Great Lady's Magazine Stitch-off!

There was an interesting message on Twitter the other day, with details of a fascinating challenge! Kent University English Department are studying the Lady's Magazine, which was published from 1770-1818. It was the first regular journal for women. Details of the project can be found here: http://www.kent.ac.uk/english/ladys-magazine/about/index.html

Dr Jennie Batchelor, the project leader, has published a series of patterns taken from copies of the Magazine from 1796: these patterns are rare, because they were usually pulled out of the Magazine to be used by its readers. She has challenged readers of her blog, especially stitchers, to try these patterns out: The Great Lady's Magazine Stitch-Off! You can find the patterns on their website: http://www.kent.ac.uk/english/ladys-magazine/patterns/index.html. It sounds really fun!

I'm planning on using one of the patterns for a piece I need to make for the Captain Cook Memorial Museum next year. Sophie Forgan is planning an exhibition about Sailors Wives and Sweethearts for their special Exhibition next year, and she wants to set up a case representing Elizabeth Cook. This will include a replica costume from 1770s, the replica Map Sampler I have been working on, and a piece of embroidery partially done in a frame. That's the plan, anyway!

I have been playing with my ideas for the Lady's Magazine pattern I want to use for the exhibition piece. I need something colourful to fit a floor frame, for the exhibition case, so I have decided to make a short-length apron, about 36" wide by about 24" long, of silk. I'm still thinking about the fabric: depends what I have in stock that might work. Most likely at the moment is cream satin, with coloured silk embroidery!

I've been looking at the "Winter Shawl" pattern from the Magazine, as that one seems suitable to convert for a larger piece. I wanted a border design rather than the sprigs of the "Gown or Apron" design.

My initial thought looking at the pattern is how carelessly it is drawn! The leaves are not evenly angled or sized, and the sprays of flowers are different each time, except the two at the corner. And the scalloped edge is just hand-drawn without any attempt to make them even or straight. If an embroiderer worked directly from this pattern it would be obvious (to an expert at least) that it was "amateur" (or domestic, if you prefer) work.

Looking at the pattern as it stands, I doubt if it was drawn up by a professional Pattern Drawer. If it was, then it has been badly engraved, and if I was the Pattern Drawer, I'd be fuming! I've tidied the pattern up a bit to get something that won't look too carelessly done, for the exhibition piece. Now I need to think about colours, pattern layout for the border of the apron, and how to mark the pattern on the fabric. In the 1770s the pattern would probably have been marked out in ink, with a pen or brush. I need to try out my Rotring marking pen on the different fabrics, and see if the ink is fast or not!

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