15 Wait a cotton-pickin’ minute... Miscellaneous facts and anecdotes about cotton. Illustrated by AnnCarrington’sdenimquilt,BlueJeansUSA 16 Route 41 road trip essentials You can only fit a little case (56 x 45 x 25cm) in your overhead locker so being selective when you pack has never been more important! 19 How to make a vintage style swimsuit A free downloadable pattern from BurdaStyle – the online community for people who sew 29 COVER STORY Stamp collector Adrian Wilson reveals his rare collection of textile trademarks salvaged from cloth merchants offices in Manchester 75 COVER STORY Guiding Hand Vintage swimwear Retro bathing suits have never been more fashionable or collectable JulieHarrisadealerinvintagesportswearshowsthreefromhercollection. 76 Childlike Wovenplay designer Katherine Edmonds weaves together imagination and skill in her New York studio. PhotographerRinneAllenarrangedaplaydatetoviewherchildren’sclothingline thatincludescostumesandimaginativeplayclothes
INDUSTRY from craft to commerce
36 Global threads How Coats and Clark conquered the world. RegularSelvedgecontributorSarah Jane Downing traces the evolution of America's number one name in sewing and needlecraft productsfromfamilybusinesstocorporategiant 54 Home office The Brahms Mount way to achieve a work/life balance. Stylish sisters Lucy and RinneAllenvisitacoupleinHallowell,Mainewhocan’tavoidtakingtheirworkhomewiththem 66 Main Street USA The best stores Stateside. Selvedgeoffersawishlistofshopswe’dlovetovisit whenwenextcrosstheAtlantic,illustratedbyEmilySutton
ANECDOTE textiles that touch our lives
26 COVER STORY The Lancashire Cotton Famine The impact of the American Civil War, 1861-1865, on British Industry. WeexploreamovingbutlittleknownpartofBritishtextilehistory 50 The Basket Weavers Try some fried chicken, pork chops or shrimp. CharlestonbasedartistOscar Vickillustratessomesoutherndelicacies 52 Fly home Laura Hamilton’s new company Bird in the Hand has revived the bold, bright fabrics of Textiles of Jamaica and given them new life. See pg93 for details of where to buy her newly launched‘breadfruit’bags 73 Curator’s Choice Lee Talbot, Curator of Eastern Hemisphere Collections at the Textile Museum in Washington DC, selects an embroidered chair cover from 18th-century China. 96 Twisted love Marlinespike Chandlery. Rinne Allen introduces us to Timothy Whitten, a craftsmankeepingropeworktechniquesandtraditionsalive
CONCEPT textiles in fine art
THE BEST STORES STATESIDE Main Street USA
dosa 818 has several roles. Retail, studio and installation space are combined on the top floor of the Wurlitzer building in Los Angeles. The six-thousand square foot space not only houses the complete dosa collection; it contains a growing archive of Christina's creative process. In many ways, dosa
818 is a show and tell space that catalogues ideas and objects. Twice a year an installation is curated by Christina and Jennifer Cheh. New collections are shown with a few surprises – past styles are mixed in and there is an ever changing collection of one-of-akind objects. www.dosainc.com
The name, Asiatica, tells part of the story – Asian things. At first Fifi White and Elizabeth Wilson offered Chinese and Japanese antiques. Now they offer clothes made from antique kimono cloth or Nuno fabrics in their shop in Kansas City and at trunk shows in cities across the US. www.asiaticakc.com
Matta sits on the edge of Manhattan’s Nolita neighbourhood. This jewelbox of colour houses hand-picked garments, jewellery and home accessories, many of them designed by Cristina Gitti, Matta’s founder. Gitti’s ethnicinspired designs hang from the rails in a tangle of colour and pattern, playing off the other offerings from likeminded designers. The wares are sorted by shade, so one can gravitate to the colourblock of choice; or decide to ramble across the whole rainbow, seduced by the range of tints and textures. www.mattany.com
John Derian’s highly collectable decoupage designs cover bell jars, bowls, platters and paperweights and are the staple items in his popular New York store. Work by Julie Arkel and odd treasures such as handmade copper vegetables keep Derian company and interest alive. www.johnderian.com
French General began 13 years ago in a small barn on the Hudson River. Open once a month, the barn was stocked with the treasures Kaari and Molly Meng would discover at the flea markets in France – 19th-century hemp and linen sheets, silk ribbon, millinery flowers, buttons and beads.
In 2003, French General packed up their bags and headed west to Los Angeles where French General blossomed into a new notion – an inspiration workshop. Open one day a week, French General still stocks antique French textiles and notions – but the atmosphere is one of discovery and learning. Workshops are held on jewellery-making, flowermaking and paper crafts. In 2008, Kaari began designing a line of quilting fabrics for Moda based on her collection of 18thand 19th-century florals, tickings and vichy checks (See Selvedge issue 27, pg 42.) www.frenchgeneral.com
Bell’occhio is tucked away on a back street in San Francisco. Its name means ‘beautiful eye’ and Claudia Schwartz certainly has that. She’s been enchanting customers with her otherworldly wares for 22 years. Visit if you need powder puffs, goat hair brushes or Provençal straw hats. www.bellocchio.com
Bent into shape AMERICAN BASKET TRADITIONS HOLD THEIR OWN IN HISTORY
Nantucket Lightship Baskets: North East Plain, utilitarian but gracefully proportioned, the Nantucket Lightship Basket, like its place of origin, enjoys a reputation that far exceeds its size.
Nantucket, an island 30 miles south of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, is just 14 miles in length and 3 1/2 miles wide. It was known to the native Wampanoag tribe as “The Faraway Land” and has been a popular summer colony since the 1880s. Yet Nantucket in winter is a starker, bleaker place and it was its ongoing battle with the surrounding sea that helped shape and make famous the Nantucket Lightship Baskets.
Isolated by thirty miles of water the island was once one of the major whaling ports in North America. The many ships sailing to and from the island had to avoid the Nantucket Shoals, a stretch of dangerously shallow water. To protect them the New South Shoal Lightship, a floating lighhouse, was placed in service in 1856. Manning a lightship was a dangerous and dispiriting task. Crews had to cope with the possiblity of being sunk and endure months of isolation when relief ships could not reach them with supplies. To occupy the hours after their onboard tasks were finished the crew would weave baskets. The pieces they made were orginally known as rattan baskets and were modelled on the wooden splint baskets made by Native Indians – although local historian Martha Lawrence points out another influence, the cooper's barrel, which was vital to the whaling economy of the island.
A key aspect of their construction was a slotted wooden base into which hardwood staves were inserted. The framework was woven with rattan over a round or oval mould. The nesting baskets are perhaps the most skillful examples.
Today, a contemporary makers faithfully craft these classic baskets while as fine examples of folk art, antique lightship baskets sell for thousands at auction. Nantucket Lightship Basket Museum, 49 Union Street, Nantucket, MA, T: + 1 508 228 1177, www.nantucketlightshipbasketmuseum.org
g l o b a l
Cedar Bark Baskets: North West Along the North West coast of British Columbia, in the interior valleys and low mountain slopes south of Prince George, the cedar tree flourishes in all its glory. These enormous trees grow to heights of up to two hundred and fifty feet and have trunks that measure up to ten feet in diameter.
The cedar is valued for its distinctive appearance, aroma, and high natural resistance to decay. This resistance along with its straight grain, light weight and thin fibrous bark make the cedar invaluable to the Aboriginal Peoples of British Columbia.
The red cedar is the most commonly found species. The less prominent yellow cedar is prized for its bark but less so for its wood. From these two types of cedar Aboriginal People obtained the materials to provide them with shelter, clothing, tools and storage. This versatility meant the “Tree of Life”, as the cedar was known, gained sacred status.
Cedar bark baskets were used to transport and store goods, the tightly woven baskets could even hold water.
In her book Cedar: Tree of Life to the Northwest Coast Indians Hilary Stewart explains that it was the inner bark of the cedar that had a role in basketry. “It was used either as warp, weft or occasionally both. Often it was combined with cedar roots, withes or some other fibre. Baskets with both warp and weft of cedar bark were usually neither rigid nor watertight. Weaving the strands in diagonal plaiting gave great flexibility to the work producing large, folding, sacklike bags.”
The decorative devices on cedar bark baskets are usually restricted to geometric patterns using coloured bark strands but despite this restraint their beauty continues to inspire makers, directly, in the baskets and clothing woven by Lisa Telford who was taught by her aunt, the well-known Haida basket-maker Delores Churchill, and indirectly, in the sculptural forms crafted by artist Dorothy Gill Barnes from bark, branches and roots. Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, Northeast 45th Street, Seattle, WA 98195, USA T: +1 (206) 543 5590, www.washington.edu s e l v e d g e . o r g
Life’s rich tapestry JOIN MAGNOLIA PEARL’S CARAVAN OF LOVE
Some people won't have peacock feathers in the house, won't even handle them, for fear of the bad luck they may bring, but Robin Pearl Brown, founder and driving force behind the winsome and romantic fashion and interior brand, Magnolia Pearl, has no such reservations. In fact, being surrounded by the shimmering plumage of four hundred peacocks is a formative memory for Robin.
The unlikely scenario occurred in one of Robin’s many childhood homes (it was a nomadic early life) – a five-hundred acre ranch in Forestville, California. Robin's parents, a painter and a textile artist, were also the caretakers of the property and the family lived in a two storey Victorian house – the unusual part of the arrangement was the ostentation of peacocks that roamed the estate.
The impression they made on Robin was deep: “To me, this was just about the closest thing to heaven on earth. Imagine beautiful rolling hills of yellow daffodils and the iridescent purples, blues, and greens of hundreds of peacocks swarming down those hills. You can understand the effect that would have on somebody's colour sense.” But Robin didn't just look on “I loved playing with the peacocks,” she explains, “I could get them to follow me wherever I went. I would walk around in my oversized silk kimono with the pockets stuffed with kibble, herding them closer and closer to the house with a stick, until one day they wert in. To me, this was the most beautiful sight: peacocks on all the furniture, brightly coloured tails hanging down the stove, birds walking up and down the stairs, all the while calling out to each other in that haunting, lovely way. I couldn't wait for my father to get home so that I could show him my accomplishment.”
Artistic though both her parents were, her father wasn't in awe of the arrangement, “He hastily told me to evict my flock of feathered friends.” Was such a child ever going to grow up into a restrained or conventional character? Both nature and nurture made it virtually impossible. Today Robin is the heart – not “at the heart” but the beating heart – of a company that takes extravagance as a starting point and builds from there.
Another thing people are afraid of, even more than peacock feathers, is being looked at or judged; it makes them afraid to wear flowers in their hair. But Robin, as her partner John Gray points out, has art in her blood and was born to do it. Stepping outside to weave a wreath of blooms for her hair from the “unkempt but beautiful jungle” that surrounds the Magnolia Pearl homestead is a regular way for her to start the day. “Most women”, John concludes sadly, “are too steeped in insecurity to make the leap. They prefer to blend in, be part of the dull ‘stew pot’ of black polyester fashion.” What would Robin say? “She’d tell them to stop hiding the more beautiful you”.
There is a slightly evangelical air to the Magnolia Pearl company – both John and Robin are firm believers in God and the innate spirituality in all people – but if they are keen to spread the word about Robin’s work it is because they have seen its power in action. “We’ve seen the expression on women’s faces when they put on one of Robin’s dresses – the joy.” explains John. “They come out of the changing room and look to their friends for approval but I tell them to look in the mirror, to think for themselves. That’s when they smile, or laugh out loud.”
As ever it is the converts to the brand that are the most zealous – the comments from awe-struck devotees on ‘Magnolia Pearl Style’, the company’s You Tube channel, could make you blush. But the ongoing success and growth of the business is due to precisely this reaction. “It is the compliments customers hear when they wear Magnolia Pearl that drives the business” says John.
The experience of these women, who “buy for the beauty then discover the comfort”, may be at the
in d u s t r y llen inne A
“Home is where the art is.” The founders of Brahms Mount Textiles, Noel Mount and Claudia Brahms have adopted this belief by living and working under the same roof. A pair of historic buildings double as the home and headquarters of their traditional but design-led weaving business. Their Maine location provides a fertile ground to explore and refine weaving techniques that combine the best of art and science.
The couple met whilst working at a large textile manufacturer in Maine; Noel as a dye specialist, Claudia as a designer. In 1983, “with staunch hearts, good backs and excessive positive attitude,” the newly married couple launched their own textile line. After exploring central Maine on motorbike with the goal of finding “a large, cheap space in which to make a mess,” they stumbled upon the proper place to cultivate their ideas, the former site of Hallowell Granite Works. They purchased and renovated the buildings, constructed in 1866, and built a mill overlooking the Kennebec River, upstream from where merchant ships once docked to trade Maine textiles around the globe.
They each brought to the budding partnership specific strengths. Originally hailing from the UK, as a teen Noel Mount had worked as a jig dyer in his father's company. Since then, his lifelong involvement with textiles has spanned the globe. Also immersed in the industry from a young age, Claudia Brahms pursued an education in textile design and textile science which now fuels her role as chief designer.
Starting with just two in-house weavers, one of whom was Claudia herself, they married their technical backgrounds with simple observations: “We like a comfortable bed… we love cohesive, well-made fabrics… bedding must be easy to launder, retain body heat, and move moisture in order to be truly comfortable.” Acknowledging the possibilities for wellmade, natural fibre bedding, they fused Claudia's experimentations and Noel's enthusiasm and technical knowledge to develop something practical, comfortable and beautiful: a four-season cotton knit blanket for the American market. The new blanket was recognised as pioneering, and to meet demand production facilities grew to include four antique looms restored by Mount and powered by the able hands of two long-term workers.
Both Brahms and Mount now share many other duties, a natural occurrence in most small ventures; lines blur after working together for so long. As they describe it, “The mill works like a Swiss clock due to well coordinated efforts, daily meetings, honest interactions. We are like a team of athletes, or a band of musicians, we communicate with each other in a progressive manner that we feel is unusual for most management.”
In early 2009 this harmonious unit was ‘adopted’ by David Kaufman who bought Brahms Mount out of a love for the beauty of these fine fabrics. Claudia and Noel continue to devote themselves to design and manufacturing and collaboratively develop and produce the range which now includes linen towels, blankets, scarves and throws – all in natural fibres.
The products are innovative, each designed with equal doses of “comfort and practicality” but the essence of Brahms Mount is encapsulated in their idyllic locale. The contrast of wind-worn wooden buildings and older looms with their soft output of woven blankets is fitting. Contemporary efficiencies and old fashioned attitudes create an elegance that is indicative of Maine itself. Mount knows why: “The place provides an atmosphere and a vision that enters the fabric.” Lucy Allen and Rinne Allen Brahms Mount Textiles, 19 Central Street, Hallowell, Maine, 04347, USA T: 1 800 545 9347 www.brahmsmount.com s e l v e d g e . o r g