Craft snippets: Embroidery with Marie Meyer

Sally reports back from the last Craft Snippets event at Upper Riccarton Library. The next event on Wednesday 28 July will feature Sarah Reimer – Designer / Photography/ Maker.

It was lovely to see so many of you brave the cold and wet weather to come out and listen to Embroiderer Marie Meyer. And what a treat it was to hear her talk about her embroidery.

Regional Embroiderers' Guilds

Marie is the current President of the Canterbury Embroiderers’ Guild and told us all about the Guild and what a great group it is. Anyone is welcome to join and/or just pop along to have a look before joining. Marie felt there is a certain mythology about the Guild - you don’t have to be the perfect stitcher to go along. You only need to be interested in hand stitching. The Guild have rooms in Shirley, at 11 Amos Place, off Marshlands Road near The Palms. They have six groups meeting each week.

Over May, Marie had counted up 32 different opportunities for people to do something with the Guild. For example one event is high tea on a Saturday called ‘Memory Day'. Marie said don’t worry if you don’t know much about embroidery, and would like to learn, if you come along you will be surrounded by helpful people. Marie really encouraged us to pop along.

Marie talked about work done by Guilds all over New Zealand for, ‘New Zealand: a History of Stitch’, a project commissioned by The Tapestry Trust of New Zealand. About 100 tapestry panels will be created depicting the history of Aotearoa New Zealand. Marie brought along the nearly finished panel being worked on by the Canterbury Embroiderers’ Guild. For their one, between 25-30 people have been working on it over three years. It is stitched in wool on a quilting frame.

The Otago Guild were inspired by two works to create their tapestry – “Scottish Diaspora Tapestry” and “The Great Tapestry of Scotland”.

The Marlborough Embroiderers' Guild have spent three years working on their heritage panels that commemorate Captain Cook's visit to the Sounds in 1770, and are currently on display at the Marlborough Museum in Blenheim. The panels include pictures and notations from the diaries of Joseph Banks. Do check out the Museum’s facebook page for more information and some photos of the work.

Eventually the 100 panels will go to Dunedin to Toitu: Otago Settlers Museum, where you, your children and your grandchildren will be able to enjoy them for years to come.

Edinburgh: Replicating the embroideries of Mary, Queen of Scots

Marie has Scottish heritage and has a son who lives in Edinburgh. In 2015 Marie went to live in Edinburgh for six months. Marie’s idea was to spend the time ‘being a Granny, doing Pilates, going to the library and stitching'. On one such trip to the library she spotted a sign advertising a Heritage Stitching Group. Another reason to love libraries. Marie started going twice a week to the group and has made some wonderful friends from it. 

The group were working on replicating The Marian Hangings, embroideries designed and stitched by Marie Stuart, Mary Queen of Scots between 1569 and 1584 while she was imprisoned by her cousin, Elizabeth I. The original Hanging, is 3 metres x 3 metres, using silk threads with cross stitch on linen and hangs in Oxburgh Hall, in Norfolk. There are no patterns so to replicate the work each part was photographed and the photograph blown up to A3 size to see the tiny stitches. Though as we could see from the paper copy Marie passed around, it was still not easy to see the tiny stitches, and sometimes stitches were missing. The replica embroideries are now hanging in the Royal Apartments at Edinburgh Castle. The work is made up of 27 cruciform shapes, eight octagons and a centre panel. The replica work used only authentic materials including linen, silk, velvet, cloth of gold and replica 16th century tools and techniques.

Marie worked on ‘Butterflies’ and talked about the symbolism and possible meaning behind the work. The open butterfly is poised on the marigold. Marie Stuart was Queen of France as a teenager. The marigold is symbolic of France. The Tudor roses on the sides link to the Tudors and the butterflies with their closed wings might represent Marie Stuart's claim to the English Throne, as her grandmother was Margaret Tudor, sister of Henry VIII.

Marie talked about working on another part of the tapestry, ‘The Cankers’. She was finding a simple chain stitch to be difficult, so she took time out to research more about Marie Stuart in Antonia Fraser's book, Mary, Queen of Scots

Marie Meyer wonders if the nine menacing caterpillars surrounding a Mulberry tree (a symbol of royalty in Tudor times) might represent the Battle of Carberry Hill, on the day as a Catholic Queen, Marie Stuart surrendered to the Rebel Protestant Earls. The chain stitch (the only chain stitch on the Marian Hanging) on her royal cypher may indicate the day she was taken prisoner. After her reading, the stitch worked easily for Marie Meyer.

Donations and questions

People get in touch with the Guild often with donations of embroidery materials. One such work Marie brought along to show us was a section of the Bayeux tapestries.

Somebody asked about where you can get your works framed. Someone suggested contacting Broomfield and for Christchurch they suggest frame|design at 67 Harris Crescent Papanui.

Craft Snippets is always an opportunity to ask other craft related questions and someone asked about who does work on feather duvets. In Christchurch, Ballantynes were suggested and also some dry cleaners.

Stitching fiction

Another fun part of this evening was sharing some fiction books on the subject,

  • Catalogue record for The lady and the unicornThe Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier tells the story of the making of the famous tapestry by the same name, in Belgium in the 15th century.
  • Threads of Life by Clare Hunter is about women through history who have used the language of sewing to make their voices heard.
  • The Quilter’s Apprentice by Jennifer Chiaverini, the first in a series of fiction books about quilting.
New crafting titles: May 2021

New items shared during our May Craft Snippets gathering.

View Full List

What’s On

We discussed and shared upcoming craft events:

At the library

Other events

  • Magnificence of Embroiderythe most amazing free exhibition of extraordinary fine embroidery. Really a must see. Some of us have already been along to Fo Guang Yuan Art Gallery in Riccarton and had lunch in the delicious café.
  • Woolfest Christchurch – Sunday 27 June at Addington Raceway.
  • Canterbury WEA have a number of course and activities available. For a great place to keep up with what is happening there, check out their Facebook page
  • Selwyn Library at times has sewing and crafting courses.
  • Outlaw Yarn Pizza & Fibre Craft Nights – every Wednesday evening 6pm onwards. Fibre Craft Community Group – every Thursday morning 10am onwards.
  • Creative Junk Sip & Craft on Wednesday nights and Craft mornings on Wednesdays
  • The Craft Room, Trafford Street, Christchurch Craft workshops including candle making, soap making, and rag quilting.
  • Hands Ashford, Normans Road, Christchurch Craft workshops including doll making, mosaic classes, beeswax food wrap classes and more.
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