This past week, embroidery hit the main stream media, once again, big time.
Finally after weeks of reading poignant accounts about vanished airplanes, capsized ferries, and tragic strife two stories brought balm to the soul, at least from my perspective, which looks at life through the eye of the needle.
|Broderie Anglaise smock -19th century from Wikipedia|
Many papers across the world splashed photos of a lovely broderie anglaise garment on their front pages. Of course it made news because it was worn by the Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, the real object of the story. Still it is was a stunning piece that could have stood on its own in embroidery magazine, like the Australia’s Inspirations, which is known for its fabulous handwork projects.
Designed by Australians Nicky and Simone Zimmermann, the dress showed off embroidery techniques to a tee. The intricate patterned panels of white work were even held together with neat trestle stitch at the hems and seems. That was very clever! Where did the fabric come from? Only the designers know, but it was not run of the mill, that’s for sure. It looked hand stitched. But it probably wasn’t as the dress is available – or was available –from the Zimmermann collection.
The second eyelet dress Catherine chose for her trip Down Under was less intricate. She wore it when she took George to the Sydney Zoo. To me the material looked machine made, and why not. It was again broderie anglaise fabric stitched in pale yellow. Pretty fabric, pretty design and practical too; it stood up to a baby’s drool in a pinch.
Catherine is turning out to be quite a patron of the stitching arts. Remember her wedding dress embellished with handmade lace by the Royal School of Needlework? How refreshing that this trend-setting, down-to-earth young woman shows taste that is a blend of traditional and modern, and so politically/culturally savvy. Wittingly or not, the future queen is making “pretty embroidery” cool, classy and comme il faut! Hooray!
This brings me to second instance this week that big-name media wrote about embroidery. The National Geographic’s April issue carries a piece on embroidered headdresses of Brittany.
And while Breton embroidery is, of course, about a quintessentially French style of white work, in some forms is strikingly similar to broderie anglaise. (I don’t want to start an international incident here, but note the French terminology to describe the English embroidery.) The photos made by Charles Fréger show off the embroidery and the headdresses beautifully. Have a look.
The photos aside, the best part of the article comes in its summary paragraph. Writer Amanda Fiegl, categorizes the young French women who stitch and wear their traditional costumes at festivals like this:
A (Breton) woman is frank and unafraid..She doesn't let anyone walk over her. Like her headdress, she is a tower of strength.
With women like Catherine of Cambridge and the young women in Brittany as advocates, embroidery clearly is making a new statement. What strides feminism has made. Finally, pretty does not equal weak. Now that’s progress.