Now we are comfortably into the new year, we thought it was high time that we gave a brief update on the Great Lady’s Magazine Stitch Off. For the uninitiated, where have you been? But if you have managed not to hear us shout about what we’re doing on social media, I should explain that we have made available a number of embroidery patterns from a bound copy of the magazine from 1796 that I recently acquired in the hopes that some of you (lots of you!) might try to make them up and tell or show us what you enjoyed and learned in the process. Photos of the patterns (along with their measurements) can be found here.
The first thing to say is thank you! Thank you for your interest, your enthusiasm and your expertise. Lots of people have sent us emails and tweets about wanting to take part in the Stitch Off and what you might do for it, although we know that many of you have other projects you need to finish up first. That fact, along with the holiday season and all the busy-ness that entails, has led some of you to ask us if we have an end date in mind for the Stitch Off. At the moment, we don’t. We want everyone who wants to take part to do whenever it fits in with their lives.
Some of you, though, have already got stuck in and we wanted to share some of your images and experiences so far.
The first person to contact us with their impressions of the patterns was embroiderer and lecturer Alison Larkin, whose wonderful blog on historical embroidery will no doubt be known to many people reading this post. As Alison explains in this post, she is currently working with Sophie Forgan on an exhibition for the Captain Cook Memorial Museum on Sailors’ Wives and Sweethearts for which she is producing a replica map sampler and a piece of partially completed embroidery. When she suggested that the latter might use the winter shawl pattern we’d published, we were overjoyed. Alison’s comments on the unprofessional and untidy drawing of the pattern really intrigue us, and we’d be delighted if others of you who are working with different patterns (or others from different points in the magazine’s history) think this is a one-off or characteristic of their published patterns across its run and what conclusions we might draw from this. (I still am in the dark about where the patterns were produced and whether for the magazine, specifically, or not). Alison’s work on the Stitch-Off project so far (one of her many projects) has been to clean up the pattern and the results look terrific. We can’t wait until she has the time to begin stitching.
The first person to complete a pattern was Jenny DiPlacidi, one third of our project team. Jenny went a little off piste for her contribution to the Stitch Off and worked on a pattern from a copy of a bound issue of the magazine she bought last year. Using material and threads she already had, Jenny returned to stitching after a long time away to produce this replica of one of three watch cases published in the magazine for 1775. She plans on attempting another design very soon. You can read about Jenny’s thoughts on the process in the blog post she wrote on the subject here.
The last example we want to share for now is by Lucie Whitmore, whom I had the great pleasure of meeting briefly and hearing speak at a multi-disciplinary conference on clothing from the medieval period to the 1960s in May last year entitled Disseminating Dress. Lucie, who has a first degree in textile design (print and embroidery) is currently completing a PhD on women’s dress in World War I at the University of Glasgow. But she jumped at the chance of transporting her research interests more than a hundred years before that to work on this design for a gown or apron. Lucie worked on some muslin she had to hand and used silks she had lying around.
The results, we’re sure you’ll agree, look really lovely, although working white on white must be tiring on the eyes in the low light of the darkest and rainiest British winter I can remember.
But never fear. As Dr Sally Tuckett (also from the University of Glasgow) reminded us, where there’s whisky, there’s a way.
We have lots of other experiments in the pipeline after reading your queries about the magazine’s song sheets and recipes, but we hope Sally will excuse us if this isn’t one of them!
If you are taking part in the Stitch Off, we’d love to hear from you. To get in touch, you can reply in the comments box below, tweet us via @ladysmagproject or email via our new project Facebook page. If you’re not, then please do still like our new Facebook page where we will be keeping you up to date with the project in more than 140 characters at a time.
Dr Jennie Batchelor
School of English
University of Kent