An unusual stitchgasm today, it’s the new Jane Campion film Bright Star. It looks at the three-year romance between the poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne, which was cut short by Keats’ death aged 25. As you might expect from Jane Campion, who wrote and directed the Piano, it’s a beautiful film which will undoubtedly stir the emotions.
“But why is this a stitchgasm, Mr X Stitch, you big softie?” I hear you ask. Well, the reason is this. The opening sequence of the film features Fanny’s embroidering, and because they wanted an authentic stitching experience, they contacted the Royal School of Needlework. And they struck gold in the form of Jessica Aldred, friend of Mr X Stitch, stitching superstar and RSN graduate. Jess is an extremely skilled embroiderer, and she was good enough to share her big screen debut with us:
“Back in April 2008 a member of the Production crew from the film Bright Star came to the Royal School of Needlework looking for a hand double for the film’s leading actress Abbie Cornish. There we all were holding our hands out for her to look at, and I was very surprised when she chose me! (Ok, I may have given myself e cheeky manicure the night before).
“I was told to make my way to Luton Airport Station very early one cold morning where I would be collected by a driver to take me to the film set. It all seemed very glamorous, especially when I was taken to make-up to have the tattoo on my wrist covered, after which I was left in a tent for at least 6 hours! With frozen fingers I was finally called to a room in a beautiful farm house to begin shooting. First, they wanted a close up shot of a needle being threaded with as little of my fingers in it as possible. I began sat next to the camera, leaning in to it on one side and of course couldn’t see what I was doing at all. We finally settled on a position whereby I was stood on a box leaning over the camera with the camera man under one arm and the director under the other! As you can imagine the minute someone called ‘quiet the floor, and action!’ I would start shaking with nerves! We finally managed to get a few shots, and then moved on to filming some close ups of my hands rhythmically sewing.
A few days later the Production Company called to ask if I’d like to go back to the set as a Needlework Consultant, meaning that I would set up all of the frames ready for stitching and teach the little girls in the film including Edie Martin who plays Toots, how to sew. After having done so much waiting around the girls were thrilled to have something to do and took the lesson very seriously even though we knew little of what they actually stitched would be seen on screen. There was a surreal moment where they were all sat in a circle in costumes and bonnets, sewing away and talking about Nintendo, I felt like I was in a twisted time warp! While we sewed, scenes were being filmed in the room next to us, and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to be introduced to the film’s writer and director Jane Campion.”
Thanks for sharing that info with us Jess. You’re one of my favourite stitchers and it’s good to know that the film industry recognises talent when they see it as well!
Bright Star comes out in cinemas this week. Go and see it and impress your friends with your in-depth knowledge of the behind-the-scenes tricks used to create that authentic stitching shot at the start!