Visit to National Needlework Archive

24 September 2022

The Country Wife had been the subject of the Broderer’s public lecture in 2021 and we had promised ourselves a trip to her home to see her for real.

Created specifically for the Festival of Britain in 1951, The Country Wife was designed by Constance Howard and made by a raft of stitchers, most of them unknown to history. Made very quickly, a piece of cardboard used to stiffen a handbag on the piece, was cut from a cornflake box and has been dated from March 1951. She was never expected to ‘live’ beyond the Festival and is now showing her age, with damage from insects, water and the accumulated dirt of almost 70 years.

for her, she has found her way to the National Needlework Archive who are carefully and painstakingly conserving her for the future. She arrived at the NNA in a number of boxes, with pieces that had fallen off over time or degraded to the point that only stitch marks were visible. Linda Connell, Trustee and Director of the NNA and Wendy Hickson, resident Conservator explained how they have been working on The Country Wife for five years already and find it almost impossible to predict how much longer she will need to complete the task as new issues are regularly identified.

This was a fascinating visit and although we learnt much at the lecture last year, nothing prepares you for the size of the piece and the details of the individual characters when you can get as close as we were allowed. We had the added advantage of being able to look at the reverse and note all the work undertaken to strengthen the base fabric.

L:R Past Mistress Cynthia Buchanan; NNA volunteers Ann and Marilyn; Linda Connell Director; Wendy Hickson, resident Conservator and NNA volunteer Maddy.