Pashmina

We recently received some wonderful Pashmina shawls so light and so soft that everything else that I had ever encountered that described itself as ‘cashmere’ felt rough in comparison. I quizzed our supplier Sadhu about the softness of these Pashminas and it soon became clear what the difference was.

Pashmina is the fabric woven from the pashm, the soft downy undercoat that grows on the nect and belly of the Himalayan mountain goat, Capra Hirracus. It is only the goats living at above 4500 metres that produce the finest wool as they require the extra insulation to live in the harsh terrain and winter temperatures of -30°.pashmina goat 1 DSC02312 - Copy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The very fine pashm used in Sadhu’s pashminas comes from Changtang in Ladakh where nomadic herders tend flocks on the high plains. They collect the fleece by combing the goats in the late spring before they molt. In summer these are brought or bartered by Ladakhi traders and sent to Leh, where the Kashmiri traders make their purchases.

The Kashmiri artisans have perfected the art of hand-shinning the fine pashmina yarn. The pashmina fibre is extremely fine at 14 microns (a human hair is 200 microns) and long staple and whilst this gives it the softness and lustre when woven, it is much more challenging to spin and weave.

The delicate pashm is firstly painstakingly cleaned and then hand-spun. The very fine hand-spun yarn is then carefully woven by hand, weaving a 2m length takes 3 days.

P1050076DSC07735 - CopySadhu is concerned that the cheap imitations of pashmina with machine –spun and woven cashmere mix yarns are undermining the 2000 year old skills and traditions of the Kashmiri Pashmina artisans.

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DSCN5948DSCN5945See more of these wonderful Pashminas in our ‘Scraves and Wraps’ section on our website.

Corduroy

I can think of no other textile so quintessentially ‘English’ and ‘country’ as corduroy – think farmer, cord trousers held up with baling twine or the upper classes off for a day’s shooting.  So I was surprised, after a little investigation, to discover that it is a relatively modern derivation of fustian, a cloth woven during Roman times in Egypt and thought to have originated from the city of Fustat. Fustian, like corduroy, is a plain or twill weave with supplementary weft yarns that form ribs running the length of the fabric. It was originally woven with a linen warp and cotton weft, although other unions, for example cotton and wool, have been popular through the ages. This differs from modern, quality corduroy which is generally 100% cotton. The other distinct difference is that with fustian the weft is not cut, leaving a hard cord, whereas with corduroy part of the finishing process is the cutting of the weft to form the ‘pile’ of the soft cord.
Fustian travelled to Europe from the 12th to the 14th century, accompanied by a number of family members, most notably velvet, and was initially favoured by royalty and the aristocracy. It was also a firm favourite with the clergy and at one time Cistercian monks were allowed to weave no other cloth. Unlike velvet, however, corduroy did not keep its place at the top table. Corduroy’s modern name is thought to come from the French, ‘cord du roi’ or ‘King’s cord’, possibly due to the fact that in 17th and 18th century France royal servants were known to wear it as uniform.
By the 18th century it was the modern, practical, ‘sporty’ choice for outdoor clothing due to its qualities of warmth and durability and its ability to dry (relatively) quickly. By the end of the 18th century though, this was all it was seen as – the prestige and association with wealth had gone. During the 19th century although on the one hand it became popular with gentleman farmers, on the other it became the urban working man’s uniform. Where velvet had retained all its associations with money, royalty, glamour and the night, nothing said a day’s work like corduroy – the English denim.

Image result for English Farmers

 

A velvet clad toff, in stark contrast with the working farmer!

The 20th century saw a marked improvement in corduroy’s prestige due to the fact that it was picked up by the smart set for sporting and leisurewear during the ‘20s and ‘30s. However, the credentials that had always made it so down-right practical meant that it also saw use as soldiers’ uniforms during WW1, upholstery for Henry Ford’s ‘Model T’ and jodhpurs for the Women’s Land Army – giving their sartorial signature.

Women’s Land Army recruits, dressed in cord and ready for the hard graft ahead of them!

During the 1960s soft, warn corduroy was donned as an anti-establishment symbol. It was the ‘70s, however, that saw the biggest explosion in popularity that corduroy has ever known. During this decade people of all ages, classes and colours swathed themselves in cord of every shade then lounged on their corduroy clad sofas!

Image result for 1970s corduroy

There are no words!

Although corduroy originated in the east, by the 16th century fustians were being widely manufactured in Britain. Lancashire was a hot-spot of production and in many parts of Europe corduroy is still called ‘Manchester’ (a bit of a contrast with ‘cord du roi’!) Sadly though, there is no production left in the U.K. Today a myriad of cords, ranging from needle cord (at 14-18 cords or ‘wales’ per inch) through to elephant or ‘constitutional’ cords at as few as 3 wales are still being produced and consumed worldwide. That said, you might be waiting a long time before it becomes super-trendy again (in large part because we’ve all been left feeling a bit queasy from the ‘70s!) It seems to me that in its main application as clothing corduroy is a bit of an unsung hero of the wardrobe; like the potatoes on the plate, over-shadowed by their tastier, more exotic and highly seasoned companions. Yet in the present day this wonder-cloth can boast more kudos when used for upholstery. In this application it seems to have managed to untie the fetters of bumbling country squire and dicey cord flares and instead attained an air of knowing cool!
Image result for corduroy upholstery tinsmiths

Victorian armchair upholstered in Tinsmiths’ Forest Corduroy

Chintz

To describe something as “chintzy” nowadays is to describe it as rather blowsy, a bit “Mills and Boon” and not very sophisticated. So let’s see whether this is deserved…….

Interior by The Prince of Chintz,  Mario Buatta (US) who is best known for his English Country House style using Chintz widely.

Interior by The Prince of Chintz, Mario Buatta (US) who is best known for his English Country House style using Chintz widely.

Chintz, when first discovered in India by pioneering European tradesmen was a hand printed, mordant- and resist-dyed patterned Indian cotton cloth flattened and burnished with buffalo milk and myrobolan (a dried fruit containing tannin) to give it a smooth surface. Pattern was usually large scale and exotic in the Mughal style.

18th Century Block Printed Indian Chintz

18th Century Block Printed Indian Chintz

Spice traders of the late 17th century brought this new bright and colourfast cotton to a world used to rather dull wool and silk fabrics. Cotton was something new and it was immediately adopted for bed-coverings and home furnishings. It may have been at this point that the fabric gained a poor reputation as it is reported that the worn-out wall coverings were recycled by servants for clothing. It wasn’t long before the comfort and vibrancy of these fabrics became popular for all classes of society; reportedly, Daniel Defoe protested that “persons of quality dress’d in Indian carpets.”

Jacket in chintz, skirt in wool damask, 1750-1800. Jacoba de Jonge Collection in MoMu - Fashion Museum Province of Antwerp, www.momu.be / Photo by Hugo Maertens, Bruges

Jacket in chintz, skirt in wool damask, 1750-1800. Jacoba de Jonge Collection in MoMu – Fashion Museum Province of Antwerp, www.momu.be / Photo by Hugo Maertens, Bruges

Soon after its introduction in the West, orders for specific designs were sent back to India with the Traders. These would include heraldic motifs and European flowers, for example, desired by the home market. As trade became established orders for small scale designs were made, the cloth being used for waistcoat lining and other uses in dresses and coats.

Enter the protectionist backlash: England may have been tired of the dull wools, linens and even silks but they were a little more “homegrown” and livelihoods were under threat by these imported Chintz fabrics. In 1701 a law was passed forbidding the import of printed cotton or silk chintz fabrics – unless they went back out of the country as exports! David Garrick and his wife even lost their bed coverings to the law.

The workaround; passion for chintz was unstoppable. In a sense the original artisan cloth was a victim of its own popularity. Demand was so high that quality suffered and reputation fell opening the door to an innovative and lawful imitation. Plain cottons were brought in and roller-printing techniques developed which are still in use within the commercial fabric industry today. This Western “take” on Chintz is what is broadly recognised today.

So, there are two generations of Chintz in the West – the original artisan-produced labour-intensive fabric imported from India and Asia and the second later European version which, by 1850, roller-printed cloth using synthetic dyes.

Putting a good “shine” on Chintz increases the vibrancy of colour and so, from the beginning, Chintz was coated with wax, starch or resin and hot calendered between polished rollers to produce a sheen on the printed side of the fabric. This also helped to protect colours from damage from sunlight as the face surface became to some extent reflective. This finish is now part of the definition too.

So, is Chintz to be looked down upon? It seems there are chint and chint fabrics – but let’s go to the source and say that exotic, large scale and vibrant designs printed with a confident depth of colour can be very effective and bring something really rich to a room.

From Tinsmiths' range of Extra Wide Cotton Fabrics:  Pondicherry

From Tinsmiths’ range of Extra Wide Cotton Fabrics: Pondicherry

From Tinsmiths range of Extra Wide Fabrics: Bukhcotta

From Tinsmiths range of Extra Wide Fabrics: Bukhcotta

 

 

Crewel Work

normandy_bayeux_7383cBayeaux Tapestry, depicting the events of the Battle of Hastings and Norman Conquest in 1066, record of it first appears on the Bayeaux Cathedral  inventory in 1429.

Well, I thought I knew what was meant by Crewel Work, but there is debate amongst embroiderers, historians and enthusiasts. So, to be specific, I am describing raised embroidery on heavyweight linen or cotton using wool rather than silk or any other yarn. I say “raised” because the designs do not completely cover the back cloth, leaving a texture to the fabric. Traditionally, a rough pattern was marked on to the back cloth using either a pricked pattern and a pounce (a talc-filled bag, padded onto the pattern and allowing talc through to mark guides) otherwise the technique was “free” allowing interpretation and embellishments, in contrast to the thread-counted silk embroideries.

english-crewel-v&aThis curtain is from a set of bed hangings which, when pulled closed around a bed, provided warmth and privacy. They were usually the most important part of the bed, generally referred to as the ‘furniture’, and were often valued more highly than the wooden bed frames they decorated.

The curtain is embroidered in a technique known as crewel work, from the crewel or worsted wool used. Crewel work was popular through much of the second half of the 17th century, and was used extensively for bed hangings. It was usually carried out on a strong ground fabric of linen and cotton twill. The embroidery is worked in stem, satin, coral, herringbone and link stitches.

Needlework was a skill taught from early girlhood in 17th-century Britain. Adult women might earn their living from it, or use it in the upkeep and decoration of their households.

The seventeenth century was a high point in the production of crewel and it is often referred to as Jacobean embroidery featuring highly stylized floral and animal designs with flowing vines and leaves. Many of these would be exotic and incredible to their audience. The term “Crewel” is thought to be derived from curl, meaning the staple or average length of fibre used to spin into the yarn used for such a technique.

waistcoatImage traditionally called Dorothy Cary, later Viscountess Rochford, c. 1614-1618 showing richly embroidered waistcoat.

Outlining stitches such as stem stitch, chain stitch and split stitch create areas that are often filled with satin stitch, using tonal graduations to give the impression of shade and light. Occasionally couched stitches (where one thread is laid on the surface of the fabric and another thread is used to tie it down and create a trellis effect), Seed stitches and French knots embellish the overall design.

stem_stitch-LGNchain stitch

frenchknotseedsatinsplit stitch

 

 

 

 

The crewel work of the 17th century was used lavishly for bed drapes and wall hangings – it was a time of affluence in Britain and, with the establishment of trading links via the East India, crewel work began to be produced in Asia. A wave of interest also carried across the Atlantic to America and there are many fine examples of crewel work appearing in the USA in the 18th century up to the time of the revolution.

bed rugBed rug, 1796
Maker Unknown (American)
Colchester, New London County, Connecticut
Linen/cotton and wool;

The Arts and Crafts Movement of the late 19th century next saw a revival in the UK. Led by William Morris, the movement believed in going “back to the earth” and his marriage to Jane Burden and the establishing of their home was the pivot that steered Morris to his devotion and study of the decorative arts.  In particular, Morris invested time in producing natural dyes to provide soft shades of blue and green woollen yarn. Morris expanded medieval design to reflect his generation and need. The long and short stitch was nicknamed the Kensington stitch and a cottage industry was formed to produce the embroideries.

morrisEmbroidered hangings or bed curtains designed by May Morris (1862-1938) in 1891-2 and stitched between 1898 and 1902. Worked in crewel wools on natural linen in stem stitch with satin, chain, running and knitting stitches and French knots, the ground is of narrow widths of hand-spun and woven linen with the edges butted and seamed prior to embroidery.

crewel-fabric-berrington2[1]morants4[1]When we, at Tinsmiths, found a supplier of crewel work fabric a couple of years ago, we decided to offer the fabric on the basis that it has a weirdly austere luxury – a contradiction in terms but one that describes a cloth that is quite distinct from any other.

You can find our “Hall” fabrics Berrington & Morants in the patterned fabric area of our on-line fabric shop. If you are inspired to sew some crewel of your own, linen backclothes can also be found in our web-shop. We would suggest using a linen such as Wholemeal, Highland or Linen Flax.

crewel-fabric-berrington3[1]

 

Double Cloth

Our 2015 series of blogs all relate to cloth weaving, printing or otherwise embellishing. The hope is that we further educate ourselves about the products that we sell and visit some of our fantastic suppliers who are busy manufactering high quality textiles in the UK.
The First of these blog posts is on ‘Double Cloth’. Double cloth is a two-layered woven cloth, the layers can be quite different; a tapestry design on one face with a plain layer behind, or they can be a reverse of each other (a double faced double cloth); as seen in ‘Welsh Blankets’, where there is no’wrong side’ just a different version on each side.

A Welsh 'Tapestry' style blanket showing the two different 'faces'.

A Welsh ‘Tapestry’ style blanket showing the two different ‘faces’.

Having read up on this and had it explained to me a couple of times by experts I still don’t feel like I have the best grasp on the actual technicalities of how this miracle happens but essentially two fabrics are woven simultaneously with binding yarns interconnecting the two layers to form a single cloth.
At the ‘National Wool Museum’ (Wales) in Llandysul, Carmerthenshire the story of the woollen industry is followed through from fleece to finished product. The production of woollen cloth has a long history in Wales with different areas having different moments of success and decline, the production of blankets became centred in West Wales in the 19th century with a high point in the first decade or two of the 20th century with plain colours and stripes forming a large part of the prodcution as well as the ‘tapestry’ style Welsh double cloth blankets. Originally the double cloth blankets were woven from a fairly coarse two ply woollen yarn and their weight and durability mean that they found use as rugs and curtains as well as blankets. It is interesting to note that many of the 19th century American quilt designs, particularly those produced by the Amish of Pennsylvania, seem to owe much to the traditional Welsh double cloth blankets.

The clear geometric designs associated both with traditional Welsh blanket design and 19th century American quilt design.

The clear geometric designs associated both with traditional Welsh blanket design and 19th century American quilt design.

As well as housing a large variety of working machinery associated with woollen cloth production, The National Wool Museum also home to a good collection of historic blankets, outfits and cloth samples making it especially valuable for today’s designers.

The collection of vintage Welsh blankets at the 'National Wool Museum' in Llandysul, Carmarthenshire.

The collection of vintage Welsh blankets at the ‘National Wool Museum’ in Llandysul, Carmarthenshire.

Very much a working museum current production is run by Raymond Jones of Melin Teifi who has a vast knowledge and understanding of both the history and processes of the Welsh woollen industry. Melin Teifi produce both their own range of woollen flannels and commision weaving for other designers and it was exciting to see some very contemporary designs on the looms.

Welsh Blanket weavingWelsh blanket loom

Current production on the looms of Melin Teifi.

Current production on the looms of Melin Teifi.

http://www.museumwales.ac.uk/wool/

What do Cider Maker’s Do All Day? Tinsmiths’ Calendar Post

Simon Day Cider MakerIn this series of “working lives posts” I have tried to ask everyone comparable questions and not assume that anyone chose their career! Cider-maker Simon Day gave me a great set of answers so I have simply given them, unedited, and added photographs.

How did you (or did you) choose to become a cider-maker?

My background is in winemaking, having been brought up at Three Choirs Vineyards, and then working in various wineries and vineyards around the world, so I wasn’t expecting to become a cidermaker. That all changed when my wife Hannah & I moved to Putley.

In May 2007 I went along to the Big Apple Blossomtime Festival and tasted ciders and chatted with a number of producers – it was the proverbial “light-bulb” moment  – so many ciders in so many styles, it brought it home to me just how alike wine and cider really are.  At the same period I was enjoying taking our dog walking around the Putley countryside.

As I walked alongside Dragon Orchard throughout the seasons I could see that it was very well looked after and produced beautiful looking cider apples. Dragon OrchardsSo, there is a saying that “Wine is made in the vineyard” – in other words you can only make good wine from good grapes.  If the same applied to apples and orchards, I felt I was witnessing some potentially excellent cider! We got to know Ann & Norman Stanier, owners of Dragon Orchard later that year, and after a couple of meetings I proposed a coming together of skills – growing and making – and we formed Once Upon A Tree, making our first ciders in Autumn 2007.

Days and Staniers Walking in the Orchards

(left to right) Norman & Ann Stanier with Simon & Hannah Day in Dragon Orchard

I had made cider before at a winery and distillery in Jersey, but most of the cider production went into the pot still.  Once Upon A Tree was an opportunity to be more experimental and innovative with the raw materials, particularly to make cider in a wine-like way, to make ciders that were perfectly matched to enjoying with food – something I felt was lacking in the industry at the time.

* What is your daily routine?

The routine varies enormously.  We are a small company, so everyone tends to pitch in wherever needed.  One minute I might be in a meeting with a buyer discussing the minutiae of an export contract, the next, shovelling spent pomace from the press!

As production has grown we are now able to employ a small but very capable team, and I am spending an increasing amount of time in the office, but my heart belongs in production – tasting, blending, watching the ferments develop into the final ciders, coaxing the very best out of each vintage.  That’s where you will find me throughout harvest – September through to November, 7 days a week 12-16 hours a day and loving it.

pressing the pulp

Squeezing out the apple juice from apple pulp

* Who/What inspires or has influenced you?

I do enjoy our industry – cider makers are a very friendly bunch indeed, and I have to say that there are a number who have influenced our methods over the past few years.  From retired cider scientist Andrew Lea of Long Ashton with his incredible in depth knowledge and scientific approach, to the more traditional cider makers such as Mike Johnson of Broome Farm and Tom Oliver of Oliver’s Cider.  They may not know it, but they have all given generously with their knowledge and experience they have taught me to be more open minded in my production methods.  But perhaps my greatest inspiration goes back to the 17th Century when Lord Viscount Scudamore of Holme Lacy was working (with others) on in bottle fermentation – the Champagne method as it is now known – a time when cider was the drink of choice of the aristocracy and was lovingly served in the most ornate cider glasses as can be seen at the Cider Museum in Hereford.  I hope that we are a part of a cider revolution that celebrates the diversity and quality of a crop that so perfectly suits our county.

3650166746* What spurs you on when things don’t go to plan?

Sometimes when things don’t go to plan, you end up with something exceptional.  Our dessert pear wine “The Wonder” is testament to that being the case when I couldn’t manage to stop the fermentation at normal perry levels, and then onto 13% alcohol – deliciously warming and ice-wine like, it is now a regular!

The WonderWhenever things don’t go as expected, you look for the opportunities that may arise from the situation.  If I’m having a particularly bad day, I’ll drag my dog out into the orchard, and very quickly things straightened out in my mind.

* What are you planning in the near future?

Expansion!  We are joining forces with Haygrove to build a new cider making facility that will enable us to cope with the demand we have created – currently we are selling out of stock each season before the next ciders are ready.  We have already been making a small amount of wine and have recently launched our new range – Sixteen Ridges – available in our Three Counties Cider Shop at 5a The Homend, Ledbury (01531 248004).  Look out for our limited release of Sparkling Pinot Noir Rosé in time for Christmas and the New Year!

Three-Counties-cider-shop ledbury

Have a treat & visit the most wonderful cider shop – well, actually much more than cider. The word comprehensive comes to mind.