Friday, 11 October 2013

The Fabric of Britain

I recently had the good fortune to discover a series of documentaries being broadcast on BBC Four about different aspects of Britain's textile heritage.

I just happened to come across the series by accident when I was looking for something interesting to watch on the BBC iPlayer and I'm glad so I did! Unfortunately I missed the first one, which was entitled, "Knitting's Golden Age" - as you can imagine, to say I am disappointed to have missed it is a massive understatement. However I was able to watch the subsequent one, called Fabric of Britain: The Story of Wallpaper.

This proved to be a fascinating insight into the origins, history and development of wallpaper from the 16th century right through to the present day. As a textile graduate, I always gravitate towards this sort of thing. When I was a student, we had the opportunity to explore three different disciplines - print, weave and knit. The ones I instinctively felt an affinity with were print and knit.


So I did have a personal connection with the subject matter, as through my studies I learned about pigment, the science of colouration and gained an appreciation of different substrates, dyes and printing processes. I feel really lucky to have had the chance to create my own silk-screened designs.

I thought it was great that the programme explained and demonstrated several printing techniques such as lino printing, etching, block printing and even gave an insight into how flocking is created. I remember one of my favourite techniques to do was devoré which is a nifty process used to create patterns whereby a chemical dissolves one of the fibres in the fabric to produce a "burn-out" effect.

I also liked the exploration of the development of different styles over time or patterning and how the fashions in wallpaper have changed - often from heavily patterned to simple clean designs and back again. I love that William Morris designs were featured, especially those stating they were "Arsenic Free"!


If you have access to the iPlayer, I suspect the final instalment, "The Wonder of Embroidery" might be worth a watch... if you're based outside the UK and/or don't have access to the BBC iPlayer, you can still see some video clips of each of the programmes here.

The Fabric of Britain series is part of the wider "Handmade in Britain" set of programmes - made by the BBC in partnership with the V&A (Victoria & Albert Museum in London). More information here.

2 comments:

Julia said...

Hi Cat, I have to say I thought this was an excellent series but I'm devastated it was only 3 parts. The first one was by far the best, with lots of technical information about knitting as well as the social history and lots of clips from old adverts etc. I only managed to see it while we were away because we ended up staying in a hotel on the last night of our holiday! I'm sure it'll be repeated so I hope you manage to see it at some point - I'll let you know if I see it advertised :-)

Claira said...

Oh, this sounds so wonderful! Thanks for the heads up :D Can't believe I missed the first ones (though will be watching the embroidery one post haste!), I really need to start paying better attention to what's on BBC4, they always have such good stuff. Maybe we need to start up a petition to get them to repeat these programmes?? Love those wallpaper samples above. :) x