Thursday, 21 May 2015

Rose Madder and the Norwich Shawl

In the 1870's you just weren't a lady unless you had a shawl,
(and a pair of drawers of course), and the very best of the former
hailed from Norwich.  Many still survive to this
day and some beautiful examples can be seen in the
Norfolk Museum's collection at their Textile Study Centre
in the heart of Norwich.

The much lusted after Kashmiri shawls of the 19th century
used to take up to three years to make using the wool of
Himalayan goats but the Norfolk copies, made on foot operated
machines and not by hand, took only weeks to produce
and quickly became the shawl of preference.
These large squares of material were either fringed with patterns
or patterned all over,  Queens, princesses and the social elite
wore them.  You had to be wealthy, important and usually both
to be the owner of a pukka Norwich shawl.
The plant Rubia tinctorum (rose madder) was once a classic
element of the Mediaeval garden and grows well in the Norfolk
countryside.  It was a popular dye plant who's roots were traditionally
used to colour the cloth for the uniforms of the English "red coat"
soldiers and used to be sold in great quantities at the
Madder Market in Norwich which exists now in name only.
Madder red and Norwich were synonymous thanks to the efforts
of Richard Stark who worked in the City between 1811 and 1831.
He was able to perfect the colour matching of both the silk warp
and wool weft threads to exactly the same shade which
produced the distinctive true scarlet red often to be found in the
stunning drawloom shawls of Norwich.
A typical Norfolk sampler
Some of the motifs found on the shawls can also be seen echoed
in the distinctive Norfolk samplers from which the recent
Long Dog design called Do Different draws it's inspiration.
The fabulous Do Different in madder rose look
Here comes the hard sell at last.  This chart can be yours almost
 painlessly at just the click of a mouse, follow the link
to stitching heaven:
and demand your copy today.  You know it makes sense.

1 comment:

  1. The Norwich dyer who innovated Norwich Red was called Michael Stark not Richard Stark.