Sooner or later in conversation, a new friend will ask me to tell my favourite piece of needlework. Oh, dear. It is a bit like asking someone who is thrilled and constantly amazed by life to recount their favourite dawn, or sunset, or happiest moment. And so I feel quite fickle when I reply that I don't have one. There is so much staggering beauty everywhere. But, whenever I go to the V&A, I will spend at least twenty minutes contemplating this scarf. If ever there was painting with a needle, then this is it. I have not seen watercolours as beautifully modelled, shaded and completed as this ripe pomegranate.
To me, this is eye-wateringly beautiful. To think this is the fruit of human hand and eye, a needle and silk....it is both fearful and desirable. It is a mountain I know I can never hope to climb and yet, I am glad, proud that it is there - I delight that it has been not just climbed but surmounted with such grace by one of us.
Here you can see some of the minute detail of the border which is larger than life-size, and only by looking at the work at this level of enlargement can I begin to comprehend how it was ever stitched.
The technique used is double-darning and so both sides are virtually identical. On the reverse, the single thread of the ground fabric that is picked will be marching just out of step with this side - hidden under long darning stitch.
And it is not only the sheer beauty, the impeccable technique, the portrayal of the flowers and fruits, but the overall concept of the whole scarf. A square scarf can be worn with one of four corners forming the focal point - literally - and this scarf is so designed that by choosing any one corner, the palette and density of design of the two adjacent sides combine to create a unique effect. Just another good reason to go the V&A next week! (You will find the scarf on the wall near the carpets in the textile gallery, beyond the sampler room.)