Keep up to date with the latest News and Events from the New Embroidery group. 


21.11.2016

KNITTING AND STITCHING SHOW 2017

The New Embroidery Group has been invited to exhibit at the Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace and in Harrogate this year.


Visit to St Mary’s Church, Froyle to see the 18th Century Vestments, July 2017

Buffy Fieldhouse

The late Sir Hubert Miller was the Lord of the Manor of Froyle. Around 1900, while living in Venice, he is thought to have collected a treasure trove of ecclesiastical vestments worked in France and Italy mainly in the C18th. In the early part of the C21st these were found to be stored in atrocious conditions in the church and a group was formed who have started having the vestments conserved and they are now stored in ‘state of the art’ drawers and cupboards.

We were treated to a wonderful array of beautiful vestments and yet again I wondered how such detailed and amazing embroidery was carried out without the benefit of modern lighting and glasses.

There was a cloth of gold and garnet set consisting of chasuble and two dalmatics worn by the priest, deacon and sub-deacon for important festivals. By the number of garnets these garments must have been very heavy to wear and unusual to find in such a small fairly simple parish church. There was intricate gold work on many pieces, which are now being conserved, a task that takes time and money and is yet to be fully completed as there are 194 pieces in all.

Some of the pieces appeared of less ornate designs but still the workmanship was exquisite. I am not someone who enjoys metal thread work as I generally find it too detailed and gaudy, but the visit gave us a small insight into an amazing collection. It is generally only exhibited once a year at the beginning of June unless by special arrangement and it is well worth a visit.

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The NEG garden party. June 2017

Kay Ashby

 Dear Members

I thought you might like a letter to tell you about the Summer Lunch.

First of all, how does Ann do it? Every year the day the Summer Lunch comes around we always seem to have gorgeous weather.

Now I have a chum, who is eighty-four, who opens her garden every year for charity, and every year the weather is perfect: if you ask her how she arranges it she claims to perform a Rain Dance, naked mind you, on the roof of her house at dawn on the day of the opening. There are those who think she may be pulling a bit of a fast one here but it undoubtedly works. Are we to believe that Ann does something similar? In the middle of Dulwich? I don’t think so. But I could be wrong. Whatever, the weather this year was lovely again. And Ann’s garden looked just great despite recent dry and breezy weather. It is full of wonderful colours and everything seemed to be at its best. As ever the garden was much appreciated and there were lots of enthusiastic photographers. And I think even a sketcher or two.

So we had an excellent start. Gorgeous garden, lovely weather and interesting company, what else was needed? A good lunch! It is not that surprising that those who can design and stitch have an eye and the necessary skill to produce delectable food.

This year there was also an intriguing exhibition of some of Ann’s pieces which I was not alone in finding extremely interesting. We send a big thank you to Ann because although she pretends not to do anything, lovely occasions like that result from a lot of work. We know.

Do come next year if you missed out this time.

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Our new President, John Allen, with former Chairman, Liz Ashurst

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Paper Lamination Workshop

with Christine Chester. May 2017

Kay Ashby

As I write nearly a week after the very interesting day with Christine Chester, I am still full of enthusiasm for what we did and what we learned. And you can’t say that for every workshop you go to…..

The small group of NEG members who had elected to join this workshop met at Christine Chester’s lovely light and sunny studio in Eastbourne on a Friday in early May. Two of us had been to a workshop with Christine before but the rest of us had not. It was seeing the work produced at the previous workshop at an NEG meeting last year that had inspired the rest of us to want to learn the technique.

Christine is not only a lovely tutor with a gift for clear explanations but was obviously bent on ruining our waistlines too with continuously available tempting nibbles on the continuously available coffee tray: but don’t imagine this was a glorified coffee morning! Far from it.

The object of our day was to learn and practice methods of transferring printed images on to fabric. We learned how to select and collage a variety of images on paper such as newsprint, certain types of photocopies, photographs and even unwanted sheet music. We were taught about the selection of screens and the appropriate medium, the setting of the resulting image with heat and the scrubbing to remove the paper, hopefully leaving behind the desired images. We left muttering “iron, soak, scrub”, our motto for the day. I personally learned that the paper in use for printing music in 1890 was very thick and didn’t scrub off too well at all. I must add that I would not normally dream of destroying music from 1890 or any other year, but for some odd reason I had always had two copies of a not very famous sonata by Sinding, and one was plenty: two grandmothers, I suppose, both passed a copy down to me!

At the end of the day we went home with some interesting pieces of fabric, some more successful than others, but we had learned enough to know what could be done to get a better result or achieved by another method more effectively. We had, though, had a really good day and learned a lot from a generous and enthusiastic tutor.


Visit to the V&A, January 2017

Opus Anglicanum Masterpieces of English Medieval Embroidery

Margaret Mary Griffiths

This is a stunning and unique exhibition unlikely to be repeated as costs alone, bullet-proof glass, insurance and the fragile nature of each piece make this a rare event. The first dramatic garment is the Bologna Cope 1310-20. Miniature scenes of Christ’s Life are surrounded by Gothic arches with angels playing an amazing variety of instruments in the spandrels above. Each of the 19 pictures is a masterpiece, four of which show the story of the Magi.

The Toledo Cope 1310-20 has a linen ground and is completely covered in 50 figures, 24 large birds and numerous other creatures. Gothic niches keep everything in place. The saints hold scrolls with their Latin names, many are English such as St Edward the Confessor, St Dunstan and St Edmund of Bury, there is a similarity of style to C13th wall paintings in the Painted Chamber at Westminster documented by C19th drawings.

Now for something different, the Syon Cope 1310-20, this is strikingly bold and simple. The figures are very clear and the seraphs terrifying. The plain background is underside couching of silk twist in two colours, red (now brown) in the quatrefoils and green between them. The figures are highlighted in silver gilt thread.

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The Vatican Cope 1280-1300 is made of red silk twill and the figures fit into an Islamic pattern with eight sided stars interlocking to form another geometric shape. The characters are graceful and appear upright when the Cope is worn, but the seraphs stand on guard. This may have been a present to the Pope from Edward I.

The Jesse Cope 1310-25. The figures here, mostly old Testament prophets much resemble those in manuscript paintings of the period. They are embroidered on red silk, the tree of Jesse sends out delicate boughs encircling them.

The Butler Bowden Cope 1335-45 was purchased by the V&A in 1955 with the assistance of seven City Livery Companies and others. Covered in figures on red silk velvet in three tiers of Gothic arches made of oak branches the entwined biblical Holies are guarded by Lion heads once covered in pearls, only one is still so adorned. Two parrots sit at the top.

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The Vic Cope 1350 -75 (Vic Cathedral is north of Barcelona). This is made of red silk velvet covered in lacy columns and arches of intertwined branches, the green man prominently on guard. There are 24 saints with their names written above, their drapery emphasised by raised cord out lines covered in silver-gilt thread. This exhibition represents a large collection of medieval talent including Panels, Chasubles, Orphreys and other Church vestments. One picture shows the baby Mary using a three-wheeled baby walker. There is a pair of Episcopal Stockings and shoes 1171- 1200 belonging to Hubert Walker, Archbishop of Canterbury, found with other apparel in his sarcophagus.

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Some pieces are of historical significance. A Mitre with the slaughter of St Thomas a Becket and St Stephen. Was the church making a political statement?

There are only a few secular exhibits. The Surcoat and Shield 1376 belonging to the Black Prince, these once hung over his tomb in Canterbury Cathedral, his achievements. The Surcoat is linen padded with wool and covered in silk velvet and embroidered with the royal arms of France and England, fleurs-de-lys and heraldic lions. This Surcoat was worn over armour and must have looked magnificent.

There was only one mention of cotton; the Clare Chasuble 1272-94 of satin silk warp and cotton weft reinforced with linen. The fabrics used were – linen, silk, silk velvet, velvet, cloth of gold, silk twill, brocaded silk, silk damask, woven silk lampas. More than one layer of fabric was the practice.

The stitches – underside couching and split stitch were used extensively. Others include satin, plait, cross, raised work, couching, tent, feather, stem, stiff leaf and overcast.

The threads – silk, silver-gilt, linen, silver, gold. The metal threads were wrapped round a silk core.

We had expert advice on hand, Elizabeth Elvin was able to answer our questions, for example she showed us how by tightening a split stitch as you stitched round a face you could emphasise the contours.

All thanks to those who organised the outing.


 

14.11.2016

NEW EMBROIDERY GROUP EXHIBITIONS 2016

The Oxmarket gallery, Chichester in September and the Spa Gallery, Tunbridge Wells in October.

The theme was Fusion and work had to be at least a metre in one direction.

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Out of the Blue 3 complete (2)

Out of the Blue – Janice Lawrence

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London in Line – Jenny Black

Crossing the Namib – Janice Lawrence

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Surf Fusion– Valerie McCarthy

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From Coast to Moor – Brenda Parsons

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Grand Canyon – Anna Diamond

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Textures 1 and 2 – Eleonor Rollen

Anna Diamond - Rain Drops

Raindrops – Anna Diamond

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Primroses and Tulips Blending – Diane Foxley

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Blue Door – Angela Dewar

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Señorita y Pangolin – Ann Rutherford

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Girls Mingling – Diane Foxley

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Forever England – Kate Davis

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Nature Trail – Yvonne Barnes

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Nature Trail, detail

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Ebbtide 2– Glenys Grimwood

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Downland Dreaming 1 and 2 – Liz Holliday

 

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Sand, Sea and Sky – Suzanne Newton

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 Ebbtide – Glenys Grimwood

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Re-cycling – Kay Ashby

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Re-cycling, detail – Kay Ashby

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Stratum– Anna Diamond

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Window– Pat Cove

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Blue Remembered Hills – Angela Dewar

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Mashiko , detail – Linda Litchfield

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Reflections – Glenys Grimwood

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Felt bag – Angela Dewar

 

Pat Cove - Red Eggs Yellow Eggs

Red Eggs and Yellow Eggs – Pat Cove

Liz Holliday - Echoes of Matisse

Echoes of Matisse – Liz Holliday

Pailine Lovell - Banners

Banners – Pauline Lovell

Kay Ashby - Pink Stripper

Pink Stripper – Kay Ashby

Eve Barnes - Summer Flowers

Summer Flowers – Eve Barnes

Kathy Small - Green Turtle

Green Turtle – Kathy Small

Buffy Fieldhouse - A Countryside Walk

A Countryside Walk – Buffy Fieldhouse

Buffy Fieldhouse - Ebb and Flow

Ebb and Flow – Buffy Fieldhouse

Buffy Fieldhouse - Down Under

Down Under – Buffy Fieldhouse

Sue Dunkerley - Ancient Legacies

Ancient Legacies – Sue Dunkerley

Susie Goulder - Knotted

Knotted – Susie Goulder

 


 16.11.2016

GEORGIA O’KEEFFE EXHIBITION VISIT

Alison Hird-Beecroft

A small group of members gathered at Tate Modern for our tour of the Georgia O’Keeffe exhibition. I had always loved her work but tended to think of the flowers as being her main subject but as the TV programme and the exhibition proved, there is much more to this amazing artist. The exhibition celebrated almost a century of her life and seventy year old career. This was a unique opportunity to see her work as there are no examples of her work in the Tate or in the country!

Our tour guide was Richard Thomas who had previously given us a tour of Sonia Delaunay and and gave us a fascinating insight into the artist’s life.

The artist was born in Wisconsin to parents from immigrant families and decided to be an artist at the age of twelve. On reaching maturity she began sketching abstract shapes with charcoal and we saw examples of beautiful curves which I felt had so much energy and evoked movement. There were also exquisite simple watercolour abstracts. These drawings were shown by her friend Anita Pollitzer to the photographer and gallery owner Alfred Stieglitz who exhibited them in his Gallery 291. He said “finally, a woman on paper”. She was able to give up teaching art and concentrate on her work.

She revealed a gift for colour in her landscapes of Virginia and Texas. She moved to New York and used abstraction in oil paint and was inspired from the senses. She used her ‘synesthesia’, where music and sound can be converted into structural shapes in paint and her use of juxtaposition of colour in her work. Early flower abstraction began at this point with very curvaceous shapes. O’Keeffe felt that the erotic symbolism attributed to her paintings were actually in the eye of the beholder!

O’Keeffe and Stieglitz became a couple and eventually married. They were a part of a circle of artists, photographers, writers etc. In the exhibition there were many examples of photographs of O’Keeffe taken by Stieglitz showing her striking appearance. There were also photographs of clouds in many different forms and O’Keeffe used these forms in her paintings.

She went on to paint New York cityscapes of which there were some examples, and this continued until the Wall Street Crash. She visited New Mexico and investigated abstracts in nature and this also influenced Stieglitz.

She began painting very large close-up pictures of flowers – now more realistic than abstract. There were beautiful examples of these in the exhibition – poppies, irises and the famous ‘Jimson Weed’ (a kind of Datura with narcotic properties).

She fell in love with New Mexico, staying in Taos and had a special feeling about the area. She eventually bought a house there, an adobe. Here she met photographer Ansel Adams who became a lifelong friend. She loved the earth-built architecture of the area and the influence of the Native Americans together with Spanish colonial influence. There were no flowers, and her interest turned to animal bones and here began a series of paintings. Looking at the image of the sky through a pelvic bone it is impossible to tell if it is the bone or the sky that is the solid object. She also painted doorways, inspired from the buildings in the area, sometimes with very few lines, and just blocks of colour. She studied the way light falls on cliffs and mountains. The folds of colour and texture reminded me of the way fabric folds and falls over objects. Some of her last works were inspired by clouds as seen from above.

I found it an incredibly moving exhibition, particularly seeing how her early work influenced what she did in later life and I loved the structural nature of her work. It is hard to believe that you are looking at flat canvases.


4.08.2016

NEW EMBROIDERY GROUP GARDEN PARTY

Armed with a welcome drink we were able to wander and enjoy all of Ann’s wonderful landscaped garden especially some amazing delphiniums and lots of beautiful roses. Some excellent plant purchases were made, proceeds to St Christopher’s Hospice. We then assembled to enjoy lunch in the sun, hardly a cloud in the sky and no wind. It was extremely pleasant to be eating out of doors. Being able to stitch seems to mean that people are skilled at cooking too, so a wonderful variety of delicious dishes were brought and much enjoyed – it was not a day for dieting!

Kay Ashby

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4.08.2016

VISIT TO THE FAN MUSEUM, GREENWICH

Visit to the Fan Museum

Like the Fan Museum itself it was a small select group who gathered in the Yellow Room for a guided tour of the Museum. The Museum is situated in a lovely Georgian house and was originally based on the Helene Alexander collection of over 2000 fans, which has now increased to over 4000 items (not all on display I hasten to add).

We were given an insight into the history of the fan painters, whose guild started in 1678 in France with a set of prescriptive rules, which included that they could only sell paintings done in the shape of a fan. Any women fan painters would have to work outside the guild.

One of the highlights in the Museum’s collection is a fan painted in 1681 depicting the court of Louis XIV on the 20th birthday of the Grand Dauphin. The detail within the painting of the costumes of the various courtiers and the very elaborate carpet is fascinating but even more interesting is the fact you are looking at a rectangular painting not a fan. We learnt that it was common practice for the fan paintings to be removed from the fan sticks and recycled by being applied to a canvas with the blank corners and centre sections then painted, so it could be sold as a painting, thus getting around the Guild rule regarding only painting in a fan shape.

We spent some time looking at the exquisite work on the fans and paintings displayed in the Yellow Room before moving next door to look at the recently acquired treasure, an Elizabethan embroidered fan which has been stitched so that the embroidered flowers are the same on both sides.

The room also has a fan leaf with a very delicate fine art painting of a landscape in Martinique by Paul Gaugin. The lovely light image with its watercolour style is a contrast to the much more restrained palette of the only fan painted by Walter Sickert, probably in 1889. This image needs to be seen close up to realise it is the audience’s view of the stage in the Bedford Theatre with Little Dot Heatherington performing the song ‘The boy I love is up in the gallery’.

The tour finished with time to view the temporary exhibition of fans owned by the Livery company and some of its regalia. The ostrich feather fans were sumptuous and we were gazing in awe at some of the work in the lace fans. The final highlight was a lovely afternoon tea in the Orangery where we enjoyed scones, cake and tea. My thanks to Alison for arranging this very enjoyable afternoon.

Stephanie Johnson


 

03.06.2016

Talk by LAUREN SHANLEY at New Embroidery Group’s AGM

The day opened with an inspiring talk by the textile artist Lauren Shanley.

Lauren was brought up in New Zealand in a family with a tradition of creativity.

Her grandmother who was an haute couture trained tailor, taught her hand embroidery. Her father was a committed environmentalist and Lauren credits him with developing her interest in recycling which eventually led to her collecting vintage fabrics, buttons etc. Her collection includes fabrics from various countries, many of which have been donated; 1980s rose-patterned fabric being a favourite. One garment, which we were shown, was made from various silk pieces, including silk chiffon scarves which Lauren was given by her grandma.

Lauren has lived in the UK for many years. She began collecting textiles during her years in Australia in the 1980s but it was a first visit to the Victoria and Albert museum which inspired her to work creatively with her textile collection. She began by machining large collages — painting with fabric – as she described it. These were embellished with hand embroidery; and any remaining remnants were made into handbags, so nothing was wasted.

Inspiration comes from Indian and Folk art. She also credits her clients as being a source of inspiration. Most of the garments which she brought with her and which we later tried on, were loaned to her by her customers.

Lauren works mainly to commission. She designs and cuts the patterns for each individual customer. Once the style and colour range have been chosen, the fabrics are assembled and the piecing together begins. These fabrics can be of varying weights so a fine cotton backing is used to stabilize the material as it is made up.

We were shown slides of a selection of the garments including a stunning wedding dress in which the fabric was composed of strips of silk material, made up in a sheath style. She showed us cushions made of 1950s fabric, bags made from South American, Turkish and Indian fabrics and, her latest experiment, small coiled baskets.

After the slide show we were invited to model the garments. The photos which Ann circulated, show that there was no shortage of volunteers. Lauren has a studio and shop in The Oxo Tower along the South Bank between Waterloo and Blackfriars Bridges. She welcomes visitors!


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03.06.2016

Visit to Blythe House

Eleonor Rollen, Drawings by Glenys Grimwood

 

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Only four members from the NEG ventured out on this wet Jan. morning, for the visit, kindly arranged by Alison to see the Sandy collection. We were welcomed by a handsome, friendly and very young man named William Newton who had displayed the textile collection for us to study and also gave us some information about the pieces.

 

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This purse was made in Great Britain during the 17th century. It was woven in brown silk and the embroidered with gold and silver thread. The purse, lined with red silk , had drawstrings which were trimmed with tassels.

Purses were associated with saving as well as spending and this was sometimes alluded to in their decoration. Purses in the 17th century often included acorns in their pattern, an exhortation perhaps to save and prosper.

 

Walnut Shell Purse

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This purse was made from a single nutshell, covered with embroidery stitches such as detached buttonhole, braid stitches and lined and hinged with silk. It has a loop handle and draw string of plaited green and pink silk. The handle is attached to the embroidered cover at the centre of each half and the draw string runs through the top edge of the lining and out through holes bored in the centre of each nut half. Barely large enough to contain a few coins, the purse was probably a novelty gift.

 

 

A set of three orphreys was executed in Great Britain around the 15th century, from the chasuble, mounted on dark red velvet. They show figures beneath architectural canopies. The gold backgrounds were worked with a diaper pattern and are mounted on violet. In the centre, Christ is crucified with two mourning angels and God the Father is above. On the left are the Virgin Mary and St John the evangelist and on the right, St James the great with a staff and St Mary Magdalene with a jar. The orphreys are of linen with silver thread and coloured silks in split, brick stitches and couched work. The figures were worked separately and applied.

A pulpit hanging was made in Great Britain about 1633 by the King’s embroiderer Edmund Harrison (1590-1667). This textile is made of purple velvet embroidered with silver gilt thread, spangles and red silk cord in raised and couched work. A small piece of velvet is applied as a lining to the helmet of the coat of arms. In the centre are the arms of Sandys of the Vyne within a strapwork cartouche, with crest and elaborate mantling and the motto Aide Dieu. The rest of the textile is occupied with cherubs heads ( alternately with gold and silver hair) and wings. The area is arranged in rows within an elaborate symmetrical arabesque ornament of scrolls, formal leaves and shells. The ground has spangles and small rosettes.

An altar dossal was executed by Edmund Harrison about 1630. It was embroidered in silks and silver thread on velvet background. It was intended to be displayed above the back of an altar in the setting of a Church of England chapel. The ground was originally purple, now greenish black velvet. It depicts Christ with halo and 12 disciples reclining on benches around a table with an elaborate pedestal. Christ is offering bread to Judas. On the table are three platters, one with a lamb, and two goblets. The embroidery has been constructed and applied as one large piece; the satin ground is visible in some places representing the bench coverings, but most of the area is taken up with the heads and shirt-clad torsos of the figures worked in shades of coloured silks. Their voluminous cloaks in or nué cover the rest of their reclining bodies. The table, vessels and bench legs are in silver thread. The embroidery is likely to have been commissioned by Henry, fifth Baron Sandys of the Vyne in Hampshire.


 

03.06.2016

Paper Lamination Day with Christine Chester

Anna Diamond

Ten of us met at Christine’s Studio in Eastbourne for a day of paper laminating. It was a beautiful spring day and Christine has a well-equipped and light Studio, which put us all in a good state of mind for the day to come!

We commenced with cutting or tearing up pieces of newspaper which we laid in an arrangement and then bonded onto a transparent fabric using one of Christine’s many Thermofaxes. The results were quite surprising as it was difficult to tell how our pieces were going to turn out until they were finished.

In the afternoon we experimented with different papers and other fabrics, learning more techniques. Most of the afternoon work was not dry enough to finish during the day so we have brought them all home and now have the exciting task of revealing the work we commenced in the Studio.

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Christine encouraged us to experiment with various types of paper and fabrics and she was generous with her knowledge and her materials. We all spent a most enjoyable day learning new techniques in Christine’s spacious studio and have come away with many varied samples that hopefully will be made into a FUSION masterpiece for our forthcoming exhibitions.

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14.03.16

Article – Bringing the Garden inside – Floral Wallpapers from the beginning.

Carole Waddle

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All the walls in my flat are painted in emulsion except the bathroom which is part vinyl wallpapered.  So I was intrigued to find out about the history of wallpaper as given by Christine Woods.  She is Vice Chair of The Wallpaper Historical Society, editor of The Wallpaper History Review and former Curator (Wallpapers) at the Whitworth Art Gallery, University of Manchester.

Christine started by talking about the history of wallpaper and showed slides of some of the earliest pieces – not many having survived over the years because of their fragility.  The earliest piece, dated 1680, was hand printed on small sheets of paper in a blue floral motif on a white background.  These sheets were trimmed on two sides before being pasted and overlapped on the wall.  In Belgium it was customary to mount the paper onto canvas, which was then mounted onto a framework before being attached to the wall.  Walls in those days tended to be very damp.

Flocked wallpaper, designed to imitate cut velvet, was very expensive to produce.  Using an adhesive, the pattern was printed onto the paper and then run through a long trough of powdered wool.  Young children were employed to beat the underside of the trough to agitate the wool to make it stick to the adhesive.  It was a very unhealthy atmosphere in which the children worked.

Towards the end of the 17th century exquisite hand-painted Chinese papers began to arrive in Europe and were highly prized.  It was the absence of repeat or repetitive design that, when single sheets were pasted side by side on the wall, helped create a unique quality in a room.

Between 1712 and 1836 a tax was applied to wallpaper produced in the UK, an ink stamp being printed on the reverse of the wallpaper to indicate that duties had been collected.

It wasn’t until 1840 that wood block printing on continuous paper was used.  For a multi-coloured design, each colour was printed separately, one at a time, then left to dry for a day before the next colour could be printed – very time consuming.

With the introduction of mechanisation, a huge variety of designs could be produced and much more cheaply.  By now separate border patterns and individual panels were printed with arabesque designs and separate motifs to allow for mixing and matching.

Other developments in design saw the introduction of a lower border, combined with a fill above and then a frieze at the top of the wall.  As well as block printing, stencils (a zinc plate) were also being used to add texture and shading.  A very popular feature was the Dado rail to allow for plain wall colour below and patterned wallpaper above.  This meant that furniture could be placed next to the wall without obscuring the wallpaper patterns.

Another innovation was perforated patterns.  This meant that ‘cut out’ borders could be pasted below picture rails, over existing wallpaper, or individual floral patterns such as delphiniums placed where required around the walls.  Later came William Morris designs, the Willow pattern and Golden Lilies being very popular, which are still being produced today.

It was a fascinating talk and if anyone is interested in finding out more, please visit
http://www.wallpaperhistorysociety.org.uk/


 

14.03.16

Liberty in Fashion

Eleonor Rollen

On Friday 27th of November a group of members of the NEG attended a guided tour of the Liberty in Fashion exhibition at the Fashion and Textiles museum. We had a very friendly and knowledgeable Swedish guide called Eva who explained in detail the gowns on display.

Liberty was founded by Arthur Lasenby Liberty 140 years ago. The distinctive qualities of Liberty’s goods would become a descriptive term in countries such as France and softly draping silk was known as Soie Liberty and in Italy where the Art Nouveau movement became Stile Liberty.

With the opening up of Japan to trade with the west in 1850s the Japanese look soon became synonymous with Liberty. Liberty took inspiration from the Far East for its own textiles and collections, including the kimono, which provided the basis for dressing gowns and wraps.

The Aesthetic movement promoted a romantic, fluid way of dressing in contrast to the corsets, embellishments and upholstery of women’s clothing of the 1860s and 1870s. The loose fit and plainer silhouette of the garments celebrated a natural shape and became a preferred style for women with artistic taste. The art of embroidery became the main attraction and the frills were out. The idea of historic and artistic dressing carried on as an important element of the Liberty look.

Smocking was found on the clothes worn by agricultural labourers in the C18th and C19th. Smocks were rectangular shirt-like outer garments in which the fabric was pleated and stitched to create flexibility and increased durability. Kate Greenaway’s smocking designs influenced the style of children’s garments made by the company which were based on traditional versions and became a trademark of the retailers. There were several dresses and a few shirts with smocking on in the exhibition which had beautiful embroidery. We were told that folds were created on the skirts of young girls dresses so they could be let down as the girls grew taller.

Liberty only employed one lady who executed embroidery on smocking. There was a white wedding dress which seemed extremely large and it had slits in the three quarter length sleeves with cords and this lady had executed some exquisite stitching on the smocking.

Liberty had started producing delicate floral prints before World War 1 and the production increased fast during the inter-war period. In the 1920s people chose a print on a dark background and that gave way to pastel shades on a light ground, which reflected the more romantic mood of the 30s. Textiles such as Tana Lawn and Sungleam crepe were popular and were sold as finished garments as well as lengths for the dressmaker to be creative at home. Of course the Liberty scarves are still very popular.

From 1958 to 1960 a series of exhibitions re-evaluated the Art Nouveau movement. Their designer William Poole redrew a selection of original Art Nouveau patterns which he re-coloured  in bright colours and these designs were released as the Lotus collection after the original Liberty trade mark. They were sold as dress fabrics in silk, wool and cotton which became very popular and pointed the way to the retro revivals of the 1960s and early 70s.

A new wave of British fashion was born in the 60s and personified by a youthful style and freedom. Designers including Mary Quant, Foale and Tuffin, Marion Donaldson, Gerald Mc Cann and Jean Muir used Liberty prints in their trendsetting collections. In 1969 Susan Collier and her sister Sarah Campbell produced the Bauhaus design, revolutionising the public perception of Libety print.

Susan and Sarah’s many beautiful designs were on display in the lecture room for visitors to view.