Tuesday, 27 December 2011

New from Gail Marsh

I am a huge fan of Gail Marsh and already have her two books on 18th and 19th Century Embroidery Techniques. Gail is Development Officer of the Rachel Kay-Shuttleworth Textile Collection at Gawthorpe Hall, Lancashire, UK. After spending so much time with early textiles, it is easy to dismiss stitching of our own times, but the fact remains that there was a great resurgence of interest in embroidery techniques at this time. Certainly, the arrival of the New Elizabethan Era with the Coronation of our present Queen, now in her 60th year on the throne, heralded a return to the attic and archives and a great dusting down of lost gems of British culture. There was a folk revival of country dances and songs begun earlier in the century by Cecil Sharp. At school we learned traditional English songs and sea-shanties before we could read. And we embroidered needlecase covers a little in the manner of Rachel Kay-Shuttleworth's own sampler shown above.
I know my friend Vivien Caughley in New Zealand has been researching modern samplers such as this Guides and Brownies one below - if you see any, they are likely to be cheap and they are hugely collectible.
The wonder is that we live in age where many embroiderers and designers are well known by name and will go down in the records, and there are many case-studies in this new book focusing on a single person and their work, so it is an especial treat to be able to put a face and personality to a piece of stitching, which, for the most part, we are unable to do for previous centuries. I also adore this book, because it is like a trip down memory lane. My aunties and grandmas all produced items influenced by the designers documented in Gail's book. I do recommend it!
Two other books which have me in their thrall at the moment are the first of Daniel Yergin's books on the history of oil The Prize (I have his second book The Quest lined up to read next) and an absolutely wonderful book called The Emperor of All Maladies - a Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee. Strange recommendations, perhaps, but absolute page-turners - impossible to put down - I have to make myself do just that to get on with other things!

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