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This piece is based on an original needlecase by Edith May Southey, the daughter of Robert Southey, friend of William Wordsworth and the United Kingdom’s Poet Laureate from 1813 to 1843. This treasure is housed in the collection of the Wordsworth Museum Trust in Dove Cottage in the Lake District.
Her harp needlecase was handmade from silk-covered card, decorated with tiny shamrocks in applied gold foil and the strings formed from graded sizes of needles. As well as being an exquisite object in its own right, the piece is of particular note for the Wordsworth Trust, since it was the topic for his poem ‘On Seeing a Needlecase in the Form of a Harp’.
With the kind permission of the Wordsworth Trust and as a tuition project for Lady Anne’s Needlework Tours, I was allowed to create my own take on the original harp. In my version, the design is based on William Wordsworth’s favourite wild flower, the Lesser Celandine. The decorative panels are fully embroidered, using a range of beautiful silk and metal threads in a variety of surface embroidery techniques, all of which were used during the Victorian period.
In a true marriage of old and new, the project combines age-old hand skills with very modern technology. The three types of card for the construction have been created by James Cropper, master paper-maker, whose firm have been making paper since 1845. The paper is cut by laser to give highly precise shapes. The wooden finial and form which supports the harp’s soundbox have been created by my father, a master gunsmith and fishing rod builder. The 2% gold, specialist metal embroidery threads have been created by the master wyre-drawers at Benton & Johnson in Warwickshire (founded in 1685). The silk threads are from Au Ver à Soie, a Parisian family company which has been making threads since 1820. The specially selected set of gradated needles was created, with great attention to detail, by ‘Tulip’ based in Hiroshima in Japan, the home of Japanese needle-making for over 300 years.
The needles in Edith’s harp were simply pushed into the fine silk fabric but I have refined this to include a wool baize needle holder. Wool baize is a traditional fabric for storing needles and helps to protect them from deterioration. This fabric is made by A W Hainsworth and Son of Pudsey, Yorkshire, wool weavers since 1723.
You may wish to order a hand-blown glass dome with a turned wooden base to display and protect your finished harp. The dome can be engraved with the Wordsworth poem on which the design is based, in a hand-written script in keeping with the period.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
WHAT DOES MY KIT INCLUDE?
Your kit includes all the fabric, threads and needles required to complete the design, together with a highly comprehensive illustrated instruction manual, written and drawn by Jenny. All threads are carefully packaged and labelled to denote where they are to be used in the design. We suggest you have a look through all the components to familiarise yourself with the complete kit before starting work. Where relevant, kits also include the materials required to construct the completed embroidery.
WILL I NEED ANYTHING ELSE TO ENABLE ME TO COMPLETE MY KIT?
Yes, but only basic embroidery equipment. A list of the items required can be found in the front of your instruction manual. All items can be purchased from our website. If you have any queries about equipment, please feel free to contact us for advice.
HOW MUCH EXPERIENCE DO I NEED TO BE ABLE TO COMPLETE THE KIT?
Most of our kits are designed for embroiderers with some experience, but the instruction manuals are extremely comprehensive and will teach you all you need to know.
If you have any difficulties, or need advice on the difficulty level of a certain kit, you are welcome to contact us.
I FIND TRANSFERRING DESIGNS ON TO FABRIC DIFFICULT
Don’t worry, the designs are all pre-printed for you!
CAN I POST IMAGES OF MY KIT/WORK ON MY BLOG/SOCIAL MEDIA/WEBSITE?
We will be delighted if you wish to show images of this project on your blog/social media/website, as this often inspires others to have a go! However, as a courtesy, please do let me know if you plan to do this, and be aware that blogging of techniques, step-by-step or close-up images, either of the project in progress, the instructions, and the kit contents, is an infringement of copyright. Please always credit the design source and always include Jenny’s website and contact details so that those reading your blog can get in touch. Please highlight any infringements of this copyright which you observe from others.
I AM STRUGGLING WITH A SECTION OF THE DESIGN
One of the most important aspects of buying a kit from us is that you have direct contact to Jenny by email and she will be happy to assist you and provide advice. We cannot always answer within the hour but we will get back to you as soon as possible. If you are really struggling and need more help, we can arrange a lesson for you or to complete the section for you.
I AM MISSING A COMPONENT IN MY KIT OR HAVE RUN OUT OF A THREAD
We do our absolute best to ensure these situations don’t occur, but your kit is made by humans rather than machines and we do occasionally have a senior moment! Please feel free to let us know and we will be happy to supply more.
I AM NOT HAPPY WITH MY WORK AND WOULD LIKE TO RE-WORK
We totally understand this – most embroiderers incline to perfectionism! While we sadly can’t provide more materials for free, please just let us know what you require and we will be very happy to supply more.
MY DOG/HUSBAND/HOOVER/SOFA/CAT/GOLDFISH ATE MY THREAD!
It happens! Not a problem. Just let us know what you need
and whilst we can’t send these for free, we are more than
happy to supply more.
MY THREAD IS DIFFERENT TO THAT IN THE PHOTOGRAPH OF THE DESIGN
Thread colours may vary somewhat due to dyeing processes and can appear different in reality due to photographic distortion. Due to limitations posed by suppliers, we also reserve the right to substitute project materials with suitable alternatives to those illustrated if absolutely necessary.
HOW CAN I FIND OUT ABOUT NEW DESIGNS?
Please go to Jenny’s website where you can join the mailing list to find out about all new releases. We promise only to send you relevant embroidery-related news and not to pass your details to third parties.
CAN I SUBMIT MY WORK TO A CRAFT SHOW OR COMPETITION?
We are delighted if you have enjoyed working the project and would like to submit your piece to a craft/country show competition etc. Please do let Jenny know if you are doing this as she would love to hear how you get on. Please always credit the design source and always include Jenny’s website and contact details so that people viewing the piece can get in touch.
CAN I TEACH THE DESIGN TO OTHERS?
If you have enjoyed working the project yourself and would like to share this with friends or wish to work the design with your students, you are welcome to contact Jenny for more kits. The kit and accompanying instructions must otherwise not be copied, reproduced or taught in any form without prior permission. This will otherwise infringe copyright. Multiple kit orders are welcome and can be supplied on a wholesale basis by arrangement. Please contact Jenny for more details.
I WOULD LIKE HELP WITH THE CONSTRUCTION OR DISPLAY OF MY FINISHED WORK
Excellent news. We hope you have enjoyed the journey and are delighted with the finished result! If you would like help with mounting or finishing the design, please feel free to get in touch. If you would like to order a frame, box or similar for displaying the finished piece, please visit the webshop.