Inspiration in Copenhagen

Spending a week at the Centre for Textile Research in June this year proved an inspiration. CTR brings people together to share ideas and inspiration – one of its strengths is that academic writing and experimental archaeology are undertaken alongside each other. You are as likely to see someone trying out a warp-weighted loom to recreate ancient textiles as proof-editing. Everyone at CTR (too many to name!) was extraordinarily welcoming and made me feel at home.

Joining the annual summer trip, to Christiansø and Frederiksø, two islands in the middle of the Baltic gave me a chance to get to know everyone. The following day I got a new insight into Chinese costume through the joint expertise of Manlin Wu (Chinese textiles) and Laila Glienke (embroidery).

I also got to share ideas and methodologies with Paula Hohti, who has just joined CTR and is working on a fascinating new project on the clothes worn by ordinary people in early modern Scandinavia.

When I wasn’t working in the CTR, I visited a few of the historic textiles in Copenhagen – Mette Bruun, the administrator at CTR gave a great tour of the Islamic galleries in the David Collection, which has a fantastic collection of decorative arts and saw Tiraz textiles for the first time, which were status symbols associated with rulers.

A visit to the National Museum with student assistant Sidsel Frisch was another highlight. Denmark has extraordinarily rich prehistoric survivals due to low oxygen levels in bogs. There are astonishing textile survivals (some of the images are distressing). The Egtved girl was buried c1370 BC yet her clothes still survive, including a corded skirt. Scholars at CTR have been involved in investigating the textiles and uncovered the original colours of the striking outfit from the 2nd century BC worn by the Huldremose woman.

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Viking ship museum Roskilde: inside the museum; recreation of a woollen viking sail; rope workshop.

While John was at CTR we visited the Viking Ship Museum at Roskilde to meet Jörn Bohlmann an enthusiastic PhD student whose practical knowledge of boat building lays the groundwork for his thesis on sails. Jörn showed us around the museum while we animatedly talked about sails, spinning, linen and hemp and ended up with more questions than answers! The biggest questions that we asked were about the supply of yarn for sail making. Different ships require sails using different qualities of yarn, yet spinners specialised in producing a particular quality (or width) of yarn. How (if at all) did the process of putting-out change when different sails were needed? Also how did the putting-out system cope when countries went to war – how was the need for more sails managed? It is these kinds of basic, but unanswered questions that the Spinning Project aims to explore. Have a look at this Old Bailey Case t18031130-35  to see the putting out system in action – it even features childbirth! The researchers at the Viking Ship museum are keen to collaborate with people working on subjects that intersect with Vikings and boats.

This trip to CTR was the beginning of a longer research collaboration that will be developed through the Costumes, Clothing, Consumption, Cultures network.

All images are (c) Alice Dolan

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The silk throwing mill at Caraglio, Italy

The three-story silk throwing mill at Caraglio, Piedmont, Italy, constructed 1676-8.

The three-story silk-throwing mill at Caraglio, Piedmont, Italy, constructed 1676-8.

This enormous water-powered silk-throwing mill, at Caraglio in Piedmont in north-western Italy, was built in 1676-8. Mills like this were the model for the first successful English factory for manufacturing silk warp yarn [organzine] by water power, built by Thomas Lombe at Derby about 1720. The Spinning Project is currently exploring the links between Lombe’s silk-throwing machinery and subsequent mechanical inventions for spinning cotton, culminating in Richard Arkwright’s water frame of 1768. Lombe’s Derby factory used machines copied from those in Piedmont.

‘The East Prospect of Derby, c. 1728’. The two large brick buildings in the centre of the painting, on an island in the river, are Thomas Lombe’s silk factories, on the left the three-story doubling works and on the right the five-story, water-powered throwing works.

‘The East Prospect of Derby, c. 1728’. The two large brick buildings in the centre of the painting, on an island in the river, are Thomas Lombe’s silk factories, on the left the three-story doubling works and on the right the five-story, water-powered throwing works.

The working reconstruction at Caraglio demonstrates the huge scale of this machinery and its use of a flyer mechanism similar to that employed in Arkwright’s machine.

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‘Threads of Feeling’ travels to America

The DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum.

The DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum.

‘Threads of Feeling’, the exhibition of textiles from the London Foundling Hospital curated by John Styles, opened at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum, Colonial Williamsburg, Williamsburg, Va., USA on May 25th, 2013. The exhibition continues there until May 26th, 2014.

John was at Colonial Williamsburg for the opening event on May 29th. The previous day he gave a public lecture on ‘Foundlings, Philanthropy and Textiles in Eighteenth-Century London’.

 

 

Williamsburg ladies on their morning walk.

Williamsburg ladies on their morning walk.

 

At Colonial Williamsburg, he particularly enjoyed visiting the Margaret Hunter Millinery Shop and talking to Angela Burnley of Burnley and Trowbridge, expert re-creators of historic fabrics.

 

 

 

 

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The wheel starts to whirr

Welcome to the website for the Spinning project, a European Research Council funded examination of ‘Spinning in the era of the Spinning Wheel.’

You can find a full description of the project on the About page, see pictures of cloth viewed through a microscope on the Gallery page, and read about our team and our colleagues.

More material will be added as this project progresses, and news of it will be added to this blog. You can keep up with our progress through our RSS feed.

 

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