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Kendal embroidery expert keeping alive the ancient art of Crewel work

Quaker Tapestry Museum manager Bridget Guest’s new embroidery demonstrates the different crewel work stitches.
Quaker Tapestry Museum manager Bridget Guest’s new embroidery demonstrates the different crewel work stitches.

[A] LOCAL embroidery expert is taking to the road once more on a mission to promote a one thousand year old tapestry technique and its modern equivalent which is housed in a Kendal museum.

The ancient art of Crewel work, embroidering a surface using woollen thread – of which the Bayeux Tapestry is the oldest surviving example – was also used to create 77 modern embroideries that make up the Quaker Tapestry.

The work of 4,000 men, women and children from around the world, a selection of panels travels to different parts of the country each year inspiring others to learn the stitches and techniques and even to make their own tapestries.

For each roadshow Quaker Tapestry Museum manager Bridget Guest designs a new embroidery to demonstrate the different crewel work stitches.

As Bridget puts the finishing touches to her 20th design, for a trip to Newcastle next month (Sat 7 to Sat 21 May), she explained how the demonstrations keep the craft and museum going.

Quaker Tapestry
Quaker Tapestry

She said: “I get some great feedback which helps me to understand what people like about crewel work and how to improve my skills as a teacher of it. Naturally we talk about this amazing international community project and the stories behind the stitches. But, I also get to hear about visitors’ own embroidery projects which is very encouraging for the future of the craft.

“Once the demonstration embroidery is finished I produce a guide to accompany it and one of our volunteers makes it up into a kit which we sell in the shop. The completed designs, including my latest for a roadshow to Ireland last year, then become an image for other shop products. These provide a vital income stream which helps to keep the charity afloat.”

Bridget’s passion for embroidery means she also runs workshops for all abilities – including half-day taster courses and one and two-day workshops for beginners and improvers – and she provides one-to-one sessions for those who would like help with designing their own embroidery.

As Bridget explained: “Thankfully, the needle arts are experiencing a revival, and many people are learning the skill for a first time or returning to it. Crewel work has been with us for a thousand years, rising and falling in popularity over the centuries, and hopefully it will be here for a thousand more. Given the interest in demonstrations, kits, guides and workshops it’s currently back in vogue which is good news. I am just delighted to be able to share my love of this form of embroidery and to enthuse others to try it or update their skills.”

2016 Quaker Tapestry Roadshows are taking place at: The Lit & Phil, Newcastle (7 to 21 May) and Chelmsford Cathedral, Essex (20 August to 3 September)

For details please visit quaker-tapestry.co.uk

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