Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Old Irish Crochet Lace in Silk

This is another amazing find from the bottom of a box of very old and beautiful linen and lace but at first I didn't recognise it for what it is! Most of the Irish Crochet Lace which I have come across until now has been made in very fine cotton - but this seemed quite different, flimsy and silky. I soon realised that it was made in ultra fine silk thread - which probably indicates that it is older than usual - an Irish Crochet collar, made, with wonderful skill, in imitation of Italian Gros Point needlelace. But crochet it is - and there are shamrocks and roses among the flowers, which are so characteristic of this lovely old form of Irish lace. This looks as though it may have sat on top of a dress - it could be worn either way, with the point at the front or the back. It may well be Victorian. I think I'd be inclined to frame it up and simply admire it!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Dressmaking Samplers

I found these pieces of textile, carefully wrapped up in a small paper bag at the bottom of a box full of absolutely wonderful old linen and lace. And just at first, I wondered what on earth they could be! Because I had never seen anything like them before. They looked, at first glance, like parts of a garment, because they had buttonholes, buttons, pintucks, frills and darts. But when you looked more closely, you couldn't imagine what on earth that garment might be. One of them had a date - 1894 - embroidered on it in tiny red cross stitches, with sets of initials. One was in fine cotton, and one in flannel, with the work in blue thread. Every little piece of needlework was slightly different, and all of it very skilled. And then it struck me - these must be samplers of dressmaking - i.e. useful - needlework! I suppose the children of those who were reasonably well off might do conventional embroidered samplers, while the children of those who would be expected to make their living as seamstresses, might produce these 'useful needlework' samplers, so that they would know how to make garments of all kinds. Isn't that interesting? I find these pieces incredibly moving - I've never come across anything like them before and I'm amazed by how difficult it has been to find references to anything similar online. I wonder if they may have been made in so called industrial schools? Certainly, somebody took the immense trouble to keep them safe for over 100 years. So they deserve to be appreciated, and perhaps added to a collection of samplers.

Friday, April 09, 2010

My Gorgeous Chinese Five Clawed Dragon

I've blogged before about the enchantment of buying boxes of old textiles at auction, and then bringing them home to find out exactly what I've got. I spend plenty of time looking through these boxes on viewing day, especially when I think the price might be high, so I have to judge how much I want to spend without indulging in 'auction fever'. But every now and then, I bring something home and realise that - not only have I got a lovely collection - but I've come across something that I really want to keep. This happened to me yesterday, with what, at first glance, seemed like a nice but not especially unusual collection of old linen, lace and embroidery. I bid on it, bought it, and carried it home. Last night, I sat down to sort through it. It soon became clear that there were some wonderfully fine linens, smooth and cool - this old bleached Irish linen can feel like silk - with embroidery, cutwork and fine crochet edging. There was a little linen bag full of lace, including a piece of something so miraculously fine that I've never come across it before, but suspect it may be Alencon lace from France. There were a couple of unusual 'samplers' not the usual cross-stitch affairs, but late nineteenth century dressmaking samplers, presumably to teach young girls useful skills, like darts, buttonholes, frills, seams, cuffs etc.

And there was the dragon.

Isn't he gorgeous?

He is, I believe, a Chinese, Five Clawed Dragon, immensely lucky and - in spite of his fierce appearance - a Very Good Thing. He is in three dimensional, padded, couched, metal thread embroidery on red silk - a bit worn and damaged in places - with another two dragons above the main man.

I believe this was a Taoist altar frontal, but if anyone knows better, please do let me know. I adore Chinese and Japanese embroideries, but I have to say that they are not my speciality. I would really love to be able to make them my speciality, to research them and to find out much much more about them! Meanwhile, I think I'm going to have to keep my lovely dragon for the moment. I'll sell everything else in the box and see if I can afford him. But he needs a little restoration and preservation, so we'll just have to see.