Exhibition: Making, Mending, Marking

Sat, 1 July 2023 - Sat, 3 February 2024, 10:00am - 4:00pm
Holst Victorian House


Discover the fascinating needlework produced by the young women from the Cheltenham Female Orphanage Asylum, in the first ever exhibition about this significant institution. 

For many of us today, stitching and sewing is an enjoyable pastime, or perhaps a creative business. However, for women in the past, it was a lifeline and a means of survival in challenging times.  Making, Marking, Mending is a window into such precarious existences, telling the story of how orphans from respectable families were taught to sew and mend as soon as they entered the doors of the Cheltenham Female Orphan Asylum, equipping them with the ability to earn a living when they left.

Unpick the orphans’ stories, unravel their complex histories and understand how important textiles were to working-class women of the 19th century in this immersive exhibition, co-curated by Jo Teague. Jo is a MA by Research student at the University of Gloucestershire and also an experienced teacher with over 15 years of experience teaching hand and machine sewing with a lifelong love of embroidery. Her enthusiasm for her subject is infectious and brings a new approach to the understanding of these pieces of needlework.

Encounter samplers, pincushions and demonstration pieces on loan from The Cheltenham Trust, Cheltenham Borough Council, the University of Gloucestershire and private collections – in cases, but also as interventions within the evocative 19th century interiors of the Holst Victorian House. Displayed in the context of a middle-class Victorian home, Making, Marking, Mending will expose some of the labour relations present in 19th century society, for example between mistress and maid. 

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