Ian Rumsey Australian Textiles Collection
The Ian Rumsey Australian Textiles Collection comprises a representative range of 19th and 20th century Australian embroidery and needlework (48 pieces in all), including doyleys, milk jug covers, tablecloths, placemats, towels, banners, aprons, samplers, runners and cushion covers, collected by Ian Rumsey over two decades. Mr Rumsey, a private collector, was drawn to embroidery and needlework for its extensive use of Australian flora and fauna and other native motifs, collecting only well-preserved examples, many of which came via the late Nerylla Taunton, an antiques dealer.
Embroidery and crochet are the two main techniques demonstrated through the collection. Embroidery is the decoration of fabric or other materials with designs stitched in strands of thread or yarn using a needle, although other materials such as metal strips, beads and sequins may also be used. The embroidery pieces in this collection are mainly worked on linen using a combination of back, running, stem, straight, satin, fly, buttonhole, blanket, chain, cross stitch and French knots.
Embroidery has a long history with links to both the rich in an ostentatious show of wealth and power or to the poor in strengthening and decorating inexpensive cloth, and generating income. It provides an historical and social picture with designs taken from simple subjects providing important documentation of everyday life. A particularly famous example, the Bayeux Tapestry (1066), commemorates the events leading up to the Battle of Hastings, while examples also survive from Ancient Egypt, Iron Age Northern Europe and Song Dynasty China.
By the late 1800s to early 1900s, the Australian women's magazine 'New Idea', which was later renamed 'Everylady's Journal', published patterns that made crochet and embroidery more widely accessible. Young girls eager to set up their own household, often aided by their relatives and friends, embroidered or crocheted items to be stored as treasured belongings in a glory box.
Crochet, on the other hand, is worked using a crochet hook that comes in an assortment of sizes. Crochet is quick and easy to learn, can be worked into laces, insets, edgings, soft furnishings, covers and clothing and may be delicate, lacy and artistic, or hardwearing and serviceable. The basis of crochet work is chain stitch with many other stitches, most commonly double and treble crochet, derived from this basic stitch. Filet crochet developed from filet lace or lacis, which is of early origin. Filet lace is needle-darned on a square-mesh net, creating a square grid which is the distinguishing characteristic of both filet lace and filet crochet. Plain filet crochet has a square open net formed by working two chain stitches between trebles, with solid blocks of trebles used to form pattern. Filet crochet was particularly popular in Australia in the early 1900s.
Crochet evolved from a need for less expensive, quicker and easier methods of lace-making than needle point and bobbin lace. In the early 1800s crochet was worked in wool to create clothing and serviceable items. Silk, linen and cotton were used to make mats, and a range of trims for clothing and to decorate household furniture. During the industrial revolution, when cheap lace was manufactured by machines, crochet was appreciated as 'hand-made' but was less expensive than the more labour intensive bobbin and needle laces. Crochet was practised and enjoyed across the social spectrum; from the 1840s, it offered a way for women to supplement meagre household incomes.
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