Wildlife embroidery, inspired by the Quaker Tapestry
Museum manager Bridget Guest has many talents. One of them is creating embroidery kits which provide an income stream for the museum. Some of the most popular kits feature wildlife such as the Robin, Hedgehog and Harvest mouse.
Crewel embroidery inspires a painterly style of needlework where the stitches can be used creatively which is perfect for depicting wildlife.
Here’s an insight into what’s involved in creating each new embroidery kit – using Bramley Hare as an example.
The starting point for Bridget was a collection of beautiful photographs from which she produced some pencil sketches. She then introduced colour, experimenting with pencils and paint. The next design feature to tackle is how to frame or set the context for the hare. Bridget says it had to be a summer meadow with big oxeye daisies, as they’re easy to embroider and harebells, because of their name and beautiful colour.
And of course, all the time Bridget is considering what stitches will create the right effect. For instance, split, detached chain and fly to help build the colours of the coat beginning with its very dark base layer. And Bridget looked for a stitch that’s not used to create the Quaker Tapestry panels – the Turkey Stitch – to give a soft tufty outline to the most important feature of the hare, its ears.
Once the design was finished, Bridget can’t wait to get embroidering. She likes to do this when she’s on duty at one of Tapestry Museum roadshows. With Bramley Hare it was at the Irish Linen Centre and Lisburn Museum in Northern Ireland.
Bridget says it’s always good to have a kit on the go. Visitors can watch the embroidery in action and it’s always a great conversation starter. Sometimes visitors return to see how much progress Bridget’s made – and that was certainly the case with Bramley Hare. Fellow steward Bronwen Haire also enjoyed watching Bramley Hare come to life too.
Once the embroidery is finished Bridget produces the accompanying instructions, product packaging and museum volunteers help to assemble the full kit.
The kit contains helpful hints and tips and if you want the full detail about how to do the 6 stitches used in all of Bridget’s kits, you can purchase her very helpful Quaker Tapestry Stitch Guide with step-by-step instructions on the stitches and techniques. The kit has all the materials needed to complete the project, including two crewel needles, Appleton’s crewel wool embroidery thread, Quaker Tapestry woollen cloth (made especially for them in Britain), and calico backing cloth.
Bridget recommends working using a seat frame with a 10-inch hoop: “Other than that, all you need is a sharp pair of scissors, a good light and some relaxation time.”
Bridget has a good range of beginner and follow-on kits available in the Tapestry shop plus taster kits for the workshops she runs that never go into mass production.
Every time someone purchases a kit it helps to preserve and exhibit one of the world’s largest community embroideries. And its stories, history and stitches can continue to be shared and enjoyed.
For more information, please visit Embroidery Kits
Quaker Tapestry facts
The colourful tapestry panels measure 63.5cms x 53.3cms and are made using a mix of five ancient stiches and a new one, invented for the project. The ‘Quaker Stitch’ is now used by embroiderers around the world.
World traveller and writer Alexander McCall Smith, says they’re one of the ‘six best tapestries’ to see in the world.
The panels help you find out about famous scientists, engineers, bankers, botanists and non-conformists who pioneered industrial welfare, fair trade, prison reform, peace work and anti-slavery initiatives. Many were Cumbrians.
Begun in 1981 and completed in 1996, they’re the work of 4,000 men, women and children from around the world. Some of the panels made journeys of thousands of miles as they passed from one group of people to another.