When I first came across this design, taken from embroidery found in the Oseberg ship burial, I thought of couched lines and fly stitch.
First, of course, I had to transcribe it and somehow get it onto fabric. Easier said than done. I tried copying the drawing – several times – each attempt so epic a fail that I didn’t take time to photograph the efforts. Viking design is often extremely complex, and this one particularly so. In the end I resorted to squaring it up and transferring the lines one square at a time:
Still not that easy! I traced the basic design onto tissue paper, then pinned that over cotton fabric stretched in an embroidery hoop. I found that if you go over the traced lines with a permanent marker pen, the ink soaks straight through the tissue and appears on the fabric. Since I knew that the whole surface would eventually be covered by stitch, it didn’t matter that there were ugly black lines all over the fabric. Goodness knows how the Vikings did it.
Eventually, and after a reasonable amount of effort and concentration, it was ready to stitch. I used mostly space-dyed cotton embroidery threads for the spiral, with spun silk thread in the chain-stitched leaf motif, and 4-ply cotton yarn for the terracotta background couching.
I confess I was glad when this final page in this first series was finished. Now I’m thinking about how to put it all together.