I am the curatorial assistant for NMAS costume & textiles and have been working with the collection for the past 5 years. I’m very excited to be working on an up and coming exhibition at the Time & Tide museum which includes some of these wonderful pieces. Alongside the displays I will be running some of the drop in events on site, one of which is the Lorina Bulwer stitching day.
This idea began as a question that I was often asked by visitors viewing the Lorina Bulwer stitched letter; namely how fast could Lorina sew her words? I decided that I needed to know the answer as well.
So I began an experiment to see how many words I could embroider in an hour. I found that I sewed in a very relaxed way, probably slower than Lorina (admittedly it was whilst watching tv!) In contrast, I think that a sense of urgency comes through in Lorina’s work showing her train of thoughts written with speed and efficiency. I also think that the disjointed nature of her rhetoric was in response to the stop/start nature of her thoughts as well as her stitching being interrupted.
I can write 20 upper case words on average per hour, upper case is much faster to sew than lower case with straight stitches. Lorina’s needle passes through all of the layers of fabric and she often changes colour depending on the background fabric she is using. I chose also to pass my needle through the layers but left the background fabric uniform and I chose a limited palette using Lorina Bulwer’s letter as my colour reference.
Due to the death of my Father I hadn’t produced any work recently; somehow I had lost myself and my momentum. This exhibition was the catalyst for me to pick up my needle and begin again, but what words to choose? I decided to use one of my favourite recipes to help me with my experiment. The words look almost like a list, I underlined some words, but not nearly as many as Lorina. I found that the more I stitched the easier the shapes formed, letters which curved were trickiest, but even the serpentine S is made angular when using the minimum number of stitches and can be made quickly. Lorina worked out the most efficient method of stitching; I couldn’t find any way to improve her technique.