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Raised Embroidery – A Tribute to Barbara Hirst

March 25, 2011

Raised embroidery, or stumpwork, is a dimensional style of embroidery.  There are many styles that have been used over the years and lots of confusion over the many historical descriptions and names.  Raised work was mainly used in Britain  for a few decades in the seventeenth century.

If you are interested in learning the techniques of stumpwork, we have a course coming up very soon.  Click here for a brochure.  You can also click here  for a more in-depth look at stumpwork history and Barbara and Roy Hirst’s role in it.

Barbara Hirst’s Embroidery
Barbara was a prolific embroiderer.  She created an exciting new interest for stumpwork, teaching very individual techniques and styles from the eighties right into the twenty-first century.  Her techniques were inspired by historical examples, but her subject matter changed to gardeners or family members or even farming, depending on what she was interested in at that time.

Barbara Hirst demonstrating for one of our study groups. She and Roy did a great deal of research on the subject.

Her husband, Roy, joined her after he retired, adding hand-painted and machine-embroidered aspects to her exacting hand work.  I kept in touch with Roy and Barbara over the years.  I have taken a number of my tour participants to their house to see their many embroideries – first when I was teaching in Britain, and also from the United States.

Whirlwind Study Group at Barbara and Roy’s house in 2001. In the center is the Millennium Casket, which illustrates British history in stumpwork on a reproduction casket built by Roy.

Barbara, sadly, passed away some time ago, and I would like to share some of her Raised Work with you. The pieces below show detached buttonhole stitch – one of the stitches used prominently in Raised Work.

A demonstration panel that Barbara worked for her book, New Designs in Raised Embroidery. Personal collection of Gail Harker.

An unusual, three-dimensional bird worked by Barbara and Roy. Personal collection of Marjorie Bachert.

This stumpwork bird made by Barbara is included in her book, Raised Embroidery: A Practical Guide to Decorative Stumpwork. Private collection of Lisa M. Harkins.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. Lexa Shaw permalink
    March 29, 2011 4:10 am

    Excellent article about stumpwork. I had not known that Barbara Hirst has died. I have certainly seen her name and also own both her books. I admire the technique even if I don’t have the patience to do any!

  2. May 4, 2011 1:02 pm

    Yes, she was a sad loss to the raised embroidery field.=(

    I saw her casket ‘live’ a couple of years ago – MARVELLOUS piece!

  3. Joan Mills permalink
    February 11, 2012 4:41 am

    Was pleased to read your tribute to Barbara Hirst and happy memories of meeting them at their home – did include a sampler of her work for Part ll of City and Guilds many years ago with you in Oak Harbor!
    What a wonderful couple – their contributions to Needlework will never be forgotten – their books are a testmanent to that!

    Joan Mills

    • February 13, 2012 5:24 am

      Thanks Joan, It doesn’t seem that long ago that we visited Barbara and Roy to see her entire stumpwork collection through out their house. Gail

  4. Grace Lister permalink
    August 4, 2012 1:08 pm

    What a lovely tribute to Barbara Hirst this article is. I was taught by her in the early 1990’s and she was a delightful and special person and instilled in me a great interest in Stumpwork. They were such a delight to meet and exceptional teachers of the technique with endless patience and help. Grace Lister

    • August 5, 2012 4:22 am

      Thanks for your comments and remembrances of Barbara Hirst. Her 2 books are treasures. I introduced her to my publisher in England at the time to persuade them to publish her first book. It was a hard sell to the publisher, Merehurst as they had no idea what Stumpwork was. I took a poll among my friends and students to help persuade the publishers that this book would be purchased by many. Lucky for the Needlwork world that we have 2 books by the expert Barbara Hirst. Gail

  5. March 19, 2013 4:09 am

    I personally needed to share this blog post, Bamboo Roman
    Shades “Raised Embroidery – A Tribute to Barbara Hirst |
    Gail Harker Center for Creative Arts” along with my personal close friends on fb.
    I personallyonly just wanted to spread your remarkable posting!
    Thx, Melissa

  6. April 16, 2013 12:27 am

    We have had a few requests for the link that I placed on the Barbara Hirst blog. Sorry it has been unavailable for a while but we will look at restoring the missing link soon. Gail

  7. April 8, 2014 9:37 pm

    Does anyone know where the Millennium Casket is now? I would love to see it in person.

    • April 8, 2014 9:51 pm

      Jeri, I have been trying to track it down and will post the information when i find out unless someone out there in Blogland finds it first and lets us know. Gail

      • April 9, 2014 4:10 am

        Thanks Gail. I hope it is somewhere being well cared for.

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