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Gobelin, Spider’s Web, Rococo – I felt like I had just stepped into a fairy tale and was suddenly surrounded by a cast of intriguing miniature characters.

Not only that, a closer look showed some were immaculately adorned in silver, sequins and beads.

Actually, rather than a curious or charming collection of fictional creations, these were just some of the stitches and styles of embroidery on display at The Eye of the Needle exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.

The new exhibition, which opened last week, indulges in 17th century stitching and embroidery.

It contains a series of framed samplers, allegorical images and accessories, as well as exploring female social status and education in the 1600s.  The very feminine skill of needlepoint would have been passed down the generations from mother to daughter, it explains.

My favourite piece of the small but enchanting display is the Frog Purse, made by an Anonymous stitcher in the 17th century.

The dainty frog arms and legs lead to the most delicate of frog fingers that, I’m sure if one looked long enough, could almost start to slowly curl under just preparing to take a leap.

I think this exhibition works best with plenty of time and patience to absorb the close detail, and to lend a thought to the concentration, dedication and imagination that must have accompanied the stitching process.

It was a delight to visit and I might just return for a second look.

The Eye of the Needle exhibition runs until 12th October 2014 with £5 entry.

See more at: Ashmolean Museum

© Laura Claire H 2014