Perpetuating the memory of one of the greatest figures of the Victorian age

‘Threads’ by Sarah Doyle

Embroidery is the first thing I learned… I sat beside my mother at her embroidery frame and watched the needle come down and begged to be allowed to fasten the thread.
– May Morris, 1910


I’m the life picked out in needlework, embroidered,

a chain-stitch away from parents whose artistry was

remarkable. I am the satin-stitch of trailing grapes, a

woman with fingers that spun silvery vines, wrought

always in a green that winter cannot wither. This I

was, and am, and more. I am a tangle of strawberries,

though this seed did not fall far from its trees. I am

none and all of these. I am fastened, coiled in skeins

of inheritance, soft as heather, the trellis of violets

you could almost smell. I am speckling feathers that

seemed to take flight, birds fledged of frame, calling

to my herringbone soul, a fly-stitch song. I am all that I

think and sew, all that I made and did not make. And

so the silk is cut, and I am where the threads break.

Sarah Doyle, Pre-Raphaelite Society Poet-in-Residence

POET’S NOTE: ‘Threads’ celebrates May Morris’s achievements as a designer and creator of exquisite embroideries, and weaves images present in her needlework. A gifted artist in her own right, May was dedicated to ensuring the enduring legacy of William Morris’s work, but this poem explores her own aesthetic and personal legacy. The poem is an acrostic of sorts, where the first word of each line can be read downwards, to reveal a quotation from a letter of May’s; I’ve used another of her quotations as an epigraph. The poem was published originally in the Pre-Raphaelite Society’s Review, and reprinted in The Presence and the Dream, a 2022 anthology celebrating a decade of the PRS Poetry Prize.