Commission Completed: Client Captivated!

The Piano Shawl, Finished and Delivered

The Piano Shawl, Finished and Delivered

Although putting the fringing on brought the whole thing to life – which goes to show how important the finishing details are for big projects – I was very relieved when I delivered the Piano Shawl, and it settled into its destined home as though I’d sat there to stitch it. As I don’t have any rooms decorated in similar colours, I wasn’t confident when I finished the piece, until I saw it in place. Phew!

I created a booklet to go with the Piano Shawl, which included a short description from Elaine, describing why she wanted it, and the following, describing how I tackled the commission.

The Piano Shawl - Second View

The Piano Shawl - Second View

From the Embroiderer’s Frame

This was an intriguing project, growing out of several conversations, visits to the Client’s house, and an assortment of research in libraries and online for suitable images and inspirations. The ultimate inspiration was a scene in a painting in which the black polished surface of a grand piano was broken by a patterned shawl.

I was asked for a piece that would suit the room and the grand piano, and would in some way incorporate references to Music. I prefer, with this sort of piece, to find some way of allowing the client to contribute, not just with a brief, but with some element of the design, so I devised three possible ideas,

  • a piano keyboard stretched into a ring, which would allow for a variety of stitches and techniques
  • a series of instruments rendered in a broad, slightly “graphic” style
  • a more “romantic” design of flowers

In adapting the inspiration to circumstances and ideas, we decided, rather than using a scattered all-over pattern, to develop an undulating stave design, entwined with flowering stems. The flower patterns were developed from the shapes used by my grandmother in one of her embroidered tablecloths. As she set me off on my embroidering way, I always try to include some idea or reference in big projects! We chose to pick up the floral pattern of the carpet, dusty pinks and apricots for the flowering stems, and take the blue background as the basis of colours for the stave. Then I asked Elaine to write out for me the musical elements that she wanted to have put on the staves.

In the event, this piece involved far less variety of stitch technique than the other design ideas I had thought of, but at the same time it gave scope for a much wider range of variegated threads. The blues used in the stave are brighter than those in the carpet, because darker colours would have dragged the design down, making it seem less light hearted. There is always a balance to be struck in embroidery between the naturalism that is available through needlepainting techniques and producing something that is clearly an embroidery. I almost always choose to do the latter, because the textures of fabric and thread as they are used in embroidery are what interest and inspire me.

My initials and the date are included in Morse code, on diagonally opposing corners.

Now Elaine not only has her Piano Shawl, but something for the archives as well.


  1. Elmsley Rose says:


    May we have some detail photos?

  2. Its spectacular! Congratulations!

  3. Yes, it’s a lovely piece. What a shame they’re such tiny photos! I would have loved to have seen a close-up.=)

  4. Janice says:

    It’s absolutely gorgeous, Rachel. I had assumed you were doing a tablecloth, and from the little snippets you posted previously I hadn’t noticed the musical stave design. I love the idea of the booklet. I’m assuming you gave a copy to Elaine? In many years to come, the booklet will be a wonderful contextual addition to the piece. I can see it turning up on the Antique’s Roadshow with a photo of Elaine, and the expert saying ‘Ah, yes, RW in morse – now this is the classic signature of……’!!! Well done!

  5. Action Ma'am says:

    Well done and then some! It looks effortlessly elegant which of course quite belies the amount of effort involved.

  6. Lady Fi says:

    Wow – what a masterpiece that shawl is! Love all the details of the notes and how cool that you put in Morse code too.

  7. Wow…what a beautiful piece…and hard work, too…trying to sort out someone else’s ‘vision’. Congratulations!

  8. […] that I have seen the Piano Shawl in its destined place, I am happy with it. The overall effect is light-hearted without being entirely frivolous, and the […]