One of the real pleasures of teaching, for me, is researching a new technique or embroidery history. For my ‘Stitches with Stories’ workshop in October I wanted to follow up on Parma embroidery I first came across it in the wonderful Anchor Manual of Needlework. This was first published in 1958 and in my teens I repeatedly borrowed it from my local library. It was the volume that essentially sparked my interest in, and love of, hand embroidery. I finally bought my own copy in the 1970s – the second reprinting of the third edition, so there must be many copies out there.
The manual covered everything from darning, through lace, via knitting and crochet. I always turned to the fine hand embroidery which was exquisite and inspiring. In the section on Italian Embroidery was that from Parma. A tantalising glimpse of ‘a cushion cover’ with appealing wyverns and a clear explanation of how to work at ‘typical Parma Embroidery Stitch’. And that was all I knew.
Now, thanks to the wonders of the web, I have tracked down a recently reprinted Italian volume from 1926, Arte e Ricamo a Parma, and there, on the last page were the little wyverns again. The book has photographs of several embroidered articles along with line drawings of typical designs from local church architectural decoration. Lovely!