Saturday, June 18, 2011

Mrs Archibald Christie's samplers

In my last post I revisited some of the embroidered treasures housed at the V&A and I  promised to show you some of the work I saw done by Mrs Archibald Christie. (How strange it seems today to be known by one's husband's name instead of as Grace Christie.)

Grace was a well known embroiderer of remarkable skill in the early 20th century. I had admired her book Samplers and Stitches on the Open Library at, so to come across the actual worked samples was a real find for me.

My favourite has to be the little mice eating the ears of wheat in the wheat field. They even had little bits of wheat sticking out of their mouths! The stitching is all so enchantingly regular and the apt use of stitches and changes in thread tone make the charming little scene come alive and I could just imagine the little mice secretly tucking into their dinner somewhere among the wheat storks.The mice are embroidered with Trellis stitch and if you click on the link above you can see Grace's stitch directions in her book for this unusual stitch.

And how hedgehog-like is that hedgehog! I wanted to run my fingers over the surface and feel the prickly spines - not that I would actually do it, even if it wasn't behind glass, but it sure looked invitingly tactile.

Besides the surface stitchery the Reticello and Needleweaving sampler also caught my eye. I like the idea of making up small samplers of the different embroidery techniques.  Hemming them and finishing off each unit makes them attractive and presentable, and also useful as a record of the various types of embroidery such as this form of cutwork. Perhaps these days with the number of good books that abound and access to lots of patterns and technical stitch information on the Internet, samplers like these are becoming increasingly rare.

Sadly the Textile Room at the V&A is being moved to new premises and its not open to us anymore. I only hope that once the move is over, those cabinets of embroidery will again be available for us to feast our eyes on - if we are lucky enough to get to London,  and if we are able to get to see them. Its nice to dream though isn't it?

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