Keep up to date with the latest News and Events from the New Embroidery group.
Following cancellation last year, 2 serious Covid related lockdowns and lots of hesitation the NEG Garden party took place again this year and 18 brave members and guests made the journey to Ann’s beautiful home in Dulwich Village to meet together and enjoy her garden.
Some people came by car but, like several others, I chose public transport and, I can honestly say, I didn’t at any time feel uncomfortable or anxious on the journey
The weather forecast wasn’t great and when I left home they were still discussing the possibility of rain around the area so I dressed accordingly with that in mind. Luckily “they” were wrong and we had a glorious day full of bright sunshine and almost cloudless skies.
Talk by John Allen F.R.C.A.
for the New Embroidery Group
1, Liz Ashurst
John Allen with one of his landscape wall-carpets.
As our President and sometimes mentor, it was fascinating to hear John speak at our Christmas meeting about his practice both past and present. On leaving school he trained as a dental technician followed by two years in the army and a spell as a coalman in his father’s business. At the age of 27 he began his training as a designer at Camberwell College of Art, specialising in woven and knitted textiles, followed by the Royal College of Art, designing woven and printed textiles. This gave him a broad range of skills which proved invaluable throughout his career.
After leaving college, whilst working for a company called Digo Loom, he set up his own studio with Jon Crane in a Soho basement. It was called The Allen Crane Studio and it allowed them to generate designs for fashion companies around the word. In 1977, as a result of his freelance experience, John was asked to set up a knitting school at the R.C.A. which he ran for 12 years. During this period he was commissioned by Dorling Kindersley to write a book on machine knitting. This proved to be very popular selling up to 120k copies and is still used today.
At this point in his career John became sick of working for other people and yearned to create his own individual style. For a break, he decided to go on a trekking holiday to Nepal and it was here he discovered the carpet weavers, making him realise how much he enjoyed the process for which he had been trained. Since then, he has struck up a close relationship with the master weaver and his team, enabling him to send them his detailed designs painted with gouache on graph paper to the actual size of the finished carpet. John described their working conditions as fairly primitive: prior to weaving, the wool has to be scoured, dyed in 3kg hanks to the exact colour, unwound then re-wound into skeins and balls. The looms are constructed on vertical scaffolding allowing up to 16 weavers to work at one carpet following the design which is placed behind the warp. Initially natural dyes were used but now John has devised a system using a range of 385 colours. Each design is worked in editions of three.
Over the past twenty years he has exhibited his carpets at the Knitting and Stitching show and more recently with the prestigious Goldmark gallery in Rutland. Using his great sense of colour the theme of landscape seems to predominate in his designs which are now in great demand. A tremendous achievement for which we must all congratulate him and thank him for all the help and advice which he has so generously given to our group and individual members over many years.
You are an inspiration to us all, John, and we send you our very best wishes for continued creativity and good health.
Do watch the excellent 2016 video on YouTube, John in conversation with Gabi Becker
‘A Life of Creativity- Designer Wisdom by famous British Textile Artist John Allen’
2, Alison Hird-Beecroft
John started his creative career at evening classes. His first degree was from the Camberwell School of Art from where he went on to the Royal College of Art for a Masters.
John then worked as a textile designer for a wool company in Soho, Jaeger and Marks and Spencer and other companies. He designed co-ordinating fabrics using the new materials of the time – double jersey and ‘crimplene’ etc. He then set up a freelance business with his partner John Crane.
He eventually went back to the Royal College of Art as a tutor and set up the knitting department. He was asked to write a teaching book to which he reluctantly agreed, which went on to sell an unprecedented number of books in that field. He has written other books subsequently. After some years he left to do his own work.
John showing a graph for one of his carpets
The main focus of his talk was about his woven carpets and his connection with weavers in Nepal. This began with the need to produce some new pieces for an exhibition, when he had the idea of sending his designs to the weaving workshop to be executed by the local people. He had already travelled to Nepal and was fascinated by what he found there. As part of his training was in weaving, he had a good understanding of the craft. He told us how the wool came from Tibetan sheep. It was quite rough and needed to be sorted and graded, and then hanked , dyed and spun before weaving could proceed. He has a good relationship with the master weaver and they work together, with John providing his designs as large graphs. He now uses black line on white instead of coloured gouache with a numbering system for colours. Most things are done by hand as there is not much electricity. Once the weaving is completed, it is cleaned and dried and then the pile is cut precisely with large sheers.
The master weaver was able to steer John through the complicated caste system and protocol that exists there, and though John would have loved to to sit on the floor with the weavers themselves, he was not allowed to. He was able to persuade the workshop to take on ideas that seemed alien to them at first.
John showed slides of the workshop and it’s procedures and examples of his original designs and some of his beautiful carpets. He also told us about his other artistic pursuits, his gouache colour experiments, examples of needle-punching and intricate etchings. Afterwards we were able to look closely at the pieces.
Thank you John for a fascinating and unforgettable talk.
16thJuly – 25thAugust 2019
The Sunbury Embroidery Gallery
Sunbury on Thames TW16 6AB
Some individual works –
Lines of Colour – Anna Diamond
Diamonds – Anna Diamond
Colourworks 2– Carole Waddle
Colourworks 1 – Carole Waddle
Sunbury – Liz Holliday
A colour for all seasons – Sue Dunkerley
Textile Bowl – Carole Waddle
Tulips – Bridget Barber
A Spectre of reflections – Buffy Fieldhouse
Lava – Dianne Whyte
Lava Flow – Dianne Whyte
Sofia – Liz Ashurst
Formal Garden – Bridget Barber
Poppies – Bridget Barber
Still Life – Bridget Barber
Headway – Sandra Hurll
Tequila Sunrise – Alison Hird Beecroft
Prism – Buffy Fieldhouse
Making Changes 2 – Janice Lawrence
Making Changes 1 – Janice Lawrence
Colourworks 1 – Carole Waddle
Autumn – Julia van den Bosch
Song of Africa – Arlene Shawcross
Falling Leaves – Jenny Black
Purple Bell Flower – Liz Holliday
Sweet Violet – Liz Holliday
Field of Dreams – Sue Dunkerley
Autumn – Sue Dunkerley
Tatiana – Liz Ashurst
Crescendo – Jenny Black
Green to Red – Kate Davis
Textile Study day
Ann had got out textiles from Guatemala, Romania, Syria, Thailand and China.
There were some dozen of us, including Tanya, a visitor from Ann’s step class. I must confess that as I am at this time looking into the Kuna Indians of the San Blas islands, naturally the Guatemalan textiles were most interesting, especially the embroidered birds on some of the colourful woven clothing. Also the fascinating Chinese pleated skirt in gold satin.
We looked closely at the cotton bedcover from Thailand and realised that there was a footpath outlined by red stitching which, when followed, took us through every aspect of the villagers’ lives. There were scenes of weaving, spinning, feeding animals, harvesting crops and many more.
As last year, I am sure we all enjoyed our day very much. Thank you, Ann, for giving us some colour in February.
Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the New Embroidery Group
Goldsmiths University of London
Deptford Town Hall
London S.E.14 6 N.W
9 November – 13 December 2018 inclusive
This exhibition has now finished. Below are some of the exhibits , showing the earliest first.
1969 Shellscape Glenys Grimwood
1974 Cottage garden Glenys Crocker
1974 Gravestones (detail). Elizabeth Ashurst
1975 Overlapping grids Irene Ord
1975. City wedding Mary Stapleton
1975 Flora Victoriana Suzanne Newton
c. 1976. Player king Moira Broadbent
1978 Work. Glenys Crocker (crooked photo!)
1970s Chestnut cob. Eve Lewis
1978. Stone walls do not a prison make. Cynthia Singer
1979 Ornamental cabbages. Mollie Picken
c.1980. December snow. Sandra Hurll (photo not straight!)
1980. Rained off. Angela Dewar
1984. Little Precious. Ann Rutherford
1984 Metamorphosis. Pauline Brown
Date? Elephant. Yvonne Morton
1985. Tideline. Dee Chester
1990? Impressions of a shopping precinct. Margaret Rivers
1992 Diminuendo. Khurshid Bamboat
1994 Beetles waistcoat. Ann Rutherford
1996 Jungle Flower (detail). Bridget Barber
1996 Thé dansant. Ann Rutherford
Late 1990s. Late Summer (detail). Heather Spaulding
2001. Geraniums, Giverny (detail). Pat Cove
2001. Cathedral (detail). Bridget Barber
2002. Bag. Janice Lawrence
2008. 4th day tulips. Peggy Field
2008 – 2009. A visual inheritance. Liz Holliday.
This is one panel of a very large work, a portion of which can be seen below.
2009–2010 The Mustering. (detail) Sue Merifield
2010. Snowdrops keep falling on my head. Harriet Robinson
2010 Fiery depths. Elizabeth Longhurst
2012 Purple Fractal. (detail) Anna Diamond
2012 Fractal 1 Anna Diamond
2012 Floral bowl. Barbara Jeremiah
2013. Be what you are. (section) Buffy Fieldhouse
2014. Forever England (section) Kate Davis
2014. Door at L’Angolo di Paradiso. Angela Dewar
2017 Nature nurtures butterflies. Sue Dunkerley
2016. Coast to Moor. (detail). Brenda Parsons
2017 Depths of time. Buffy Fieldhouse
2017 There’s music playing in the forest. Eleonor Rollen.
2017. Cosmic cat’s cradle. Alison Hird-Beecroft
2017 Birds of Paradise. Surjeet Husain
Constance Howard (seen here with our then chairman, Kay MacDonald) was our President in 1990 when we celebrated her 80th birthday with a party at the Artworkers’ Guild. Every member gave her a small embroidery to mark the occasion and we were able to display a few of them (there would have been over 100). This collection now belongs to the Textile Study Centre at Goldsmiths.
Visit to Hand and Lock
This was my second visit to Hand and Lock. The first, also with the NEG, was in the autumn of 2006 when 50% of their business was with the military and it was interesting to see how the emphasis has changed. Last time, we were shown the fabric and cutting patterns for military uniforms. While there is less demand for the latter now, it appears that they have a number of requests for military style clothing and gold work for fashion.
Sample using coloured plate with tiny bugle and other beads
Previously, I was led to believe that all the meticulous work was done by hand there in the workshop. It seems that even then they also had a factory in India. It sounds like a wonderful place to visit, as does the Indian shop which supplies a sumptuous range of coloured purl and bullion and plate for ‘gold’ work amongst other lovely threads.
Fish with mini-sequins, beads and coloured purls.
We first sat in a small room, where Alice (not Robert as advertised) showed us numerous examples of old and new goldwork on epaulettes, cuffs etc. I now know why these things go grey after a lot of exposure – it is only 2% gold at best. They now have the same laces (braids) and cords using a synthetic thread, which at first glance is indistinguishable from the real thing but is not so cold when held against the cheek. It seems a very sensible substitute, non-tarnish, long- wearing and a fraction of the price.
Plexiglass shapes for a fashion item.
The cupboards also revealed samples for fashion, with machine embroidery, trails of Swarovski crystals, leather, feathers, plexiglass shapes, sequins, beads and some gorgeous hand embroidery.
Fine hand embroidery.
The other huge development is their ability to scan a design into a computer, choose patterns, colours and textures, and send it all through to a futuristic multi-needle embroidery machine hidden in a cupboard where it can be left to work the embroidery. It can only do one colour at a time but a number of spools can be wound with different colours to be used in turn until the work is finished. Sometimes there are problems with metal threads snapping, which must be a nightmare. I had a look at these Brother machines online (you know, Christmas is coming.) The ten-needle version is only about £9,000 but I guess I’ll stick to my old trusty Bernina.
Insects with strips of sequin plastic used on its side with beads and purls.
Last time we saw people hand-embroidering a wedding dress for a client whose name they wouldn’t reveal. We didn’t see any wedding dresses today but a small piece, twelve hours of hand embroidery, which a bride-to-be had designed to go inside the jacket of the groom on their wedding day. It had their initials and some twiddly bits in pink and seemed a strange idea to me. Apparently there is now also a fashion for words to be embroidered on a bride’s veil, which can be read by those standing behind her –another odd idea!
Military-style badge gold work and embroidery.
A number of military badges show a royal crown and as we have a queen they currently have a queen’s crown. When our queen dies, these will all have to be changed to a King’s crown. Alice anticipates that it will be a very busy time for them.
Experimental piece for fashion.
Two new members came with us – Caron Dunkley, whom we hadn’t met before and Alex McLaren, who only joined this week! I hope we shall see them again at the Christmas meeting.
Visit to Diana Springall
A visit to Diana’s home has been long overdue, so we were delighted when she agreed to show us her collection located at her home in the village of Kemsing,Kent. On arrival we were greeted with coffee and some delicious scotch pancakes which she had made early that morning especially for us to enjoy, just a small indication of her kindness and hospitality. When we had all arrived and it’s easy to miss the turning for Kemsing, we were shown into her living room with walls decorated with a fascinating collection of embroideries from the 1970s onwards which included Eleri Mills, Paddy Killer. As a link from the past, there was also a charming late 18th century embroidery, an early kit with a painted image stitched on silk by Diana’s grandmother’s sister. Proceeding through the studio with a long working table and shelves stacked with an assortment of coloured yarns on spools, we moved into the circular area of the oast house used in the past for drying the locally cultivated hops. At this point we stopped to marvel at the carpet and superb curtains inspired by apple blossom then designed and made by Diana to fit the space, complementing both the house and the surrounding countryside. A project on a grand scale which most of us would find daunting. Some members then made their way up a spiral staircase to the room in the roof which allowed an arial view of the carpet plus some more framed embroideries.
Diana, in light blue dress, with her carpet and curtains.
A few years ago Diana had a larger studio built in the garden in which she was able to carry out commissions on a more monumental scale which required scaffolding. Here we were shown more examples of work from her collection including her own design sheets of bold landscapes worked in gouache reflecting her skills of draughtmanship, developed during her early training as a painter. On a more modest level, I was pleased to be briefly reunited with ‘Stormy Weather’ three of my stitched and painted panels which Diana purchased in 2014 at our NEG exhibition at Hall Place, Bexley. As we walked around the studio we were very impressed by the way in which the collection was organized with each work wrapped in acid free tissue and stored in a labelled cardboard box.
This September Diana celebrated her 80thbirthday. Her contribution to the Society of Designer Craftsmen, Embroiderers’ Guild and the European Textile Network has been quite extraordinary in promoting textiles as an art form , trying to redress the injustice of the fine art world who have always regarded the crafts as lower in importance. Her output has been prodigious. Apart from her teaching, lectures and commissions, work in private and public collections including the V & A and Embroiderers’ Guild and writing no less than five books, she has been a quietly unassuming but indominatable figure unphased by time or fashion. In other words, she has followed her own star, starting her collection of 35mm slides in the 1960s then, because she wanted people to see the real thing, purchasing work worldwide from the 1970s onwards to record a material culture in stitch. So a sincere ‘thank you’ to Diana from the NEG and our good wishes for many more healthy and creative years.
MASTERPIECE IN DULWICH
Susie and Paul Goulder
May I add a note of appreciation for the wonderful experience of the garden luncheon held at the exquisitely beautiful home of Mr and Mrs Rutherford in Dulwich Village (which, as is well known, is not only the name of this London “village“ but also the street name in this case. London has been described as a city of villages – truer of the South than the North – and Dulwich is a supreme example. Richmond and Wimbledon also, are separated only by “ urban countryside“ – including distinctive areas of semi-wilderness – called Richmond Park, Putney Heath, and Wimbledon Common respectively). Even before arriving we are soothed by the partly rural setting of Dulwich and the glory of the buildings from Britain’s best periods of domestic architecture.
The garden is beautifully non-formal (formal in the sense of the image of an Italian garden below) with curving borders and sweeping herbaceous beds.
It was particularly kind of Ann Rutherford to permit family and friends to come along so that they in turn could enjoy the house, the garden, the especially tasty lunch, and
the companionship and conversations during what turned out to be one of London’s best summer days.
One conversation drifted onto the theme of “masterpieces“ – the Rutherfords’s is viewed as a masterpiece of a Dulwich private garden. Often those producing master-pieces and journeyman-pieces (in the mediaeval terminology the journeyman copied and distributed the work originally created by the “Master”) are both unhelpfully subsumed by some writers into the category of “artisan work” or handicrafts.
The recent Masterpiece “pop-up exhibition” along London’s Embankment on the site of the Chelsea Flower Show used a more than gigantic “Georgian-houses-look-alike tent”, the size of a couple of football pitches, to house 150 trader/dealers in a grand variety of masterpieces.
Calling the Rutherford Garden a masterpiece, then, is apt as Ann was creator, artist and designer. Some of the guests took plants home with them ready to create further “journeyman examples” perhaps.
THE NEW EMBROIDERY GROUP AT 50 – Retrospective Exhibition at the Constance Howard Centre, Goldsmiths.
2018 is the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the New Embroidery Group. As part of the celebrations, the committee approached the Constance Howard Centre at Goldsmiths and suggested that we hold a retrospective exhibition there – it seemed the obvious place. We are very happy to tell you that they agreed and the exhibition will take place in the Centre in November and December this year. We will have an opening event and hope to arrange talks and workshops as well. Dates as follows
Open 9th November, Opening Event 16th November. Ends 13th December 2018. Gallery is open Wednesday – Friday.
The late Constance Howard, celebrating her 80th birthday with the New Embroidery Group. Constance was our President until she died aged 89 in 2000.
ANCIENT PERUVIAN TEXTILES
Janice’s talk on the Textiles of Peru was really excellent, not just informative but she made them accessible and real. What I enjoyed most was her sincere enthusiasm. We have all experienced academic erudite lectures, which give all the facts but remain dull and dreary,. Janice was able to put over the material in such a wonderful personal way we almost felt the fabric with her.
I am going to Peru next year and in my arrogance thought I know as much as i need to about the country’s textiles but Janice’s enthusiasm
has now infected me and I shall be heading for some of the museums where she and her husband photographed the textiles.
On that note I have to say it was so good to see such excellent photographs, clear even when taken in hideous lighting conditions.
If ever she is persuaded to give another talk, I will be on the front row!
INDIAN TEXTILES AT ANN RUTHERFORD’S
We were all greeted with a very welcome cup of coffee with delicious biscuits by Ann in her lovely home. Laid out in several rooms were her mainly Indian but with some Pakistani and Afghanistani examples of embroidered clothes, bags, scarves, sari lengths and other wondrous items such as a camel halter.
Ann gave a short introductory chat showing us pieces as she spoke then we were free to photograph, draw or paint as we chose.
Tie Dye featured prominently but there are many different ways of tie dyeing and Indians are past masters of the technique. A turban which was still partially held together in half by the stitching so that once pulled apart would break the threads and thus make them easy to remove. A wedding top with amazing tie dye patterns and a length of fabric which had obviously many processes used on it to achieve the finished result using the leheria method of tying. The colours achieved were subtle with yellow, blue and pale orange the main ones in a checked pattern, also so difficult.
Block printing, some of which had been done for Anouki.
Examples of ikat weaving were shown and we discussed double ikat which is SO expensive as both warp and weft are resist dyed and each needs to be aligned as the weaving progresses.
Applique and reverse applique were on quilts we later saw hanging from the landing as well as kantha quilting.
I particularly liked a Banjara or gipsy spice bag made of four oblongs of fabric stitched around a central square and then looped up to make pockets for the spices. It was heavily embroidered with minute cross stitch in patterns and using wound threads as a rope to hang or hold it up with a tassel on the end. The square then fell into a peak with four cowrie shells stitched around the central point. This was all in subtle shades of ochre, orange, green and red.
A hat had half an old metal zip to edge it as a decoration, with tiny white beads stitched on singly in pairs above the zip. Modern objects used when damaged and unable to be used for the purpose they were invented for is typically Indian.
Lots of shisha glass embroidery especially on the sleeves and fronts of backless bodices and wedding blouses. The myriad of textures, colours and fabrics was reminiscent of being in an Indian textile merchant’s lair and brought back many happy memories to me and others.
Thank you Ann for letting us participate and enjoy your collection, I really enjoyed my day and we were given many ideas of colour mixes to help us with our quest for ideas for “Colour”. The green parakeets added just that Indian spice to the sunny day.
PAINTED HALL CEILING
Last Friday, NEG members and friends had a guided tour of the Painted Hall Ceiling at Greenwich , the largest of its kind in Britain, representing the triumph of Peace and Liberty over Tyranny. Measuring 15 by 30 metres, it has a multitude of historical and allegorical figures including William III, Mary II and Louis XIV, the latter representing tyranny.
You find John Flamstead, the Astronomer Royal, and Sir James Thornhill himself who was commissioned in 1707 to design this ceiling, another in the upper hall and the West wall, and was not paid until work was finished in 1726!
There are figures representing gods,heroes from antiquity, the elements, rivers, and abstract notions such as peace and victory. Galileo is there, Hercules, the City of London, even a rat.
The whole thing is an amazing feat–the painters worked on a false floor, just as the conservators are doing now. They did it standing up, which must have put a terrible strain on the neck.
We had a knowledgeable guide who really enjoyed his own jokes. Last time I visited, the moulding round the edge of the ceiling was being cleaned with a cotton bud!
It is a brilliant idea to allow visitors to climb up the 60-odd steps to the viewing platform as it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the work close up and the entry charge will help pay for the conservation.
KNITTING AND STITCHING SHOW 2017
Knitting and Stitching Show at
We were delighted with the position and extent of our stand, just inside the passage from the Palm Court to the main exhibition halls, making it the first exhibit that visitors came across as they entered. We thank the organisers for this splendid bonus. The work went up really well and made an arresting display. We received a lot of compliments and sold a pleasing amount of work.
We now look forward to taking our exhibition to Harrogate in November.
Knitting and Stitching Show at
Once again, we were given a lovely exhibiting area which we very much appreciate.
Brenda Parsons. Travelling through Rajistan
Stitched and painted paper collage. Inspired by a visit to the Amber Fort in India.
Brenda Parsons. Indian Temples
Stitched and painted paper collage. Inspired by a visit to India and sketchbooks
Breda Parsons – detail . Shorelines
Techniques – stitched paper lace, hand and machine papers. Inspired by Wembury beach/shore Devon.
Ann Rutherford. King Roger 11
Silk and cotton appliqué with machine and hand embroidery. Designed from architectural drawings and a picture of King Roger II of Sicily.
Ann Rutherford. Orlaya
Hand embroidery on computer printout of own design, based on drawings of plants in the garden.
Elizabeth Arkell. Twisting Vines of my Imagination (detail)
Inspired by the embroidered stomachers of the 16th Century, this piece depicts my journey from the traditional towards a more freestyle way of working. Appliqué, cutwork, hand and machine embroidery.
Buffy Fieldhouse. City Skyline
Work reflects and is based on a sketch of the apparent chaos of sand patterns and seaweed. Acrylic paint on cotton, lutrador and paper laminations.
Buffy Fieldhouse. Random Confusion to Final Order
Acrylic paint on heavy cotton that has been randomly over printed many times and then hand embroidered mainly with linen threads.
Buffy Fieldhouse. Depths of Time
Work reflects and is based on a sketch of the apparent chaos of sand patterns and seaweed. Acrylic paint on cotton, lutrador and paper laminations.
Buffy Fieldhouse. Be What You Are
Paper lamination wall hanging based on text ‘Do not try to be anything but what you are and try and be that perfectly’. Over printed with text and hand stitched.
Angela Dewar. Near Lake Garda
Machine embroidery over layerd silk organzas.
Linda Litchfield. Blue Umbelliferae
Cyanotype embroidered in red, with rust.
Elizabeth Saunders. Threads of Time Left Behind
Embedded stitch with loose ends encapsulates the memories of time left behind as we travel on through life.
Arlene Shawcross. Roses in Bloom.
Free machine embroidery and hand stitch with velvets, silk and sheer fabrics. Inspired by the beauty of roses in bloom.
Arlene Shawcross. Night of Stars
Mixed fabrics including silks, sheers, velvet with free machine embroidery. Inspired by uplifting film music.
Liz Ashurst. Summer Border
Inspired by the summer herbaceous border at West Dean Gardens, Sussex. Silk dyed to match the harmonic sequence of colours and stitched in strips onto a canvas background.
Alison Hird-Beecroft. Cosmic Cat’s Cradle
Bamboo sticks with threads wrapped and knotted around them in various regular patterns.
Alison Hird-Beecroft. Interlace 1, 2, 3
Circular structures made of bamboo sticks which are wrapped and knotted in a regular pattern.
Janice Lawrence. Ghosts of the Namib.
Animals crossing the Namib in search of water. These are inspired by the San peoples stone carving. The colours of the deserts’ morning light. Machine and hand embroidery.
Bridget Barber. Tulips
Using Japanese appliqué techniques and many printed fabrics with some stitching.
Bridget Barber. Summer Bouquet
Fabric appliqué with surface embroidery – inspired by the flowers in my garden.
Bridget Barber. Pastures New
Layered landscape using many different fabrics and stitch techniques
Anna Diamond. Memories from Peru
Images from visit to Peru, printed onto fabric and collaged onto woven silk fabric from India. Hand stitched throughout.
Anna Diamond. Nimo
A collage of organza shapes, burnt with a soldering iron, onto a background of dyed organza. Kantha stitching throughout with some beads and sequins.
Pat Cove. Green 1,2 and 3
Experiments with household paints, hot iron, fabric and threads, machine and hand stitched.
Barbara Jeremiah. Sunset Waves
Embroidery on linen using ‘raffia’ stitch developed during straw and raffia hat making. The colours from a drawing/painting ant sunset whilst in Grenada.
Sue Dunkerley. Nature Nurtures Butterflies
Machine embroidery is used to depict the life cycle of a butterfly as the seasons move on.
Eleonor Rollen. There’s Music Playing in the Forest
Paper lamination using photographs with added embroidery and stitches.
Kate Davis. Lisbon Revealed
Moving on and travel are represented by a visit to Lisbon. Fabrics and fleece are applied and additional details added with fabric collage and stitch.
Jenny Black. From a Distance
Watercolour on calico with hand stitching.
Jenny Black. It’s a Grandad’s Life
Watercolour on calico with hand stitching.
Jenny Black. Beyond
Watercolour on calico with hand stitching.
Visit to St Mary’s Church, Froyle to see the 18th Century Vestments, July 2017
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.
The NEG garden party. June 2017
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.
Our new President, John Allen, with former Chairman, Liz Ashurst
Paper Lamination Workshop
with Christine Chester. May 2017
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Out of the Blue – Janice Lawrence
London in Line – Jenny Black
Crossing the Namib – Janice Lawrence
Surf Fusion– Valerie McCarthy
From Coast to Moor – Brenda Parsons
Grand Canyon – Anna Diamond
Textures 1 and 2 – Eleonor Rollen
Raindrops – Anna Diamond
Primroses and Tulips Blending – Diane Foxley
Blue Door – Angela Dewar
Señorita y Pangolin – Ann Rutherford
Girls Mingling – Diane Foxley
Forever England – Kate Davis
Nature Trail – Yvonne Barnes
Nature Trail, detail
Ebbtide 2– Glenys Grimwood
Downland Dreaming 1 and 2 – Liz Holliday
Sand, Sea and Sky – Suzanne Newton
Ebbtide – Glenys Grimwood
Re-cycling – Kay Ashby
Re-cycling, detail – Kay Ashby
Stratum– Anna Diamond
Window– Pat Cove
Blue Remembered Hills – Angela Dewar
Mashiko , detail – Linda Litchfield
Reflections – Glenys Grimwood
Felt bag – Angela Dewar
Red Eggs and Yellow Eggs – Pat Cove
Echoes of Matisse – Liz Holliday
Banners – Pauline Lovell
Pink Stripper – Kay Ashby
Summer Flowers – Eve Barnes
Green Turtle – Kathy Small
A Countryside Walk – Buffy Fieldhouse
Ebb and Flow – Buffy Fieldhouse
Down Under – Buffy Fieldhouse
Ancient Legacies – Sue Dunkerley
Knotted – Susie Goulder
GEORGIA O’KEEFFE EXHIBITION VISIT
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.
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!
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.
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!
Visit to Blythe House
Eleonor Rollen, Drawings by Glenys Grimwood
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.
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
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.
Paper Lamination Day with Christine Chester
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.
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.
Article – Bringing the Garden inside – Floral Wallpapers from the beginning.
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
Liberty in Fashion
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.