I spent most of yesterday studying these fabrics in some detail. One of the things I find most interesting is the width of the cloth.
This one measures 19″ from selvedge to selvedge. I understand that this was the standard loom width in the 18th century. This one is a damask weave, quite light weight, and looks as if it might have been part of a garment. There is evidence of a hand-stitched dart or pin-tuck, and there is a decorative striped edge woven across the width which has been turned down and hemmed by hand:
Many of the heavier weight silks have metal threads woven into them, and I really hope I haven’t permanently damaged these by washing. It was quite common for fabrics to include metal threads (which were usually a very thin strip of metal wrapped round a silk core). Often, gold and silver threads were unpicked and sold to smelters and goldsmiths by wealthy ladies looking to earn some ‘pin money’ – pins were in constant demand and very expensive. I think the metals in these fabrics are more likely to be something like copper.
This piece (above) not only has metal thread woven into the fabric, it also had metal fringes at either end. I unpicked the fringes before washing the fabric, and brushed the fringe with dry bicarbonate of soda to clean the threads. The panel is very worn, having many tears and splits, and measures about 17.5″ x 8″. The cream silk backing has been attached by machine around three sides, with one of the short ends slip-stitched by hand. Possibly a Victorian remake, perhaps as an anti-macassar.
This piece of silk brocade has been repaired:
Many gold threads are evident in the weft of this fabric. It has been patched with very fine yellow silk on the back and roughly darned:
And through the magnifying lens on the right side:
And, finally, a curiosity:
I’m not sure what this was. It measures about 9″ at its widest part, 3.5″ across the narrower opening, and 5.5″ deep. The silk top is very worn, and has been attached by hand to buckram with a finer silk backing. The brown cotton tape binding has copper threads woven into it.
It seems vaguely reticule-sized, but I’m not sure whether a reticule would have been stiffened with buckram. Perhaps it forms part of a crenellated pelmet, where the open part of a row of these pieces would have been stitched to a longer piece of fabric. How I wish these old textiles could talk to me; what stories they could tell of their lives. I wonder what they might have seen and heard on their travels through time, what hands they have passed through, what homes they have lived in.
And as if this is not enough, there are more treasures to show. Some fascinating old lace coming soon…