By Jan Messent
Review by Dee Westwood
On first sight this beautifully presented book is immediately compelling, as I began reading, and admiring the wonderfully composed photographic evidence and craftsmanship which is literally poured across the pages. At once Messent entices you into her world, enraptures and captures you in her recollection of Wartime Britain & her early life, where she describes herself as a small child gazing in wonderment at the array of brightly coloured threads, buttons & ribbons in a local haberdashery store.
Having scant knowledge of embroidery and all it’s intricacies I became fascinated by the insightful way Messent, using her sample books (to create textural examples), her historical research (which painted a vivid picture in my mind), and also the inclusion of various written references taken from the wills and records that survive, brought to life the people of early Britain and in particular the women who would have produced such exquisite and skilled work and the value that was placed upon those with such knowledge.
Messent makes no apologies for the inclusion of her own ideas of various small articles such women may have made or used in their daily lives. Indeed the very purpose of this book is to celebrate these ideas and it certainly succeeds in holding one’s attention, allowing the reader an understanding, and the freedom to explore what might have been, based on sound historical fact and Messent’s vast experience, which lend these very articles the possibility of authenticity.
There are examples of designs taken from surviving drawings and paintings which often reveal the methods used to create various garments and accessories which would have been much venerated and admired works, but which sadly rarely survive the ravages of time, particularly in England’s climate.
I am left truly mesmerized by the huge scope of possibility embroidery opens up for today’s needlewomen and crafters, whilst always drawing on our rich heritage and the ancient skills formed within our past.
A delightful, informative book which encourages exploration and experimentation together with a depth of appreciation of our history in textiles and the people of ancient Britain.
Have you also read the book and do you agree with Dee? Or do you know Messent's work? Comment and share your thoughts!