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Home of the largest collection of shoes! Collections also include art, costume, military history, social history, archaeology and natural sciences

Embroidered Silk Postcards

Embroidered Silk Postcards

Embroidered silk postcards were popular items for British soldiers to send home during the First World War. These precious and expensive gifts represented skilled local craftsmanship and contained intricate details and were often sent home for a special occasion such as a birthday or Christmas. Designs varied considerably but usually the postcards featured a patriotic or personal theme and contained bright colours.

Embroidered Silk Postcards

Embroidered Silk Postcards

Embroidered silk postcards, 1914-1915

Northampton Museum holds a framed example of these postcards. The writing in the frame reads ‘Embroidered silk postcards made in Paris during the 1914-18 war. Presented by Mrs D.H. Simmonds in memory of her husband’. There are three cards in this frame: two silk and one smaller paper card. The first silk postcard includes an embroidered badge of the Northamptonshire Imperial Yeomanry and the second silk card has a Christmas theme with holly and three flags representing the allied powers: Russia, Italy and Great Britain. The smaller paper card reads ‘To bring you Luck’.

Many of these silk postcards were produced by civilians in France and Belgium and the popularity with British soldiers supported the craft industry and the local economy in some of the smaller towns and villages.

Many of the silk designs would have been standardised and drafted by a professional. The wording, like ‘Christmas’, would have been swapped according to the occasion and designed to fit within the pre-made card frames to allow them to be posted. The message would then have been written on the back of the card.

The design would have been transferred to silk organdie and then stitched with silk floss. The technique is called ‘silk shading’ and predominately uses satin stitch and long and short stitch. These items would have been stitched by a competent embroiderer, most likely using a hoop and then sold to soldiers to send home.

In 2018, objects like these and many more will be made available online for you to explore through a First World War digital archive. For more information on the Conflict & Community Project please click here.

Further information:

Imperial War Museum: Embroidered Silk Postcards

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Shoe of the Month-J’adore Dior

J’adore Dior

These beautiful blue/grey satin court shoes sporting a bow and diamante trim were made under the Christian Dior label for Harrods, London, in about 1955.

Christian Dior is famous for designing the New Look in 1947. Characteristics of this new look were a jacket nipped in at the waist and a wide flowing skirt. A hat, gloves and of course a pair of court shoes with pointed toes and stiletto heels completed the look.

 

J'adore Dior

J’adore Dior

Shoe designer Roger Vivier usually takes the credit for inventing the stiletto heel. As shoe designer to Christian Dior from 1953, Vivier designed bespoke shoes for Dior’s couture collection as well as models for a ready-made series that carried both of their names on the label.

Christmas during the First World War

Christmas during the First World War

 As Christmas fast approaches, most of us are contemplating what gifts to buy our friends and family. During the First World War (1914–1918), many families did not have the money or resources to buy extravagant presents. Those that could spare some pennies tended to purchase British made items including toys, perfume, pens and cigars and these were considered a true luxury during a period of food shortages, price hikes and wartime thrift.

Exchanging presents at Christmas was viewed as an important act. Through all the struggles and hardships of war, Christmas time offered a flicker of happiness and a feeling of hope. Not only was this important on the home front but also on the front line where soldiers maintained military operations throughout the winter months. During 1914, at the age of seventeen, Princess Mary supported a public fundraising campaign to send gifts to the soldiers serving overseas. The Princess Mary Gift Fund box was made of brass and contained a variety of items such as tobacco, sugar candy and a Christmas card.

Princess Mary Gift Fund Box, 1914–1915 

Brass tin containing two packets of cigarettes, tobacco, a printed Christmas card and a bullet pencil case.

Many families shopping for soldiers in Britain searched for practical gifts as opposed to seasonal novelty products. Relatives purchased presents that would be useful to the soldiers such as gloves, lighters, razors, watches and wallets. The leather wallet pictured below is an example of one such item:

Leather Wallet, 1917

Brown leather wallet with fabric and buff leather lining presented as a gift by the Northampton Allied War Fund during Christmas 1917.

In 2018, objects like these and many more will be made available online for you to explore through a First World War digital archive. For more information on the Conflict & Community Project please click here.

Further reading:

Imperial War Museum: Princess Mary Gift Fund 1914 Box and Contents

10 ways Christmas was celebrated during the First World War

Shoe of the Month – Fit for a Queen

Fit for a Queen

This shoe is an exact replica of those pairs made for and worn by HRM Queen Elizabeth II when she was a subaltern in the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) in 1945.

The Queen’s relationship with the Armed Forces began when, as Princess Elizabeth, she joined the ATS in 1945, becoming the first female member of the Royal Family to join the Armed Services as a full-time active member. During her time in the ATS, the Princess learnt to drive and to maintain vehicles.

Dawn Shoes

Dawn Shoes

These, and the actual shoes she wore, were made by Dawn Shoes factory. Herbert Dawson established the factory in the 1930s and it was based in Shelley Street, Northampton. During the war he was commissioned to design and make shoes for Princess Elizabeth and was invited to Buckingham Palace to fit the shoes for her.

 

 

Constance Howard ‘Northamptonshire Churches and Buildings’

Constance Howard ‘Northamptonshire Churches and Buildings’

Earlier this month some of the Collections team un-rolled one of the famous Constance Howard hangings she designed and made for the museum in 1973. We had to take over a conference room in the Guildhall for an afternoon as it was the only space big enough for the 330cm by 505cm textile.

Constance Howard was part of the vanguard of the modern embroidery renaissance and in her role as Head of Textile and Fashion at Goldsmiths she influenced generations of embroiderers and textile artists. With her iconic green hair Howard pioneered the re-interpretation of traditional embroidery techniques like Gold work and Crewel work using modern materials, including household items like tin foil and milk bottle tops. She was born in Northampton and trained as an illustrator and engraver before setting up the Embroidery depart at Goldsmiths in 1948.

 

 

 

 

 

The hanging depicts buildings around Northamptonshire and celebrates the varied architecture of the county and its role in historical events. The Iron Age Desborough Mirror, now held by the British Museum, has a prominent place as does the Althorp House.

 

This is one of a pair of wall hangings that were commissioned by the Friends of the Northampton Museum, the companion hanging celebrates the Fashion and Footwear history of the town. We are hoping to put both of the hangings on display when the expanded museum re-opens so their condition needs to be assessed to ensure that they won’t be damaged by being on display.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To do this we first unrolled the wall hanging so that we could look at it in detailed looking for any areas of damage where the 45 year old textile that would need to be stabilised by a conservator. The very liner design harks back to her training as an engraver. Although she designed the hanging to be stitched in sections, by herself and a team of embroiderers, the pieces merge together effortlessly.

 

 

 

 

 

It was fascinating to get up close to Howard’s embroidery to see how delicate and detailed her stitches are even on an object designed to be viewed from afar. She used lots of different materials and threads to create a layered effect evoking the textures of the buildings through applique and a variety of different stitches. Though, unfortunately none of her famous milk bottle tops.

 

 

 

 

 

After completing our condition report for both the front and back we re-rolled the hanging so that it could be returned to the museum store until we are ready to prepare it to go on display.

 

 

For more information about Constance Howard http://www.gold.ac.uk/textile-collection/constance/

 

Shoe of the Month – Webb’s Wonders

Webb’s Wonders

This classic Oxford shoe was made by the George Webb factory.

George Webb and his two sons, Dennis and Frank established the business in 1927. They manufactured men’s welted footwear at the Mentone Works in Brockton Street, Kingsthorpe Northampton. The works were extended in 1935 and again in 1967. In the 1960s they also opened factories in both Wellingborough and Walgrave.

George Webb made beautiful men’s shoes under the brands of Mentone, Castillo, World-Walk and Savile Row.

Oxford Shoe by Webb's

Oxford Shoe by Webb’s

 

Shoe of the Month – Authentic Shoes

Authentic Shoes

Japanese shoemaker Toshinosuke Takegahara of the Authentic Shoe & Company hand made this pair of exquisite leather toe thong sandals. They show perfectly the great skill involved in creating such traditional footwear.

Authentic Shoes

Authentic Shoes

This style is known as Zori in Japan. The design is thought to have been developed in the mid 16th century by Sen-no-rikyu, one of Japan’s famous artists. It was a very practical sandal as it ensured that the wearer’s feet were kept dry on the snow covered ground. Special socks called tabi would have been worn which have a separate big toe to enable them to be worn more comfortably. You may have seen similar shoes called geta. These have a toe thong too but have an elevated platform sole.