April 2022 - at last the 2020 programme of events has got up to date with no less than eight guided tours of the Broderers' Guild workshop at Norwich Cathedral. Manager Helen Jenkins and her team of dedicated volunteers opened up the Broderers' Studio, a vital part of Church life in East Anglia and beyond. C&TA Members gained a privileged insight into the depth of skill and knowledge required to produce, maintain and restore a range of sumptuous ecclesiastical garments and altar fronts from humble rural churches to magnificent cathedrals.
Each is painstakingly hand stitched on natural fabrics in expensive mixtures of silk, linen and wool. Designed to last for decades, they are invariably visually dazzling in rich colours, and big, bold patterns to make an impact even from the back of a church. It was a delight to witness the Guild's work maintaining a rich textile heritage dating back centuries.
Fine needlework was a theme of other events this month with Joy Evitt's fascinating glimpse into the classic haute couture world of Coco Chanel, complete with sample garments.
And The Costume Detectives' latest 'undercover' investigation brought along a whole range of gorgeous satin and lace in their investigation of ladies 'unmentionables'. From lovely lace knickers and bras to slips and silk stockings, it was a tactile delight as Investigative Team Leaders Isobel Auker and Jenny Daniels introduced our 'detectives' to the intimate and fascinating world of undergarments throughout history - including mid-15th century Lengberg Drawers, discovered as remnants in an Austrian castle; beautifully constructed boned corsets, delicate lace bodices, flannel nightshirts and woollen combinations. It was a joyful day full of laughter and surprises. We look forward to the next Costume Detectives, which will be a very special one … watch this space.
Meanwhile on Zoom, Author Victoria Finlay's exuberant examination of 'Fabric, the Hidden History of the Material World' took us round the world from Alabama to Papua New Guinea, and across time, in a fascinating examination of our relationship with cloth, and the gift of turning scraps of fabric into an art form.
Speaking of which, our monthly online Afternoon Chat not only let us into the secret of which nail varnish HM Queen Elizabeth II has been wearing throughout her reign (and yes I am wearing it now as I type!) and we took a look at yarn bombing. Has your post box been coddled lately? Send us your pics!
Caroline Whiting is a trustee of C&TA, an art historian and guide at Norwich's Norman Cathedral who is passionate about textiles as an art form, from medieval to modern.