Breaking Rules

I'm only on the second image of this piece and already I'm breaking the rules. I really intended to stick to wool on canvas, as per crewel dogma, but the delicate crosshatching in the antlers required a finer line than the wool could create. So, after about five minutes of mental debate, I tried two strands of DMC floss for the barely visible striations. And was happy with the result.

Yeah, I know it will hardly be noticeable in the finished piece, but I usually lean to the purist side of things. I seem to remember reading somewhere that "crewel" by definition meant worked with wool. But part of my enjoyment of working this embroidery is how fluent I feel in the language of stitches, and if I can't draw upon my repetoire as needed in my own creation, well, what am I here for?
Here's the original. Someone commented about the emphasis placed on the claws of the turtle, and it is interesting to speculate on how Louis Nicolas viewed the strange New World he was encountering. I guess he was somewhat unnerved, if not downright afraid of the wild creatures of the forest, and so the teeth and claws were forefront in his mind as he drew.

With the caribou, he shows a meek and gentle creature in the pose, but the mighty antlers could not be downplayed. It might be my art therapist background coming through, but I see a great deal of psychic energy invested in certain elements of Louis' drawings. The teeth, claws, horns, tusks and tongues are very detailed and out of proportion.

Images of pages from the Codex Canadensis are from the Library and Archives of Canada website.


  1. onesmallstitch2:10 PM

    considering the comments regarding teeth, claws etc. - have you ever seen an illustration of a cariboo anywhere else that showed teeth??

  2. Just because "they" made up the rules for crewel doesn't mean that "you" can't do whatever the heck you want! It's your embroidery, darn it.

    That was me on the turtle claws. I don't think I've ever heard of one with 6 toes. Reminds me of my late polydactyl cat! Most turtles that I know of have 5.

  3. In the Natural History that accompanies the Codex, Louis Nicholas writes: "My drawing of the caribou is perfectly true to life."
    Something must be lost in translation, because caribou have skinny antlers, more like an elk. These antlers look like those of a moose, yet the rest of the critter doesn't. And it's not a reindeer either.

  4. After all, being an artist, you are entitled to some personal changes and interpretation.
    And sometimes there is nothing more delicious than breaking the rules...

  5. Oh, I'm really not such a stick-in-the-mud. But I had given myself the limitation of working only in wool, as an antidote to my tendency to get too fussy and fiddly. I shall try to keep the embroidery floss to a minimum.


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