Sunday, 29 April 2012

Antique & vintage fabrics from the mills

I have recently bought a box of damask cloths and other table linens at auction and found in the box three bolts of antique cotton fabric. I do sell antique and vintage fabrics by the yard/metre but what makes these ones interesting is the Bolt Stamp which is still on the end of the roll of fabric.

Bolt stamps were made from a block of wood, usually sycamore, with strips of copper inserted edgeways into the wood to create decorative patterns and pictures. Like the labels, these could be very elaborate, and sometimes involved more that one colour. The stamp was a method to add a logo to the cloth - a more permanent method than paper labels.

The stamps took about 2 weeks to make. In 1900 they would cost about £7 - £10, by the 1960s they cost £60-£70 because the cost of labour and price of copper had increased so much and so the tradition ceased.

They are an interesting collectors item - often they are seen on the backing for quilts but obviously after time the inks fade. As these stamps are still on the roll of cloth they have never been washed or indeed exposed to sunlight.

Here in the North East of England we do not have a history of linen or cotton manufacture however we do have a history of woolen / tweed mills. One such mill was at Otterburn, in Northumberland

 I bought some tweed that had originally been bought from Otterburn Mills when it was still producing it's own cloth.   Otterburn Mill was leased in the 1820's by William Waddell who  took in the wool fleeces from local farmers and in return supplied the farmer with blankets, cloth or knitting yarn. The wool was converted to yarn in the mill and sent to the local hand loom weavers who produced the blankets and cloth. The woven product was returned to the mill to be washed and finished, ready for use.  As the Industrial Revolution progressed the process became more mechanised and factory based. 

Otterburn Mills had royal connections too as whilst on a visit encompassing Alnwick Castle, Queen Alexandra (our Queen's grandmother) was presented with a hand spun travelling rug from Otterburn Mill.
In 1926, following the birth of Princess Elizabeth (our current queen), Buckingham Palace requested a custom-made baby rug for the royal pram. These rugs are still available today from the Mills however they are no longer produced in the mill itself . 

At it's height, Otterburn Tweed was a very stylish fabric and graced the front cover of Vogue and other fashion magazines


1 comment:

Sandra said...

thanks for sharing these