UPDATE: The Dance is now available as an easy PDF download via the Embroidery Patterns tab, above.

More free patterns. My stress abatement in this time is to doodle and design in addition to working on my own stitching and knitting. The designs below will eventually be part of a future work, but for now, I am sharing it as a broadside, so others whose stress abatement is stitching have ample food.

But before I present the pattern, some discussion. The main strip in this broadside mini-collection started out as a special request for a Danse Macabre design. I did it up, with some personally significant secondary motifs also requested, and delighted the recipient. But I wanted to play with it a bit more. I’ve changed it up somewhat, removed or changed the personal bits, and added a corner and secondary framing strips. And then having a partially empty page and an abhorrence of wasted space I just kept going, adding an unrelated border pair featuring swords and dart-like shapes, and as a lagniappe, a lemon meander. All are of my own design. The inspiration for the main strip will be evident in a moment.

Back to the Danse Macabre – that’s an allegory image from the 1400s and early 1500s. It’s something that appears in both religious and secular works, and is usually interpreted as a strong caution that no matter one’s station in life, wealth, or age – life is fragile, and all should be mindful of both mortality and the transitory nature of human vanity and pleasures.

Michael Wolgemut’s “Dance of Death” – from the Nuremberg Chronicle of Hartmann Schedel.

But I have to say that I reject that morbid and moribund classical framing.

Instead, and in the current context, I look around. I hear about neighbors doing what they can to help each other. I read about people with talents – musicians, actors, artists of all levels of fame and proficiency – sharing what they can of themselves to enhearten, inspire, and entertain a frightened world. I witness the bravery of front line first responders and medical personnel, and the selflessness of many people in vital industries. I see many more small acts of kindness than I do malevolent and spiteful actions (although those latter ones do affect far more people proportionally per incident).

Now I see those dancing skeletons differently. They dance in defiance of mortality. They celebrate life in the face of danger and death. Living for others, to protect the lives of others, is the ultimate act of rebellion against an implacable enemy.

So, for all reading this, don’t break discipline. Keep away from others as much as possible. Heed the calls to do your part for community health. And if you are so inclined, feel free to stitch my Dance, with the joy with which I present it.

I make this file freely available for YOUR OWN PERSONAL, NON-COMMERCIAL USE.  (NOTE: CHART IMAGE UPDATED ON 22 APRIL 2020)

As with my other offerings of late, this is “good-deed-ware.”  Pay this gift forward by helping out someone else in need; phoning or getting in touch with a family member, friend or neighbor who could use a cheerful contact; volunteering time or effort; or if you can afford it – donating to one of the many local relief charities or food banks that are helping those displaced from work.

Finally, some notes on the patterns. In true historical style, the lesser framing borders have absolutely NO count relationship to their larger main motifs. This means that a square or rectangle of the Dance, which will meet up neatly at the corners provided full iterations of the repeat are used, will NOT be neatly framed by the plume flower or inner band, with the corner of the plume band guaranteed to present as shown. The same thing goes for the swords and companion darts. THEREFORE, I strongly suggest working the main band first to establish the width of your project. Then starting the companion border from the corners, and working it towards the center MIRRORING the corners and the direction of the plumes (or darts). When you get to the center of the work, fudge it.

The easiest way to fudge is to stop with the last full presentation of the plume or dart, symmetrically on the left and right of the center, then place a box in the “leftover” area around the center line. You can fill that box with your signature or a date. Or you can design a little supplemental motif to fill that space. And if all else fails, write to me or comment below with your problem area’s count, and I’ll see if I can help.

Stay safe and stay busy. And above all stay well!

18 responses

  1. What a very kind and tallented lady you are. Thanks

  2. I love it. Thank you. Its next on the pile after your ‘don’t panic’.

  3. I’ve been following your blog for 15+ years, but I rarely comment. Doing so now to say how much I like this chart & to thank you for it. I’ve only done basic cross stitch, but I may have to pick up thread & cloth for this one.

  4. Love it xxx

  5. Gloria Gaitán | Reply

    Such wonderful design!! Thank you for sharing, not only your talent, but also your feelings toward these difficult times. May you and yours are safe and well.

  6. This is wonderful, and you might find the Ghede family in Vodou interesting in this context. They are the dead, and guardians of the dead, but they (and their dirty jokes and dancing, and enormous appetites for food and drink) remind us to live while we are alive. They are of the dead, but they don’t want us to be dead in any sense of the term.

  7. Skellies dancing is like singing the blues: life declaring itself indomitable in the presence of death. Love this!

  8. Wonderful in any context, but particularly appreciated now. (The right-click didn’t work for me but I enlarged the image on screen and used snipping tool.)

    1. Different platforms have different methods of saving standard image files. Right click for most Windows apps. I know Apple OS is different, but I don’t have one to hand. Tablets and phones running Android or other OS have their own methods, too.

      1. That wasn’t a criticism, I was just sharing my work-around! I’m antiquated and use a desk-top (Windows 10). Don’t have one of those fancy app thingies.

  9. Love you and stay safe.

  10. […] be fitting as his #1 fan to make a present for my author: an embroidery of this phrase, framed with The Dance border I posted here last […]

  11. […] kill ya,” and so was fitting to be something ringed round with the skeletons from my Dance pattern […]

  12. […] Now back to the pattern at hand. Here is the basic unit that makes up The Dance. […]

  13. […] Look here for the broadside that contains the dancing skeletons and plume border, plus the reason why I don’t think they are morbid or creepy. And if you want to see all previous posts on this project, here’s the link. […]

  14. […] to the pattern I had drawn out. Those snails… My original stuck to the small twig and leaf of The Dance, the skeleton pattern I shared. I picked out that first twig and improvised a snail, then kept […]

  15. […] Those of you who are tuned into various historical embroidery info feeds may have seen a call go out a few weeks ago. Toni Buckby, a serious embroidery researcher and PhD candidate was looking for volunteer embroiderers to join a blackwork project that will lead to an exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum, plus provide fuel for her dissertation. I’ve long been a fan of Ms. Buckby, having first seen her work on the animated Wet Nuns music video “Why You So Cold?”. Her piece was one of the inspirations for my own static Memento Mori strip of dancing skeletons. […]

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