Books: The Next Best Thing Final

When it comes to discussing the history of English Embroidery during the 19th and 20th century, there are many notable books to review.   In thinking about the Giants of the Gothic Revival Watts and Co from Pugin to Comper  and reviewing the previous articles from this week:

Books: The Next Best Thing Part III

Books: The next Best Thing Part II

Books: The Next Best Thing

there is at least one additional book from my collection which should be included. It was stumbled upon quite by accident while on the Watts and Company (History) website looking at their selection of Ecclesiastical Fabrics.  Not being available order the book  in the US,  it had to wait and wait and wait. It has taken about two years before the book was finally available to be ordered.  If I had known more about the content, then it would have been acquired much sooner directly from Watts and Company.

English Church Needlework Watts Book of Embroidery
English Church Needlework Watts Book of Embroidery

The book, while not readily available in the US, contains information for anyone interested in the names, dates, time periods, authors, manufacturers, convents, or anyone else connected with the design and production of English Ecclesiastical Embroidery in the 19th and 20th Century. The original intent at the time of writing the book was to produce a series of books on the topic of Victorian and Edwardian Church Embroidery. I hope they continue and finish the project!

Colorful Photographs
Colorful Photographs

The Designers

Filled with colorful photographs, the book is divided into several sections, the first of which discusses the history of designers such as Augustus Pugin, Ninian Comper, Sir Walter Tapper, G.E. Street, and many others.

Emphasis and Discussions of Design
Emphasis and Discussions of Design

Design is a topic brought up continually in the book, discussing how, during the early Victorian years, church embroidery was influenced by medieval works. However, that slowly changed. Authors writing on the subject began to emphasis design  principles. Hinda Hands, for example had chapters on Beauty, Fitness, and Practibability as part of her introduction to design principles in her book Church Needlework written in 1909.

Watts and Company Ecclesiastical Embroidery Church Nedlework
English Church Embroidery Altar Frontal and Cope

The Firms

This section in the book contains detailed information on the  complex and complicated topic of Firms because the designs were often purchased from one firm for another. There was an interdependence among everyone connected with Ecclesiastical Embroidery from the architects, to the manufacturers, to the convents, the amateur embroiders, and the client. Notable firms included Hardman & Co., Jones and Willis, Cox and Sons, Kempe Studios, and Watts & Co., to name a few.

The Convents

The history of Convents during the later half of the 19th century played an important role in social as well as aesthetic developments during this time period. There were a great number of both Anglican and Roman Catholic women’s communities, the likes of which have never existed prior to this time. The convent workrooms served several purposes, including generating income for their community to support other works, training in sewing for “rescue or rehabilitation work,” and they were instrumental in the increase of beautiful vestments during the 1860’s to 1870’s.The book goes on to tell of other areas of influence convents had upon their communities.

Watts Book of Embroidery Stole and Embroidery Designs
Watts Book of Embroidery Stole and Embroidery Designs

Guilds and Secular Schools

Playing another important role in English Church Embroidery is the Guilds and Secular Schools. This notable group includes the Leek Embroidery Society, The Ladies’ Ecclesiastical Embroidery Society, the Liverpool Cathedral Embroidery Association, as well as the Royal School of Needlework to name a few.

Liverpool Cathedral Embroidery Museum

Opened in 1992, the book states the Liverpool Museum  is the only museum dedicated exclusively  to the care and display of Ecclesiastical Embroidery from the Victorian and Edwardian Era. Works from major designers as well as pieces from convents and commercial firms make up the collection.

The three elements considered important in the arrangement of church embroideries on display at the museum are : how the item was made, the colors selected, and the variety and meaning of any symbols.

Having only received the book last week, the surface has barely been scratched. Although small in size, the content is rich; brimming with vivid history of what must have been an exciting and enthusiastic period for beautiful church needlework.

For anyone fortunate enough to attend the lecture, please be sure to leave a comment sharing highlights of the day.

Solo Dei Gloria

Be sure to visit our online store front Ecclesiastical Sewing where you may shop for Liturgical Fabrics, altar linen fabrics, church vestment making patterns, liturgical machine embroidery designschurch vestment trims and notions and so much more. You may also find us on  Ecclesiastical Sewing  on Facebook , Twitter, and Pinterest. Sing up for our mailing list  at the bottom of the page on our online store front and receive a free copy of our Small Linens Booklet as our way of saying thank you for following along.




Filed under: Ecclesiastical Sewing Tagged: Augustus Pugin, church embroidery, church needlework, Ecclesiastical Sewing, Ecclsiastical Fabrics, English Church Needlework, English Embroidery, G.E. Street, Leek Embroidery Society, Liverpool Cathedral Embroidery Association, Sir Ninian Comper, The Watts Book of Embroidery, vestments, Victoria and Albert, Victorian and Edwardian Church Embroidery, Walter Tapper, Watts and Company


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