Friday, July 31, 2009

Louisa Frances Pesel 1899

Louisa Frances Pesel was an embroidery designer in her own right who studied under Lewis F Day, however she was better known during her lifetime as a writer, historian and producer of numerous books on the history of embroidery, she was also a great disseminator of embroidery patterns that she collected in her books, from all corners of the world.

She published hundreds of embroidery patterns, many having languished in obscurity at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Her books proved to be an invaluable source for both amateur and professional designer and maker. Titles that she published over the decades included: English Embroidery, Historical Designer for Embroidery & Linen Cross Stitch, Stitches from Old English Embroideries, Stitches from Eastern Embroideries, Stitches from Western Embroideries.

She was particularly keen on promulgating English embroidery, emphasising patterns and motifs produced in the seventeenth century. However, she was also aware that embroidery should have a contemporary perspective and produced a number of modern designs herself which were also available to the general public through her publications.

Embroidery had taken its time to be recognised as an original craft subject as opposed to a filler for the spare time of amateur women. It took great strides during the Arts & Crafts period and was challenged and supported by colleges and art schools across Britain. The Glasgow School of Art under Francis Newbery was particularly well known for its embroidery and applique work. Glasgow in fact made sure that embroidery even merited its own department.

However, without the scholastic discipline of designers and writers like Pesel, who over the decades were able to amass much of the amateur and unknown design work from centuries of European and cultures further afield, the discipline would have been much poorer and would lack the historical dimension that people like Pesel found so important as a support and reference for the contemporary world of both amateur and professional embroidery.

These books, most now no longer in print, should be valued for the energy and research capabilities of women like Pesel, who spent decades amassing often obscure design work. They should be considered a valuable reference source for anyone interested in the history of embroidery.

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