Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Jane Eyre-Inspired Embroidery

As I mentioned Sunday, the Brontë-along started by Melissa at Yummy Goods has inspired me to get out my embroidery hoops. Inspired by one of the most telling and intriguing lines in the book, I've started embroidering a handkerchief -- surely something worthy of a gentlewoman.


About a year ago, I checked out a lecture course on British Literature from the library where I worked. The lecture on Jane Eyre really stood out -- it had been years since I'd read the book, and the lecture really went beneath the surface of the swoony romance and pointed out how revolutionary and feminist Charlotte Brontë really was. Key to this argument is the line, "Reader, I married him." Not "He married me," or "We were married," but the very active, Jane-centric "I married him."* I immediately reread the book, and was struck how often Jane bucked Victorian convention. She tells Rochester she loves him before he tells her. She constantly defied straight-laced religion -- from her classic "I must keep in good health, and not die," in response to Mr. Brocklehurst's query as to how she can avoid going to hell, to her opinions about St. John Rivers' missionary zeal and her abandonment of his mission to marry a godless reprobate like Rochester (in Rivers' eyes, anyway). Putting true love before God? That was pretty daring. And then, shocker of shockers, Jane actually seriously considers running off with Rochester and being his mistress! It's why she leaves Thornfield -- she knows she can't resist him otherwise (and really, can you blame a girl?). All this -- the woman taking the lead in a courtship, putting human wants and emotions before God, frank sexuality -- in a Victorian novel. Written by a woman!

So in honor of Charlotte's modern ways, I've drawn up a little embroidery pattern. Click on the image to download, or go the "Downloads and Patterns" page. I'm using it on a handkerchief, but I'd love to see what you come up with if you use it (and of course, private non-commercial use only. Please credit Meghan Brawley of ...is five). Oh, and for the hankie, I used an old button-down shirt of mine, an idea I got from the incomparable Kate Davies of Needled.

*Sutherland, John. "Jane Eyre and the Other Brontë," Classics of British Literature. Lecture 35. Chantilly, VA: The Teaching Company.

14 comments:

  1. What do you use to draw your image/words on your fabric? I'm interested in trying this! :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Just a water-soluble fabric marking pen. The kind with a blue tip on one end, and a purple (air-soluble) tip on the other. You could also use pencil or a chalk pencil, or (for more complex designs) trace the design onto Press and Seal plastic wrap (not normal -- has to have the adhesive backing) and stick that on top of your fabric, then embroider through it (there's a tutorial on my downloads/patterns page).

    Let me know if you make something with this pattern - post it in the Bronte-along Flickr pool or something.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This isn't the shirt we were fitting before you got pregnant, is it?

    ReplyDelete
  4. No - I have two of the same shirt. This is the pink one I never wear. The blue one is the one I'll (hopefully one day) refit.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Love it! so excited that you are along for the ride! I have some Jane Eyre embroidery planned for this week, too!

    ReplyDelete
  6. ooh, melissa, can't wait to see!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Jane Eyre was my favorite novel when I was in high school. I love that you've chosen to embroider a quote onto a handerchief.

    A tip on air-soluble markers: Don't use them if you live in a humid area like the Southeast unless you plan to complete your entire project in one sitting. I've come back to projects that I marked a few days or weeks earlier only to find that the humidity in the air dissolved all of my markings!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Oh, that's awesome! Also, one of my favorite things about studying English/Literature in college is learning about nuances like "I married him." It's amazing how seeing those things can throw something into such a new light! All of my best teachers at school could do that, and I was changed by it. Gorgeous handkerchief, surely worthy of a gentlewoman! Also, we mus really be on the same wavelength----I started my embroidering this morning, then I got your letter, and then your comment on my blog. small world!

    ReplyDelete
  9. hm, i don't even want to think about my sad little embroidery-on-paper next to yours, nicole! but it's so funny how we seem to be mirroring each other's interests.
    and the nuances of what i read is exactly why i loved english lit, too. loved it enough to check out college lectures from the library on it for fun even now ...

    ReplyDelete
  10. kim, good point! i'm using the water soluble end, but it still might fade if i don't hurry up and finish. hmm ... maybe that's a good way to keep me from procrastinating -- use the air soluble marker and make it a race against the elements!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Love your swirly embroidery pattern - but most of all how you told the story about the book and that lecture, thanks for sharing! makes me too want to re-read it soon!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Oooh, I like. You have put the words of our dear, unconventional Jane to excellent use. I can't wait to see the finished product!

    ReplyDelete
  13. In principle, a good happen, support the views of the author

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for your comment! Many people might have the same question you do, so I always respond in the comments, so click the little "subscribe by e-mail" link below to be notified of a response. If you leave your e-mail, I will usually e-mail you an answer to any questions. Of course, you're always welcome to send me an e-mail anytime - meghan {dot} isfive {at} gmail {dot} com.

Related Posts with Thumbnails