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Part 19. Another Three New Books

Part 19 - Another Three New Books

I hope you have been saving your pennies while these articles have been in absentia; excellent books are being published faster than I can review them. Firstly, I shall look at Rosemary Crill’s well publicised update on The Origins of Chintz by Irwin and Brett (1970). Rosemary is the Senior Curator for South Asia at the V&A and her book is called Chintz, Indian Textiles for the West.

I reviewed Origins of Chintz in Culcita (Spring 2007); it is a bench mark for chintz studies with two disadvantages: it is a very expensive out-of-print book and virtually all the illustrations are in black and white. Let me begin by saying unfortunately Crill’s “Chintz” is not that scholarly book redone with colour plates, her aim is the mass market.

In the Author’s Note, Rosemary says that she “presents the V&A’s collection of Indian chintz textiles made for the western market…the first time the majority have been illustrated in colour…...plus the pieces acquired after 1970”. The only text chapter in the book is Chintz:Introduction and includes What is chintz, Where does chintz come from, How was chintz made, Indian chintz in Britain, The designs of chintz, The ban on chintz and The V&A collection. As all this is covered in twenty pages with twenty figures, several full page, you can see it really is just an introduction, albeit well written with end notes. Next is the List of Plates (eighty-eight) followed by the Plates themselves, beautifully photographed in colour with just a brief caption e.g. hanging c.1725-50, V&AIS46-1956. Many of the items have an enlarged detail next to it, unfortunately no scale is given. The collection is mostly hangings but there are also handkerchiefs, clothes - petticoats, capes, jackets etc as well as dress and furnishing fabrics. The book ends with a Concordance and a brief Further Reading list; in all one hundred and fifty pages of a high-quality production. Do buy it and regard it as an adjunct to Brett and Irwin, not a substitute.

For the next book, I shall have to declare an interest, many of the patchwork and quilts photographed were from my personal collection. It is Quilting, Patchwork and Appliqué; A World Guide by Caroline Crabtree and Christine Shaw, published by Thames and Hudson as one of their World Guides. Like the others in this series, it is attractively set out with over five hundred colour illustrations and it is all text - not a template in sight.

The book is organised into three main sections, Materials, Uses and Construction with fifty subdivisions within these chapters. It begins with a six-page Introduction setting out the range of the book with a brief history of patchwork and quilting. Then forty pages of Materials covers Cotton and Linen, Wool and Felt, Silk and Velvet, Leather and Skin, Plant Fibres, Synthetics, Ribbon and Braid, Printed Textiles and Dyeing.

The next chapter, Uses, is longer. About twenty pages each are devoted to Household, Clothing and Ritual and Ceremonial. Subdivisions include Bags and Storage, Womenswear, Flags and Banners, Political and Protest and Animal Trappings. The final chapter is Construction and after an Introduction is divided into Quilting, Appliqué and Patchwork. Each of these sections is subdivided into three or four such as Plain Quilting, Sashiko, Reverse Appliqué and Freeform Patchwork. Each of these is again divided to get information such as Molas, Egyptian Appliqué and Log cabin. Though it may be confusing to read about, the Contents pageis very clear and there is a coloured inset at each page edge showing its chapter number and section.

The text runs through the pages and around the relevant illustrations. These have short captions in italics to differentiate them from the text but it is often difficult to understand which caption belongs to quite which item, not always easy even when they are quilts but harder still when the page shows only ethnic bags or wall hangings. Some sections treat the subject e.g. Menswear logically by continent, but often items from different cultures and times are mixed, e.g. Bedding so giving this book its interesting and unusual approach. The text is wide–ranging rather than deep but does an excellent job of presenting a world view of patchwork, quilting and appliqué - just as the title says. And at £24.95 it is highly recommended as an attractive addition to your library.

And now somewhat of a curate’s egg: Floral Frocks, A Celebration of the Floral Printed Dress from 1900 to the Present Day by Rosemary Harden and Jo Turney, the result of an exhibition held at the Fashion Museum in Bath. It is very much a book of two halves; the first ninety-six pages “concentrate on the golden age of the floral frock from the late 1920s to the early 1960s”and give an interesting and readable account of the rise of the floral frock, exemplified by Horrockses fashions. There are nearly forty good colour illustrations of frocks or their fabrics and about twice as many family photographs of frock-wearing folk. The second half of the book is called “Floral Frocks for the Modern Age” and is a forty-page sociological examination of the subject using “current critical thinking in fashion studies” i.e. an academic essay with footnotes. The illustrations here are fewer and from a fabric identification viewpoint, less useful. The book ends with an interesting two-page Bibliography, a two page Index and finally a page of Acknowledgements.

I think this book falls between two stools, the question of how and why floral designs altered over the years is only hinted at while I suspect serious sociologists will find the colour illustrations of fabrics irrelevant. As it is published by The Antique Collectors Club it is not cheap. Borrow it from the library or try to look before you buy: it is well worth reading: there are some interesting points but not good value for £25.00. (But see below.)

Availability

For once all these books are in print and are easily available. I have given the publishers price but they can be purchased with substantial discounts by going on to the Internet.

Chintz, Indian Textiles for the West by Rosemary Crill is published by V&A Publishing, London, (2008), ISBN 978 185177 523 3 at £30.00. Amazon has it at £21.00 free p&p, or I found it at £17.09 upwards, plus p&p.

Quilting, Patchwork and Appliqué, A World Guide by Caroline Crabtree and Christine Shaw is published by Thames and Hudson, London (2008) in their World of… series at £24.95, ISBN 970 0 5000 51373 6. This is £17.47, free p&p at Amazon and from £14.40 plus p&p from other sellers.

Floral Frocks by Rosemary Harden and Jo Turney is published by The Antique Collectors’ Club, Woodbridge (2007) at £25.00, ISBN 978 85149 538 2. Amazon offer it at £19.88 with free p&p, other sellers quote from £14.19 plus p&p.

© Brigid J.Ockelton. 2008

PLEASE NOTE - An indication is given of the availability and market price of the book at the time of writing and may not reflect today's availability and price. Equally, some website links may also now be out of date.