Fascinating stitchery: 1932

Good Needlework TheBigForest1In rural charity shops in England there is almost always a snowy pile of vintage linens. For £1 or sometimes £2 you can snap up these pieces of beautiful workmanship. Deeply out of fashion the table cloths, dressing table sets, handkerchief cases and sideboard runners lay unloved and difficult to repurpose for modern life.

The Victorian linens are often fragile and holed; the stitches keep the fabric together. The 1930’s items are made of coarser pastel linen and the 1950’s needlewoman’s work is coloured with thicker threads and sometimes more abstract designs.

A Christmas stocking filler was the Good Needlework Gift Book from the early 1930’s. As it says on the cover ‘fascinating stitchery described in detail’. It was bought for us because of our interest in craft, design and 20th Century social history and it pushes all our creative buttons. Sadly, although our skills with a needle and thread are used in our work from TheBigForest, we are not going to embrace needlework.Good Needlework TheBigForest5

We have a small collection of ‘linens’ – rescued from the charity shop display when the craftsmanship was so wonderful that to leave the item behind with its pocket-money price tag was too painful. The tablecloths with their embroidery cottages and hollyhock, the tatted edged huckaback guest towels and tray cloths hardly fit with our mid-century home but they still give great pleasure, the needlewoman’s skill appreciated and then tucked back in a drawer.Good Needlework TheBigForest7Good Needlework TheBigForest2Good Needlework TheBigForest6Good Needlework TheBigForest4Good Needlework TheBigForest3

One day, maybe soon, we will metamorphose in to Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple and have tea and cake sitting before the fire with an embroidered linen serviette, pot of hyacinths tea cosy and cut work tablecloth all starched and proper.

Ps: We have been unbelievably busy making and writing – which is why there have been no blog posts. As they said, we understand, in the early days of television when there was a technical glitch, ‘Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible’.

About TheBigForest

TheBigForest. A silly artist maker creating in felt and paper construction. Like us on Facebook: TheBigForest. Find us at Twitter : twitter/TheBigForestuk


  1. lundygirl

    When we moved we found an embroidered table cloth that had fallen down the back of the fridge. I don’t have a forwarding address. Makes me a bit sad – so much work went in to making it.
    be careful about becoming Miss Marple – murder will follow you!

    • I once found a saucepan lid – expensive le creuset – at the back of a cupboard after I had moved and always felt bad about the folks unpacking and find out their loss! Like you I had no forwarding address. I will certainly heed your Miss Marple warning!!

  2. Ah, yes, now you’re singing my song! Your little book looks fascinating–a real homage to a different time and sensibility. You know how I love the old linens and, I’m glad to report, that I’m not alone in this. I wish I could come to rural England right now and scoop all the snowy piles you describe!

    • I thought of you when I wrote the lines about rural English charity shops and old linens. It doesnt seem to work in urban ones however, clearly there are folks who know both the value and enjoy the craftsmanship in big cities.

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