Welcome back, it's Ruth here and I'm the Editor of The World of Cross Stitching magazine- If you missed the first part of my journal, just click here
Day 3 This morning, I’m refreshed and ready to go. I’ve had a good breakfast here at the hotel… Named in honour of William the Conqueror’s wife, Queen Matilda, the Hotel Reine Matilde has been very impressive and just what I needed to set me up for the day!
I feel pretty excited today as first on my agenda is to visit Chantal James of Bayeux Broderie. She’s the embroidery expert who’s able to tell me all about the stitches used in the famous tapestry and will be showing me how to have a go myself! I hope I’ll be able to ‘step up’ and my stitches will be nice and neat haha… Upon arriving at Chantal’s shop and studio, a pretty building right opposite the tapestry museum and with a stunning view of the gothic cathedral, I know I’ll be having fun here… her shop may be small, but it is perfectly formed – so many kits and wonderful display models, I can’t wait to find out all about the Bayeux stitch and try it!
And straight away when I chat to Chantal, I can feel her passion for stitching, it’s like we are friends because we share this same love. She tells me, “I’ve been running my business and website for over 15 years and the Bayeux stitch is such a passion for me. I feel so strongly that I must pass on the technique and see the continuation of this traditional stitch.” And seeing her fine examples, recreating the ancient tapestry, I’m itching to find out more… Between her English and my (rusty, schoolgirl) French, she explains I’ll just be using simple embroidery stitches as components of the Bayeux stitch, “First the outline of the shape you’re going to fill is made with stem stitch. Throughout, we’re using two strands of wool and for all my kits, I have the fine, top-quality linen fabric specially printed so the shapes making up the design are ready to outline. So now the shape is ready to fill, and this is the second stage.” Chantal shows me how to follow the curves within the shape – I’m working a motif of a big cat, as recreated from the border of one of the tapestry panels. “Fill the area in sections, with long satin stitches… stay close to the stem stitch outline and don’t let the colour of the fabric show through as you keep the stitches parallel.” She goes on, as I quickly am able to fill a section of the design, “you can see how easy it is to get started with Bayeux stitch, even if you are a beginner!”
“Now, we are going to add the ‘barette’ stitches, they are long stitches worked across at 90degrees to the satin stitches. Add these around 3-4mm apart… and when each barette is in place, you just use a small couching stitch, which we call the ‘picot’ stitch across the barette to secure it. Space them evenly and then for the next barette place your picots, at intervals from the previous row for a decorative effect.” I’m quickly getting hooked as it’s only taken a few minutes to make good progress, covering the design area. Now the curve of my big cat’s hind quarters are definitely taking shape!
“All my kits include instructions in French and English, so everyone can give it a try without having to have any experience. Especially as the design is ready printed so there’s no need to worry about not having a pattern and key, as in cross stitch! I’m always keen to make sure I give a demo to anyone buying a kit, but even if you can’t be here and you buy from my website instead, you can follow my Youtube video demo,” Chantal smiles.
I can tell how great her passion is for this stitch and its preservation, and alongside the traditional style designs, which capture the Norman history, Chantal also has contemporary-style designs using the Bayeux stitch for both beginners and those wanting to try something a little more adventurous. “I even have kits for children who want to give it a try – boys love the Viking boat, and a favourite of the girls is the pink castle!” I couldn’t resist buying Chantal’s book about how to work the stitch and with a few projects to try (along with the kits, it’s available at her site, www.bayeux-broderie.com )
I asked Chantal about her favourite designs… “I love the classic boat scenes inspired by the tapestry. And also the horse, from my contemporary collection.” Based on her original pastel artwork, which she showed me, this is full of life and energy, in stitches, I’m wowed! All with fabric and wool threads made especially for Bayeux Broderie, these kits are very special. I think it’d be great to come here again with a group of stitching friends, like those Chantal describes and have a special stitching workshop.
She says, “I have regular classes, when I close the shop each week and show stitchers how to work their projects – since June, when I opened this new shop here, I’m very lucky to have this space.” I think she’s had a busy summer because of the move, and no doubt that’ll continue as she seems to have more plans for the future, for more kits and even exhibitions of her work.
I’ve more plans for today too, so I’m on my way again and after a lunch and final walk to the station, I catch the train back to Caen.
Another little walk and I’m in the bustling city centre, of course there’s quite a different feel to the tranquility of Bayeux just 30km away, but I’m here to see the famous medieval castle, home to William the Conqueror and also within the huge castle complex, there’s the Museum of Normandy. I’m told there are more fine examples of the region’s lacework there!
While there isn’t much left of the castle ruins apart from the very grand outer walls and the keep walls (sadly, it’s not possible to go within the castle keep due to the archaeology still ongoing), it was another fascinating museum. And I have also had a little time to visit the neighbouring gothic cathedral of St Peter, and some of the city shops before heading back out to Ouistreham, tonight. It’s an outer suburb of Caen, just around 25 minutes taxi ride, where the ferry port is located. I’m going to have a final dinner at a local hotel but first a walk on the stunning beach.
It’s such a gorgeous long and wide sandy beach – a stroll here with hardly anyone around is a lovely way to end the day as the sun’s starting to set. A good way to work up an appetite, and the Hotel Villa Andry’s restaurant certainly doesn’t disappoint. A full tummy is a good way to end my trip before catching the ferry home… back to reality. I will be keen to come back to Normandy again, a beautiful part of the world and kind hospitality!
With thanks: Brittany Ferries operates from Portsmouth & Poole to Le Havre, Caen & Cherbourg in Normandy. Fares start from £79 each way. Book online: www.brittanyferries.com.