Louisa Pesel (1870–1947) was an English embroiderer, educator and textile collector.
Pesel was born in Bradford in 1870 to Frederic and Isabella Pesel. Frederic was a stockbroker and magistrate, and Isabella was from an influential Leeds family. After attending Bradford Girl's Grammar School, Pesel studied textile design at the National Art Training School.
In 1900, Pesel won a Silver Medal for a framed panel with inlay and applique, at the Women's Exhibition in Earl's Court, London. She subsequently took a post as designer the Royal Hellenic School of Needlework and Lace in Athens, and was its Director from 1903 until 1907. Returning to England to look after her ailing mother, Pesel assisted in setting up the West Riding Needlecraft Association.
In 1910 the Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum commissioned Pesel to produce a series of samplers of historic English embroidery stitches, which led to three V&A portfolio publications. During this period, Pesel also lectured on stitching at the V&A, the British Council, the British Association, and elsewhere.
During the First World War, Pesel worked with the Bradford Khaki Handicrafts Club to teach embroidery to Belgian refugees and to soldiers who had returned from the front, believing that the colourful designs and soothing effect of handwork could assist in the recovery from shell-shock.
In 1920, Pesel was elected as the first President of the Embroiderers' Guild. She was appointed by the Board of Education as an Extra Inspector of Needlework, to provide instruction to teachers.
After the death of her father in 1922, Pesel moved from Bradford, eventually settling in Twyford, Hampshire, in 1925, teaching embroidery locally. The Bishop of Winchester requested Pesel make cushions for the chapel attached to his residence, in 1931. The Dean of the Cathedral Gordon Selwyn was so impressed he then asked Pesel to design and sew textiles for the cathedral itself. Together with artist Sybil Blunt, Pesel designed and oversaw the creation of 56 cushions for the choir stalls in the cathedral, and more than 300 kneelers, which are still in use today. Pesel was appointed as the Mistress of Broderers at Winchester Cathedral in 1938.
Pesel did not marry, and died in Winchester in 1947. A pall that she had designed and supervised the embroidery of was used at her funeral.
Throughout her life and travels, Pesel collected textiles. On her death in 1947, the collection was bequeathed to the University of Leeds. Pesel had amassed or created more than 400 embroidered items, most from Turkey and Greek islands, but also from Morocco, Algeria, Turkestan, India, Pakistan, Persia, Syria, China, and Western Europe. Some of Pesel's own pieces and samples are included, along with personal papers, photograph albums, books and teaching aids.
Louisa Pesel features in Tracy Chevalier's 2019 fiction book "A Single Thread", and works that Pesel collected are included in the London exhibition "Unbound: Visionary Women Collecting Textiles", January–April 2020.
- Embroidery: or, The craft of the needle, by W. G. Paulson Townsend, assisted by Louisa F. Pesel. 1907
- Stitches from old English embroideries. London, P. Lund, Humphries & Co, Ltd, 1912
- Stitches from eastern embroideries from countries bordering on the Mediterranean, from Greece, the Near East and Persia. By Louisa F. Pesel 1913
- Practical Canvas Embroidery. London, Batsford, 1929
- English embroidery. 1931
- Leaves from my embroidery note-books, Pesel, Louisa Frances. London, B.T. Batsford Ltd, 1938
- Historical Designs for Embroidery. 1956 (published posthumously)
- Articles published in Embroidery and The Embroideress magazines