Due to the popularity of the “Stitch like Lorina” workshops during the Frayed exhibition at Time and Tide, Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse are pleased to announce that Lisa Little, Curatorial Assistant, Costume and Textiles, will be running the workshop at the museum on Friday 28th March to coincide with Letters from the Workhouse exhibition that opens on the 9th March. Bring along a quote or use your own words to hand stitch your own Lorina Bulwer inspired sampler.
At the beginning of November I held my first stitch workshop in the salt store at Time & Tide in response to the objects displayed in the Frayed exhibition. There were 16 busy stitchers from Cromer, Great Yarmouth and Norwich Castle Study Centre’s Costume & Textile department who came together to sew. All attempting either their own prepared text or beginning with the alphabet in the style of Lorina Bulwer and to enjoy looking at the exhibition. Some stitched song lyrics, others used proverbs or sayings but all developed their own style.
The public workshop last week saw a diverse assortment of text being used too, such as poems, personal memoirs and letters and quotes from some of the contemporary artists books whose work is in Frayed were also used. One participant experimented with automatic writing based upon the theme of friendship and stitched the largest quantity of words of anyone during the session!
We also had words stitched in rainbow colours, and text not only going horizontally but vertically too in an acrostic style.
My humble attempt during the session translated into random jumbles of letters of the alphabet and at the opposite end of the fabric the beginnings of a recipe for chocolate cake. I thought I would stitch another recipe as a Frayed Facebook follower messaged me and told me they had printed out the apple cake stitched recipe I had stitched earlier and hung it on her refrigerator and she had made the cake from it- and very tasty it was too, but she wasn’t able to share a picture of it as it was all eaten!
Volunteers from Cromer, Norwich and Great Yarmouth Museums’ stitching groups met at Time and Tide for an exclusive Frayed workshop where they learnt how to Stitch like Lorina.
After tea, coffee (and lots of chatter) the Stitchers were given a guided tour around the exhibition led by Ruth Battersby Tooke, who revealed the sad and inspiring stories behind many of the exhibits. The museum Stitchers were very impressed with the detail and intricacy of the designs and were intrigued by the messages in the Bulwer tapestry.
Lisa Little then invited the volunteers to ‘Stitch Like Lorina’ and delivered an excellent workshop where the Stitchers turned their own phrase or quote into a Bulwer-style tapestry.
Fortunately, for those involved, the messages sewn by the Stitchers were more coherent and less angry, although the passing of time, frustrations of life and men in general featured in several of their samplers!
If you’d like to try stitching in the style of Lorina Bulwer, you can download Lisa’s guide to forming the letters here: Stitch like Lorina
Still thinking about Lorina Bulwer and her embroidered letter… after making the first piece of work, the recipe experiment, I stitched a quote used daily by my late grandmother. I gave this to my sister for her birthday.
It says;’ I went up the street and didn’t see anyone I knew’.
I have sketched several other works based on text, which I aim to complete before Frayed opens in October. I have also been toying with the idea of juxtaposing the linen/cotton light fabric background of my grandmother’s quotes with extracts from my father’s diaries. After clearing out his home I discovered, as well as diaries and notebooks, piles of scraps of cardboard packaging that my father had written on. These were lists of calculations, rough drafts of wills and angry thoughts but mostly they were lists what money he owned and what he had given to people, repeated over and over. I do not think of my father in affectionate way I think of my grandmother, who brought my older sibling up and myself after our mother passed away. She was and will always be the matriarch. Scared of my father – I think there is a pairing of works here waiting to be made. I will keep you posted!
Still working with text and embroidery and thinking about Lorina, this experiment became almost a therapy for me, the only obvious difference is that my words would not be angry or disjointed as Lorina’s stream of conscience had been. I have embroidered my grandmothers and my children’s words and sayings onto wound balls.
For example ‘stop winding me’ was an instruction my son used to give when being teased or wound up.
Thinking about text has also led me to think about samplers more generally. Not only the traditional school type, but the earlier long thin sampler which would have been rolled up and kept as your ’embroidered notebook’ in your workbox, to be referred to when needed. Map samplers also fascinate me and the more elusive American Quaker globe samplers, both these teach geography as well as sewing. How practical is that?
I have made such globe sampler based on an old map with country names which are no longer in use.
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.