I study and write about eighteenth-century literature, and one of my areas of interest is representations of footwear and movement in fiction of the period. I have spent hours poring over artefacts from the era, so you can just imagine my excitement when Jennie Batchelor and the Lady’s Magazine project made these shoe embroidery patterns available, which appeared in a 1775 edition of the magazine now belonging to Penny Gore. I had to try my hand at them.
But what did I learn? What special insights did I gain into the objects I spent so much time thinking and reading about? Well, I learned that I had to try it out for myself, which tells me something about the need to physically and mentally place myself in another’s shoes in order to really understand material culture and its relationship to literature. What the Stitch Off patterns meant for me, then, was that I now had the chance to do more than just wish: I could also experience what it felt like to embroider an upper.
And what did it feel like? The thing is, it didn’t feel that foreign. It actually felt pretty familiar and when it didn’t, …read more