Nicola Beauman – On Persephone Books.

Tonight we welcomed Persephone Books founder Nicola Beauman. Nicola told us about how and why she started Persephone Books,  a publishers that reprints neglected fiction and non-fiction by mid-twentieth century (mostly) women writers.

The company was founded in 1998, but really took of in the year 2000, thanks to their publication of “Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day” by Winifred Watson. It was just luck, thanks to a window display put on by Daunt books in their Marylebone shop. In 2008 “Miss Pettigew Lives for a Day” was made into a fantastic film.

Book cover from the Classic Collection.

What makes Persephone Books so special?

Not only is every title chosen with inspiration and care, but the design and printing process of these books is very well thought through.

Most of the book covers are grey because as Nicola put it “well – we really like grey”. The books from the Classic Collection have illustrated covers.

The books don’t contain blurbs, just quotes and a short biography of the author. Each book also has a beautiful end paper and bookmark which dates back to the publication date of the original book.

The books are printed and bound in Germany using a type of binding called “dispersion binding” which means that the books will lie flat – making it super comfortable to read,

The end paper to “Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day” From: http://www.persephonebooks.co.uk/

We thoroughly enjoyed our time with Nicola. To find out more about Persephone Books visit their website, or pop into their shop for a cup of tea and a chat: 59 Lamb’s Conduit Street, London WC1N 3NB.

Penny Mackinder – “A History of (mostly) English embroidery” – what it is, what it isn’t, and whodunit.

Today we had an inspiring talk by our secretary Penny Mackinder. Penny is a very keen embroiderer with a passion for the history of her art form. As well as a comprehensive presentation, Penny brought in some antique samplers (dating back to 1810) and showed us how to execute a Bayeux embroidery stitch.

Some interesting information from Penny’s presentation

Tapestry vs. needlework

A tapestry is the creation of a fabric. It starts with the warp in place, and the fabric is created by adding in the weft.
Needlework is used on the surface of an already created fabric and is used as a decorative element.

Crewel embroidery is a free form style of needlework done using woollen thread on a linen fabric.

Detail of a fanciful leaf in crewel embroidery on a curtain, c. 1696, Victorian & Albert Museum T.166-1961

Mary Queen of Scots was a very skilled needlewoman. During her time under house arrest in England, she and her custodian Bess of Hardwick created many examples of cross stitch works using coloured silks on canvas.

Catherine of Aragon was another famous embroiderer. Blackwork was already around in England, but she made it a very popular style. It became very fashionable during the reign of her husband Henry VIII. Catherine would make and embroider shirts for her husband, even after their divorce.

Portrait of Katherine of Aragon, c.1560 English School. Blackwork embroidery can be seen on her shirt collar.

Bayeux Embroidery Stitch

Bayeux Embroidery Stitch (multiple colours used for demonstration purposes, use the same colour thread throughout the steps to complete your stitch.)

  1. Using 2 or 3 strands of embroidery floss stitch long horizontal lines to cover an area of desired size. (Yellow)
  2. Using the same thread, stitch vertical lines down at equal intervals over the horizontal lines. (Red)
  3. Complete the stitch by using tiny stitches across the vertical ones to secure them in place.(Blue)
More resources:

The Bayeux Tapestry will be loaned to the United Kingdom in 2022 and displayed in the British Museum – definitely a must see!

Weavers of the Clouds: Textile Arts of Peru is an exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum in Bermondsey, London.

Although this exhibition has now finished, you can download the exhibition guide from the FTM website.

 

Magical Mystery Tour led by Richard Porter

We spent a pleasant afternoon on the busy streets of London being taken around the Beatles’ London haunts. We started in Soho Square where we saw Paul McCartney’s offices and continued onto other sites that included the mural in Carnaby Street, the public toilets in  Broadwick Street and Trident Studios (not just a Beatles site; Queen, David Bowie and Elton John have also recorded there). Of course the tour ended with a trip to Beatles hallowed ground – Abbey Road Studios. We had great fun taking pictures on the famous crossing.

Party time!

We had a fabulous time at our annual Christmas Party. Many thanks to Janet for hosting us this year. On the way in guests were treated to an elder flower cocktail followed by food and nibbles made by all our members, the food was delicious! We also had very fun party games organised by Rachael – our favourite being “The Sock Game”. We had to guess what was inside socks only by feeling the outside – this proved much harder than it sounds!