Voices From The Inside

After a reflective break from posting on all things textile and dress related, I could not think of a better way to return back into action than with requests to post on my blog!

What a honour…

Doddington Hall

This summer sees celebrations for the Magna Carta. Yet, voices will be heard at Doddington Hall during the staging of a fascinating exhibition of quilts and needlework entitled ‘Voices From The Inside’. Before it opens on Sunday 14th June 2015 lets explore how the project stitched itself together!

The exhibition will explore what it means to be ‘inside’ and the power of stitchwork to communicate, rehabilitate and heal. Curated in partnership with Fine Cell Work (the charity that trains men and women in prison to do high-quality, paid needlepoint). There will be several pieces made by prisoners, alongside other works made by nuns, carers, invalids, soldiers and artists.

Approximately twenty quilts displayed throughout the hall. They will fascinate and intrigue the general public, revealing sewing and stitching to high standards that takes skill, patience, time and practice. Explore and observe the extraordinary handiwork for yourself and imagine the lives of those who made them.

The exhibition will reveal a wide array of intricately-stitched and beautifully-finished handmade quilts, each with its own unique history and story – revealing the almost forgotten memories of communities. Tracy Chevalier‘s highly moving ‘Sleep Quilt’, made in Wandsworth Prison, brings to light what sleep means to the maker of each section whilst the inspirational ‘Help For Heros Quilt’ strikes a poignant note. Artist Grayson Perry has loaned his ‘Right to Life’ quilt.

Fine Cell Work have been working within our prisons for many years and give prisoners an opportunity to learn a skill and affect a change within themselves, a change that in turn helps to benefit the wider community. The organisation makes items that are in turn sold to support future projects; you will see that some of the quilts displayed are for sale during the exhibition!

To compliment the exhibition a series of inspirational workshops will invite participants to make: a quick patchwork quilt in a day, make a patchwork bag from Liberty prints, learn about improvised piecing and learn how to make cathedral window patchwork.

‘Voices From The Inside’ will run until 31st August 2015 and be available to the general public on open days (Wednesdays, Sundays & Bank Holiday Mondays – 12noon – 4pm). Entry to the exhibition is included with House and Gardens admission. Adult £9.50 – Family £26.00 – Child £4.75. Groups are very welcome by private appointment outside of standard opening times – please contact our House Manager to discuss 01522 694 308 or email info@doddingtonhall.com. 

Note quilt photographs featured  in the post are courtesy of Fine Cell Work.

This post was written in collaboration with Susanna Plummer at Doddington Hall. If you are interested in writing a post in collaboration with the author of Textile and Dress Historian please email textileanddresshistorian@gmail.com.


A Thousand Fancies….

The power of objects to inspire a thousand fancies
Charles Paget Wade

Charles Paget Wade, a poet, architect, artist-craftsman and not forgetting keen collector of eclectic objects, to inspire.

This collection can be seen at Snowshill Manor, which Wade gave to the National Trust in 1951. The collection of course would not be complete without costume (2,200 items of 18th to 20th century to be precise) which is stored at Berrington Hall. The collection is cared for by Althea Mackenzie, Costume Curator.

This year Berrington Hall is bringing to life the Georgian interiors of the Hall by displaying costume, from The Charles Paget Wade Collection, Hereford Museum Resource and Learning Centre and COSPROP (costume from The Duchess and 1995 BBC production of Pride and Prejudice).

The displays shall enchant visitors by taking them on a journey, peeping into the lives and fashion of Georgian society.

Over the course of the year there will be an array of costume from The Charles Paget Wade Collection and costumes worn in Pride and Prejudice (1995) British television period drama and the film The Duchess (2008).

Pride and Prejudice was filmed at various locations including Lyme Park (exterior of Pemberley, Darcy’s estate in Derbyshire) and Sudbury Hall (interiors) both owned by the National Trust.

The Duchess was filmed at locations such as Chastworth House, Bath (including the Assembly Rooms and Royal Crescent) and Clandon Park.

The Duchess, a selected display of costumes from The Duchess (2008), includes the wedding dress worn by Keria Knightly on until 30th June 2014, costumes from COSPROP, Holloway Road.

‘Wearing The Garden’ looks at Georgian men’s fashion. The influence of gardens on fashion reveals an extravagant display of stunning waistcoats with embellished woven silk brocades. This exhibition will feature costumes from The Charles Paget Wade Collection and Hereford Museum Resources and Learning Centre on until 30th June 2014.

‘Big Bottoms and Small Waist’ reveals a display of undergarments through the centuries. This exhibition will feature undergarments from The Charles Paget Wade Collection and Hereford Museum Resources and Learning Centre on display from 1st July until 31st August 2014.

‘Pride and Prejudice’ a selection of costumes and accessories worn during filming of Pride and Prejudice in 1995. On display from 1st August until 31st October 2014, costumes from COSPROP, Holloway Road.

If you want to see if costume can inspire a thousand fancies, why not make a visit to Berrington Hall or see the blog featuring The Charles Paget Wade Collection written by Ellie Jones, Conservation and Engagement Manager.

I certainly felt inspired by my visit! What will inspire you today?

This post was written in collaboration with Ellie Jones, Conservation and Engagement Manager at Berrington Hall.  If you are interested in writing a post in collaboration with the author of Textile and Dress Historian please email textileanddresshistorian@gmail.com.

Dressing Or Dressing Up!

Accessories appeared for the first time when primitive man found his most satisfying expression in the use of body painting and tattooing, added to this his desire for ornamentation – rings dangling from ears, chains around his neck, and perhaps a feather or two in his hair.

The earliest articles of adornment reveal ornaments used on different parts of the body, and interestingly the location for these objects were places where objects seemed to fit naturally.

The parts of the body destined to display ornaments are those areas that are contracted or of a narrower portion above large bony or muscular structure – the forehead and temples, the neck and shoulders, the waist and hips, above and below the knee, the ankles, the upper arms, the wrist, and to a lesser degree, the fingers.

Feathers need little preparation for man’s use and the system of mounting them is very simple. Some years later, body covering or clothing came to be worn. Accessory articles appeared for the head, neck, shoulder, waist, legs and arms. Today we know these accessories as modern hats, bonnets, shawls, belts, girdles, shoes, bracelets and so forth.

The idea of accessories has developed and changed over the years, today when thinking about accessories ‘dressing up’ comes to mind. Accessories can ‘dress up’ an outfit by creating a focal point to an otherwise ordinary outfit. Accessories play a key role as they adorn the body and enhance our appearance.

Over the years accessories have changed to complement the every changing style in fashion.

The history of the mask is one of surprising interest. Nearly every race has found some use for the mask. Perhaps the painted face of a primitive warrior inspired the first mask.

Accessories are items which stand alone and with the right ensemble complete an outfit.  A minority of accessories have no function but to look aesthetically pleasing. A classic example would be: a bracelet or brooch. A bracelet sits on the wrist and its only purpose is to glisten in the light and attract attention. The sample principle would apply to a brooch. It is attached to a jumper or jacket with a pin, however; it does not hold the jacket in place as it is only a form of decoration.

Hat-pins do have a function: they hold a hat in the correct position and stop it from falling off. On the contrary, a hat ornament has no function at all. Although a hat ornament remains tied to a form of necessity, etiquette and formality, which is distinguished from the use of a hatpin. The use of a hat ornament allowed a lady of ‘the leisure class’ or wealth the ability to distinguish herself from other social classes.

Is an accessory an object or could it be an extension of our personality?

Be My Valentine

It is said that St. Valentine’s Day probably originates from a pagan fertility festival in pre-Roman times or it could be a liturgical celebration of one or more early Christian saints named Valentinus? Where ever its origins may rest, the day appears to be associated with romance and love.

During the 15th century the occasion evolves by lovers expressing their affection for one another in the form of sending flowers, greeting cards “Valentines” and even confectionary – chocolate or sweets. Yet, it is interesting to see that since the 19th century the notion of a handwritten valentine’s card is sadly superseded by mass-production.

Valentine’s Day has become a commercial opportunity with the use of hearts, doves and the figure of the winged cupid to symbolise love.

We even see a tradition of chivalrous gentlemen sending a pair of gloves to their loved one as a proposal. He waits hopelessly hoping that his loved one will wear then to church on a Sunday in acceptance of his proposal.

Might you receive a pair of gloves this Valentine’s Day?

Sophisticated Selfridge

Yesterday evening the winter waiting was over. Our TV’s saw the delights of the opening episode of the second series of Mr Selfridge on ITV One.

We find ourselves in 1914. On the one hand World War I is about to begin and on the other Selfridges is celebrating its 5th anniversary.

The glamour of perfume and cosmetics appear to have found a place in the store. However fear not, the classic accessory of gloves is still to be seen adorning many a female hand and gentlemen or too, including Harry Gordon Selfridge.

The fashion of 1914 takes us from the rigid Victorian era where corsets were tightly laced to the Edwardian era where fashions loosen up towards a modern style.

Let’s step back in time for a moment. Harry Gordon Selfridge born during 1858 in Wisconsin, United States. In 1890 at the age of 32, Harry married Rosalie Buckingham. During 1906 Harry and Rosaile made a visit to England which would change their lives forever.

On his travels Harry noted that stores in London had not adopted the ideas that stores used in the United States. This encouraged Harry Gordon Selfridge to travel across the ocean from Chicago to England to open a store in London in 1909.  A store that would revolutionise the idea of buying goods. To make a spectacle of shopping, a sense of theatre by luring potential customers into the store to peer upon the most beautiful displays.

Selfridges is still flourishing today after 105 years!

Stitched Cloth or Exemplum

The word sampler is from the Latin ‘exemplum’ – an example

There was a time when needleworkers did not have the use of pre-printed patterns. This meant that when ever they noticed a design or motif that they liked it would need to be captured (stitched) as an example, for future reference.

A cloth would be stitched to form a small example. Soon the cloth was referred to as a ‘sampler’, as it would have randomly placed designs or patterns. Perhaps one day the design or pattern would be embroidered onto a pocket, cuff or hem line. You could almost say that the cloth was a working diary of a needleworker, collected over their lifetime.

Peruvian Nazca Sampler 2nd Century BC
Peruvian Nazca Sampler 2nd Century BC

The earliest examples of cloth used to record stitched patterns or a design is thought to have been worked by the ancient Peruvian Nazca culture.

A sampler developed into a embroidery produced, by young females, displaying a demonstration or test of their skills in needlework. It would often show some form of figures, motifs or have decorative borders. On occasions the needleworker would embroider their name and the date.

Jane Bostocke 1598
Jane Bostocke 1598

The history of this type of sampler dates back to the 16th century. The earliest dated example, at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London was made by Jane Bostocke in 1598.

Borders were introduced in the 17th century and by the mid-1600s alphabets came into common use. We also see religious or moral quotations, suggesting that the finished sampler was methodically organised.

By the 18th century samplers seemed a complete contrast to their predecessors. These samplers were stitched to demonstrate knowledge than to preserve skills.

Samplers are scattered all around the world and can be seen in various locations or settings. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York has a sampler made by the Peruvian Nazca culture from cotton and camelid hair. Records suggest the sampler was produced in the 2nd century BC.

The Victorian & Albert Museum, London has samplers by Elizabeth Parker and Jane Bostocke. The earliest dated sampler in Hull Museums Collection was produced by Elizabeth Clark in 1742, with an alphabet and flower motifs. The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge has samplers dating from the late 16th century to 20th century. There is a stunning piece worked by Mary Derow in 1723.

I am even surprised to find ‘The Sampler Tea Room & Museum’ in Pembrokeshire. Samplers can be seen at a variety of National Trust properties in historic setting such as Tintinhull House, Somerset; Berrington Hall, Herefordshire; Hill Top, Cumbria and Montacute House, Somerset.

Please contact each individual museum or National Trust property before making a visit to check if the samplers are on public display or if you are required to make an appointment in advance with a curator.

Jacobean Sampler
Jacobean Sampler

Today, samplers are widely used but for a leisurely activity. You can purchase a kit with the pattern, cloth and threads required to produce your own work of embroidered art.

Without the care and expertise of museums and national trust properties these fragile pieces of embroidered cloth would be lost forever and the makers forgotten.

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas


Christmas is approaching and there are only a few days left for that quick dash to the shops! If you are still thinking of what to get that someone special for Christmas, think no more.

Did you know that receiving and giving gifts have become one of the focal points of a modern Christmas?

You might even be surprised to learn that giving gloves at Christmas or New Year is a tradition dating back to the medieval times.

Gloves were often given as a token of friendship and faithfulness, a custom still in practice today!

So I leave you with just one thought, the perfect Christmas gift for that someone special, gloves.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas!