An elegant sufficiency

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Dorset Feather Stitch Embroidery

Since Blogger isn't being so cooperative at present, there's just the one photo here and hopefully more will follow in the next entry.

The Dorest Feather Stitch Exhibition at the Dorset County Museum showed the work developed by one woman - Olivia Pass, self-taught embroiderer and founder member of Charmouth WI, whose aim was "to bring a simple skill to country folk".

This picture shows the inspiration for the technique, combining smock patterns with Balkan designs Olivia Pass had seen whilst travelling with her husband. The work exhibited is exquisite and shows what an inspired woman was behind it - the stitches are simple, stylish and very effective and clearly reached a responsive audience at a time when women were ready to discover new opportunities and put some colour back into their life, leaving the drab war years behind them. Much of the work was done by WI members and it was with the support of the WI that Olivia produced a book of designs and Feather Stitchery transfers.

According to the information in the exhibition, boxes of the work were sent to Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa and it would be interesting to find out how the technique developed in those countries - I feel an internet search coming on and wonder if, perhaps, this exhibition might be the inspiration for a revival?

I became interested in the technique as a result of my work with the WI Needlework Archive and think this era of the development of embroidery in England is sadly neglected. What treasures we have overlooked and how important it is to record and conserve these wonderful pieces of work, many of which might still be in use or squirrelled away in our cupboards?
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  • Hi Gill,
    I am pleased to let you know that Dorset stitchery is still alive and well here in Australia. I did a class in the dorset style embroidery with my embroidery group a few months ago and found it lovely to work. I, like you, love to work things in colour and preferably quickly! I have a copy of the Olivia Pass book and have made a table mat from it. Cheers!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:27 am  

  • I doubt if a "box" was ever sent to America, but I'm happy to post that I taught myself the technique from Olivia Pass' book and it has become a favorite technique of mine. It is an easy stitchery to take traveling, and I find it lends itself to Christmas ornaments. (I use red and deep green pearle cotton on white wool felt, decorating liberally with the handmade "Dorset Crosswheel" buttons demonstrated in the book.) Great fun!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:04 pm  

  • Where can one find transfers for the designs shown in Olivia Pass's book, which I inherited from my mother in law? I could trace them off but wonder if there are supplies of iron on transfers?
    I would like to have a go - done an awful lot of cross stitching lately, and need a change!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:57 pm  

  • This is nice! Glad that still doing this good handicraft!

    By Anonymous Holidays in Dorset, at 11:18 am  

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