Some historic embroidered pieces to marvel at

Something a little different today.

Back in the half term break in October, my husband and I spent the week around the house, and visiting various museums in London. Two of those places were The Victoria and Albert Museum and The Wallace Collection. The V&A is quite a widely known museum,the Wallace Collection less so, but to an extent, from a museum visit perspective I think it was more enjoyable! Both are free to enter, which is always a bonus, and one of the great things about a lot of museums and galleries in London.

Whilst the Wallace Collection has an extensive, and varied display of lots of different types of pieces – from stunning porcelain, furniture, a fantastic display of armour (even for someone not in the least bit interested in it), paintings spanning centuries, clocks, and the list goes on. In the ‘green room’, we spotted a pair of beautiful needlepoint chairs. The beautiful muted pastel colours, which were presumably much brighter in their day, showing a gorgeous little squirrel on one, and a rabbit on the other. Very cute I thought! No way I would be sitting on them, imagine the time spent making them! Times certainly have changed. (Sorry, I’ve only got the squirrel in the photos!)

2015 Oct Wallace collection Tapestry chair squirrel 2
2015 Oct Wallace Collection tapestry chair squirrel

Anyone who has been to the V&A will be able to tell you that the vastness of their collection is beyond all comprehension, and is not something that my husband and I can view and comprehend in one day!

Our initial stop was the medieval section (it was closest to the cloak room!), and here we were able to see some incredible examples of medieval tapestries and embroidered religious clothing. The bright colours that we can still see today give an indication of the amazing colour these embroiderers worked with.

2015 Oct V&A Medieval embroidered garment

After a coffee break in the beautiful cafe, we headed to what we had originally intended to visit this time round – the William Morris display and the textile display.

We meandered our way through the various displays, I was in awe of the beautiful embroidered pieces scattered throughout.

2015 Oct V&A Crewel work wall hanging
2015 Oct V&A Embroidered gown
2015 Oct V&A Embroidered gown detail

And then we came to what was the highlight of my day – a stunning stump work casket, mirror frame and other pieces embroidered by Martha Edlin. Some of the pieces were embroidered when she was only 12 or thirteen, the casket when she was just eleven! It dates back to 1671, so us as the general public can’t get too close, and the lighting is very dim as one would expect, however it is an incredible sight to see. I don’t think I will ever be able to achieve these heights, even if I live to be 111! If you are interested in the history, and some close up photographs of individual motifs, you can view this video.

2015 Oct V&A beadwork mirror
2015 Oct V&A Stumpwork box

Have you seen any beautiful pieces of embroidery in your travels? I’d love to hear about them!

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