Friday, October 11, 2013

Revisiting 2007 U.K. Textile Study Tour

But first, a few more Fabric and Wallpaper Thoughts following Yesterday's unexpected surprises and Post...

In August of 2007, while visiting the Whitworth Art Gallery (which is associated with the University of Manchester, U.K.), our tour group was fortunate to encounter not only textiles but a special exhibit titled "Featuring Walls: Celebrating Three Centuries of Wall Paper Decoration". This exhibit lent itself nicely to the study of textile production. You could even get inspiration for quilt patterns!

Once you stumble on good quality A+ samples of historic wallpapers, you may be surprised by the daring colors that were used in paint, wallpaper, and fabric during particular periods of the 19th century. I was.

Speaking of wallpapers and color, I discovered a very interesting book in our wonderful little island library a couple of years ago -- "Fabrics and Wallpapers: Sources, Design and Inspiration" by Barty Phillips with Mary Schoeser as Consulting Editor and the forward by Gill Saunders, curator of wallpaper collection at Victoria & Albert Museum. Of course I had to order a copy of it. What a surprise when mine arrived. It had a fabric cover! Here are a few pages for you to browse. You can find it used on-line cheap, cheap, cheap!

A question I have loved exploring all my life: What are thread and fabric and textiles really all about beyond their practical use?

What an astounding story! It reminds of some of the amazing stories 
I have heard about "lost quilts."

Ah, textile history...human life woven and painted into cloth.

Speaking of textile history, I can't say enough good things about Deborah Robert's Quilt Study Tours! Just like her 2006 French tour I did, her 2007 U.K. Tour made history and as well as the UK itself come alive for me once again! (I had not been to England since my teen years when we family-camped all over the UK in 1960.) After my 2007 tour with Deb, the names of places in the U.K. that I read in the posts on the BQTHL (British Quilt & Textile History List) began to make sense to me.

Just for the fun of it, I have decided to revisit that 2007 tour via my blog.

Museum of Science & Industry –MOSI

I arrived in Manchester one day early on my own thus giving me time to adjust to the
time change and to visit the Museum of Science & Industry. This museum made the Industrial Revolution and textile production history I had been reading in the Chapman and Chassagene book “European Textile Printers in the Eighteenth Century: A
Study of Peel and Oberkamph” come alive! After visiting this museum, I was determined  to track down a copy of Philip Sykas’ “The Secret Life of Textiles”.

No luck finding it at museums or local bookstores while in Manchester (amazing!). However, I was able to get in touch with another British museum by email when I returned home and ordered it from them.  It is a treasure trove of early fabrics from swatch books found in six regional holdings in the U.K.

Also at the MOSI were wonderful quilt blocks and patchwork appliquéd hangings by local school children, some wonderful sample books that the curator showed a few of us, and another exhibit on the British to Asia textile trade routes and the types of fabrics they shipped back overseas --- after buying cotton from India, weaving it, printing it and selling it back to themas fabric.

There was even a corner on medical textiles....

and a jacket made of  “burst” thistledown seeds somehow sewn together. 

It couldn’t have weighed more than an ounce or two! Incredible! 

How in the world they made all those lovely fairy-like seeds stay together is beyond me. And I don’t see how it could ever be moved!

Unexpected Meaty Research Opportunity

In the afternoon of that first full day five of us spent several hours at the large public library, again looking at sample books! Yes, fabric sample books had been donated to the library! However, we couldn’t photograph these books like we had been given permission to do for  study purposes in various museums in the U.K.

While browsing the nearby bookshelves I stumbled upon “Farm and Cottage Inventories of Mid-Essex, 1635-1749” by Francis W. Steer (SBN 900592613) first published in 1950 and republished in 1969. I immediately began looking for the world “quilt”. The question that immediately came to my mind was the fact that the word ‘quilt’ did not appear in any inventories in the book until 1689/90. The last one appears in 1749, the last year the
book documents.

I quickly skimmed the whole book and made a list and had 15 pages copied by the assistant in the Reference Room. (I found far more references in the actual pages than I had found in the Index!) Now I have a list of the quilts and other references to bedding. The book even gave the name of the room in which the object was found! Only one or two give an actual description of the quilt but it was so exciting to even find any descriptive phrase. Wish I had been allowed to xerox the whole book! I later learned from Dorothy Osler that she had mined this book in depth when working on Traditional British Quilts (Batsford, 1987). Fortunately, Dorothy went on to write a book for all of us to reference!

This trip report is getting so long I am going to have to break it down in chapters! Oh, what a marvelous heritage the UK has and how generous everyone was with sharing the quilting part of it for two weeks! It's been great wandering down memory lane. Thanks for coming along! The Whitworth Art Gallery and York will be next!

Deb Robert's Textile Study Tours

Some of my AQSG buddies: Dawn Heefner, Deb Roberts, Mary Edgar and Kate Edgar. Behind Dawn is the curator whose name I do not, unfortunately, recall.

I have been most fortunate to have taken three of Deb Robert's Textile Study Tours. I cannot say enough good things about Deborah's organizational skills and contacts in Europe! The three tours I did had a major impact in my study and understanding of textile history.

Treat yourself. Or ask your partner/spouse to treat you!

Though the Whitworth is temporarily closed for renovation, you can still explore a few things on line.  Here is a link to their Textile history program called Talking Textiles and geared to children.

~ Keep those needles flying and spread the word about how quilts and textiles enrich your life and the life of our communities!



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