The Cottage Orné Quilt

The Cottage Orné Quilt
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Saturday, 4 June 2011

"The Country Wife" - Stumpwork Panel c. 1951

Years ago, when I first became interested in embroidery, I saw a picture of this collage and was very taken with it.  I haven't actually seen it in real life yet, but it is now in the National Needlework Archive at Greenham Park, near Newbury in Berkshire (see link below) and I have put it on my list of places to visit.

It was made for the Festival of Britain in 1951 and designed by Constance Howard and worked by her students at Goldsmiths College.  Some members of the W.I made the more specialised pieces such as the gloves, the basket of knitting and the hobby horse etc.

The commission was intended to portray the activities of the W.I. and it certainly does that.  It also captures the feeling and the fashion of the time when everyone dressed up to go to meetings!  I don't belong to the W.I. but I know it's a force for good with the same high ideals and aims, however, I should imagine its members dress quite differently now?

The panel measures 4.5 x 5 meters and is embroidered in high relief on a flat felt background with padded figures being 5/8 life size. In the centre are the W.I. activities such as baking, embroidery, weaving, basketry, dressmaking and flower arranging, surrounded by others which include hymn singing, gardening and fruit picking set in a small town with outlying farms as a background.  

I wonder if Constance Howard was inspired by those 17th century stumpwork panels and embroidered caskets? The ones that usually depict characters from a bible story at the centre with other scenes and characters around it, all set in a stylised landscape?  Same formula and both raised work?

This wonderful piece of work is undergoing restoration at the moment -

so check first before you pay it a visit!


Robin said...

What a delightful piece. I had no idea things like this existed. It would be great to go see it in person but alas, a trip across the ocean is not in my near future. Thanks for sharing.

Karmen said...

Seeing the piece lying on the table with workers 'round gives great perspective of its size. Lovely for you to clue us in!

Radka said...

Wow, thank you for sharing :)

Vivienne at Vivebooks said...

How do you keep coming up with such interesting topics Mary? Wonderful. Am posting a link to my FAcebook page.

Susan Briscoe said...

It was displayed in the Studio at Denman College until a couple of years ago and I taught several courses right next to it before it was removed for restoration - which it needed badly. It has quite a presence in real life, partly due to the size!

The difference in crafts persued c 1950s and now is an interesting point - things like glove making don't figure much in the WI's programme today.

Will be good to see it once it is restored.