Friday, December 4, 2015

A Challenge to Modern Needleworkers from 1796

Friday, December 4, 2015
Isabella reporting,

Loretta and I often share things from women's magazines of the past. One of the earliest and most important ones was the Lady's Magazine, first published in 1770. Like women's magazines today, the contents of the Georgian Lady's Magazine included fashion tips, entertaining fiction, society gossip, and music. It also included patterns for embroidery, an important feature in an era when a lady's accomplishments usually included skilled needlework.

But while many issues of the Lady's Magazine are available online and through libraries and other collections, those needlework patterns are often missing. This makes sense - any needleworker who wished to replicate the designs would have pulled them from the magazine and tucked them into her workbag - but it's frustrating for modern readers.

One of our-blog friends, Dr. Jennie Batchelor, is leading a two-year project funded by the Leverhulme Trust and based at the University of Kent. Titled The Lady's Magazine (1770-1818): Understanding the Emergence of a Genre, the project will be studying the importance of the Lady's Magazine, and aims to shed new light on its role as one of the longest-running women's magazines of all time. Recently Dr. Batchelor was given a copy of the July half-year issue for 1796 (you can read her account of that acquisition  here). Miraculously, the issue included the needlework patterns.

Now here's the challenge. Dr. Batchelor and her team generously scanned these patterns, and are making them available for free as actual-size jpgs here. In return, they'd like to see how the patterns inspire modern craftspeople. While those of you who are re-enactors or who enjoy replicating historic dress might copy the patterns literally - of course your Significant Other needs that New Pattern for a Gentleman's Cravat! - but don't feel you must be limited to traditional embroidery. Perhaps you see the patterns as inspiration for a hooked pillow cover, a quilting motif, or beading on the sleeve of a jean jacket. Dr. Batchelor would love to see your work, and will share the best along with your stories on the project blog.

Be creative, and follow in the footsteps of your needleworking sisters from the Georgian era!

Top: "A New Pattern for a Winter Shawl, engraved for the Lady's Magazine", 1796.
Bottom: Emma Cross stitching in the Margaret Hunter Shop, Colonial Williamsburg. Photograph © Susan Holloway Scott.


Karen Anne said...

I thought they would include a clue as to what types of stitches to use for the patterns. I guess they are for more expert needleworkers than I am :-)

Isabella Bradford/Susan Holloway Scott said...

Karen Anne, I think the designers were leaving the choice of stitches up to each needleworker. The pattern could be used for silk embroidery, crewel wools, quilting, and tambour work - personal choice. :)

Karen Anne said...

I'm looking at the pattern for a gown. I think the little circles are supposed to be berries. Anyone want to hazard a guess as to what the few three-lobed(sp?)things represent? What about the larger unique things like the one that looks like a paramecium with cilia :-) That would help in the choice of stitches and colors.

Karen Anne said...

I didn't realize cravats had embroidery. Authors are always talking about their snowy whiteness. I would think they'd need a particular type of pattern to look okay with all the different foldings.

Isabel said...

Fascinating post, as usual. I am lucky enough to have found a bound copy of issues of the lady's magazine La Belle Assemblee that still contained the embroidery pattern, but there wasn't a description, like the usual explanation of the fashion plates, or any instructions for the embroidery. I have a collection of many of the unbound embroidery patterns, also without any text. One or two have said "For coloured silks or wool". I asked a dealer, who said that she had never seen any instructions or descriptions of the embroidery patterns.
I agree that the choice was left to the needleworker, who had been well trained in the art, and didn't need to be told which stitch to use, or what colours would be best.

I have been thinking that it would be fun to share some of my patterns. Do you think that there might be interest in a blog featuring embroidery patterns from 1795 to 1825? With some other cool stuff as well.

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