Saturday, 15 April 2017

A thermal petticoat and a bit of sewing machine history

Another exhibit in the recent V and A 'undressed exhibition' that intrigued me was a thermal petticoat dated 1860. It was part of the V and A collection and is usually in Room 122, case 2 if you are interested and also part of the V and A online collection. 
(Photo copyright of V and A museum) 
The outer layer is of printed cotton ( which looked very much like a Norwich Shawl ) 1 , it was lined with cotton and Arctic goose down filled the space between the two. It was made by Booth and Fox who are noted as being in Britain, London and Ireland, Cork.
From looking closely the stitches were very regular and obviously machine done. 
This then led me to ask - how common was the sewing machine  in 1860? 

So I tried to find out more about the invention of the sewing machine. It is a fascinating story of a lot of people having a go and tweaking things or you could say altering details on the previous patents. 
The first patent appears to have been filed by Thomas Saint in 1790 - that surprised me! It used one thread and formed a chain. A string of people including Walter Hunt who used a double thread (1834) and Elias  Howe also in 1834 improved things and then in 1851 M. Singer and E Clark set up Singer.  The sewing machine which looked much like it does today was manufactured, initially as a treddle and for a century Singer machines rather dominated the world. 
I don't actually know the answer to my question - I would think the answer is 'few' but 
by 1900 20 million are said to have been used worldwide. 

My oldest sewing machine and dates to 1898. I just love the decoration.
  It stitches well. ( more about it at blogpost of 13 Feb 2012) 

The other interesting thing is that the dye used for the Red is Turkey Red which is a variation of the red obtained from Madder..... but  that is another story ! 

Friday, 14 April 2017

A stunning bustle at the V and A Museum

A stunning bustle at the V and A

This fabric really caught my eye at the 'Undressed - a brief history of underwear' exhibition at the V and A (see previous post).
It was so contemporary and could have been woven now, it was a delightful pale grey colour. It was making up this bustle:
(Image  copyright of the v and a museum) (1) 

I was particularly interested as I suspected it was made  from  crinoline. Crinoline was a fabric woven in Norwich (2) and contained horsehair. (The word comes from the French 'crin' for horsehair. ) On reading the label, I found it was woven crinoline, described on the label as a mixture of linen and horsehair. The label also indicates that bustles of this type were worn from about 1869-1880  and by 1890 these were no longer worn. My initial thought was that the fashion didn't last long, but then on reflection I realised how bizarre that thought was. Catwalk shows try and establish a 'trend' for one season now, so 11 years would be along time for a trend! 

This is even more interesting to me as I have cousins whose family owned mills in Norwich and  Wymondham that wove crinoline. Between us we are trying to find out more about this type of weaving and the mills involved. 

(1) More about this bustle. If you haven't been to the V and A and are interested in Fashion then a visit to the V and A is a must and also a look at their 'new' textile area at Clothworkers Centre. More about this one can be found in their online collection. 

(2) Morris Thelma in 'Made in Norwich' 700 years of Textile Heritage notes that Crinoline was a fabric with a cotton warp, crossed with horsehair ( the weft- my addition!) used for stiffening, especially crinoline skirts. It was known to be made by E.F. HIndes (1850s) and Bollingbroke &  Jones (1883-7 ) p 85

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Underwear, Jaegar and first century weaving

It's been too long since we went to London, so decided to treat ourselves to 3 nights away recently. The aim was to get to the V and A exhibition ' Undressed- a brief history of underwear' and managed it but with only a day to spare. Travelling from Wymondham was easy and very enjoyable with a change in Cambridge and London didn't seem very far. Of course, it's not that many years since I travelled to London from Diss at least once a week just for a fun  meeting about education. If we go back even further we did live there  for lots of years and  so always enjoy a visit now. 
Travelling worked well but I felt the burden of taking medication as I was quite migrainous. This is the result of fitting too much in before the visit I guess. 
And so to the Exhibition, we booked tickets for 10.00am and glad we did as it began to get busy as we finished. It didn't disappoint, the exhibition contained about 200 items from the 18th century to the present day and covered some men's underwear as well as ladies. I was particularly interested in the earlier examples where there particularly good examples of stays, made from a range of materials but starting with whalebone. X Ray's showed the effect of some of these on the ribs  and body - not good! 
Photography was not allowed but the 2 books devoted to the exhibition are both beautiful. Although the labelling was good, I will enjoy the additional detail in the books. I do have a History of Underwear book, acquired when I was researching bodices and the bra for making pieces for exhibiting. The (hand spun , dyed and )  knitted bra/ bikini top was in show at Maker's Month at the Forum in February where it proved to be quite a talking point. It will be part of an exhibition from Diss Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers in Diss Corn Hall from May 27th to June 7th 2017.
It was interesting to see reference to Jaegar in the exhibition and in an unexpected but interesting context which left me wanting to know more. So this is what I have found out.
Gustafson Jagar (born 1832 ) was a naturalist and hygienist (?!). He became a Professor of Physiology at a Veterinary School and later became a Physician  in Stuttgart. He wrote widely and gained a following from writing 'Die Normalkleidung als Gersundheitsschutz' or 'Standardised Apparel for Health Protection'. Basically he advocated wearing animal fibre next to the skin as it was better for the health  rather than plant fibres such as cotton. One such follower of his ideas was George Bernard Shaw. There was a particularly fetching photo of him in his woollen combinations (looked just like a 'onesie') on a beach on the South coast in 1885.
Gustafson J├Ąger did not form the firm, it was a British business man who started the firm of Jaegar based on his ideas in 1884. They became famous for quality wool knitwear, particularly twinsets,  and also used other exotic animal fibres, being noted for the introduction of the camel hair coat , besides using cashmere, angora and alpaca. This is particularly interesting, I have spun camel hair and found it rather like twine. 

In March (2017) Diss Guild members have the opportunity to spin cashmere, angora, alpaca and best camel down - how apt is that to this post. Watch this blog for a posting about what I think about spinning the softer type of camel.

During the First World War Jaegar supplied the British troops with long johns which were much appreciated. After the war natural fibres remained at the heart of the company as they started manufacturing suits and smart casual clothing. 

The brand Jaegar remains today. From looking at their website they note  their foundation in 1884 and recognise their heritage but sensibly  note that ' we understand the importance of innovation and creativity .... ( with) ...effortlessly stylish pieces for work and play without the designer price tags!'  Further research indicates that they are aiming to return the company to its historic reliance on uk factory production. A real positive in my opinion. I even liked some of the clothes! 

I love a thought provoking exhibition like this one at the V and A, it has set my inquisitive mind off and keep looking as I report on 3 more textile lines of the exhibition. I even saw my oldest textile - dated 300-600 , made of linen and wool, and I think you will agree it could have come off a loom today. It is beautiful and I would have been happy to have woven it.