Monday, December 10, 2012

'Hand stitch'

I am pleased to have received a review copy of the new book ‘hand stitch – Perspectives’ by Alice Kettle and Jane McKeating published by Bloomsbury. You may have been lucky enough to see the display about this book at the recent Knit and Stitch Show.This post is some first thoughts about the book and a tribute to hand stitch.

It is certainly a substantial, heavy book; hardback and 224 pages, but what I mean is that it is deeply serious and comes from an academic base, many of its contributors having links to the embroidery department in Manchester University’s School of Art. For those of us who consider stitching on paper, adding twigs, metal or simply constructing an array of French Knots in varied weights of thread to be adventurous, some of the articles, which feature conceptual stitch that floats in the air or tries to answer the question ‘How do you hear the voice of thread’, will introduce ideas which come as an eye opener and are challenging. I find this approach stimulating and it reminds me of my time in the library at Farnham University of Creative Art looking at images and ways of working which were completely new to me.

I eased myself into the book gently with a look through the many beautiful illustrations and then found the Glossary, which in itself would make a book; this features images from a project in which students from MMU worked with Coats Threads to explore and be inventive with stitch. These examples are shown alongside historical examples. Fiona Rainford who is studying for a degree at MMU and who some of you may ‘know’ particularly for her stitching on felt which she shows on Flickr as Fi@84,worked 

Wave Stitch on distressed photographs.

 So far and I have been particularly moved by Alice Kettle’s chapter ‘Outside, Inside and In Between’ with examples of artists who have worked outside the established art world and expressed their creativity in original ways. A jacket with layers of words was stitched by Agnes Richter in 1895 and she graffited her institutional jacket and so asserted her individuality.

Even though only just starting the book I already feel a quiet pleasure at having for so long hand stitched. There is suddenly a certain pride at being a small part of this tradition which has a truly contemporary presence. So much so that I found some of my old work and decided to give it an airing here as a tribute to hours of hand stitch.


  1. What a lovely insight into that book Jackie. I love the thought of Angnes making her jacket individual over a hundred years ago. I love hand stitching there is something so theraputic about a simple needle and thread making marks. Love your hand stitched sample. It is always interesting to look back at your work. jayne x

  2. This was really lovely to read, this book is on my wish list already, I think now I might just have to buy it!

  3. Beautiful.

    Happy Christmas!


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