Patterns of Their Time: Printed Textiles 1750 to 1850 and Beyond

Linda Eaton, Winterthur Museum

Sunday, September 13, 2015Mini-exhibit: 10:30amLecture: 11:00amGould Theatre, Palace of the Legion of Honor
Legion of Honor
Floral stripe on a trellis background

Floral stripe on a trellis background. The trellis design has been cycling in and out of fashion for centuries. Winterthur Museum purchase

The late 18th century and early 19th century were the golden age of printed textiles, when advances in the development of chemical dyes, cotton ginning and textile manufacturing were at the forefront of the industrial revolution. Good design, however, was equally important and was highly valued by manufacturers, merchants and clients. The fabric designers generally remained anonymous until textiles designed by well known artists were promoted in the early 20th century.

Linda Eaton will present what she has learned about early textile designers and their backgrounds. She will relate their early textiles to the designers’ inspirations from the popular culture and fashions of their times. Ms Eaton will explore plagiarism and copyright, the challenges of attribution and dating textiles, especially as many of these early patterns have cycled in and out of fashion for more than 200 years.

Linda Eaton attended Vassar College and graduated from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne with a bachelor’s degree combining studies in English literature and politics. She continued in the textile conservation program at Hampton Court Palace in conjunction with the Courtauld Institute of Art at London University. She subsequently served as a museum services officer for the Area Museums Service for South Eastern England. Ms Eaton headed north to serve as the senior textile conservator for the Scottish Museums Council and, later, head of textile conservation for the National Museums of Scotland. Beginning in 1991, Linda Eaton joined Winterthur as a textile conservator, senior textile curator and director of collections, as well as an adjunct associate professor at the University of Delaware.

Continue reading

The Diligent Needle: Instrument of Profit, Pleasure and Ornament

Linda Eaton, Winterthur Museum

Sunday, September 13, 2015Mini-exhibit: 1:00pmLecture: 1:30pmGould Theatre, Palace of the Legion of Honor
Legion of Honor
Tablecloth was embroidered in Pennsylvania between 1890 and 1910

Fine needlework skills were revived in America after the exhibition of work by London’s Royal School of Needlework at the 1876 Exposition. Known as “art needlework,” this tablecloth was embroidered in Pennsylvania between 1890 and 1910.

For centuries, instruction in needlework was an important part of a young woman’s education. Both plain sewing and fancy embroidery require considerable time and effort to learn. As a result, women took great pride in their work. Samplers and silkwork pictures functioned much like diplomas as a sign of a woman’s education and accomplishment.

Some women used their skill with a needle to generate extra income or to support themselves and their families. More genteel women might teach the skill, while less affluent women took in plain sewing — mending, hemming bed and table linens, or making shirts and shifts for their more prosperous neighbors.

Many women took great pleasure in using their needle to create objects that might commemorate a special event, gifts to friends and family, or display the artistic taste of their makers. They might use their needles to embellish clothing, accessories and furnishings. Although these needlework projects were decorative in nature, they were usually called “work” in letters and diaries. While mundane plain sewing might be done at home among the family, more ornamental work was often accomplished in the company of friends. Linda Eaton will examine the diligence of these needlewomen over four centuries.

Continue reading