Stitching through Time Part I: Embroidering a Lady’s Magazine Pattern

The patterns in the Lady’s Magazine have been a subject of ongoing interest to those of us who work on the periodical. Often missing and eluding our searches they are one of the non-textual aspects of the magazine (such as the song sheets and engravings) that can bring to life the way the magazine was read and used by its eighteenth-century readership. When missing, the patterns point to their own popularity – cut out and removed for use, we can only guess at their content by their inclusion on the monthly title page. 

My own copy of the Lady’s Magazine included an engraving of three different patterns for watch cases not present in the online edition.

It had been quite a while since I had embroidered anything, but I still had all the supplies (embroidery hoop, fabric, needles, thread)

In fact, once I got into the swing of stitching, I found the project absorbing. Having changed my mind about the black running stitch border, I pulled out that first attempt in favor of a white chain stitch.

The end result, which is my first attempt at embroidering in years, is far from as polished or precise as I would like. But it gives a sense of the material culture that was so much a part of the magazine for its eighteenth-century readers. This physical, material object, created from a pattern printed in 1775, helps me to see and feel the non-textual afterlife of the magazine in a tangible way. This kind of experience — stitching the patterns of the past — brings history into the present in a way that I find extremely exciting.

Jenny DiPlacidi

University of Kent

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