In the latest in our occasional series of posts about cloth the focus is on linen. Starting with the basics; linen is a fibre which is obtained by processing the ‘Linum’ or ‘Flax’ plant. ‘Flax’ has a pretty blue flower and is grown for both the fibre and the seed all over the cooler regions of the world, with high quality linen being particularly associated with Ireland, Belgium, Latvia and Lithuania.
Linen has a number of properties which make it really good to use in the home; it is cool to touch and can absorb up to 20% moisture before it feels damp, it is lint-free, does not pill and is durable to abrasion although because it has low elasticity repeated ironing of folds will eventually cause the fibres to break (the cuffs of linen shirts bear witness to this) . It is not of interest to moth or carpet beetle and is easy to take care of washing well even at high temperatures and has only moderate initial shrinkage. It can be finished to maximise or reduce these properties and can be woven as a ‘union’ with other yarns to produce cloth with particular characteristics. Linen has been used by humans as a textile for at least 30,000 years and with such a long history and with it’s particular properties the uses that linen are put to are extensive; bed linen, tablecloths, napkins, dish towels, glass towels and bath towels, home and commercial furnishing items (wallpaper/wall coverings, upholstery, window treatments, sheer curtains etc.), apparel items like dresses, shirts and suits, luggage, artists canvases, it is used by bookbinders and bakers and for paper and banknotes. The Tinsmiths selection of ‘Linen Fabric’ has grown steadily over the years and we now offer linen in qualities from very fine sheers to the chunkiest 712gsm upholstery linen.
As curtain makers we have always been slightly dissatisfied by the drape achieved by some of the stiffer linens and we now offer ‘Washed Linen’ in a really good range of colours and stripes – curtains made with this ‘Washed Linen’ drape fantastically, falling heavily to the hem.
Linen has always been the luxury choice for bedlinen in hot climates because it keeps cool and dry even in the most humid conditions, however we have always felt that natural unbleached linen for curtains and furnishings is an excellent option for bedrooms where a calm and relaxed environment is required.
Of course Linen is a good upholstery cloth, the heavier weights are required for durability and for ‘severe domestic use’ some linen unions stand up to wear outstandingly, achieving very high rub tests; many of our upholstery fabrics have a high linen content and achieve very good results when tested for durability. For loose covers the stability of linen comes into it’s own, because it generally washes with a minimal initial shrinkage and takes washing and cleaning processes well, it is the ideal choice for loose covers.
Ticking fabric was traditionally a very densely woven cotton herringbone or twill weave cloth used for making mattress & pillow cases. The derivation of the word ‘Ticking’, material used to cover pillows and mattresses, is from the Greek theke, “receptacle”. Ticking cloth was traditionally woven with even narrow stripes in the warp, usually in navy or black & cream, however many variations of stripe pattern & colour have evolved.
Our collection of vintage tickings gleaned from bric a brac sales, flea markets etc.
Modern ticking fabric is generally not feather proof as it is woven and finished for qualities of drape and wear for curtains or upholstery. Traditional ticking fabric was also made feather proof by waxing or soaping on the back. Tickings have been a mainstay of the Tinsmiths’ fabric collection since we opened in 2004, and we now stock an excellent range of excellent quality ticking from mills in the UK & EU. We only stock traditional woven ticking cloth with a herringbone or twill weave, & over the years have used it for many successful projects as curtains, blinds & upholstery. For curtain use our tickings have an excellent drape & for upholstery use we have found our ticking to be extremely durable with some of the cotton ticking that we stock achieving a rub test of 35,000 cycles.
Old Armchair re-upholstered in Anthracite, note how well ticking works as piping to give a lovely finished edge.
Ticking fabric is an excellent choice for those wanting a scheme that will not date; neither cutting edge contemporary or fussy or twee, ticking is a straightforward classic cloth which will look good for decades.
Cotton Ticking Curtain in Dove Grey with slightly wider stripes than tradition ticking.
Tickings from a huge range on the shelves at Tinsmiths:
Cork Harvesting – a one-man job
Cork, a beautiful material which has fallen from favour in recent years following over-exposure in the 1970’s, has a fascinating history and stunning properties. In a world that must manage resources more and more carefully, re-considering the use of cork is a great idea.
“Unusual” Uses of Cork
Portugal is the largest producer of cork by far and the wine stopper remain the most common use of the wood. But, would you consider sitting in a car seat made from cork? If you did your car could be 45 kg lighter, use less fuel and at the end of its life the seat would be entirely recyclable. This is one of the new applications being pioneered by Magna, the world leader in automotive parts. It is undoubtedly a supremely functional material, light, warm, water resistant and sustainable but what about good looking too? Here are some examples from Tinsmiths’ Homewares.
Tinsmiths’ Corkage – cork for bathroom, dining table and kitchen.
Rectangular Cork Placemat
Thick Cork Teapot Stand
Cork Shower or Bath Mat
Insulating Cork Tea or Drinks Tray
Large Round Cork Placemat
Cork Facts: Cork oak grows in areas of the world that would suffer desertification without it and provides employment for local people with specialist knowledge. Cork Oak is harvested from the outer layer of the tree every nine years, for an average of 150 years and when expertly done, the tree is unharmed. There is no waste in the processing of cork as even the smallest or least valuable pieces are used in a composite material that can be shaped and moulded.
The world’s largest and oldest cork oak is called Assobiador (whistler). This name is inspired on the sounds of the songbirds that land on its branches. This Cork oak was planted in 1783 and it is over 14 metres high and has a trunk perimeter of 4.15 metres.
Assobiador – 235 years of cork from the oldest known tree.
If you think, when strolling around Sagrada Familia Cathedral in Barcelona, that sounds are “soft” and the floor is warm – well guess what? Yep, cork.
Sagrada Familia Cathedral Cork Floor (Gaudi, Barcelona)
Finally, to make an even more forceful case for cork, let’s compare CO2 emissions; cork versus plastic stoppers? A plastic closure emits 10 times more CO2 than a cork stopper and an Aluminium cap closures emits 24 times more CO2 than a cork stopper. Hurrah for cork and its future use.
Following last year’s trip to Ukraine, we are bringing some of Ukraine to Ledbury this March with a Pysanky Egg Workshop and Traditional Ukrainian Lunch held at Tinsmiths and run by Nataliya Cummings (Experience Ukraine) and Helena Orlowski.
Traditional Psanky Eggs from Ukraine showing traditional motifs.
The tradition of decorating eggs using hot wax resist (Batik) techniques dates back to pre-Christian times and The Hutsuls––Ukrainians who live in the Carpathian Mountains of western Ukraine––believe that the fate of the world depends upon the pysanka. As long as the egg decorating custom continues, the world will exist. If, for any reason, this custom is abandoned, evil––in the shape of a horrible serpent who is forever chained to a cliff–– will overrun the world. Each year the serpent sends out his minions to see how many pysanky have been created. If the number is low the serpent’s chains are loosened and he is free to wander the earth causing havoc and destruction. If, on the other hand, the number of pysanky has increased, the chains are tightened and good triumphs over evil for yet another year.
Colours and symbols are specific to a region and family and these are passed from Mother to daughter. The blessed eggs are given to relatives and respected community members as a talisman against bad fortune in the coming year. A good number are placed in specific places around the house and with livestock to ward off evil and secure fertility for the coming season. Young women would present an egg to eligible batchelors in their community – the antidote to online dating!
One example of many, Birds, were considered the harbingers of spring, thus they were a commonplace pysanka motif. Birds of all kinds are the messengers of the sun and heaven. Birds are always shown perched, at rest, never flying (except for swallows and, in more recent times, white doves carrying letters). Roosters are symbols of masculinity, or the coming of dawn, and hens represent fertility. Very many of these symbolic motifs appear in the folk embroidery and textiles of the Ukraine.
Once a design is settled on colour has to be seriously considered as it carries its own meaning ie.
- Red – is probably the oldest symbolic color, and has many meanings. It represents life-giving blood, and often appears on pysanky with nocturnal and heavenly symbols. It represents love and joy, and the hope of marriage. It is also associated with the sun.
- Black – is a particularly sacred color, and is most commonly associated with the “other world,” but not in a negative sense.
- Yellow – symbolized the moon and stars and also, agriculturally, the harvest.
- Blue – Represented blue skies or the air, and good health.
- White – Signified purity, birth, light, rejoicing, virginity.
- Green – the color of new life in the spring. Green represents the resurrection of nature, and the riches of vegetation.
- Brown – represents the earth.
Some color combinations had specific meanings, too:
- Black and white – mourning, respect for the souls of the dead.
- Black and red – this combination was perceived as “harsh and frightful,” and very disturbing. It is common in Podillya, where both serpent motifs and goddess motifs were written with this combination.
- Four or more colors – the family’s happiness, prosperity, love, health and achievements.
For an opportunity to see all the colours, motifs and combinations you couldn’t do better than to visit the Psanka Museum in Kolomyya where you can see 6000 of the best examples of Psanka not to mention it’s eggcentric building design.
Pysanky means writing or to write and the eggs are decorated using a wax resist method. Beeswax was heated in a small bowl on the large family stove, and the styluses were dipped into it. The molten wax was applied to the white egg with a writing motion; any bit of shell covered with wax would be sealed, and remain white. Then the egg was dyed yellow, and more wax applied, and then orange, red, purple, black. (The dye sequence was always light to dark). Bits of shell covered with wax remained that color. After the final color, usually red, brown or black, the wax was removed by heating the egg in the stove and gently wiping off the melted wax, or by briefly dipping the egg into boiling water.
N.B. The eggs are never blown or boiled and must be fertile, ideally the first from a young hen. To stray from this could bring infertility and bad luck.
Pysanka continue to be made in modern times; while many traditional aspects have been preserved, new technologies are in evidence. Aniline dyes have largely replaced natural dyes. Traditional styluses are still made from brass and wood, but modern versions offer built-in, heated wax reservoirs and a choice of profiles for your dots and dashes….
You can easily book a place on our Egg Decorating event on Monday 26th March – just prior to Easter and in time to ward off any bad spirits. Places (10 available) are reserved through our website, here.
There is something very inspiring about passion. In this case, I mean passion for one’s work. Sunny visited us with samples of his textile designs a few month’s ago and we were struck by his commitment, enthusiasm and drive. His designs are dramatic, bold and bright, they leap out and grab you. It is really good to have something that shakes us, something quite different and a bit daring for Tinsmiths.
“Tinsmiths feels to be very much at the heart of the bustling community and it has been a real joy to begin working with them this year. I have particularly enjoyed collaborating with owner Phoebe Clive on unique colour combinations for the store; I have really appreciated her advice, support and belief in me as a new designer and I am very much looking forward to my show at Tinsmiths next summer.” says Sunny, who moved to Ledbury, with his young family, this spring (2013). “I have been so surprised by the vibrancy of this small market town” remarks Sunny, whose energy and interest can only add to the life of the town.
After training at the Royal College of Art, graduating with an MA in Printed Textile Design, Sunny Todd worked as a freelance designer in London for various companies including Topshop, Topman, Levis, River Island and Urban Outfitters, predominantly customising garments with Silk Screen prints.
Passionate about producing designs that are clean, bold and graphic, Sunny intuitively and obsessively draws with pen, scissors and scalpel to create repeats that are confident, dynamic and full of movement. Scale is explored, reducing and exaggerating to experiment with composition and the impact of the repeat.
All his designs are cut by hand which gives the art work beautiful irregularities, and so when fabrics are digitally printed by British company Smarts they retain the hand printed aesthetic. Sunny gives a good deal of thought to how his textiles will be used and his latest wash bags and shoulder bags are good examples of this – his large shoulder bags should be considered part of one’s apparel, not merely a necessity.
Sunny’s show at Tinsmiths runs from 6th September to 4th October, 2014 and there will be an opportunity to meet and talk to Sunny about his work at the opening on the evening of Friday, 5th September. If you would like to receive an invitation, please e-mail email@example.com with your details.
We stage artist and printmaker, Andrew Davidson’s solo show here next month. Andrew has just completed seven covers for Bloomsbury’s next edition of the complete series of Harry Potter books, the first four of which have just been released. Andrew, who works almost exclusively to commission, will exhibit his prints and textiles, here, at Tinsmiths next month (7th September to 12th October) and we are delighted that this very rare solo exhibition will include the Potter series of wood-engravings.
Wood engraving by Andrew Davidson for Bloomsbury’s Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Bloomsbury really couldn’t have selected better for J.K. Rowling’s work. “I wanted them to look as if they had come straight from the pages of a book taken from the library at Hogwarts (the boarding school for wizard’s where the books are set)”, explains Andrew.
The project took around two and a half months to complete, and each of the images describes a key scene, character or setting from that novel: designs for first books in the series feature the Hogwarts Express train and Gothic castle, while later covers have a darker feel and feature ghouls, skulls and serpents. The complexity of Andrew’s work, hand engraved on English Boxwood measuring no more than 9″ x 7″ and printed on Japanese paper, really suits the genre. Andrew’s commission from Bloomsbury allows him to hand-print 20 of each of the illustrations from the wood-engravings for his own use and it is these that we will have on display.
Hogwart’s Express steams into view. Wood engraving by Andrew Davidson.
If you would like to come to our opening evening, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for an invitation (letterpress printed with engravings taken from Andrew Davidson’s textile design, Royal Oak, for Lewis and Wood in Stroud, Glos.)