The Mystery of Victoria


Written by Fiona Wemyss

The story starts with a bedspread, which came to the Wemyss School of Needlework from Lady Jean (my mother-in-law).  She and my father-in-law Capt David bought it having been approached by an individual who had seen it in an auction catalogue.  They were intrigued because in the centre of the bedspread there is a large Wemyss Crest, with the family motto Je Pense on a banner beneath it and the date 1880.  We presume it was made in the School, as the School began in 1877, intended for use in the Castle.

Why and when it left the Castle or appeared in an auction we will never know.  I can only assume it was little used and someone thought its loss would not be noticed so helped themselves!  As it is a large piece and few people have four poster beds (and if they do, probably not the right size - the corner cut outs make this type of bedspread a very specific size) they must have decided to sell it.

The fact that it has returned to where it was made, and to the family is a source of much satisfaction.  That we have used part of the design (and there are many more parts of it we can use in the future) is another thing to be proud of.  It has come home.

I hope, too, that when, in the future, we are able to store large pieces in better conditions we will do work to conserve the piece as it deserves and needs. I am hoping that amongst our thousands of paper designs I will find the original tracings for the piece.  This last hope might not be realised as when the School building was in a state of disrepair I know we lost, I don't know how many, some paper designs due to water ingress.

The large bedspread for a four poster bed became a great source of inspiration, in particular, the leaf was used as the design inspiration for a day course we ran, taught by Helen McCook.  Helen took the shape and altered the stitches and colours for a small piece - this we are going to produce as a small kit called Vicky. 

I thought the design so attractive I decided to enlarge it into a cushion sized kit, stitched the sample cushion and it is available as VICTORIA.  (We try and use family names for our kits - Lady Victoria was my predecessor as the family member to look after the school.)  I also wanted to test our instructions - I had never done any crewel work before and this was my first attempt.  I drew the design and then used the stitch charts (for the twelve different stitches used) and colours we had used in the class - but without Helen by my side - and the cushion pictured here is the result.  If I can do it anyone can!

If there is anyone who is interested in taking part in a day class for Vicky or Victoria (we can teach both the large and small versions at the same time as the stitches are the same) then let us know and we can put this into our programme.

Stitches used in Victoria

(and Vicky when ready for launch)

  1. Bullion Knot
  2. Coral Stitch
  3. French Knot
  4. Lazy Daisy
  5. Leaf Stitch
  6. Open Chain Stitch
  7. Pistil Stitch
  8. Portuguese Knotted Stem Stitch
  9. Satin Stitch
  10. Seeding
  11. Stem Stitch
  12. Whipped Wheel (flat)