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Crafts

Ayrshire Needlework

Examples of 'Flowering'

Description:

In the 1820s a new style of embroidery was developed by Mrs Jamieson, the wife of an Ayrshire cotton agent. It consisted of satin stitches worked in white thread on muslin. This was used to decorate frills, collars and cuffs and some of the finest examples are found on infant's gowns. It became very popular with all classes of society and was widely known as Ayrshire embroidery or flowering.

 

In the 1830s over 300 women in the parish of Sanquhar made their living by flowering. This was at the peak of the cotton weaving trade and the agents who brought yarn to the weavers often contracted the embroidery as well.

 

The white muslin arrived with the pattern already stamped in soluble blue dye. The pieces were worked and returned to the agent to be washed, cut out and sewn into garments which the embroiderers themselves would never see completed.

 

The money earned from flowering was a supplement to the family income and varied according to the skill of the needlewoman and the time available for sewing. Writing in the 1860s the minister, Rev Simpson, approved of this occupation as encouraging respectability and independance for women who would otherwise 'betake themselves to service'.

 

Unfortunately, fashion changed and by this time flowering was being ovetaken by cheaper machine made embroidery. Some of the older flowerers continued to make a sparse living by working the coarser eyelet embroidery of 'broderie anglaise' which was used in undergarments and household linen.

Source:
Sanquhar Tolbooth Museum
Digital Number:
SQTX040n
Copyright:
Dumfries & Galloway Council