Saturday, April 15, 2023

Hand Stitching

I love knitting and feel confident doing it, but I've long been interested in embroidery too... it can be so beautiful, don't you think? And what a wonderful way to message future generations.


Years ago I'd go a little wild in Melissa Wastney's Tiny Happy shop, buying up whatever little bags she had sewn from scraps of hand-embroidered textiles to keep or give away as special presents. They still give me enormous pleasure in my knitting. I don't always match the stitching to the knitting inside, but sometimes it works out that way, as above.

Even though I'm fascinated by needlework, I'm not good at all of it. I can't effortlessly embroider flowers or even laboriously so (same problem I have with watercolour!) Recently I was visiting French General's site and saw an upcoming, online workshop with textile artist Mandy Pattullo. Alas, it was already sold out... but Mandy's got a book out! I decided to buy it, and also a second one about women's pockets.

When I unpacked these two treasures I noticed right away an unusual feature of Textiles Transformed: the cover, front and back, is almost flocked with a textile finish. Pure luxury. 


Inside, the pages are full of gorgeous, colourful images alongside advice and instruction on how to work with textile fragments and combine them into new, quilt-effect pieces. 

I think stitching away at such tiny, complex, fascinating pieces would be a wonderful way to pass an evening or an afternoon with friends.

The Pocket, by Barbara Burman and Ariane Fennetaux, is an entirely different proposition - much more focused on social history and women's history in particular, which makes it a hugely fascinating read for me. I highly recommend the 3-minute video I linked there. There are wonderful photographs inside this book, too. I particularly loved the one on the right on this page, showing the access point curved to hug the wearer's hand as she reached inside. Such a human touch!

This photograph shows how a pocket was worn under a skirt and accessed through a slit in it. And also, how realistically dolls might be dressed. Girls learned early the value and privacy of a pocket.

I wonder what it says about our modern culture that women no longer require such large pockets worn daily - or from another perspective, no longer have the ability to wear them, amid streamlined and fitted styles. Statement bags, so easily stolen, seem like a poor substitute once you've seen how this older system worked.

For now, I'm going to carry on with my sock project... it's been very busy around here the last few months and that's the most I can take on. But I'm finding it's lovely to curl up with these new books for as long as it takes to drink a cup of tea, and escape into the past and the possible.

Hope you're having a lovely weekend - see you here next Saturday!

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