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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...

purse, ivory

purse, ivory

Ivory purse with 2 silver bands decorated in relief with filigree and a central motif with initials, C. F. R engraved. Silver frame opens with a push ...

Linen proof cloth

Linen proof cloth

A proof cloth for a linen huckaback weave towel, with borders of damask design, in unbleached and red linen yarn. Loom width 52 cm, unhemmed. A large...

Pincushion

Pincushion

A rectangular pincushion of pale pink cotton sateen with an outer cover of lace knitted in a very fine cream cotton yarn. The pincushion border is al...

Pincushion

Pincushion

A small pincushion of bark, the top of which has been polished. The centre of the pincushion holds a circle of brown plush cotton velvet to hold need...

blouse

blouse

Woman's long sleeved blouse of white cotton lawn. Hand and machine stitched. Centre front opening with square mother of pearl buttons. Fagotting at sh...

Embroidery linen

Embroidery linen

A square of plain cream linen, printed with a design for hand embroidery, in a stylised rose pattern surrounded by swags. The edges are finished with ...

Proof cloth

Proof cloth

Proof cloth...

Linen proof cloth

Linen proof cloth

A linen proof cloth for a damask napkin in unbleached linen with a weft of red yarn. One selvedge, three cut sides. The damask design has a central ...

Doiley

Doiley

A doiley of white linen with a centre circle and seven-petalled edging of crochet lace in cotton yarn. The circular band of white linen is embellish...

Handkerchief - H.R.Lilley

Handkerchief - H.R.Lilley

A sample handkerchief of fine white linen (swiss machine) embroidered in an elaborate border design of floral sprays with filling stitches and 'spokin...

Pincushion

Pincushion

A heart-shaped pincushion of yellow cotton sateen, with an outer cover crocheted in cottton yarn, shades of yellow, cream and brown. A length of yell...

Pincushion

Pincushion

A rectangular pincushion of pale blue cotton sateen, overlaid on the front with a panel of tatted lace in blue and cream shaded cotton yarn. Pale blu...

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....

Bag

Bag

A small bag of crimson velvet, with a carrying handle, also of velvet. The body of the bag is pleated randomly and gathered into an expanding metal ...

Pincushion

Pincushion

A pinwheel pincushion. Two discs of yellow card punched in a pattern of dots around the outer edges, embroidered in fine red cotton thread. The centr...

Lace plastron

Lace plastron

A plastron (a small panel of lace to be worn on the front of a dress bodice at the neck edge) of Irish crochet lace. A densely worked design of shamro...

Bedcover

Bedcover

A patchwork and appliqued bedcover, machine stitched in blocks of the 'Ribbon and Tulip' or 'Tulip' pattern,of peach -coloured and green plain cotton ...

Linen proof clotth

Linen proof clotth

A proof cloth for a linen damask napkin. Woven in unbleached and red linen yarn. Unhemmed., one selvedge, three cut edges. The pattern is of a cen...

Postcard

Postcard

A postcard of a painting by Irish artist John Carey, subject 'The Ould Irish Jig'. One of a number of studies for early 1900s postcards depicting sce...

Pincushion

Pincushion

A small pincushion of wool canvaswork emboidery in a stylized tree shape. The embroidery depicts a winter scene of bird and foliage against snow. The...

Pincushion

Pincushion

A small rectangular pincushion. one side of tartan silk, the other of rose pink cotton. The pincushion is constructed like a little mattress, with a ...

Dance dress

Dance dress

A dress for Irish Dance. Machine embroidery on a base fabric of sequined white net, lined with white rayon. The dress has a v-neck, dropped waist, a...

Pincushion

Pincushion

A small pincushion of pale pink cotton sateen, the front overlaid with a panel of hand embroidered white muslin, bordered and trimmed with fine (comme...

Bedcover

Bedcover

A patchwork and appliqued becover, machine stitched in a very unusual stylised 'bird' pattern. The becover or quilt is comprised of sixteen repeating...

Pincushion

Pincushion

A small circular pincushion of yellow cotton sateen, in a cover of white crochet cotton lace. Daisy-like central motif, scalloped edging. The back of...

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