Robert Shaw Textile Collection at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

Robert Shaw Textile Collection at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

Ash EAX.3977
Copyright Ashmolean Museum

We had a most enjoyable time at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford last week.  Thanks to great organisation by Ann K, a coach collected us from Lockeridge and set us down around the corner from the museum with 10 minutes to spare before our guided tour.  We were divided into two groups, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.

Jude Barrett was our guide and took us to the Jameel Centre on the first floor. On entering we were all thrilled to see a wonderful collection of quilted coats, hats and shoes on display. 

In her presentation Jude explained that Robert Shaw was an Englishman who had a tea plantation in India.  It was a period in history known as the Great Game when the British and the Russian Empires were challenging each other with regard to territory in Asia and between 1868-9 Robert Shaw travelled from northern India to Eastern Turkestan (now Xianjian, China). His journey was partly to help the British India’s secret service explore central Asia.  We understand that Shaw was the first European to visit Yarkand and Kashgar and the explorer, George Hayward stood back to allow Robert Shaw to enter the city first.

On his arrival Shaw was presented with gifts of coats and other garments by the ruler, Yakub Beg and as a result, Robert Shaw started this wonderful collection of textiles.

After his death, Robert Shaw’s sister donated the collection to the Victoria & Albert Museum in London and in due course the garments were transferred to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.   Ruth Barnes who was a curator at the Ashmolean Museum, decided to do some research into the collection and I have found an interesting presentation which she gave in 2014 when she was working at Yale University.  It can be downloaded from this link:

After Jude’s presentation we then had the opportunity to look at the collection on display.  Colourful patterned Indian cottons were layered with Ikat borders and cuffs and silk from China.   Fine hand stitching was used to secure the various layers in place and it was interesting to see the choice of stitches.  The embroidery on the hats was superb and it was useful to have a magnifying glass to see the detail.  In addition to the quilted coats and hats there were two pairs of boots on display.

I was particularly interested to see the construction of the quilted coats as several years ago I visited a workshop where they produced double Ikat on narrow looms in Patan, Gujarat.

To complete our visit we were taken to the main part of the museum where several other coats were on display for the public to enjoy.

Thank you to everyone involved for making this such an enjoyable and memorable day.

Report by Ros

Thanks to the Picture Department at the Ashmolean Museum for letting us use their images.  

Details of the Robert Shaw Collection on the Jameel Centre website:

Robert Shaw’s book: Visit to High Tartary and Kashgar –

Double Ikat in Patan, Gujarat:

The Knicker Lady – Rosemary Hawthorne

The Knicker Lady - Rosemary Hawthorne
A drawing of a luxury hourglass corset from 1878, featuring a busk fastening at the front and lacing at the back taken from Wikipedia.

The Knicker Lady – Rosemary Hawthorne

Rosemary Hawthorne was the speaker after our Christmas lunch.  She arrived with a friend and several large suit cases full of garments.

Rosemary started her talk by explaining how she became interested in fashion as a child as her mother worked for the small fashion house Matita and she would help dress the models during the holidays.  Rosemary became an actress and had a large family so there was very little time for her own interests but she started collecting old clothes and underwear and, as there was no book on Knickers, she was encouraged to write one (details below).

Rosemary then produced a wonderful selection of underwear starting with very delicate white chemise decorated with hand embroidery from the Jane Austen period around 1790’s.  There was a basic shift from the 1870’s and Rosemary explained that a corset made with whale bones would be worn over the top. 

There were a variety of knickers with two separate legs which was the favoured design until the start of the First World War.  A number of garments were passed round the room and we were interested to see the warm flannel ones.  As time went on lace inserts and bows were added and some had trap door openings.  

Over the years the knickers were getting shorter and we were shown maternity knickers and those designed with cycling in mind.  There were several combinations and the name of Horrockes Fashion House was mentioned together with the fabric known as Aertex.  We were shown an early wraparound bra which had a hook for stays and another with suspenders.  The 1920’s changed everything and underwear became far more feminine and my favourite garment of the day was a truly beautiful silk petticoat which even today would be classed as an exquisite item of clothing. 

We all had a good chuckle when the 1920’s knitted bathing suit was produced and later some of us went down memory lane when we saw the elasticated swim suit which we remember wearing as children as they blew up when you got out of the sea!

It was interesting to see different fabrics come on the scene namely nylon and elastic and to see knickers made from parachute silk.  After World War II bloomers became popular and Rosemary made us laugh when she produced baggy knickers with pockets similar to the ones many of us wore to school.  Several of us also remember wearing liberty bodices with the good old rubber buttons on them.

In addition to all the underwear Rosemary had a number of garments she had collected over the years including a Laura Ashley dress, a circular skirt and a Crimpelene suit from the 1950s. Another favourite of mine was Rosemary’s own “little black dress” designed by Mary Quant from the 1960’s.

Bringing the history of underwear up to date Rosemary mentioned Gossards, Victoria’s Secret and the luxury brand of Janet Reger.

As a finale we were shown a selection of men’s underwear from the historical two legged pants through to the jazzy pink Calvin Klein and the Y fronts.

I can honestly say it was a fun talk with lots of laughing, a wonderful variety of garments, lots of history and lots of memories and a truly great way to celebrate Christmas.

Report by Ros

Rosemary asked us not to take photographs so below I have listed some websites for further reading and images:


Rosemary Hawthorne’s website:

Rosemary’s book available on Amazon either for the Kindle or hardcover:

Rosemary’s Facebook page:


Images from Matita Fashion House on Pinterest: 

Blog post about underwear from ancient Greece onwards

Images of 1920’s underwear:

Horrockes Fashion House:

Video about Horrockes:

History of Aertex material:


Janet Reger underwear:

Victoria’s Secret

THE RED DRESS with inspiring Kirstie Macleod

RD Kirstie Committee 2
THE RED DRESS with inspiring Kirstie Macleod

THE RED DRESS with inspiring Kirstie Macleod

I have been following The Red Dress on social media for many years now.  Last November, several days before my birthday, I noticed that Kirstie Macleod was taking The Red Dress to Wells and it would be available for the public to see during the morning.  What an amazing way to spend my birthday, The Red Dress in the morning followed by lunch at one of my favourite restaurants.  We met up with another stitch friend, Christine and her husband and all of us were spellbound by The Red Dress, the story and of course Kirstie herself.  It was on that day I decided it would be truly wonderful to share The Red Dress with members of the Textile & Stitch Around Marlborough.  Thanks to emails between Christine and Kirstie we were able to make this happen and on Monday 3 October 2022 The Red Dress came to Lockeridge.

I was particularly fascinated by the way Kirstie brought an aluminium trunk out of her car and after 15 minutes of unpacking, The Red Dress was beautifully displayed for everyone to see.  We had positioned it so members and their guests could easily walk around and enjoy seeing the wonderful individual embroideries at close range.  While chatting Kirstie mentioned that about 100 new pieces of embroidery had been added since I saw The Red Dress last November but she now felt The Red Dress was complete.

THE RED DRESS with inspiring Kirstie Macleod
RD skirt rotated
RD LS det 14

After everyone had had time to enjoy The Red Dress Kirstie started her presentation by explaining that, because of her father’s work, she travelled the world as a child.  Members of her family had been inspiration to her, teaching her to knit and sew and it was whilst living in Africa that an Indian lady had taught her to embroider.  Kirstie then went on to take a BA in Textile Design at Bristol and a MA in Visual Language & Performance.  Whilst travelling in Southern India Kirstie spent many hours with local ladies learning their embroidery skills.

Before  hearing about The Red Dress in detail, it was interesting to hear about other work Kirstie had done.  In 2008 she was commissioned to produce a dress for Emelan.  It was 16 metres in diameter and as a result of this project, she was given funding by the British Council Dubai and that was the start of The Red Dress project.  In 2015 Kirstie was asked to create a dress for the opera Phaedra.  The brief stated the dress had to be 15 ft tall and to degrade over 15 minutes.  There were three dress rehearsals and two performances!

RD LS Committee

The Red Dress began it’s life being sketched on a napkin.  Originally the intention was for it to provide an artistic platform for women around the world to tell their personal stories through embroidery but over the 13 years the project has encouraged self-expression and an opportunity for voices to be heard.   

To date 353 embroiderers, mainly women, and 7 men from 47 countries have been involved.  Kirstie explained that to start with she would stitch the dress sitting in a cube to remind people of women’s oppression and persecution but as time went on she came out of the cube to promote a more positive atmosphere.  Kirstie had not visited all the countries involved with the project and explained that she would post off pieces of the silk to people who she had been able to contact and ask them to produce an embroidery using their own threads.  

Some of the embroideries were commissioned but a lot were done by volunteers.  The artisans now receive a percentage of income generated by the charity from sales, exhibitions and talks and Kirstie explained that they would use this money to improve their lives, their homes or to buy animals. 

In her presentation Kirstie showed us a wonderful selection of photos of ladies from a variety of countries stitching their embroideries and mentioned her visits to Kosovo, Rwanda, the Congo and Australia.  More recently The Red Dress had been to Poland where a group of Ukrainian ladies sang as they stitched and last week Kirstie returned from a visit to Egypt where she worked with Bedouin ladies before a visit to Cairo. 

As a textile and stitch group we were particularly interested to hear about the construction of the dress.   In 2009 Kirstie went to Paris to buy the burgundy silk dupion.  50 meters of fabric were originally purchased, but over the years much was removed from the skirt (so the embroidery could be viewed better) Kirstie estimates there is now 20m within the 86 panels that make up The Red Dress.  The bodice is constructed with corset bones and the closure is with small buttons held in place by fabric loops.  At one time Kirstie would let anybody touch the dress but nowadays she works with a conservator and consequently has to be more careful. 

At the end of the presentation Kirstie kindly answered a number of questions including what plans she had for her future and the future of the dress.  As the project has taken over her life, Kirstie is keen to draw on her experience to create her own work and mentioned the trauma and abuse she had heard from ladies in certain countries.  As far as The Red Dress is concerned, it is planned for it to visit all the countries which were involved with the project and this could possibly take about 10 years.  After that, Kirstie hoped it would go into a museum but that is for future plans.

I would like to pass on my grateful thanks to Kirstie Macleod for visiting us with The Red Dress and for her inspiring presentation.  I know everyone will enjoy following The Red Dress in the months and years to come.


Report by Ros

Photos by Ros and Lindsay (thanks Lindsay for the videos!)



The Red Dress website:



Etsy link for purchasing The Red Dress catalogue:

YouTube – short resume of project by Kirsty Macleod (2.22 mins)

YouTube talk by Kirsty Macleod (1 hr)  –

Kirstie Macleod’s own website:

Christmas lunch with Ros Liddington, Archivist from Wilton House, Salisbury

The weather outside was dreadful but inside Kennet Valley Hall there was a festive atmosphere.

Dec 21 Ros Lidd 3

This was the first Christmas meeting of our new Textile Group and after a convivial lunch (despite having to bring our own) we were then introduced to the surprise speaker, Ros Liddington, Archivist at Wilton House (an English country house near Salisbury, which has been the country seat of the Earls of Pembroke for over 400 years).

Ros’s talk was entitled “Lost in the Cloud” and the premise of her talk was that we are encouraged to do everything on-line and to ditch the physical. What do you do if you have lots of things. Of stuff. Can the Cloud and your stuff co-exist.

Ros had been a history teacher for many years and working with Wilton House had collected many artefacts and costumes for use in schools, plus lots of fabrics and costumes during 20 years involvement with the Salisbury Playhouse. Coming from a family of  makers, she also inherited items from relatives (including her mother’s entire workroom) and all this “stuff” she suspects is her daughters’ worst nightmare. She admitted to having somewhere between 1500 to 2,000 sewing patterns alone.

Ros had brought some of her “stuff” to show us and it was an eclectic mix of items. We heard of how these items had come into her possession as well as the back stories of the people who had once owned them. Some were poignant, some were amusing but all were interesting.

Among these were ……a 1930’s toaster, which actually turns the bread over,  a book of lace patterns from the 1600’s, knitting patterns and books from the 1930-40’s, an item we thought were sugar tongs but turned out to be hair curling tongs. etc.

We heard of Molly Maidment who, on D Day, plugged her hairdryer into the light socket (as one did in those days) and caused a total electric outage throughout the area.

There was a pretty skirt with a hem of pulled thread work belonging to a Miss G. Flowers, a shop girl in Salisbury. Later on member Maureen Bull mentioned to Ros that her daughter in law’s Grandmother was called Gladys Flowers and lived in Salisbury so wondered of the skirt had belonged to her – something Maureen is going to research further.

Dec 21 Maureen Bull

One of the most interesting items was a tiny Japanese camera (which still contained a film) taken by her Aunt to Korea in 1954 when she was there for reasons she could not talk about due to the Official Secrets Act.


Ros talked about many items and the people and places connected to them. I was so interested my initial note taking was abandoned.

Ros then split us up into four Groups – Management, Fund Raisers, Tour Guides and an IT Department who were organising an Exhibition.  From a selection of gloves each Group were to choose one and give it a back story for display in the Exhibitions. Each group then relayed their story and interestingly every one was poignant rather then joyful !!

I don’t think Ros has a final conclusion about what should happen to her stuff, any more than the rest of us have !!   The question still remain and Ros suggested some of these items could become antiquities of the future. She asked whose responsibility is it to keep and maintain them for future generations to see and learn from ?

Finally, Ros told us that in 2013 the British Library formed a strategy to use digital storage but this was abandoned in 2016. Technology progresses so fast that today’s state of the art technology will be out of date and unusable in ten years’ time. She suggested that perhaps the Cheshire Salt Mine which, with its natural atmosphere creating the perfect environment, already contains miles of physical “stuff”, is the answer. She mused “what if we could all have a Family Box in the Salt Mine – what would you save in yours ?”

Our first Christmas meeting was a wonderful occasion for us all to put aside the pressures surrounding the pandemic and Christmas preparations and just enjoy being together.


Report thanks to Vernice C 

Photos thanks to Vernice C

For further details about Ros Liddington, Archivist at Wilton House, Salisbury:

M A Katritzky – The Needlework Collaboration of Mary Queen of Scots and Bess of Hardwick

We welcomed M A Katritzky, Senior Research Fellow in the Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences at The Open University, as the first speaker for our new group., Textiles & Stitch Around Marlborough.

Dr M A Katritzky set the scene by introducing us to these two talented ladies, their difficult relationship, how they had learnt their skills and how they had established a collection of 16C embroideries and textiles which are now over 600 years old.

Today these embroideries and textiles can be seen at Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire, Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk, the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Royal Collection at Holyrood House in Edinburgh.

Dr M A Katrizky talked in detail about the five 12ft high hangings depicting Virtuous women to be found at Hardwick Hall. 

Virtuous women, 5 large-scale appliqué hangings:
              Penelope between Patience and Perseverance
              Zenobia between Magnanimity and Prudence,
              Artemisia between Constancy and Piety
              *Cleopatra between Fortitude and Justice (*LOST)
              Lucretia between Generosity and Chastity

Details and image of Lucretia hanging can be seen on the National Trust website:

Conservation of Lucretia and Penelope hangings from the National Trust Textile Conservation Studio in Norfolk

These hangings were patchworked from old velvet and silk ecclesiastical and court vestments and it is known that Bess always had at least one embroiderer on her payroll. There were also a large number of non-religious embroideries.

At Oxburgh Hall three composite hangings can be found, the Marian, the Cavendish and the Shrewsbury. There is a wide selection of animals, birds, insects and an ape placed on a bench holding a mirror.

Victoria & Albert Museum’s images of the Oxburgh Hall collection

During her talk Dr M A Katritzky asked us to consider if thoughts had been expressed through textiles, why the specific women had been chosen for the Virtuous women hangings and if Mary and Bess’ relationships had had any influence on their work.

We are very grateful to Dr M A Katritzky for sharing her in depth knowledge of Elizabethan embroideries and hangings with us and for helping to get our new group off to an exciting start.


M A Katritzky’s recommended further reading:

Michael Bath, Emblems for a Queen, the Needlework of Mary Queen of Scots. London 2008.

Susan Frye, Pens and Needles: Women’s textualities in early Modern England, Philadelphia 2010.

M A Katritzky, “Virtuous needleworkers, vicious apes: the embroideries of Mary Queen of Scots and Bess of Hardwick”. In: Birgit Münch et al, eds. Künstlerinnen: neue Perspektiven auf ein Forschungsfeld der Vormoderne. Petersberg 2017, pp. 48–61.

Santina Levy, The Embroideries of Hardwick Hall, a catalogue. London 2007.

Santina Levy, An Elizabethan inheritance: the Hardwick Hall textiles. London 1998.

Margaret Swain, The needlework of Mary Queen of Scots, Marlborough 2013 (1st edition: 1973).


Due to copyright I have not been able to show any of the images M A Katritzky shared with us in her talk but hopefully you will use the links provided.





The images above are from Wikipedia



Everyone was very excited to meet up for the first time in 18 months   What wonderful weather so we were able to have all the doors open and enjoy each other’s company.  After the speaker I took a few photos which have now been circulated in a Press Release to announce the new group.

IMG 2263

Members were asked to bring along a piece of work which they had done during lockdown and these photos were all included in the Press Release.

Diane Ann
Diane & Ann

Clare has decided to stand down from the Committee and her position of joint Chair with Ann.  We are all extremely grateful for everything you have done for the group especially in this last year when you have been deeply involved with the setting up of the new group.  What would we have done without you when it came to researching GPDR and all those other challenging topics?  We will miss you but will look forward to seeing you at meetings and seeing all the wonderful projects you are planning.  I understand that you are now going to be in charge of the tea rota so watch out everyone , you have been warned!

Clare Ann 1 1
Ann Clare 1
I had to include this photo of Ann & Clare !

Report and photos by Ros and Lindsay

Jean Freakley – April 2021

Jean Freakley 1
Jean Freakley
Jean was a member of the M&DEG since 2012.
At our meetings she was always ready with a friendly smile and happy to chat about anything and everything.
She loved the natural world, the countryside, wildlife and changing seasons and she would depict these often in her textile and embroidery work.
She was enthusiastic about textiles and embroidery and always keen to learn new skills. She enjoyed attending the workshops and  took part in the Design to Stitch courses and the Creative Textiles courses.
She also participated in the Take-A-Line and Circles exhibitions at UWE with her pieces The House on the Hill (Take a Line) and Maytime (Circles)
Thank you to Lindsay S and Julie B for your write up
Thank you to Lindsay S and Jean’s family for the photos


Flags of Thanks

Flags of Thanks is a project to reflect gratitude and support for the Armed Forces Community and is open to all members of the Embroiderers’ Guild. Neil Stace the “Sewing Soldier” from the BBC TV programme “The Sewing Bee”, is spearheading the project. He is asking the nation to create customised quilted flags that reflect their gratitude and support for the Armed Forces Community, for those currently serving and for veterans. All the flags will be displayed in a public exhibition in St Thomas’ Church, Salisbury from 24 – 30th June as part of the Armed Forces Day celebrations. 
After the display, his plan is to join the flags together to make something useful like quilts. As a gesture of support these will be gifted to veterans who are or have previously been homeless. The quilt is symbolic of having a home and the making of quilts has been a part of the Armed forces, dating back to the Crimean War. Neil believes that receiving such gifts that have been personally made will have a considerable positive impact on the individuals. His target is a 1000 flags! The design can be patchwork, applique, embroidered, drawn or painted with washable fabric ink and should have a military theme or a message of thanks. 

The following members of Marlborough and District Embroiderers Guild made flags for this event:  Vernice C, Ann S, Christine H,  Celia B, Maria F and two of her grandchildren.

Report:  Maria F and photos: Vernice C
Thank you Maria & Vernice, Ros

Embroiderers Guild Annual Trustees Award – 2019

The Trustees Award is an annual event to celebrate five Embroiderers’ Guild members nominated for their acknowledged support of their branch and local community in the name of stitch. 

This year, 2019 two nominations were put forward independently for Marlborough & District Embroiderers Guild, both of whom were successful in receiving an award. The committee and membership would like to congratulate both Yvonne Miles and Vernice Church on this outstanding achievement. 

​Yvonne, nominated by the Marlborough & District Embroiderers Guild Committee, has been a branch member since 1995, during which time she has been active on the committee. Her roles have included programme organiser, branch secretary and branch chair between 2008 and 2013.
​Vernice, nominated by branch member Nikki Vesey Williams, joined the Guild about 20 years ago. She is a member of both the Windsor and the Marlborough branches. Since becoming a committee member in 2014 she has scheduled interesting and varied speakers and workshops.
Text taken from newsletter, thank you Maria
​Photos Ros

St Fagen’s National Museum of Wales

It was an absolute joy to visit St Fagan’s National Museum of Welsh history just outside Cardiff this month. 

On a beautiful spring day two groups of us were fascinated by textile curator Elen Philips’s inspiring thoughtful guide to some of the special stitched items in the Museum’s collections.  She even took us around the stores and introduced us to a group of embroiderers working on a hanging for the Tudor Merchant’s House, re-erected along with many other buildings from all over Wales.  Elen also introduced us to the concept of museology – a relatively new study of how to present museum items in a variety of thought-provoking ways.

The newly extended and revamped galleries invited participation by visitors and I especially enjoyed the Gweithdy a new building celebrating making in many materials including stitch quilting and clothing. 

A wonderfully rich and inspiring day!

​Report by Clare R

St Fagen’s Castle, gardens & relocated houses
Esgair Moel Woollen Mill – moved to present location in 1950’s.   The current spinner and weaver did his apprenticeship in the mill 30 years ago and now maintains all the equipment and makes woven materials which are sold in the shop. 
1725 Silk damask dress hand embroidered with silver threads.  Owned by Lady Rachel Morgan of Tredegar House.   This dress is currently on display for all visitors to enjoy.
Below is a selection of items shown to us by textile curator, Elen Phillips
Photos thanks to Clare R, Vernice C & Ellen S.

2019 Madeira Competition

Congratulations from us all, Lindsay!

​On Sunday at the Fashion and Embroidery Show at the NEC, branch member Lindsay S was the Visitors’ Choice winner in the 2019 Madeira competition. 

​This year the challenge was entitled GLIMPSES OF ROYALTY and entrants were asked to create a rich embroidered piece inspired by royals throughout history – they could choose to capture Harry and Meghan’s romance, the grandeur of Queen Elizabeth, or even a Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt! With thousands of years of history to explore, there was a great choice and a wonderful selection of prizes to be won. It was supported by Stitch magazine with the Embroiderers’ Guild.

On behalf of all M&DEG members, congratulations Lindsay.  You, and your work are amazing and a great inspiration to us all.

Nikki VW and Linda W also entered this competition and below is an image of Nikki’s crown using recycled materials.
Thanks to Ann K and Nikki VW for photos