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Published: 19 August 2022

By Andy Ross

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The Decorative Stitch

The Decorative Stitch book cover The Decorative Stitch book cover
The Decorative Stitch book

For more than two centuries, embroidery has been used to decorate, embellish and structure life in New Zealand. 

In a new-to-the-library book, The Decorative Stitch: 200 Years of New Zealand Embroidery, a fascinating world has been slowly revealing itself. From early pieces by European settlers that contributed to a more cosy home life through to what was contemporary in 2016, the book showcases a history of stitch and people, mainly women, who have contributed to the craft's continued presence in these islands. It is a publication by Felicity Willis for The Association of New Zealand Embroiderers' Guilds Inc. 

There is an ongoing project referred to in the book; a history of New Zealand told through embroidery. The Tapestry Trust was established to lead this project of 100 panels, large in scale, for presentation across the country when the panels are completed by embroiderers' guilds. A list of the available titles to stitch can be found here if you fancy a challenge. 

One artist featured in the book has been especially interesting. Malcolm Harrison was a craftsman who moved from fashion into textile art. His largest project was also the country's largest commissioned work at the time: These Are Matters of Pride and Whanaungatanga. These two were commissioned for the refurbished Parliament buildings and an online exhibition of these and other works can be found here. (The images are very slow to load. If the pictures do not show, click on the magnifying glass symbol and they should gradually load up in a new window.) More information about Malcolm can be found here.

Embroidery continues to play a role in the lives of New Zealanders as you can see in this post from the Below the Kowhai team in Otautahi/ Christchurch. 

If you would like a copy of The Decorative Stitch, it is available here.