Textiles at Home Conference

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Timeline for Textiles at Home conference

2:30pm – Welcome, wait for everyone to log on

2:40pm – 3.10 Catherine Richardson and Hannah Lilley (including Q&A)

3:10pm – 3.40 Sarah Thursfield (including Q&A)

4.00 – BREAK, 20 mins

4:20 – 4.50 Jorge Kelman (including Q&A)

4:50 – 5.20  Ninya Mikhaila and Jane Malcolm-Davies (including Q&A)

5:20 – End, thank you etc.

5:30 – 6 – optional ‘hang-out’ session for those who would like to stay online a little longer and catch up.

The speakers and topics for the conference are as follows:

1) Prof. Catherine Richardson, University of Kent, & Dr. Hannah Lilley, University of Birmingham, with AHRC project: ‘The Cultural Lives of the Middling Sort’.


English Middling Houses and their Textile Ownership in the 1590s and 1620s 

The port towns of Bristol, Ipswich and Faversham yield rich inventory evidence for English domestic spaces and their textiles. This paper draws upon samples of inventories for each of these locations from the 1590s and 1620s in order to explore the aesthetic culture of textiles in the homes of middling status individuals. We look at household textiles and clothing in order to ask: how were textiles used at various levels of wealth within these three places? What range of cloth was used in households of middling status? How far was textile use gendered or entwined with social status? We seek to make geographical comparisons using quantified analysis of probate inventories, whilst also looking at individuals and the meanings generated by their textile ownership. Study of the distribution and ownership of textiles amongst middling individuals furthers our understanding of the contribution of textiles to the expression of social status, gender, and aesthetic taste. Quantifying textile use also impacts on our knowledge of how local textile production and access to foreign trade entwine in middling domestic settings in provincial port locations. This paper, therefore, situates textiles as an important aspect of aesthetic middling culture.

2) Sarah Thursfield, seamstress and independent researcher

Linen Clothing in the Howard Household Accounts, 1464-1484 

The four surviving account books of John Howard, first Duke of Norfolk contain details of his domestic and business expenditure, from building ships and equipping armies to buying new shoes for his children.  This paper will consider the provision of linen clothing – shirts, shifts, and kerchiefs – for the family and household.  The information contained in the account books is far from complete, but it shows a variety of approaches to the acquisition of linen and the making of body garments.

The author will refer to other sources for comparison to suggest what we can deduce about the provision of shirts and shifts; to consider the role of the ‘chamberer’ in the household; and ask whether the Duke wore underpants and, if so, where they are hidden.


3) Jorge Kelman, an independent practical researcher and designer of medieval painted cloth
Painted cloth in late medieval English homes: written sources and reconstructions 

This presentation looks at the presence and production of painted, ‘stained’ and printed cloths in the medieval English home. Although extremely rare in the archaeology painted cloths were a common feature of the domestic environment across a range of social classes. Examination of probate inventories, personal correspondence and even recipe books reveals a widespread use of painted cloth items, ranging from wall hangings to bed coverings. Through a series of reconstructions, the speaker will show that the painted cloth recipes offer a wide spectrum of complexity in style and technique; from the simple ‘waters’ or stains to that of block printing emulating more expensive woven textiles. Through this presentation it is hoped that a new appreciation and understanding of the decorated medieval home can be realised where painted cloths took their place alongside the more familiar and more expensive embroideries and tapestries.


4) Ninya Mikhaila, & Jane Malcolm-Davies, The Tudor Tailor.

A cassock that is a spinning: Evidence for home produced textiles and clothes in wills, inventories and household accounts from 1485 to 1603 


The Typical Tudor will be published in early 2021 as a study of clothing and textiles for the mean and middling sort from 1485 to 1603. A database of more than 55,000 garments and accessories from transcribed wills, accounts, inventories and court records reveals insights into the acquisition of clothing for ordinary men and women. This paper compares the evidence for the production of textiles and apparel in the home with that for professional workshops during the Tudor period. It illustrates the network of relationships – both commercial and personal – which were crucial for the maintenance of a comely appearance.