A Rabbit Named Peter…

19th July 2019

Almost 120 years ago, a talented and ambitious Victorian woman published a little book about a rabbit. Since then, The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter has never been out of print and Peter, along with all the other creatures dreamt up by Ms Potter, have delighted generations of children. But children aren’t the only people to adore Beatrix Potter’s stories and illustrations. Peter Rabbit, Tom Kitten and Mrs Tiggywinkle have been the subject of more stitching and embroidery projects than you could imagine. What is it about this particular group of characters that we love so much?

Beatrix Potter and her dog, Kip (source)

Like most Victorian women, Helen Beatrix Potter’s life was confined of her gender. Despite high intelligence, interest and skill in the natural sciences and obvious talents at illustration, Beatrix was unable to pursue any kind of career as we understand it today. However, she didn’t let her talents waste. She’d often make up stories about the animals she loved from the British countryside in which she thrived. Succumbing to pressure from friends and family, she finally self-published her first little story about Peter Rabbit.

It seems that Peter remains loved for his cheekiness, his bravery and his sweet little features. Despite his mischievous ways, children and adults alike are drawn to him and indeed all of the other characters from Beatrix Potter’s imagination.

An original illustration of Peter Rabbit (source)

Perhaps it’s the mix of perfectly accurate animal bodies dressed in tiny little human clothes? Maybe it’s the gentle colouration or the expressions arising from the simple line and watercolour drawings? Whatever it is, the attraction is so great, we’ve been re-creating Peter and his friends using our needles and threads for decades.

An online search for Beatrix Potter and needlework brings up thousands and thousands of results.

We found threadpainting, cross stitch, quilting, appliqué, needlepoint, stumpwork, machine embroidery and even crewelwork. All this doesn’t even touch on the volume of knitting and crochet patterns as well.

Whatever type of embroidery or needlecraft you do, you can almost be guaranteed to find a pattern, kit or project of Peter Rabbit or his friends worked in that technique.

Stitching with Beatrix Potter by Michele Hill (source)

There are not many things in the world that are immune to the whims of fashion. Some things we are sad to see go, others we’re relieved. And as much as we wish otherwise, even embroidery is driven by fashion. Remember those large orange and brown appliqued pictures that seemed to be all the rage in the ‘70s? (We’ve still got books on our shelves giving instructions on how to stitch them!).

But Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddleduck, Tom Kitten and Squirrel Nutkin are above all that, they never seem to go out of fashion. When Beatrix Potter placed that sweet little blue coat on the shoulders of her naughty little bunny, little did she know that she would be creating joy for needleworkers more than a century later.

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