Textiles and Costume

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Textiles and Costume

The costume and textile collections across National Museums NI hold objects that provide a vibrant and engaging record of lives lived and lost, industry at home, enterprise abroad, political upheaval and personal achievement.

The collections chart the massive growth of the linen industry in Ulster of the second half of the 1800s, and earlier enterprises in the spinning, weaving and decorating of cotton cloth.

Linen

The late 19th century boost to the linen industry was driven by the development of power looms and improvements to transport and communication. The significant shift from cottage industry to global domination produced challenges for some and rewards for many, underpinning much of the economic success of Belfast as a civic power at the start of the 20th century.

Collections of cloth samples and finished linens, photographic records and trade literature paint a very complete picture of the move from workroom to warehouse via international exhibitions of arts and industry.

Embroidery and lace

Embroidery on linen and cotton, lace making and embroidery in all its various forms are represented in collections of needlework sample books, pictures, costume and accessories dating from 1730 to present day. The creative output associated with these textile craft skills carries stories of developments in education in Ireland, famine relief work, and an outwork industry providing economic support for many thousands of women working in their own homes.

Regalia and flags

The collections include hundreds of objects reflecting aspects of political change, new allegiances, and divided loyalties. Regalia, flags and emblems, commemorative textiles, uniforms and badges provide a graphic record of conflicts experienced intensely at both local and global level, over the last 300 years. A small but significant collection of handkerchiefs includes some produced in prison during the early 1970s, a most turbulent time in Ulster’s recent past.

Costume and accessory

Costume and dress accessory collections at National Museums NI include almost 10,000 objects spanning a period from 1760 to the late 1980s. From the smallest of baby’s bonnets to the grandest of wedding dresses and elaborately embroidered clerical vestments, each is a powerful and evocative prompt to recall stories of joy, of sadness, of belief, power and privilege.

A collection of transport uniforms, occupational dress, dance costumes, clerical vestments, and objects relating to motor cycle sport illustrate aspects of working life, religious practices and recreation in Ulster between 1900 and present day. The World Cultures collections include costume and textiles objects for ceremonial dress and customs.

Searchable list of collections

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Antimacassar

Antimacassar

An antimacassar of mustard yellow linen, stamped in blue ink, on the lower half, with a stylised pattern of flowers, for hand embroidery. Machine sti...

WW1 embroidered postcard

WW1 embroidered postcard

A WW1 postcard. Fine linen cambric, hand embroidered in silk floss thread in vivid shades of blue, red, green and yellow. Framed in a postcard mount...

Handkerchief - H.R.Lilley

Handkerchief - H.R.Lilley

A sample (child's) handkerchief of fine white linen with a repeating border pattern of tiny chicks. The pattern has been hand sewn in shadow applique ...

Pincushion

Pincushion

A square pincushion of russet coloured silk, on which is painted a spray of flowers in bloom. The cushion is bordered and backed with pale blue cotto...

Bedcover

Bedcover

A patchwork bedcover (incomplete), machine pieced of rectangles of wool sample pieces each approximately 10 cm x 14 cm, arranged in 14 rows of 19 bloc...

Bedcover

Bedcover

A patchwork bedcover,entirely handsewn in an arrangement of Log Cabin pattern known as 'Sunshine and Shadow' or 'Light and Dark'. The narrow strips o...

jug purse

jug purse

chenille fabric purse. Of a similar style to a miser’s purse, this interesting piece is known as a ‘jug purse’ or a ‘pence jug’. They were used as pur...

Pincushion

Pincushion

A square pincushion of light green silk, with a cover of cream cotton net embroidered with outlines of small daisy-like motifs. The net is knotted a...

misers purse

misers purse

Beige knitted purse with silver metal beads incorporated in knit, heavy weight due to metal beads. Macramé tassel at one end and large bead with tasse...

Bag

Bag

In the 19th Century, the slimmer silhouettes of dresses did not allow for bulky pockets so a drawstring bag or reticule became a necessity. Needlework...

Pincushion

Pincushion

A triangular pincushion of closely-worked crochet in cream cotton yarn, edged with pale blue. The pincushion has a length of deep pink silk grosgrain...

Pincushion

Pincushion

A small pin wheel pincushion. Two discs of decorated mother -of-pearl, either side of a padded circular cushion in which to insert pins. A band of...

Embroidery linen

Embroidery linen

A panel of plain cream linen, printed for hand embroidery. Intended to be made up as a cushion cover. The embroider pattern stamped onto the linen b...

Embroidered handkerchief

Embroidered handkerchief

A handkerchief of fine ivory silk, hand embroidered in silk floss thread in one corner. The embroidery depicts the flags of Ireland and the U.S.A. wi...

Purse

Purse

This is an extraordinary example of a reticule, a Victorian name for a woman’s small handbag or pouch, usually with a drawstring or in this case, cord...

Blouse

Blouse

Ladies blouse of white cotton. Short sleeved, with revere collar and centre front opening. Tie string at waist. Hand and machine stitched. Satin stitc...

Sample napkin

Sample napkin

A sample napkin of unbleached linen damask., having two selvedges (78cm long) and two unfinished raw edges (68cm wide, top and bottom). The central c...

Bedcover

Bedcover

A patchwork bedcover, pieced in a 'Log Cabin' pattern. The patchwork squares or 'blocks' have been machine stitched using black, and white, cotton th...

Pincushion

Pincushion

A square pincushion of maroon velvet, decorated with leaves embroidered in clear and white glass beads. The back is of plain maroon velvet. The pinc...

Embroidery sample book

Embroidery sample book

A book of samples for ecclesiastical embroidery. The sample book is covered in green glazed linen with the following wording embossed in gold cursive...

proof cloth

proof cloth

proof cloth...

Pincushion

Pincushion

A rectangular pincushion of white cotton crochet lace (cover) over a cushion or pad of red cotton backed with black cotton. The crochet lace on the f...

Lace collar

Lace collar

A semi -circular dress collar of Carrickmacross applique lace, cream coloured. Intended for wear with open edges to centre front. A collar of excepti...

Pincushion

Pincushion

A pincushion of yellow cotton sateen, the front overlaid with a star-shaped panel of crochet worked in shaded yellow and cream cotton yarn. Trimmed w...

Folio, designs -linen

Folio, designs -linen

Design for embroidery on linen tablecloth or bedspread. May originally have been pencil on paper but now has the appearance of a design worked in blue...

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