The museum in Reading has the only full size copy of the Bayeux Tapestry. It is
excellently displayed and well worth a visit. The story of how it came to be
made is told below but it is worth learning what we can from the work they have
Some useful lessons can be learned from this full sized copy of the Bayeux
The face and fingers are excellent
Modern needles and fabric are finer which probably made it easier for modern
embroiderers to work the finer details. Using smaller, closer stitches, more
subtlety has been put into the shape and expression to the faces and fingers.
However, there is a tendency to be naturalistic which does not always work well
in this media. Oddly, the face of Aelfgyva, which incorporates more detail, is
not good as the original. The images are caricatures and more is not necessarily
The basic pallet is provided by the natural dyes. The shades produced work
very well in the original. Attempts to enhance the images by adding extra
colours is not altogether successful. By selecting the correct strands from
among the shanks all the subtlety required can be achieved.
Elaborate colour mixing within the sails does not work for this style
Good & bad colours
The choice of colours does not need to be natural. There are no fixed rules
but it is important to plan the colours to be used for a figure to make sure
that you do not ‘run-out’ of colours or have inappropriate or identical
colour meeting each other.
Lack of contrasting colour
The embroiders seem to avoid contrasting colours and some of the impact of the
images is lost. Using a different colour for the legs of a horse works in the
original. The key seems to be visual impact and context. There can be colour
confusion when objects meet. To make sure that a limb is not lost in the
background, a lighter colour, however unrealistic, can work within the
conventions of the tapestry. So be bold in the choice of colours.
Good & Bad horses
Some of the horses are much better than others. It is puzzling that the
execution should vary so much. Were the workers less familiar with horses than
the original work force? There are fewer horses in the Preface but a degree of
familiarity and confidence with the object being worked might be useful.
Expert & Beginner
Each section in the Reading copy was the work of one single embroiderer who
added their signature at the end of the panel. The effect is to produce a
discontinuity in style when the panels meet. It is very clear that some took a
while to master the stitches. Within the original, there is some evidence of
different skill levels and this does not detract from the impression because the
design is symbolic rather than naturalistic. To avoid this problem, the work
will be undertaken by a team of mixed skill and one can be confident that people
will not over-reach themselves.