Tuesday, June 4, 2013

West Yorkshire Textile Heritage Project

From April to June this year the West Yorkshire Textile Heritage Project team has been working with Wakefield Museum to preserve and share textile history collections.

The project is an innovative collaboration between Wakefield, Bradford, Kirklees and Calderdale local museum services and is funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund. Over the coming year the project will create a Heritage Trail, a searchable online collections portal and a legacy of shared knowledge. The idea for this project came from local museums’ commitment to celebrating the region’s industrial heritage and sharing museum collections with the widest possible audience.

Wakefield Museum’s collection offers an insight into over 200 years of textile production. A review is currently underway which will create a clearer understanding of the collection’s significance to the Wakefield area and to the wider national and international story of industrial textile production.

In the nineteenth century Wakefield and it surrounding regions has a strong textile manufacturing sector with companies dealing in raw wool, spinning yarn, weaving cloth and producing reclaimed wool known as ‘shoddy’. Some of the great objects in the museum’s textile heritage collection include fabric samples, sample books, advertisements, packaging and photographs which document everyday life on the mill floor.

A particularly interesting object is a Fowler & Co. Textile Calculator. This pocket-watch like object would have been used by weavers to calculate the relationship between ‘weft’, ‘loom’ and ‘dent’ and shows the intricacies involved in producing a piece of cloth. Fowler & Co. Calculators was a Manchester company originally founded as the Scientific Publishing Company in 1898 by William Henry Fowler. They were a well known manufacturer of circular slide rules and made a range of instruments for use in the textile industry. Today computer scientists study Fowler & Co. products as they investigate the history of computing.

Fowler & Co. Textile Calculator
Another highlight of Wakefield Museum’s collection are knitting patterns printed by companies based in the region, including: Sirdar, George Lee & Sons and Readicut Wool. This archive has been interesting to work with as it demonstrates the skill and pride which home-knitters brought to producing their own clothes. 

We’ve really enjoyed wondering at some of the fantastic models’ poses and sometimes impractical woollen outfits! 

Readicut patterns
Anyone working on their own pair of cable knit trousers? These patterns have inspired us to start planning some knitting activities for Wool Week (14-20 October) so have your knitting needles at the ready!

Take a look at the West Yorkshire Textile Heritage blog for more information about the collections review and textile history. 

You can also find the West Yorkshire Textile Heritage Project on Facebook and Twitter.

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