The Burrell Collection

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border detail of embroidered panel depicting Judith and Holofernes, English, mid-seventeenth century, silk and metal on silk.

There are some places that draw me back again and again whether I intend to go or not. The Burrell Collection seems to be one. I visited for the first time during my first week living in Glasgow, then returned with friends for a tour of the embroidery collection, then once again a few days later, when I hopped on a bus intending to go north, and ending up going south instead. I realised in a panic, leapt off (kicking myself) then, seeing the leafy entrance to Pollok Park, consoled myself with a wander around the collection and a Tunnock’s teacake.

But then, there’s certainly the quantity and variety of artefacts to warrant more than one visit. When Sir William Burrell bequethed his huge collection of Chinese ceramics, ancient Egyptian art, Medieval embroideries and Rodin sculptures (amongst other things), he stipulated it should be housed in a building 16 miles from the city of Glasgow. He worried that city pollution would damage the objects, particularly the tapestries, so wanted them to be housed in a clean rural setting – showing great foresight in terms of conservation. Although not as far from the city as he wished, Pollok park provides ample green space for the collection building as well as Pollok House (now a National Trust property), herds of Highland cattle, dense woodland and blackberrying opportunities. Yum.

burrell01Unfortunately, nature is also creeping into the building in the form of clothes moths and rain water, so some furnishings have been taken off display for deep freezing to eliminate any unwanted hosts, and in a couple of rooms furniture is swathed in plastic whilst stray buckets collect drips.

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Peasants hunting rabbits with ferrets, French, 1450-75, wool and silk tapestry.

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Glasgow!

Here are a few photos from my first two days living in Glasgow, which I’ve mainly used to find routes (with the exception of swimming) across the Clyde, visit the Burrell Collection and Kelvingrove, get a bit lost on the buses and scout out the best wool and fabric shops (Marjory’s and Mandors so far).

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Yesterday I visited the Burrell Collection, which is set in the middle of a very woody park south of the Clyde. On the way to the museum I attempted to befriend these beautiful young Highland cattle by complementing them on their bangs. I’m not sure whether they could see, or understand me.Glasgow02

Amongst an impressive array of Chinese pottery, ancient Egyptian carvings and Rodin sculptures, the Burrell collection includes walls and walls of tapestries. I’m going back tomorrow for more.Glasgow03Linen silk/ silver-embroidered waistcoat, made in Britain 1615-18. Amongst the symmetrically-curling foliage and flowers sit caterpillars and butterflies. Continue reading

Embroidery practice

Earlier this year I attended a Jacobean crewelwork class at Hampton Court Palace – a Christmas present from my benevolent sister.

I’ve finally just got round to finishing off the piece, being in need of a) a kick up the backside and b) some serious needle practice for the textile conservation course starting in September. Conservation stitches are quite different to embroidery – the priorities being support and discretion – but I think any practice is useful.

The course was fantastic for learning a variety stitches in a short space of time, and from a professional embroideress. However, I was a bit disappointed we weren’t shown some original examples, and used cotton rather than the more traditional linen.

peacockThe piece includes the following stitches:

  • back stitch
  • satin
  • stem
  • split
  • french knots
  • chain
  • seeding
  • bullion
  • long and short
  • padded satin
  • fly
  • herringbone
  • closed herringbone
  • ermine
  • battlement couching

I added a stitched epitaph, inspired by the Victorian samplers that usually read something along the lines of this, for example: “Elizabeth Irwins work age 10 March 5 1848. All you my friends who now expect to see A piece of work performed by me cast but A smile on this my mean endeavour Ill strive to mend and be obedient ever”.

I make no such promises!

7 Hammersmith Terrace

Hammersmith Terrace is a pretty, quiet street of handsome Georgian properties. It’s so pretty and so quiet, you’d imagine that behind each and every glossy front door there was an oligarch not living there. Not so for number seven – or at least the last occupier was no oligarch, and won’t be returning, even for the occasional weekend.

IMG_1089With this in mind, it’s odd how, when stepping inside the house, it seems particularly lived in, to the point of feeling as though you’re intruding into someone’s private home. The decor is harmonious but not obsessively matchy-matchy, it’s clean and tidy but trinkets and everyday objects lie on tables and mantlepieces, and on the walls, photos and pictures seem like old neighbours, leaning against their frames as they exchange gossip.

As you might have guessed, Seven Hammersmith Terrace is a museum, albeit an unusual, little-known one. Formerly owned by Emery Walker (1851 – 1933), printmaker and friend of William Morris (1834 – 1896), its Arts & Crafts decor and contents were passed down to and preserved first by Walker’s daughter, Dorothy (1878 – 1933), then her friend Elizabeth de Haas (? – 1999), and finally the Emery Walker Trust, set up in 1999.

IMG_1092In this museum, there are no teasels on chairs, and the only labels were written by the owners themselves, shrewdly aware of the future importance of the objects.

Many are of little value and seem insignificant until combined with other objects or documents – such as the mended jug bought by Walker on holiday in Rome, and the photo capturing him in the act.

Some introduced me to a side of the Arts & Crafts movement I’d never known before – for example, the patterned lino flooring in the front hallway printed by Morris & Co. Initially called ‘Kampticon’, lino was first manufactured in 1864 (not the 1940s as I’d assumed), eleven years before Morris designed his flooring. Despite his tendency towards the archaic and traditional, it shows that Morris was clearly interested in new materials too.

IMG_1098Others are even more precious and unique, such as the sturdy seventeenth century chair used by William Morris in his study down the road at Kelmscott House and passed on to Walker when he died, and the wool and camel hair bedspread embroidered by May Morris (1862 – 1938, William’s daughter) for Emery’s frail wife Mary Grace. On Mary Grace’s death in 1920, it was used as a shroud to cover her coffin, then in 1933 it was used to cover Emery’s. Thirty years after that, it was used for Dorothy’s, then 36 years on for Elizabeth de Haas in 1999.

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In the life of this one object, much of the history of the house and its owners is encompassed. If it hadn’t been saved from the flames of the crematorium in time, an important Arts & Crafts object and piece of history would be lost forever. If separated from the house and the rest of its contents, the full value and meaning of both would be lost. The same goes for the entire house and its contents, described by John Betjeman as “a kingdom that can never be created again”. I highly recommend visiting at least once.

7 Hammersmith Terrace is viewable by appointment only, Saturdays (and some Sundays) from April to October. Bookings can be made via their website, £10 full price and some concessions available.

For a better look at Morris’s lino, there’s a piece on the V&A’s collections website here.

Photos with kind permission from the Emery Walker Trust.

Kiev: National Museum of Ukrainian Folk Decorative Art

NatMusUkrFolkArt13Perhaps my favourite museum I visited in Kiev, the National Museum of Ukrainian Folk Decorative Art is situated within the grounds of Pechersk Lavra, a huge monastery complex founded in the 11th century on the banks of the Dnieper.

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Entrance to Pechersk Lavra

This post is simply an overview of the museum and its contents, but I hope at a later date to research Ukrainian costume and its making and history in more detail, probably by picking one of the pieces below to start my research. Please comment if you are interested in any particular costumes or elements.

The incredibly informative and well-illustrated folkcostume.blogspot has a number of posts about Ukrainian dress and embroidery, so I recommend having a look to find out more about the items featured here.

Rushnyk

The Folk Museum (as I’ll refer to it from now on) has a huge display of embroidered rushnyk (pronounced ‘rooshnik’). As I mentioned in my last post on the Ivan Gonchar Museum, these strips of cloth have traditionally played an important role in rituals throughout life, being used in baptisms, weddings and funerals.

Rushnyk were traditionally made by individuals for use within families, but their organised production also developed into a sophisticated textile industry during the 20th century, enjoying considerable growth in the 1960s and 70s. State-run factories were set up, which later became part of the “Ukrhudozhprom” (Ukrainian Art Industry), under the Ministry of Local Industry. The rushnyk displayed here largely come from these factories. I’d love to know more about how their production and design differs from family-made rushnyk.

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NatMusUkrFolkArt04Hand-embroidered linen rushnyks (рушники) made in the “Red beam” factory (фабрика “червоний проминь”), New Sanzhary, Poltava region, 1951 – 67.

This chest was displayed in the rushnyk room, so I assume it could have been used to store textiles.

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Carved and painted wooden chest, early 20th century, Ivano-Frankivsk region

Costumes

The museum displays 28 sets of Ukrainian folk costumes from the 19th to 20th century. Organised by geographical region, they are displayed as full outfits, with all the jewelry and accessories to go with the clothes. I’d be interested to know whether they came to the museum as full outfits, and if not, how it was decided to put items together. Most are women’s outfits, which were generally less likely to be made from factory-produced textiles than men’s clothing.

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NatMusUkrFolkArt06Women’s outfits, late 19th – early 20th century, Vlasivka village, Zinkivsky District, Poltava region. Detail: Wrap-skirt, or ‘plakhta’ (плахта)

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NatMusUkrFolkArt08Late 19th- early 20th century costumes, Sumy region.

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NatMusUkrFolkArt10 Early 20th century, Chernigiv region.

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NatMusUkrFolkArt12 Late 19th – early 20th century, Volyn region

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Svyta (overcoat), 1917.

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Svyta (overcoat), 1930s, Vydrychi village, Kamin-Kashyra district, Volyn region.

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NatMusUkrFolkArt17 NatMusUkrFolkArt18 Late 19th – early 20th century, Yavoriv district, Lviv region

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Mans costume, early 20th century, Kosiv district, Ivano-Frankivsk region

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NatMusUkrFolkArt21 NatMusUkrFolkArt22 NatMusUkrFolkArt24NatMusUkrFolkArt23 Two early 20th century costumes from Torgovytsia village, Gorodenkiv district, Ivano-Frankivsk region

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late 19th – early 20th century, Nyzhni Kryvchi village, Borshchiv district, Ternopil region

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NatMusUkrFolkArt27Late 19th – early 20th century, Chernivtsi region

Rugs

There’s an impressive array of handwoven rugs at the museum, most with colourful floral designs.
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NatMusUkrFolkArt3018th century, Poltava province. Wool, handwoven.

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19th century, Kyiv province. Wool, handwoven.

Carved tools

I think more museums should display the tools used to make and maintain the objects on display – after all, they determine an object’s appearance and present state. At the Folk Museum I found a printing block and these beautifully-carved ironing implements. If anyone can guess/knows how these ‘rubels’ are used please let me know!

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Printing block, 19th century, Poltava province. Wood, handcarved.

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Implements for ironing – ‘rubel’ (рубель), Kyiv province. Wood, handcarved.

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In descending order: back of a cart, 19th century, Poltava province; back of a cart, 19th century, Kyiv province; back of a sleigh, 1870s, Poltava province.

Painting

During the 20th century, many Ukrainian artists made drawings and paintings inspired by folk art. They drew upon motifs and subject matter in textiles and ceramics to make a genre of art which also fed into and was influenced by trends in the international art scene. Many chose to re-imagine and keep alive folk tales by depicting them in paint.

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“Bird on Guelder Rose”, T. Pata (1884-1976), 1951. Gouache on paper.

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Y. Mironova (1929-2010), “проводжала дівчинонька” (The Girl’s Farewell), 1970. Gouache on paper.

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M. Prymachenko (1909-97), “Wedding”, 1959. Gouache on paper.

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N. Bilokin (1894-1981), “Wedding Procession”, 1938. Gouache on paper

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Ceramics and glass

As with textiles, Ukrainian ceramics have a long tradition; pottery from as early the Neolithic era has been discovered here. The Folk Museum houses a whole range of plates and vessels and sculptures, but my camera was most attracted to the animal-shaped ceramics on display.

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‘Two-faced lion’ vessel, late 18th- early 19th century, Kyin province.

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Ceramic goat, 1967, Kyiv

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Late 18th-early 19th century plate, Sunki and Dybyntsi villages, Kyiv region.

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O. Hriadunova (1898-1974), Kyiv, 1940s-50s.

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O. Zhelezniak (1909-63), ceramic sculptures, 1960s, Hrybovaya Rudnia village, Chernihiv region.

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Glass containers, 15th -18th centuries

Kiev: Ivan Gonchar Museum

Here’s the second of many posts to come, on places I visited, and hope others will too, in Kiev.

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I first found out about the Ivan Gonchar Museum (aka Ukrainian Centre of Folk Culture) on the Folk Costume of Polissya website, which features traditional ensembles from various parts of Ukraine, nearly all of which are from the museum. So, naturally, it was top of my sightseeing list.

IvanGonchar01The museum is situated in the eastern part of the city, next door to the famous Pecharsk Lavra monastery site and close to the banks of the Dnieper river. Although small, it houses a varied collection of Ukrainian handicrafts, including pottery, clothing, woven fabrics, paintings, photographs and painted eggs, all informatively labelled in Ukrainian and, helpfully, English. The focus of the collection is to represent items from across the regions Ukraine, rather than give a historical survey. The majority of objects are no older than the nineteenth century, but show the range of styles, colours and patterns traditionally favoured by different regions.

Textiles

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Detail of embroidered sleeves of women’s full-length shirts (sorochka dodil-na), from various provinces. Early 20th century, homespun embroidery thread on homespun hemp or linen cloth.

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Hand-woven wrap skirts (plakhta, “zirchatka”), from various provinces. Early 20th century, wool, wool and cotton, wool and linen

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Women’s woven sashes (kraika), Poltava province. First half of 20th century, wool.

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Man’s Costume, Western Podillia. Late 19th – early 20th century

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Woman’s costume, Ivano-Frankivs’k Province. Late 19th – early 20th century.

IvanGonchar19I was, of course, particularly drawn to the costume display, with its exquisitely embroidered linen or hemp full length shirts, worn under multi-coloured hand-woven woolen wrap-skirts tied with sashes. The amount of time that must have been spent making these outfits and all their constituent parts is staggering, and demonstrates the importance and pride placed in their making and wearing.

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Woven rug, on which I failed to write down notes – if you visit the museum please let me know and I’ll update the info

The museum also has a display of ‘rushnyk‘ – long strips of cloth traditionally embroidered or woven with symbolic patterns and/or imagery. They still play a part in modern Ukrainian wedding ceremonies, being used to literally tie the bride and groom together at the wrists.

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Embroidered ritual cloths (rushnyk), 18th – 20th century. Homespun linen or hemp cloth embroidered with wool or cotton thread.

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Woven cloth, late 19th to early 20th century. Linen, hemp, cotton and/or wool.

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Woven Krolevets’ ritual cloth (rushnyk “krolevets’kyi”), early 20th century. Cotton.

IvanGonchar17I loved seeing some of the tools of textile-making on display too – these giant wooden prongs are the combs used by weavers to separate threads.

Admittedly, my interest waned after passing the textiles section, so  apologies for the under-representation of the beautiful ceramics and paintings also on display..

Ceramics

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Teapot (chainik), 1930s. Cherihiv Province, Korop District, Village of Verba.

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Oven tile (kahlia pichna), mid 19th century. Ivano-Frankivs’k Province, City of Kosiv.

Paintings

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Folk Painting ‘Stepan and Yaryna’, by Yakylyna Yarmolenko(?). Mid-2oth century, Kyiv Province, Pereyaslav-Khmel’nyts’kyi District, Village of Stovp’iahy. Oil on panel.

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Folk Painting ‘Oh there is a fire burning on the hill’, P. Shtorma, 1952. Kyiv Province, Obukhiv District, village of Husachivka. Oil on panel

 

The Ivan Gonchar Museum is open Tuesday – Sunday, 10 – 17:30.

Address: 19 Lavrska Street, Kyiv.

Nearest Metro station: Arsenalna

Lino printing adventures

Having bought some lovely white Belarusian linen in Ukraine, I’ve decided to try printing on it, this time using lino instead of potato. Here are my first, pleasing, if not entirely successful attempts. I’m using Dylon fabric paint and lino from an arts supply shop, but have a feeling one or both of them is causing the prints to come out too weak. The lino seems a little bit hard and brittle, and the paint doesn’t seem as sticky as it should be for printing.

In a recent post, I started to put my thoughts about the garment industry and its problems into words. It’s made me want to look more closely at clothing and fabric, so my first lino cut was inspired by this – literally looking closely at, or ‘zooming in’ on the fabric on which it’s printed.

My second print was borrowed from a blackwork embroidery design in Rosemary Drysdale’s The Art of Blackwork Embroidery. Blackwork is a type of embroidery used in England from the time of Henry VIII, often seen poking from collars and cuffs in Tudor portraits, as in this painting by Holbein, and sometimes for more largescale decoration, such as in this portrait of Elizabeth I. After I made the prints I came across other blackwork embroidery designs resembling fabric weave, so I’ll take the happy coincidence of the two designs being related as an encouraging sign!

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Kelmscott House

Screen shot 2014-03-19 at 14.18.21ROM Piccadily Circus to the foot of Hammersmith Bridge is just an hour – if one catches the bus with the right flag. The Upper Mall is hard-bye, though not easy to find, if one loses his head in the maze. “You turn right at Bridge Court, pass Mall Road, cross over the foot bridge, and pass the house where Thomson wrote the ‘Seasons,’ next the Dove’s Inn, and there you are, you see.” All of which sounds easy enough, if one can identify these landmarks when one sees them. The streets are little more than alleys, the bridge one could almost carry under one’s arm, Thomson’s house falls beneath one’s notice, and The Dove’s will just hold a barmaid and a barrel of “bitter.” No sign marks the Kelmscott Press, the objective point, but after stumbling into two or three door-ways, the right one is finally reached, and here..

..I should explain that this is an 1896 account of a visit to Kelmscott Press, now a museum which I had the pleasure of visiting last week.

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Hammersmith Bridge

wmsoc17wmsoc20wmsoc21A few things have changed since W. Irving Way’s visit 118 years ago; Kelmscott House is now largely privately occupied, with the William Morris Society and Museum found in the adjoining Coach House and basement. We are no longer greeted by Mr S. C. Cockerell, the Secretary of the Press, nor can we hope to meet Morris himself, who died only a few months after Way’s account was published. But visitors can still expect to find many artworks made and equipment used by Morris and his friends, in:

“A quiet, tidy, orderly place …, but with nothing modern about it. No noise of machinery, escaping steam, or hum of electric motor, distracts one”. p. 79

wmsoc02wmsoc03wmsoc04Morris lived and worked at Kelmscott House from 1878 until his death in 1896. Here he was busy designing furnishings (which he is most well known for today), as well as writing poetry, translating Icelandic sagas, printing books and pamphlets and holding Socialist meetings. Morris was known for working on several different projects at the same time, and once said ‘If a chap can’t compose an epic poem while he’s weaving tapestry, he had better shut up; he’ll never do any good at all.’ After his death, his daughter, May Morris and others continued Morris’ legacy, and in 1955 the society was set up.

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Despite its modest size, the museum pays fitting tribute to Morris by representing the sheer range of his activities. The coach house, where he first experimented with tapestry-making and hosted Socialist talks, now holds a changing exhibition display, and, fittingly, talks and educational activities. In what was once a kitchen, there is now a display of furniture, textiles, stained glass, drawings, pamphlets, books and a Socialist banner. In another room stands Morris’ original printing press, which he used to self-publish books and pamphlets at extremely high quality (and cost). The press is still in working order, with hand printed cards in the gift shop to prove it!

wmsoc08wmsoc09wmsoc10wmsoc15On one wall of the gift shop hang an impressive embroidery piece by William’s daughter, May Morris, alongside her full scale sketched design. As this and other surviving examples of her handiwork show, May was a talented designer and embroiderer herself, as well as an editor and activist.

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Today, the society is run by a small number of dedicated staff, volunteers and trustees.

William Morris Society and Museum, Kelmscott House, 26 Upper Mall, Hammersmith W6 9TA

Opening hours: Thursday and Saturday afternoons from 14.00 to 17.00 and at other times by appointment.wmsoc16

Opening text from ‘A Visit to William Morris’, by W. Irving Way, Modern Art, Vol. 4, No. 3 (Summer, 1896), pp. 78-81.

Eivor Fisher’s ‘Swedish Embroidery’

In an earlier post I mentioned finding this beautiful book on Swedish embroidery, written by Eivor Fisher for an Anchor series in 1953. Here is a sneaky peek to show you how inspiring this book is. I loved reading about the traditional bridegroom shirts, made by their future wife to be worn on their wedding day, and “often not used again until needed as a shroud”.

Swedish Embroidery

A recent discovery at a fleamarket of a beautiful old book on Swedish embroidery has got me inspired.

Here’s the book, published in 1953, which came with a sheaf of patterns to use:

And here are some examples I found online which I love:

Example of huck weaving

Embroidered Mittens, in an exhibition at Liljevalchs.

Bracelet, early 19th century, Sweden, metal mesh and silk, counted thread embroidery.

Carriage cushion, 1795, Skåne, Sweden, free embroidery in wool thread on wool twill.

Useful Links:

textilgalleriet – This site has some impressive close-up pictures of textiles, I love being able to see the stitches. There is also a great ‘Arbetsbilder’ or ‘labour photos’ section, with images of women working on different crafts.

Needleprint – Bursting with great pictures and designs, and excellent list of museums with textile collections.

Huck weaving – Some history, step-by-step tutorials with photos and examples of huck weaving. Lovely!

I’ve started to practice a little bit of counted thread embroidery, but could do with a focused project to get me started. Any ideas?