Thursday, January 16, 2014

Textile History at the Victoria and Albert Museum

Visiting a large museum can be a daunting task. What I like to do when I go to a museum is to pick a theme or a time period to focus on, to make my time more productive and enjoyable. I'm one of those visitors who likes to read the placards under the displays!

My familiarity with the Victoria and Albert Museum in London was limited, but I had read a book checked out from our local library about the British textile collections from the museum. 

So my theme for the day would be to find examples of early textiles, using techniques that we still use today.  Disclaimer: my photographs aren't the best! Everything was behind glass, with low lighting to protect the textiles. I did my best :)!


Here is a mantua, or court dress, from the Rococco period, c. 1740-5. I always thought these were the most absurdly shaped gowns, certainly nothing that enhances the female figure. And who would like to be going through doorways sideways all of the time?

Well, now I know the purpose of the shape of the skirt - to display all of the embroidery, in it's entirety! How wonderful that the design and craft of embroidery were so valued, even at the expense of the female figure.

Doll Making:

For those of us who feel a little bit silly about our passion for owning dolls, making dolls, or both, as adults, maybe this will make you feel better. These two dolls, c. 1690 - 1700, according to the placard, were probably made "for the amusement of adults at home, as were dolls' houses at this time".  The doll bodies were made of wood and wool.


I have always loved beautiful gloves, and would not mind seeing this beautiful fashion item resurrected today! This suede glove, c. 1714 - 1715, was trimmed in two types of ribbon. The museum speculates that there was a increase in the use of ribbon on dress during this period as a new Dutch engine loom had starting weaving ribbon. Ribbon had been woven on hand looms until then, at a much slower rate.


Here is a detail of the beautiful quilting and stuffed work on the c. 1360 - 1400 Sicilian linen bed quilt, showing the Legend of Tristram.  It measures 106" wide by 122" long. The outlines of the main elements are stitched with brown linen thread, and the filling quilting is stitched using a natural linen thread. (1)  Beautiful!!

Wool Applique:

I really wish I could have achieved better results with this photograph, but the lighting was extremely low in this area. The detail is from a wall hanging from Germany, c. 1370 - 1400. The hanging depicts scenes from the story of the romance of Tristan and Isolde, worked in wool applique. The wool motifs are applied to the wool background a little differently than we do today. A gilded leather cord surrounds each of the shapes.

Just for fun:

I always thought that the wearing of a pair of socks with open toed sandals was kind of a fashion faux pas! Well, I guess it is really an age old tradition. I had to laugh! I'll let you read the placard yourself.....

My last stop of the day was the V&A bookstore, where I found the book pictured below, which has beautiful photographs of the quilts the museum has in it's collection, although not on permanent display. Great find!

Here I am shivering outside the entrance after a long day exploring!

Thank you for spending some time with me on a virtual tour of the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Until next time,

(1) More information on the Legend of Tristram quilt, was taken from Quilting, by Averil Colby, c 1971.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

A trip to the Antique Textiles Company

Hello again, this time from London!

About six months ago I discovered the Antique Textiles Company on Facebook. Right away I could tell it was a very special shop. Never in a million years would I ever think that I would someday get to visit the shop in person.

But that is just what I did today.

I suppose that most people would immediately put on their "first to-do-when-in-London" list places such as Buckingham Palace (which happens to be across the park from my hotel), the Tower of London, Big Ben, etc., etc. But I have always been more interested in the everyday lives of people from times past and, of course quilts made by nameless men and women from times long ago, fit that category.

So, first on MY to-do list was to venture off to 
Hempstead in London to find the Antique Textiles Company. 

The streets of London are a maze to me...  


But, I found it! The quaint, charming, wonderland, the Antique Textiles Company!

Christopher Wilson-Tate is the proprietor of the shop, and his passion for, and knowledge about, old quilts and fabrics, was evident immediately.

Christopher graciously showed me many of his beautiful treasures, such as this beauty below, an early 1800's quilt covered with the most magnificent and beautiful crewelwork I have ever had the pleasure to see up close and in person. 

Christopher of Antique Textiles Company

Here are a few more photos of the outside of the shop, where you can catch little glimpses of more of the wonderful quilts piled high inside!

Me at the entrance to the Antique Textiles Company

And finally, a photo of a little corner of the treasure I came away with - a mosaic quilt top pieced with early nineteenth century fabrics....

That's all for now...this is my first blog post from a tablet out of town, so we'll see how it goes!

Until next time,