Dumfries & Galloway Embroiderers’ Guild: Needlelace, Feltwork and Performance Costume

On 5 January the Dumfries & Galloway Embroiderers’ Guild had a session called ‘Corners’, for which we were split into three groups and spent 15 minutes with each of three speakers.

Liz Griggs, our Branch Chairman, spoke about her Needlelace work. (Follow the link to see a description of how this intricate textile is made.) Liz spoke about the method for making needlelace (a button hole stitch is worked over a pattern mounted on a sturdy background fabric. The main lines of the pattern are couched down and the stitches are built up around them. The finished piece is eventually snipped free from the background). Liz discussed some of the variations of needlelace-making, such as using layers of organza, which can be left in some areas and removed in others. We were able to handle some antique samples, such as a baby’s bonnet covered with tiny embroidery stitches. Liz’s own work for a City and Guilds qualification, was inspired by a 1920s fan pattern that she had extended to make this beautiful collar. My photos sadly do not do the piece justice, thanks to the light and other reflections in the hall.

Elizabeth Griggs, Needlelace Collar

Frieda Lyburn spoke about her wonderful feltwork pictures. Her first piece was based on a picture found in a calendar, of a Fife harbour with houses. She photocopied the image, cut that apart to form template pieces, cut those out in felt, sewed them to the background fabric, (which was painted with acrylic paint) and embellished the image with hand stitch and appliquéd details. I was interested to see how her work had progressed over time: a later piece had been glued together, and more recent work included some unusual materials such as shells and sand; tinsel that had been ironed flat between sheets of bakeoglide to represent seaweed; the silver material used behind radiators to reflect heat had been cut into slivers to represent highlights in the water. Her colour palettes included some almost fluorescent highlights, along with more ‘realistic’ colours. Very ingenious use and combinations of media!

Denise Shaw presented some performance costumes from the wardrobe of the Guild of Players, a theatre group formed in 1913, who perform at the Theatre Royal, Dumfries.

Myrrie Norman, 1970’s dress (left)

Edwardian dress (reported to be either a wedding or bridesmaid’s dress) (middle and right (detail of lace)).

Two pieces that particularly caught my eye were the 1970s ‘Abigail’s Party’-style of dress, with its lavish sleeves and floaty, synthetic fabric; and the blue and white striped Edwardian dress. Its silk lining had disintegrated, but the cotton lace and outer garment were still strong (although showing signs of water-staining). (Denise described problems of conservation, following the recent flooding in the town, and clothes moth infestation that had to be eradicated – garments and accessories made from animal fibres being the target, such as fur stoles). Other pieces on display included modern pantomime costumes – now made from more durable, synthetic textiles in exaggerated styles and bright colours. 1920s dresses, coats and jackets are often used in Agatha Christie adaptations. Shoes, hats and undergarments all have their place on stage (the latter often pinned to washing lines as part of the background!).

This was an interesting and informative event, broadening my knowledge of textiles and textile art.

 

References:-

Websites:-

http://theatreroyaldumfries.co.uk/guild-of-players/ Accessed 06/01/17

https://www.laceguild.org/craft/needle.html Accessed 06/01/17

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