Villanelle in Basildon


This is my Royal School of Needlework Future Tutor module in applique.

This scene depicted is from season 2 of the cult BBC drama ‘Killing Eve’. It presented a striking and graphic image in my mind. If you are unfamiliar with the drama, a short summary is below.

The injured assassin Villanelle has stowed away to make a clandestine escape to England. As dawn breaks, a child sees her emerge from the boot of their family car. Villanelle lifts a finger to her lips to shush the child witness, and walks away down a Basildon road. She is wearing the too-small superhero pyjamas of her latest victim.

To depict this moment, a range of images had to be combined and simplified to create a pleasing design. I spent time watching and re-watching the scene on TV, found various publicity pictures and layered them in Photoshop. Basildon is further reduced to a few houses and walls, with the scorched grass verges of a summer drought. The colours are muted, suburban, ordinary.

In stark contrast, Villanelle dominates the foreground in her bright blue PJ’s, shushing the viewer. The character is known for her love of expensive designer outfits, so this vision of her with messy hair and squeezed into a teenage boy’s nightwear, is another level of incongruity.

The Pyjamas

Villanelle’s pyjamas are iconic, and central to the whole piece.

When researching, I discovered that they had been specially made for the actresss. I tracked down the same fabric supplier, and was happy to discover that it was also possible to choose the scale of the pattern. I ordered a piece at 25% scale, which is exactly right for the size of my appliqué figure. I chose to have it printed on a substrate that has little stretch and is fray resistant, to make it easier to work at the smaller scale while maintaining the integrity of the original.

There is some deliberate puckering of the clothes to give a more naturalistic effect. They should be too tight for her, so I’ve reflected that.

‘Basildon’ is recreated using fabrics that appear to have the texture of the objects they depict.  They are also very ‘ordinary’ found fabrics that have been pressed into use.

The road is the ‘right’ side of the fleece fabric from tracksuit bottoms, which used here is reminiscent of tarmac. The pavement is a triblend cotton from a tee-shirt. The lawns are dyed fleece fabric (the reverse side), the texture of which which looks very effective as scrubby, dead grass.

The small houses are mostly printed cotton over vilene, but dyed progressively darker to give the impression of distance.  The windows are made with fabric called ‘flexweave’ from the toe and tongue of Reebok Nano trainers.

Pampas grass is made from fluffed-up Appleton wool and dyed cake wires. Other plants are made with dyed silk, pan scrubber, wool, DMC threads etc to create more texture. There are some plants hand embroidered onto dissolvable fabric, washed and applied to the wall.