We are excited that our first Selvedge social of 2020 is fast approaching. On Wednesday 26th February at the Artworkers’ Guild in London, Tracy Chevalier, Nicola Beauman and Clare Hunter will join us for an evening of Text and Textiles. Each author will talk about the ways that textiles have inspired their writing. All have explored how textiles are interwoven into women’s lives; no one more so than Tracy, whose latest novel, A Single Thread, includes characters who create the embroidered cushions and kneelers for Winchester Cathedral. Polly Leonard, Selvedge’s founder, recently spoke to Tracy about the descriptions of making in this novel.
Without revealing too much of the plot, the main character, Violet Speedwell, moves to Winchester and joins a volunteer group of broderers, the embroiderers of Winchester Catherdral’s kneelers. During her research, Tracy learned canvas embroidery in order to be able to write accurately about the pleasure of this practice. Tracy told me that she likes embroidery because she is allowed to be average at it; unlike writing and speaking, there is no pressure to be a master, she can enjoy being amateur.
The real-life founder of the Winchester Cathedral Broderers, Louisa Pesel, features as a character in the novel; archival material about Louisa and the group were the inspiration for much of A Single Thread. Louisa was an exceptional person: an embroiderer, educator and textile collector; in fact, items from her collection will soon be on show at Unbound: Visionary Women Collecting Textiles in London.
Some of Tracy’s research on Louisa Pesel is available on her website, including this extract: “she was born in Bradford in 1870 and early on took up embroidery – not only doing it but becoming an expert in its history, styles and techniques. She worked on the Victoria and Albert Museum collection of embroidery, wrote books and articles, and unusually for a woman at that time, worked abroad, teaching embroidery to Greek school girls… Back in the UK, she taught traumatised World War I soldiers to sew, reasoning that making beautiful things was therapeutic.”
Visit Text & Textiles to buy your ticket and join us in February to hear more.