Friday, 15 January 2016

Weekend in London; Fabrics of India, Fabric browsing in Soho, Liberty in Fashion

Fabrics of India

Last Friday David and I travelled down to London by train and visited the Fabrics of India exhibition in the Victorian and Albert Museum. We also intended seeing the Julia Margaret Cameron exhibition. In the end only David saw that as I spent a lot longer in the Fabrics of India exhibition than I thought I would. The JMC exhibition consisted of her portraits of famous people and showed how she managed to master and move beyond the technical aspects of photography while it was still at a very early stage in the mid to late 1800s.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Fabrics of India exhibition. I won't completely review the exhibition here - for one thing, it has now ended and others have already adequately reviewed it (see for example Kate at Fabrickated). The exhibition was more extensive than I realised and so I spent a long time there. It was very busy which is a disadvantage of going at the time I did.

The exhibition,  and the accompanying book,  set out to provide an overview of the textiles of India (using the term India in its previous very wide sense to include many parts of Asia). The V & A hold the greatest collection of Indian textiles in the world but had never held an exhibition (not had anyone else);  indeed many textiles in the exhibition had been brought out of storage for the first time ever since they were acquired in the 19th century!  One piece of textile on display had never been unwrapped - not even yet.

The textiles included pieces that I associate with India but the range was much wider. As well as very old pieces,  over 1000 years old, there was covering of modern Indian designers - who often design in collaboration with European designers or fashion houses.

So too did the exhibition cover the impact of textiles on culture and politics within India and way beyond its borders (see too Kate's post

The fabric that I will likely use for my MOB , a dupion silk,  was brought back from India for me by my friend Veena.  She took a piece of David's tartan and tried to match/tone the blue in it as I wanted to highlight that colour in the kilt rather than clashing completely!  She brought me two blue dupion silks,  one green (also in the tartan) shot silk and a purply blue and green saree. I look forward to using all of these fabrics.

(This is not a photo of my actual fabric,  rather a photo from Wikipedia as is definition;  my fabric is more of a cobalt /electric blue) 
Dupioni (also referred to as Douppioni or Dupion) is a plain weave crisp type of silk fabric, produced by using fine thread in the warp and uneven thread reeled from two or more entangled cocoons in the weft.

I wasn't able to take photographs but I did buy the exhibition book which has lovely photos of the exhibits and the explanations. There were a few film clips including one on indigo dyeing (I thought of Kate then), one on embroidery and one on printing block cutting. David and I have become interested in fabric printing since having some fabric printed. I wanted David to write about that process but he probably won't do so, so I may, at a later date. I was also very interested in the process of Ikat, particularly double Ikat - I couldn't believe how complex these patterns were. Likewise,  I thought I knew what ‘tie dyeing’ was - didn't we all try that in the 70s? However, the textiles we saw had such amazing complexity that I would never had guessed this was the process. There was also an amazing embroidery technique - unfortunately I forget the name and can't find it in the book, so far,  at least. The first section of the exhibition,  covering the materials and the making of them was far and away the bit I liked best.

Fabric shopping

I was staying with my daughter Helen and future son in law A in their new flat in east London. They’ve just had the kitchen replaced and a partial wall knocked down and are very pleased with the result though they have some way to go before they have completed all they want to do. We hadn’t  seen the flat and they were excited to show it off. We loved what they've done.

Our plan was to fabric scope/shop on Saturday in Soho,  before moving onto Joel and Sons and then Goldhawk Road  for some cheaper practice fabrics. I'm making A a waistcoat and he wanted to choose the fabric and is also involved in the choice of fabric for the bridesmaids. This meant he ended up being with us for rather longer than I'd hoped and we got less done than we wanted. Mind you, Helen and I were both somewhat ill so that didn't help! We didn't buy the final fabrics but have a fair idea of what they will be. We didn't get to Joel and Sons but H will visit there on Saturday coming. I bought some  fabric potentially for my backup MOB outfit, though I found it didn't really work for what I had in mind after I got it home, so I've abandoned that idea. More fabric in the stash.

Liberty in Fashion Exhibition

On Sunday I was originally travelling back early to allow H and A to get on with their decorating. However, I saw that there was a Liberty in Fashion exhibition on at the Fashion and Textiles Museum and decided to go on Sunday and get a later train home (David had to go home on Friday night - I had an open ticket). Helen decided she would come with me.

Kate has also covered this exhibition in two posts ( here and here)  so again I won't go into it in any detail. Liberty has had a large contribution to British fashion,  both in its own work and its impact on the work of other designers and this exhibition celebrated that,  showing the evolution of design, patterns and colour by era.

I was able to take photos (only on my phone and without flash so they're not great I'm afraid)  and with some of the exhibits,  I could get really close and personal looking at design and construction detail. I appreciate that though I'm not a great Liberty fan though the fabric I bought,  mentioned earlier,  was a Liberty lawn.

A had gone overnight to a function in Cambridge but was due back for lunch;  at that point we were going to show him the lining we bought for his waistcoat and some additional samples of bridesmaid dress silk fabric from Goldhawk Road, bought on Saturday. However,  the exhibition was smaller than I thought and it took us less time to go around so I decided to go home without meeting A for lunch. The train journey was busy and an hour longer than usual because of engineering works, all I didn't want to hang around longer than necessary.

All in all a nice weekend. But it's always nice to get home! 


  1. Anne, thanks so much for sharing your impressions of the Fabrics of India show, and also posting the LofL shots. I have some Liberty fabric and it is delicious :-)

    1. Thank you, Mary. I do love the feel of the fabric and I have 3 pieces I love - two geometric prints and the larger floral I bought in London last week. I took more photographs at the exhibition but decided just to post the one I really liked with some detail as Kate is discussing the exhibition in much more detail and from a rather more knowledgeable angle.
      I do like exhibitions!

  2. What a lovely time you have had - one of the things I really don't like about living in Australia is that we have very little in the way of cultural institutions of the calibre of V and A. Scale and scope of the country and it's short history do not allow this :). You must be about ready to start on the wedding dress, after seeing the inspirational Liberty dresses. They are so gorgeous, but a little bit more complex that a Liberty shirt.

    1. Thank you, Sarah Liz. I went to the V&A for the first time just last year, for the wedding dresses over the years exhibition. I often get embarrassed about this country's role in history; though of course, being Scottish my ancestors and their culture also suffered at the hands of the English! As you probably know, the kilt was banned, among other and of course a lot worse. David will wear the kilt, in his clan's tartan. I'm about to make a toile of the wedding dress, using similar fabrics, to work out some of the construction details. (Terrified +++)

    2. I should also have said that Australia has a lot of advantages to outweigh that particular disadvantage!

    3. Wow Anne these Liberty prints are gorgeous - like you I'm not a huge Liberty nut, but these are gorgeous - thanks for sharing!


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