It must be very satisfying to invent a new style of embroidery, one that becomes widely known and eventually a “traditional” technique. I researched some last year from Italy (Parma, Sorbello) and have recently tried my hand at Wessex embroidery. Unlike several types from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, developed to help poorer women earn a living, Mrs Foster of Bath created and named her own approach to counted thread work. She produced a very large number of pieces, and exhibited them, over her long life but so far as I am aware did not teach others.
The piece above is ‘Lindisfarne’ as shown in Gay Eaton’s Wessex Stitchery, a lovely book, now out of print (and carrying some amazingly high prices on the web – £195.00!).
Mrs Foster clearly loved pattern-making and colour. Her embroidery has a wonderful array of all-over patterns given vitality with colour changes across the work and frequently featuring fragments of poetry, scripture or commemorative details. Pieces exist from around 1918 and many were exhibited in 1934. Articles on the work in this exhibition appeared in Embroidery and The Embroideress. Recent research and publication by Gail Marsh and Gay Eaton have contributed to a revived interest in this ‘Wessex’ stitching.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my attempts and I’m in admiration of the skill (and eyesight) of Mrs Foster and her choice of such fine linen and threads. I’ve tried a larger scale but have to admit that the extra effort of working on fine linen is worth it – I love the detailed, variegated results.