Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Fancy Fanny Brawne and her Needle

One of the more intriguing sewing moments I've seen on film is the opening of Jane Campion's Bright Star

Against a dark background an enlarged needle is threaded (with the absence of a human touch).  The rather thick needle pushes to penetrate the waiting cloth, which has its fibers in a visible fluff.

It's a far cry from, say, the opening credits of the BBC's production of Pride and Prejudice, in which completed works of colorful embroidery are caressed by the camera'a eye, lulling the viewer into a state of textile bliss.

No: Campion's seamstress, Fanny Brawne, takes a less delicate approach, which is punctuated by her carefully made but rather clownish garments, early in the film. 

Thee's a primitive feel to Fanny's sewing, which I welcome. Her garments are not precious; though she may boast of making the only "triple-pleated mushroom collar" in Woolwich or Hampstead county, the result is charmingly awkward, a mushroom that belongs better in the woods.

Working on the triple-pleated mushroom collar

Wearing the collar--the only one in two counties

But she has a deep passion for sewing and it's after she meets the wordsmith John Keats, critiques his Endymion, and attempts to study poetry that her own touch becomes lighter, culminating in a delicate embroidered pillowslip to honor Keats' deceased brother Tom.

But it's the early Fanny, who made a white ruff to complement a military-inspired cropped redcoat, who sticks with me.  Her combination of sincerity and naivete, coupled with the intimacy of rustic texture is a lively step away from the romantic Austen stitch (which was growing a little tired, truth be told).


Ivy said...

You might enjoy this blogger's essay on Bright Star. I was really interested by her comments.


Miss Cavendish said...

Yes, thank you, Ivy! That's an excellent post you pointed me toward.

aracne said...

I read with great pleasure this post, thank you.