Sunday, April 21, 2013

Lady Evelyn Murray

           Beautiful Embroidery
               stitched by
           Lady Evelyn Murray

     As I have been posting the different alphabet monograms on Pinterest the last week (I am about halfway through the alphabet now), I started thinking about all of the beautiful embroidery I have been able to look at over the years, and Lady Evelyn Murray came to mind immediately!
     She was born in 1868 and lived at Blair Castle, which is in Pitlochery, Perthsire, Scotland. 
     More about the castle later in the post, but several years ago, on one of my trips to Madeira, we also went to Scotland to take a Whitework class from Bunny Bryson.  One of the days in Scotland, we traveled to Blair Castle for a tour, and then a 'behind the scenes' tour of some of Lady Evelyn's needlework.

     This is one of her chests of drawers that she bought to keep her needlework in.  Lady Evelyn was not the typical young lady of her day.  She had a habit of focusing so intently (obsessive is the word that comes to mind) on something that all else was forgotten.  In her late teens, after a bout of illness, she focused on Gaelic and over a few months, gathered over 240 Gaelic stories and legends from the locals around Perthsire, which comprised the book Tales from Highland Perthsire.


     As her behavior became more odd, she was sent to Switzerland to rest, but depression set in.  Her parents sent word for her to return home, but she moved to Belgium and lived there for most of the rest of her life.  It was here that her obsession with needlework began.  She collected pieces of needlwork of the highest quality, but her own skill surpassed the pieces that she collected.  The picture above shows one of the chests that she had to store her collection in.

     Her masterpiece is called "the British Arms", which took 7 years to complete.  It is stitched on glass cambric background, using sizes 250 and 700 cotton thread, and the dimensions are about 15" by 18".  This is the piece that is used on the cover of her book.  Ihave seen the original and it is stunning.  I had to laugh, though - when we were there (about 1996), it was sitting on a a little easel on top of a pile of books in the gift shop!
     We were also able to go an a behind the scenes tour and see many other piece in her collection - some that she had stitched,and some that she collected.  There were a couple of 'practice' pieces that she stitched before (or as) she stitched on this piece.

                         (sample of pique' embroidery by Lady Evelyn)

     Another occurence that had us speechless at first, and then laughing later..........  the docents that helped us in the archives were lovely, and so excited - not only to show off all of the beautiful embroidery, but to a group of women who truly appreciated the work and the art!  They were very careful - the put on their white cotton gloves and very carefully lifted the glass tops of the display boexes - we were in awe as we were looking at everything and drinking it all in.  Then (and this is the knock me over with a feather part) they very neatly took off their gloves, picked up the embroidered pieces and handed them to us to look at!
     Stunned at seeing them pick up these antique masterpieces, we quickly asked them why they took off their gloves, and shouldn't we be using them before we handles any of the pieces?  They quicly replied that they were not worried about the embroidered pieces (we ladies all had clean hands, right?), but they wore the gloves so they didn't accidentally cut their hands from the glass covers of the  display cabinets.

     Lady Evelyn did all types of needlework, including needlepoint lace and bobbin lace, as well as whitework and applique'.

     She moved bcack to Blair Castle at the start of WWII, and died in 1840.  Most woung women in her time were expected, if not forced, to marry and raise a family - she was in a unique position, as her father did not require that of her.  He continued to support her as she lived in Belgium focused on her needlework obsession.  All I can say is lucky for us that she was allowed to study and create her masterpieces of perfection!

     Blair Castle is a beatuiful place - it is avaliable to tour and it hosts weddings and events.  If you ever have a chance to visit, it is well worth the time.

     Many of the furnishings are original, and the family still stays in the private quarters, leaving the main building for tours, etc.

     You can see to the left in this picture the family quarters.

     Some of the reference books available in the Gift Shop.  The local town is not too far away and has wonderful shopping and a very nice kilt store!  On the hour at Blair Castle, a man in a kilt would come out and play the bagpipe...........oh to see a real Scottish kilt!  On our tour, we were looking through a case full of memorabilia, and lo and behold, there was a crest from Murray State University, in Murray, KY (my alma mater!).  Seems that Murray, KY was named after one of the House of Murray in Scotland - a nice little surprise.

     Lady Evelyn's Needlework Collection book - unfortunately it is OOP - wonderful book if you can find a copy.

Here is a link to a youtube tour of Blair Castle:

Well, this is all the time I have for reminiscing right now!  I know I am subbing in Kindergarten tomorrow,and I am not as young as I once was!  Hope you enjoyed this!

Happy Stitching,


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