Monday, 4 July 2011

Our embroidery ancestry

Slightly off-topic today, but I thought I'd share something I've been thinking about of late.

Recently, two of my favourite embroidery bloggers, Cynthia of California Stitching and Elmsley Rose, have been kind enough to cite instructions I gave here for lacing up finished embroidery onto a board, to stretch it and prepare it for framing or presentation in some way.

I've always found this a neat and effective way of lacing the back of an embroidery, but I didn't invent it myself.  I was taught how to do it by a lady who was one of the most highly respected embroiderers in the North of England, Dorothy Watson.  Although not one of its founders, Mrs Watson was a very early member of the North East Branch of the Embroiderers' Guild, later the Newcastle upon Tyne Branch, and remained a member of it for over 50 years, serving several terms as Chair, and was the Branch's Honorary President when she passed away a few years ago, when I was Chair myself.  She led the Durham Cathedral Broderers, and taught embroidery and textile crafts for many decades; her work spanned traditional and contemporary styles, and was always flawless, and the number of stitchers, including myself, she must have taught and influenced is huge.

But someone must have taught her how to do these things, and someone else would have taught her teacher, and so on, down the years and centuries.  Although there's no end to what you can do to express your own creativity through textile arts, the basic tools and techniques have existed for millennia, and have been passed on down the years.

Now, I'm passing on things she taught me through my blog to people all over the world, and other bloggers in California and Australia are passing it on too, to their readers, all part of a continuous line of embroiderers stretching from the far past into the future.  I wish Mrs Watson had lived to see that.

I think we should all take a moment to celebrate our own embroidery ancestors, whether they were our grandmothers or school teachers, authors of books or blogs, and remember that it's up to us to pass this wonderful art on to future generations.

Happy stitching!


  1. That's just wonderful! A great connection back through you to what sounds like a lovely, hard working and talented lady!
    I've seen other versions of the instructions and your/hers are the *best*.

  2. She sounds like she was quite an inspirational lady! I'm sure she would be over the moon to know that her skills and knowledge are being passed on not just locally but on a global scale. What a legacy :)

  3. Mrs Watson sounds like she was a real gem. I love that we can now learn from other stitchers all over the world, and pass on this legacy to others. Keep up the good work. It's not easy writing a tutorial but yours are very instructive.

  4. I learnt a lot from my Grandmama, and wish so much that she had lived to see how we can now learn things from people we will never meet. She would have been thrilled!

  5. It's quite humbling to think that we are links in a chain, passing knowledge on from our own inspirational teachers to the learners of the future.