If you have been following our Stitch Off posts, you may not need to read this, although you may well like to take a look at just some of the examples of work so far that our followers have sent us. Frankly, they are stunning.
The reason we have written this is that many of our followers old and new (and there are LOTS of new followers – thank you!) have been in touch with us recently to write a post that summarises what this thing called the Stitch Off is and how they can take part.
So, here is everything you want to know about the Stitch Off (we hope) all in one handy blog post.
What is the Great Lady’s Magazine Stitch Off?
The premise is simple.
We want to recreate and bring back to life a handful of some of the hundreds of embroidery patterns the Lady’s Magazine (1770-1832) published every month over the course of its 62-year run.
We want to learn from your experiences about the challenges and pleasures of ‘work’, as it would have been known at the time, that would have occupied many of the magazine’s readers.
How can I take part?
We have made available 8, rare surviving embroidery patterns from the Lady’s Magazine (1770-1832) – one of the first, longest and most influential women’s magazines – to followers of our project and blog. There are patterns for a gown, cravat, handkerchief and apron (all from 1796) and for muff, waistcoat and shoes (from 1775, the year of Jane Austen’s birth). The first five patterns are owned by Jennie Batchelor, the Principal Investigator of the Leverhulme Research Project this blog is all about, who very luckily acquired them from a reader of this blog. The last three have been generously shared by Penny Gore, whom readers of this blog may well know as a BBC Radio3 presenter.
High resolution images of all the patterns can all be found and downloaded for use here with their original dimensions.
Why should I take part? Or, how big a Jane Austen fan are you?
Well, mostly because you want to. But also, perhaps, because it could be lots of fun. Because lots of people already are taking part and are already having lots of fun. Maybe because we are sharing all of your works in progress and gloriously finished works on our blog, Twitter feed and Facebook page.
And maybe because if you do, your work could be on display at a major exhibition running from 21 March to 25 September at Chawton House Library, former residence of Jane Austen’s brother, Edward Austen Knight, to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the publication of Emma (1815).
This sounds too good to be true (a project follower’s words). Is there a catch?
Not really. If you are willing to have your work on display and don’t mind it being handled – it will be on a table, not behind glass – then all you need do is send it to us and we will return it to you when the exhibition ends. It will take pride of place on a display in the Oak Room of Chawton House Library, which will be devoted to the subject of female accomplishments (music, painting and needlework) for the exhibition’s duration. We’d also love it if you could send pictures to us via Twitter or Facebook along the way so we can share your work and experiences with others.
Do I need to be skilled in historic embroidery techniques?
Absolutely not. Some of our Stitch Off participants are wielding their tambour hooks with breathtaking dexterity. Others (like me) are resurrecting dim memories of how their grandmother taught them to do chain stitch and satin stitch. Some are using period sensitive fabrics, silks and colours. Others, to use the words of another Stitch Off participant, are modernising and ‘going wild’. You might try working up a small detail or a full garment. Whatever you do, we’re just happy you are taking part.
How do I register interest in the Stitch Off?
If you follow us on social media, just let us know there. If not, why not put a comment below?
We’ll be delighted to hear from you any which way you choose.
Where do I send my completed work and when do you need it?
If you want your work to be at the exhibition from the start we would need it, ideally, by 16 March. However, it that seems too soon, we can always add your work to the exhibition once it’s started (the advantage of not being behind glass).
Work should be sent to: Sarah Parry, Learning and Visitor Manager, Chawton House Library, Chawton, Alton, Hampshire, GU34 1SJ.
Please do send us your address if you would like your work returned after the exhibition closes.
Dr Jennie Batchelor
School of English
University of Kent