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Threads – Worcester Stitch and Textile Art Group, is once again taking part in the cathedral’s annual Christmas Tree Festival. Members were asked to help make our tree brightly coloured by decorating balls to show off their stitching and by adding glitz to catch the light in the cloisters!
As may be seen in the accompanying photographs, members came up with lots of ways to do this by …
The Festival is open from Wednesday 7 December 2022 until Sunday 8 January 2023 (but not on Christmas Day) from 10.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. from Monday to Saturday and from 1.00 p.m. to 3.00 p.m. on Sundays. Unlike last year, booking is not necessary so why not go along and have a look? We are sure that you will be amazed by the creativity on display, not only on our tree but on all the other trees you will find there!
The exhibition, in an upper room, was amazing. There were many examples of this ancient art worked by members of the guild. There was a wide range of art work from more traditional pieces to those with a more contemporary look. Some pieces were worked purely in gold and silver and others used colourful embroidery threads as well as the metal threads.
The metal threads came in a variety of styles some flat, some wavy and all were couched down within the designs. You were able to see that some threads were twisted to create a different effect. Although the metal threads were of a similar colour, depending on their style, the direction they were laid down and the amount of couching used, cleverly created the shades and nuances of the image. Where couching with coloured threads was used over the metal threads, it created different effects such as the speckling on a frog’s legs. Other metal colours, such as bronze and copper, were in evidence too.
Some pieces used more embroidery threads, and materials from leather to silk as infill in the design, with the gold or silver used as outlines or stalks in the design. Embroidery stitches were more in evidence in these colourful designs alongside the couching stitches used to anchor threads down.
Three pieces of Chinese goldwork from the first part of the twentieth century were on display and they looked as vibrant as if they had just been created. They showed little signs of age apart from some minor repairs to the couching.
This lovely exhibition, with a wide variety of pieces, delighted everyone’s taste.
The 27th August, a perfect summer’s day, saw members of Threads gathering at Great Comberton to enjoy the village’s Flower Show and to run a stall selling items made by members to raise money for the group.
This was the 76th time that this annual event had taken place, with this year’s theme being “The Seaside”. The programme of events included fancy dress competitions, a novelty dog show and an egg throwing competition to name but a few. A large marquee exhibited crafts, fruit and vegetables, cookery and wines etc. entered for various classes of competition. Outside there were games for the children to play, refreshments, stalls for the purchase of home-made produce, a grand raffle, book stall etc. and, of course, our Threads’ stall.
Members had been busy both at home and during meetings producing a whole variety of items for sale, ranging from brooches to cards, toys to bags. This was a new venture for the group and those viewing the work were appreciative of the effort that had been put into making this lovely display. It was also the first time that our new banner had been displayed.
There was a lovely atmosphere with people really enjoying themselves at this village event. Thanks to all who made it possible and we hope that we will be invited back next year.
Visit to the Museum of Carpet
Tuesday 23rd August saw members of Threads visiting the Museum of Carpet in Kidderminster. Following a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £1.7 million which was given to the Carpet Museum Trust in 2008, the museum opened in 2012. It is housed in the former offices of Stour Vale Mill which was owned by Woodward, Grosvenor & Co.
An illustrated introductory talk informed the group about the growth of carpet making in the area. As early as 1700 when Kidderminster was just a small, rural market town with a population of around 3,000, there was an established cloth weaving industry with many hand looms in the houses around the town. The valley of the River Stour provided a good climate and location for the industry, and sheep grazing on the surrounding hills provided the raw material.
The ability to take on board new techniques, the building of the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal and later the railway and improved road links, led to a huge growth in carpet production. In 1851, an American, Erastus Bigelow, exhibited his power-driven carpet weaving loom at the Great Exhibition and, four years later, William Grosvenor persuaded Lord Ward to put up £20,000 to finance the first purpose-built steam powered carpet factories in the town. By 1873, there were 25 carpet and rug manufacturers in Kidderminster, supported by suppliers of shuttles, twine etc. The town was known as “The World’s Carpet Centre”.
There were periods of ups and downs and times when manufacturers had to adapt e.g. during the war years, and when fashions changed e.g. wall to wall carpets. The 1970s saw the greatest change with some companies failing. More carpets were being imported from places such as Belgium and America. Today, there are just two companies operating in Kidderminster – Adam Carpets Ltd. and Brockway Carpets Ltd. - both supplying tufted carpets.
The group was shown some Art Deco themed designs for carpets from the museum’s archive material. This collection includes work produced by many famous people such as Voysey and Lucienne Day. We saw demonstrations of hand loom weaving and spinning and were introduced to terms such as bombazine, linsey-woolsey and Kidderminster stuff. Finally, we saw a Griper-Spool Axminster power loom which could produce carpet with an unlimited number of colours.
The Museum holds an extensive collection of objects, books, photographs and design archives relating to the carpet industry. It has a programme of talks, activities, walks and special exhibitions.
As one member said, “This is a real gem”. The visit was fascinating and I am sure that members will return again to learn more.
Four members, Sara, Lorraine, Marilyn and Sarita have completed a banner for ARCOS, the Association for Rehabilitation of Communication and Oral Skills, a Malvern based charity. The banner is to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the foundation of this charity. The banner includes symbols that represent some of the ways that are used to encourage communication. Included are symbols of the five senses – hearing, sight, smell, taste and touch. Also included are symbols for digital devices e.g. tablets and technology to show the wide range of methods used at ARCOS.
The banner was handed over for display to ARCOS in January 2022.
The tradition of decorating a Christmas tree for the cathedral’s annual tree festival was once again continued by the members of THREADS.
The 2021 theme suggested by the steering group was angels. Members were given a variety of materials including a wooden bead for the angel’s head, felt for wings plus instructions as to how to make the angel. The accompanying photographs show the ingenuity and creativity of the members to interpret their ideas in a variety of ways. Hand-made lace, sequins, machine and hand embroidery techniques, plus sparkly items were all used in the decoration of the angels to make our tree sparkle!
Visitors were asked to check the cathedral website to find out more e.g. the requirement to book a timed slot (not necessary on some dates), times of opening, which entrance to use to view the exhibition.
Recently, Threads was part of the Festival of Light held in the centre of Worcester. The digital company, Illuminos, took images from many provided by the Steering Group and melded them into a digital display called “Ringing the Changes”. The theme was based on the Bellringers’ Guild from Worcester Cathedral and the many other guilds that have been part of Worcester’s history. The aim was to show the work of these guilds, both from the past and the present.
The two still images from the digital display, as supplied by Illuminos, showed butterflies from the Croome exhibition, pages from the little book that Sarita had made and an illuminated letter background being made. The large blue outline with small flowers in each corner was taken from a piece created by Gladys, a former member of Worcester Embroiderers’ Guild, in the 1950s.
And above it all, at the top of the Guild Hall, was our name !!
In February, the committee asked members if they would like to create a small piece on the theme of Spring in the form of perhaps a sketch or a sewn piece. Two suggestions for techniques were given – Liz A.’s recent talk, “Calico Gardens”, which had been followed by the production of a PDF of stitches, and a zoom workshop given by Marilyn W. which had been held on the theme of flower pounding. As usual, the results were very varied, as you can see!
In January, members were set a challenge to create a postcard sized (A6) piece, entitled “Through the Window”. It was suggested that the view could be real or perhaps one that the member would like to see through their window. Have a look at the Gallery of photographs and see the results!
The Festival, like many other events this year, has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. The opening date, originally planned for 2nd December, was delayed to 5th December due to the second national lockdown. However, the extra time at home gave our WEG members additional time to stitch the Christmas Doves, the theme chosen for 2020.
Packs containing all the materials and the instructions were given out at an open air meeting in August or were posted to those members not able to attend. The completed doves winged their way back to the Branch Secretary and a small team were able to decorate our Christmas tree.
In order to aid social distancing and other regulations, the Cathedral arranged for the trees to be displayed not only in the cloisters but also at the east end of the cathedral, and requested that those attending book a time slot by using their website. No charges were required to visit the Festival (running until 3rd January 2021) but donations were welcomed to support the work of the Cathedral.
Yet again, thanks go to the branch members for their time and effort in stitching the doves. They were varied and imaginative as you will see in the accompanying photographs.
It all began when Jacky looked at her pile of clear, plastic boxes and thought, “What can be done with these?” They were small, only 8cm x 6cm x 1cm – just right for a Lockdown Challenge for the Worcester EG members!
The idea of summarizing what Lockdown meant to members by creating stitched pieces to go either inside the box or around the outside of it, or both, was presented to the members. As usual, the creative ideas flowed!
One member wrote that she had stitched a series of images - both the negative results of Lockdown and her memories of it, together with the many positive things which had helped her get through.
The accompanying photographs show a variety of ways in which the challenge was cleverly interpreted.
Two students from Worcester Sixth Form applied for the 2020 grant. Unfortunately we were unable to go and view their work personally due to all of the Covid-19 restrictions so had to rely on their photographs and application forms. In the end we decided to split the £300 grant in half and give £150 to each student as it was too difficult to decide on a winner without examining their work closely.
Aimee has gone on to study Textiles – Arts at the University of Bournemouth.
The theme for her AS level was “Under the Sea”. She used flat felting, hand and machine embroidery, crochet and many other techniques. Her inspiration came from holidays to Devon and the various objects and creatures she found washed up on the beaches. She was further influenced by the bright colours of tropical fish and the unified movement of shoals of fish.
One of her favourite parts of working with textiles is the ability to experiment with, and manipulate, fabric, combined with 3D design. She stated that she has already developed skills in techniques that use common materials such as cotton and yarn. The support grant would enable her to broaden the range of materials available to her so that she could practise new techniques and develop both her designs and her art pieces.
Her work towards her exam piece was based on Japanese traditional dress.
Sameeah has gone on to study Fashion Design at the University of Gloucester.
The theme for her AS level was modern Pakistani designer fashion. She used techniques of beadwork and appliqué, creating pleats and darts in her dress. Her inspiration was the beauty of her culture which encouraged her creativity in the design of her dress; intricate bead work and ethnic prints are the main selling points for Pakistani fashion.
The support grant would enable her to show her full potential and creativity so that everyone would know what she was capable of achieving.
What unprecedented times these are due to the current worldwide Coronavirus pandemic. In particular, the need for additional Personal Protection Equipment for our NHS and care staff has led to a call for action. Many of our WEG members have responded, using their stitching skills to create scrubs (clothes worn under protective equipment), scrub caps, headbands and mask extenders. In addition, scrub bags have been made so that workers can safely carry their uniforms home to wash.
A new, dedicated website, www.worcestershirefortheloveofscrubs.co.uk is proving to be an invaluable reference source for our WEG members to turn to. It includes information on choice of fabric, patterns, tips on how items should be made, labelling etc. as well as advising details of who to contact within our county. It has been created as a regional offshoot of the national “For the Love of Scrubs” by the group’s central team, Katie P., Sian W. and Sue H. and we, at Worcester Embroiderers’ Guild, are most grateful to them for the support they are giving in leading the hundreds of volunteers across our region.
A separate initiative, also detailed on their website, shows how crocheted hearts are being made to be distributed to those who have lost family members or friends to the virus. It is understood that these can also be stitched in fabric and perhaps embroidered.
Perhaps you might like to get involved!
In February 2017, the Worcester Embroiderers’ Guild was approached by Kerry W., a member of staff at the Commandery, to see if anyone in our branch would help to reproduce two standards from the opposing sides in the Civil War, as exhibits for the museum.
The original cavalry standards are housed in St. Mary’s Church, Bromsberrow, in the Mortuary Chapel. They are in a fragile state and have had some conservation work carried out on them by the Royal School of Needlework. The Royalist standard is of white silk and bears the words “Religio Protestantium, Leges Angliae, Libertates Parliamentorum”. The Parliament standard is of red flowered silk, with a painting showing an arm in armour, thrust from a cloud and a hand holding a sword. On the flag are the words “Ora et Pugna” and “Juvit et Juvabit Jehovah”.
Following a visit to St. Mary’s, a small number of members agreed to take part in the project. However, it was realised that the work would not really involve embroidery as such, but other skills such as dyeing and stencilling. Experimentation to ensure that the new flags were as close to the originals as possible meant that the project took much longer than anticipated; it was finally completed in August 2018.
An article was written about the processes that were involved in the creation of the flags. Click here if you would like to read this.
The flags can be viewed in their final position at the Commandery Museum from November 2018.