on this piece so wanted the linen to be framed up with the grain as straight as possible. I decided to use a new frame that I had picked up at a sale. The packaging described it as a slate frame but the fabric is held in place with a dowel rather than stitching it to a twill tape. My first attempt was unsuccessful as a) the grain was not as straight as I wanted and b) the line slipped out of the dowels when I adjusted the stretcher bars.

To overcome this problem I decided to stitch a channel into each end of the fabric through which I could thread the dowels. I had read that it was not necessary to lace the sides of the fabric to frame with this system but later I was to regret skipping this vital step in framing up.

Happy Stitching

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

The Finest View in England

Woodstock House is an early 18th century manor house set in its own 3.5 acre walled garden, just outside Blenheim Park. With a a grand hall, four reception rooms, eight bedroom suites, a kitchen, and cellars it is the largest private residence on the Blenheim Estate. Although currently unoccupied and badly in need of refurbishment, Woodstock House retains many of its original features including 12-pane sash windows, a galleried staircase hall, original interior panelling and panelled doors, flagstone flooring and a Regency Doric style entrance porch.

Woodstock House

The three story house boasts impressive views over Blenhiem Palace and its grounds, particularly of Vanburgh's bridge and Capability Brown's lake. Churchill's mother, Jennie Jerome, declared the view to be "the finest in England".

© Blenheim Palace
The Finest View in England

In the 1920's, a young woman called Gladys May Cross worked 'in service' at Woodstock House and would have been very familiar with this view. During her years there a young man came a courting and they would 'walk out' in Blenheim Park. Rumour has it that Gladys would sneak her beau into the house through a window. Very risqué, even in the roaring twenties. The winter of 1928/29 was exceptionally cold and the lake at Blenheim Palace froze over. Gladys and her young man, Cecil Oakley, took the rare opportunity to walk across the lake to the island. In 1930 the young couple married and Gladys left service and Woodstock House to become mistress of her own home.

Gladys and Cecil looking very happy on their wedding day

Gladys May Cross and Cecil Gerald Oakley still looking happy c1950.

I had already decided to stitch the a view of the island for the Celebrating Capability Brown exhibition before one of my aunties told me about the day my grandfather, Cecil, walked my grandmother, Gladys, across the lake to the island.