Saturday, 1 November 2014

Selvedge cuts the cloth

    I had the pleasure of meeting a lot of Selvedge readers in a lovely Regency house in Highgate recently - we were exploring the history and use of linen through the last three centuries.    An interesting account of Georgian domestic life told  by Amanda Vickery illustrated the growing luxury and  richness of the households and their collections of silver, china, furniture art works and textiles including domestic linen, (all to grace their fine mahogany, walnut and oak dining tables.)     Amanda showed us how linen influenced every event in the lives of people at each stage of their lives - from the baby's wrap to the funeral shroud,  and was prized as something that stood for cleanliness, a healthy life, a clean, moral one and was part of every ceremonial church and domestic occasion.  We went on to look at some of my own examples of the most humble weavings to damask linen and fine lace, and noted that the chosen textiles were often made in the convents by holy nuns. Skilled embroiderers undertook the making of  grand confections, often incorporating the family connection, and those who could afford it, demanded the very best for every domestic use.
  In France,  enormous damask cloths with designs of wild life, game and hunting themes were made for the huge banquets given in the chateaux, with dozens of matching napkins.   Others celebrated horses and carriages, others the flowers of the gardens - very often roses.  The grand beds were dressed in the very finest linen and all the top sheets and pillow cases had deep borders of the most elaborate needlework or lace.  The lace was made in many different ways, with pins, bobbins and other tools and I have myself got two matching 'birthing' sheets with hand-embroidered designs of  life-size water lilies (Monet designs) and iris to a depth of 3 feet at the top end of each sheet, all done in the most exquisite satin stitch. They have huge initials and coronets worked into the designs which proclaim (loudly) that they were the property of the Noblesse.(French aristocracy). I have since welcomed six of the ladies who attended this Hampstead event, at my own home and stores in Bradford on Avon, so does one thing lead to another!
Polly Leonard, the Editor and good friend of mine, sends this advert to invite you to her brilliant Christmas Fair, where you can meet many of the people featured in this great Magazine and see their goods and works.  Wish I could go but family illness prevents!  Tickets are £7.50 each for a super day in the textile world with lots of cutting edge inspiration!


  1. How I wish that I might have been able to attend this year's Winter Fair, having been a loyal subscriber to the magazine for many years, and actually visited a fair when it was still held in Highgate, near the shop.

    I really enjoyed reading your appreciation of linen which I share.

    Best wishes from New York.

    1. I know many readers of Selvedge live far away but the magazine seems to bring like-minded together and I can remember Polly selling 70 subscriptions to the mag. many years ago when she had a stall at one of my fairs at the American Museum nr. Bath (Claverton)and we all knew it would be a success! EB