Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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Helena Wintour: A Story Worth Seeing


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Today, I want to share with you a somewhat obscure story involving embroidery that took place during a much-misunderstood and misrepresented time in history – a time during which, in fact, an extensive amount of needlework history was destroyed.

This is a story of a woman’s courage, independence, skill, and dedication, and I think it’s worth seeing.

Despite the historical roots of the title of the exhibition, it’s an unfortunate title and it can seem somewhat dubious. But don’t let it put you off!

Helena Wintour: A Story Worth Seeing

This online exhibition on Helena Wintour and other ladies of the 16th and 17th centuries is a collaboration between Stonyhurst College, the British Jesuit Province, Douai Abbey Library, and Campion Hall, Oxford. It’s pretty fabulous.

The online exhibition is a rare opportunity to see 16th and 17th century church needlework and to hear the stories of women who created it. It focuses especially on Helena Wintour, an independent woman who knew her own mind, lived according to her beliefs, and exhibited a whole lot of courage doing so.

The online exhibition on the Stonyhurst website begins with a 20-minute video focusing on Helena Wintour and her life. While the video comes across at points as a bit exaggerated in the visuals, her story is intriguing and compelling.

This would have been a fabulous exhibit to see in person at Stonyhurst. It launched in July of 2022 and it is listed under “past exhibitions” on their website, so I believe it is closed now.

I hope you enjoy this rabbit hole. I found it fascinating – and wow! those embroideries! They are spectacular!


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(11) Comments

  1. Thanks so much for this, Mary! I had the amazing experience of seeing Lady Wintour’s work in the UK several years ago. It is as incredible as you’d expect!

  2. I check your website almost daily – I appreciate these postings that you do from time to time about embroidery resources, books, history, art exhibits – I look at them all. Thank you, Mary.

  3. What a remarkable story of an incredibly brave woman (and her family connection to The Gunpowder Plot), not to mention the AMAZING embroidery work! Thank you for sharing it with us!

  4. Thank you for the link to the museum, and the display in particular – I have watched the first video on Helena, and will take my time dipping into the others. I have in interest in Ecclesiastical embroidery as my mother used to design and stitch it for our local Anglican (Episcopalian) church when I was in my early teens. Certainly not as rich and textured as these vestments, but they are still in use some 45 years after her death.

  5. Thank you for this post. I am stunned yet again by how many times beautiful intricate art can be produced by people in the most dire and dangerous circumstances. It gives me inspiration to continue the best way I can to produce my projects in the face of my own limitations. Thanks again, Mary

  6. Thank you for sharing this! It is amazing what beautiful embroideries were created so long ago! I wonder how many hours each day Mary and her friends devoted to these vestments. I really enjoyed this feast for the eyes.

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