New Eleanor of Aquitaine needlepoint design

One of the most talented and popular needlepoint designers of our time, Gay Ann Rogers, brings history to life once again with her new pattern, Eleanor of Aquitaine. Released May 1, 2017, Eleanor is a needlepoint portrait of one of the most famous and powerful queens of the Medieval period. The creation is stunning when stitched—it sparkles majestically with Kreinik metallic threads. 

Imagine how stunning this would look in your home, a library, or a school. We asked Gay Ann a few questions about Eleanor, the third design in her queen series. Read more to discover why this piece is so special, then click on the link at the end to purchase the pattern/kit while supplies last (each of the previous queen kits sold out quickly).

Eleanor who? 

QUESTION: What inspired the new design?

GAY ANN: After I stitched portraits of Elizabeth 1 and Catherine the Great, I decided to continue stitching history’s powerful women, and Eleanor of Aquitaine, the most powerful of Medieval queens, seemed a natural choice. Eleanor, the heiress in her own right to one of the largest Duchies in Europe, was married to the king of France, then the king of England and she was the mother of three kings, young Henry, Richard the Lion-Hearted and John Lackland who gave England Magna Carta. Eleanor’s court was renowned for troubadours, courtly love and the legends of Camelot.

I stitched Eleanor of Aquitaine in honor of Judy Souliotis, my fellow needlework teacher and friend who had stitched Elizabeth 1 and was in the middle of stitching Catherine when we unexpectedly lost her. In my last conversation with Judy, she asked me which queen was next and she said ‘just be sure she has lots of gold and many jewels.

My husband, who is a retired history professor, guided many of my choices. It was his suggestion that I use Medieval Books of Hours as inspiration for colors and patterns. Because of the profusion of gold and the jewel-like patterns in illuminated manuscripts, it wasn’t difficult to fulfill Judy’s requests.

My, how she sparkles

QUESTION: Which Kreinik threads are used, and how are they used?

GAY ANN: I like to work in layers and if you look carefully, you will see that Kreinik braid is integrated into almost every appropriate pattern on Eleanor of Aquitaine: outlining her crown, surrounding her jewels, creating a part of her necklace, throughout her dress and cape, providing the sparkle in the background and structuring the frame.

For Eleanor I used gold Kreinik braid in two sizes, #4 and #8. Because I work so often on congress cloth and like light-weight threads for delicacy, my go-to weights of Kreinik braid are often size #4 and size #8.  I find Kreinik braids  lift my designs with a bit of sparkle and texture. Juxtaposed with the smoothness of silk, the texture possibilities of adding Kreinik braid are wonderful. In fact, I cannot remember the last design I stitched without Kreinik braid and my portrait of Eleanor is no exception.

Kreinik braid has long been a staple of my stitching threads and I have used the gold color #002 on each of my queens.

QUESTION: How do you select stitches and threads to give a design dimension?

GAY ANN: Years ago, when I stitched a landscape, I discovered a technique that has become the foundation of each of my portraits. I often stitch an undercoat of Diagonal Tent Stitch the way a painter washes color on a canvas, then I stitch patterns on top of the Diagonal Tent Stitch. As I almost always use a very light weight of thread, the colors of the top layers mix with the colors of the Diagonal Tent Stitch undercoat for small but interesting shifts in color. It has become one of my favorite ways of mixing colors.

By using separate layers of very light-weight threads, I also find that the patterns preserve a delicacy not possible with heavier threads. Here’s a good example: if I stitch the background first in Diagonal Tent Stitch, I can use a single ply of silk on top of the Diagonal Tent Stitch instead of the much bulkier two or three ply it would take to cover the canvas. As a result, the background does what it should do: it recedes and showcases the focal points of the design rather than dominating them.

I use beads and pearls in so many designs and I try to use layers to build up to them, so that their height flows well with the flatter stitched parts of the design, for gentle hills and valleys. This is an important way I use Kreinik braid: I build small layers around or near beads and pearls that stair step up to the height of the beads. In my design of Eleanor, the outlines around her crown are a good example: the outlines are relatively heavy and therefore they stand up off the canvas and integrate well with the height of the jewels.

I almost always use layers in stitching a project. I begin with a low and often thin layer and then gradually build on the layer to achieve a quiet dimension. It is currently my favorite way to stitch. Yes, it can be tedious and time-consuming at times, but I love the effects.

We need this now

QUESTION: Where can stitchers get the pattern and kit?

GAY ANN: My portrait of Eleanor of Aquitaine will be for sale on my website, for the month of May. There will be a class through Shining Needle Society, the cost of which is included with the kit . For information about Shining Needle Society and its activities, contact Kate Gaunt (

Eleanor will be for sale throughout May for as long as I have remaining kits; Eleanor’s class at Shining Needle Society will begin on June 1.

I look forward to the class. Among the goals of the class: to remove some of the intimidation about faces: I don’t have a formula for making faces, but I do use some simple techniques over and over again. I always think the best way to create a face in needlepoint is the simplest way. Don’t say too much.

Another goal of the class is to encourage stitchers to experiment a bit and make their Eleanors their own fantasies. There is such a fine line between history and fantasy, particularly for Eleanor of Aquitaine.

The only known ‘portrait’ of this most famous Medieval queen, is a sculpture of her, so it leaves a wide berth of possibilities for individual fantasies. One of the charms of needlepoint is that it allows people to add favorite touches to their work. Too often people are too frightened to try and part of the purpose of my class is to take away some of the fright. There is always a great feeling of reward when someone’s work stands out in a personal way.

QUESTION: Any hints as to what's coming next?

GAY ANN: Next I plan to stitch two samplers derived from a traditional English sampler I bought a couple of years ago. I don’t plan to reproduce the sampler; I want to play with the designs so that the samplers I stitch relate to the historic one and draw inspiration from it, but equally reflect the era in which I stitch.

No sooner do people hear about one queen than they begin asking about the next one. Will there be another? Maybe. I find queens are industrious undertakings and I need some breathing time between them. That said, I can think of another possibility, maybe even two, so maybe. We’ll see what time brings.

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