Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The group is facilitated by Barbara Latham, the museum’s visitor service manager, who has the skills and a passion for embroidery, having previously helped schoolchildren to create patterns and complete cross-stitch projects.
She says the idea of hosting a stitching group was born from a chance remark made during a visit to another military museum in the south of England about cross-stich being a common thread, as stitching has been completed by soldiers in quiet times and while convalescing.
The Stitch in Time sewing group aims to open up the museum and its collections to a wider audience. Open to experts and beginners, the group is free to attend and meets every 2nd and 4th Thursday of the month.
For participants, the group is fun way to meet new people, develop cross-stich skills and swap patterns with each other.
Jean Goodall, a 75-year-old sticher, read about the group in her local newspaper and went along with a friend.
“In my own personal experience, joining this group has enhanced my life in several ways,” she says.
“I meet people with similar likes and have made several more friends. I have done lots of craftwork all my life and now, being older, I find that I have more patience to produce a good piece of work. I think that in some cases I may not have been as neat as I am now.”
An exhibition at the Museum of the Manchester Regiment, Stitch in Time: an exhibition of community needlework (June – December 2011), and an accompanying booklet, were the results of the group’s first project.
Latham gave participants a tour of the collection, explained the relevance of embroidery in items such as flags and shared stories of how soldiers throughout history have stitched to pass the time.
The group was interested in doing a group project, and it was decided they would each contribute a square illustrating their pride in Tameside, which would be made into a quilt and shown as part of the exhibition.
Squares included poppies, mills and the Black Knight, a local character based on Sir Ralph de Assheton who resided at Ashton Old Hall in the 15th century.
Goodall decided to illustrate Hartshead Pike during the quilting project, a local hill she can see from the back bedroom of her house.
She was also inspired by a picture of the badge chosen when the Manchester Regiment joined with the King’s Regiment Liverpool, which is on display in the museum, and produced a second piece.
The reach of the museum can be seen by the people who attend. Some participants have ongoing health issues but want to get back into mainstream society. A group of disabled crafters have also taken part.
After the group featured in a cross-stitch magazine, it gained its first international member – Karen Millward of Cairns, Australia who left Tameside in 1978. She was inspired by an old map of the area to send contributions to the group.
Museum staff support participants during the meetings, and visitors who drop by are welcomed over to chat about the work and objects on display.