Monday, March 29, 2010

Time Shift - Irish Crochet and Bel Broid Lingerie

Occasionally, as I've said before on this blog, I come across fascinating things in the bottom of boxes of old linen bought at auction. A couple of weeks ago, I unearthed another of these objects which open a whole world of other interesting references, material for yet more novels and short stories (which I can't find enough time to write although I'm working on it!)
This one is a delicate antique nightie, which I think dates from before the 1920s. My first thought was that it might be French, but it has pretty and undeniably Irish crochet inserts on the bodice and on the little sleeves. It is in some ultra fine, soft, light white material which I think may be old fashioned 'cambric' - a simple, long garment, with the most beautiful whitework embroidery. I can't remember when I last saw such a pretty piece of lingerie. There is a tiny blue label sewn in at the bottom hem, which reads 'Bel Broid Lingerie' and this gave me the clue I needed to find its origin. I found the following on a genealogy site:

Rose Gallagher was born about 1877. She died on 24 March 1941. She is buried at Monaghan, Ireland. Rose and her husband Charles had a factory "The Bel-broid" located in Mill Street, Monaghan, which manufactured hand embroidered linens and lingerie. They operated two embroidery factories, one in Monaghan and one just across the border in Northern Ireland.

So this infinitely stylish garment, which had been stored away in some Scottish linen cupboard for heaven knows how many years, originated in a small factory in Monaghan, in Ireland. The writer and historian in me immediately wanted to know more, much more. But that's one piece of research that will have to be filed away for a little while, since I have so much other writing on hand at the moment, including revising about 120,000 words of fiction before the end of April. But all the same, I may go back to this one. Who was Rose Gallagher? Why did she open the factory, and who were the women who worked there? I'd love to know more. So if anyone out there does know more, perhaps they could let me know, via this blog!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Gorgous Embroidered Tablecloths for Spring

I must confess to having a really soft spot for those gorgeous little embroidered tablecloths that so many women seemed to make back in the 1940s and 50s. My dear late mum was one of them, and I still have several of them, beautifully embroidered by her like a little link to my own past. I also have piles of her old Stitchcraft magazines, and browsing through them from time to time, I'm a child again, back at home, with my mum, trying to decide on her next project. Even thinking about it gives me a strange combination of pleasure and sadness! All of which means that when I find a box of beautifully embroidered old linen at auction, as I did last week, I'm disproportionately ecstatic. People who don't have the same passion can never quite understand it, but even my husband, who mostly irons this stuff, was moved to say 'hey - these are so beautifully embroidered. I couldn't tell the front from the back!'
There's an example here, with flowers and butterflies embroidered on linen - all the flowers of late spring and summer in Scotland, honeysuckle, wild roses and many others - exquisite.
I believe, as well, that these little cloths are bang on trend if the country lifestyle magazines are to be believed here in the UK. Sophie Dahl, who begins a new cookery series, on UK television this week, has a fondness for embroidered tablecloths and I can think of nothing nicer, to celebrate Easter, than a proper teatime spread, with cupcakes, dainty sandwiches, and real tea served in china cups - all on these prettily embroidered tablecloths. OK, so we're 'playing at the fifties' a bit! But it's a harmless pleasure, so why not?

Friday, March 05, 2010

An Antique Scottish Sampler

Found a lovely and obviously very old Scottish sampler at auction the other day. From the format, I would judge that it was made in the early 1800s, and by a very young girl at that. There is, sadly, no date on this one, but close examination reveals the name Mary Young, of Ayr and there are also other initials, perhaps her parents and siblings. There is a flowering tree, in the typically Scots 'strawberry' pattern and a number of birds including robins, as well as some small, but rather stately looking homes. The whole thing is faded but charming and when you think that this is a piece of needlework which may have survived for almost 200 years, and perhaps dates from a time when this cottage where we are living was actually under construction - well, it becomes all the more marvellous. Part of the reason why I love textiles so much - such an intimate connection with the past!