Galleon embroidery, framed. Image copyright Paul Murnane


Family history tells that this framed piece of embroidery, a ship sailing the sea, had been made by my grandmother, Myrtle Green, in the 1930s in preparation for her marriage, for her ‘bottom drawer’ or ‘trousseau’.

The embroidery, today, is usually housed in a 46cm x 38.3cm wooden frame. It’s a nice centrepiece that currently resides on my parents’ hall wall and was hung in my grandparents’s front room before that. The original piece of embroidery has been stretched around a wooden panel and is secured on the back by some wide masking tape, before being framed.

I took it out of its frame to examine it a few years ago, and to look at its construction, and this is what I found.

As suspected, it had been hand embroidered using a bought transfer which was typical of domestic embroidery at the time, onto a linen ground, using embroidery floss. It has faded and the colours have become somewhat muted over time, but given that it is approximately 80 years old, it has held up well to almost constant display.


Back of the Galleon Embroidery. Image copyright Ingrid Murnane.


The stitches used are satin stitch in orange, yellow and blue, backstitch, stem stitch – on waves and rope where it has been couched over to create more realistic rope look, long and short stitch as filler on flag, sails and hull. It shows a good variety of techniques, and as you can see from the picture below, the back is well finished too. I remember my Nan telling me that at school, the needlework teacher would mark their skills equally on how neat the back of the work was, as the front.

There is a good bit of fraying and other damage to the embroidery in places inconsistent with it being framed, and as you can see, the embriodered waves continue beyond the edge of the framing, leading me to suspect that this was not the original home for the galleon.


Damage to the Cloth


I’ll continue its story, next week in Sewing Stories. In the meantime, what do you think that it could it have been made for originally? Any guesses?

Sewing Stories: The Galleon, part one
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2 thoughts on “Sewing Stories: The Galleon, part one

  • 21st September 2012 at 07:54

    I don’t know what it was originally, but just wanted to say that my Nan’s front door had a galleon stained glass panel which my Gramps always said was to mean that your home and family was as strong as a galleon. I think it was a 1930s house.

  • 21st September 2012 at 15:26

    From my Facebook page and with her permisson: Beth says:

    are the holes just at the left and right sides, and not at the top and bottom? Maybe it had always been a mounted embroidery, but previously on something longer but not wider – a firescreen would have been a popular choice. The rust might have been from pins during the previous mounting project? Or maybe the previous mounting itself. The only mounting I have ever done has been along the lines of this: but it is possible that, when doing panels like this was more mainstream, someone might have marketed some kind of spiked board or something, to simplify the process?


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