Material Witness

Jane Austen Embroidery: from the Lady’s Magazine to the Stitch Off

Jane Austen was as skilful with a needle as she was with a pen. She was a keen amateur embroiderer who was praised for being so ‘excellent in satin stitch’ that she would have put ‘a sewing machine to shame’. Austen’s letters document her embellishing caps and gowns while trying and failing to guard the patterns so that her friends couldn’t mimic her style. But where she did get her patterns from?

The most likely source is the  Lady’s Magazine  (1770-1832), a hugely successful periodical that Jane Austen read and that for decades provided readers with monthly embroidery patterns. In this talk, Jennie Batchelor discusses her chance discovery of some of these presumed lost patterns a decade after she started looking for them. It discusses what she learned from the public engagement project the discovery inspired, and the process of putting together her new book with Alison Larkin, Jane Austen Embroidery (2019), which combines essays on Georgian women’s needlework and magazine culture with 15 projects for modern stitchers to recreate.


About the author

Jennie Batchelor is Professor of Eighteenth-Century Studies at the University of Kent. She has published widely on women’s writing, eighteenth-century dress and early women’s magazines. Recent publications include Women’s Periodicals and Print Culture, 1690s-1820s (Edinburgh University Press, 2018), co-edited with Manushag N Powell. Jennie has appeared on the New Statesman’s Hidden Histories podcast, BBC Radio 4, and Lucy Worsley’s Jane Austen: Behind Closed Doors. She is Patron of the Kent branch of the Jane Austen Society. Jane Austen Embroidery, co-devised with Alison Larkin, came out with Pavilion in 2020.

Blog: ‘The Lady’s Magazine (1770-1818): Understanding the Emergence of a Genre’

Twitter feed: @ladysmagproject

Facebook page: ladysmagproject

Jane Austen Embroidery by Jennie Batchelor and Alison Larkin comes out with Pavilion on March 5, 2020.