Chawton in Stitches now open

Running from May 13 to August 27, 2024, Chawton in Stitches promises a captivating journey through the creative process of award-winning graduate of the Royal School of Needlework, Emily Barnett. Her degree project, inspired by Chawton House, takes influence from the rich tapestries of our Gardens and Collection, and will take centre stage in this exhibition.

Her project culminated in three exquisitely embroidered panels, each a testament to the combination of beauty in nature, skilled artistry and intellectual endeavour that characterise the Gardens, the artworks and the women writers at Chawton House. One panel takes influence from the Orchard at Chawton House, depicting the seasonal change from blossom to apples, alongside embroidered text from the Knight cookbook, passed down through generations of the family’s women. One recreates the Rose Garden alongside early eighteenth-century botanist Elizabeth Blackwell’s Curious Herbal, written and illustrated by Blackwell to educate on the medicinal uses of plants. The final panel illustrates the Library Terrace draped in wisteria, with the names of women writers beneath, some well-known and others now almost forgotten. 

Visitors to the exhibition will have the unique opportunity to follow Emily’s creative journey, from early inspiration photographs to experimentations with different materials. Historic items from our Collection are placed alongside Emily’s work, including a unique sampler from 1830 stitched by a 10-year-old girl, women’s scrapbooks containing botanical studies in watercolour and snippets of poetry, and advice manuals written to encourage the pursuit of feminine accomplishments, or to suggest why those accomplishments might be damaging. These items will illuminate the differences in practices and attitudes over two centuries, but also draw a thread from then to now.  

Curator Emma Yandle says, “it is wonderful to be able to display Emily’s work, and this exhibition will allow us to celebrate the ways in which Chawton House, once an inspiration for Jane Austen, continues to inspire creative practice amongst a new generation, who can draw on the inheritance of the past. The exhibition paints a picture of the ways in which artistic endeavour, from needlework and knitting to watercolour, has provided occupation, solace, community and skill to women from the eighteenth century right up to today.” 

Reflecting on her collaboration with Chawton House, Emily Barnett says, “I am delighted to be able to exhibit my graduate collection at Chawton House. What better place to share my pieces than the location which inspired them? This is an amazing opportunity for me to display my own interpretation of the grounds and history of Chawton House, which acted as a creative sanctuary for me during my studies.” 

Chawton in Stitches invites visitors to immerse themselves in a display where artistry transcends time, weaving together past and present in a celebration of creativity and heritage. The exhibition opened on 13 May, 2024, and is included in the price of admission to House and Garden. On the same date, we also moved to 7 days a week opening, 10am-4.30pm.