This year, the Queen’s House will join forces with the Blackheath Embroiderers Guild on Saturday 5 August for the National Celebration of Stitch.
The National Celebration of Stitch is an annual event which encourages members of the public from all ages, to try their hand at stitching. The Blackheath Embroiderers will be taking up residence in the Queen’s House, taking inspiration from the wonderful Tudor and Stuart portraits on display in the Queen’s Presence Chamber and elsewhere.
During the medieval period, fine needlework in Europe was primarily associated with the Church, for example in religious clothing worn by bishops, church hangings and other textiles. These objects often used gold or silver threads on a velvet or linen ground. The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries saw a flowering of the art of embroidery in wider society, particularly in England. Towards the end of Elizabeth I’s reign (1558-1603), the taste for rich clothing and domestic decorations, such as bed covers and hangings, became popular and more people could afford to buy or make luxury items during these relatively peaceful and prosperous years.
Embroidery is often thought of as a female pastime, but during this period it was produced by both men and women, children and adults, paid professionals and talented amateurs. Some of the most popular designs were plants, animals and birds. Portraits of royal and other wealthy people show entire garments covered in decorative stitching. These could be extremely luxurious, with the stitches using gold thread, pearls, and precious stones that created scrolling or geometric patterns, sometimes including flowers, fruits and other motifs that might have personal symbolic meanings.