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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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Lace collar

Lace collar

A dress collar of white cotton Irish crochet lace. Worked in a very free design, with motifs including roses, thistles, fern leaves, shamrocks and dai...

Linen proof cloth

Linen proof cloth

A proof cloth woven in huckaback linen, unbleached and red yarn. Huckaback weave with a deep damask border at either end, of a greek key design. Loo...

oyster shell purse

oyster shell purse

Mother of pearl, oyster shell purse. Lined with stiff red fabric, card and has 3 compartments. brass, metal filigree engraved hinge and small clip fas...

blouse

blouse

Woman's short sleeved blouse of white cotton lawn. Hand and machine stitched. Blouse cut in one piece. Round scooped neckline. Neckline, cuffs and hem...

Pincushion

Pincushion

A small heart-shaped pincushion of cream cotton sateen, overlaid with a cover of crochet lace worked in cotton yarn in shades of greenish yellow. Bot...

Shirt

Shirt

A boy's shirt of light pink polyester cotton, long sleeved ,with stiffened collar....

Embroidered handkerchief

Embroidered handkerchief

A handkerchief of ivory silk, hand embroidered in cotton thread. The embroidery depicts the Union flag with crown and shamrocks and the following tex...

navy beaded purse

navy beaded purse

small navy crochet, oval-shaped purse. silver metal beads incorporated in fabric. silver horse shoe-shaped frame sealed withb push button. there are s...

Collar, needlepoint lace

Collar, needlepoint lace

A shawl-style collar of flat needlepoint lace, worked by hand, in fine cotton thread. The pattern is made by working a series of densely packed butto...

Pincushion

Pincushion

A rectangular pincushion in the form of a small mattress or pillow. The front and sides are of pale eau-de-nil satin, the back of cotton sateen in a ...

Bedcover

Bedcover

A patchwork bedcover (quilt), hand pieced 'template' style of Turkey red, and plain white cotton. Pieced in a series of units or 'blocks' each 35 cm ...

Linen proof cloth

Linen proof cloth

A linen proof cloth for a sample table napkin, woven in unbleached and red linen yarn. Loom width 51cm, selvedge to selvedge. The pattern is a flora...

olive green satin bag - painted

olive green satin bag - painted

green satin square bag with green corded edge and string handle. beautifully detailed floral design painted on front of bag in pink, green, yellow and...

Hankerchief commemorative

Hankerchief commemorative

A fine handkerchief of ivory silk, the upper left quadrent of which is hand embroidered in silk floss thread. The embroidery depicts the date 1918 in...

Pincushion

Pincushion

A round pincushion of plain red cotton, in a cover of cream cotton crochet lace. The crochet lace cover extends across the top of the pincushion and ...

Linen proof cloth

Linen proof cloth

A proof cloth for a linen damask napkin. Woven in unbleached and red linen yarn. Loom width 62cm. Unhemmed. The pattern is of a large central squa...

Blouse

Blouse

Woman's blouse of fine white cotton lawn. Long sleeves. Machine and hand sewn. Embroidered bands of a floral design on front panels and cuffs. Centre ...

Pincushion cover

Pincushion cover

A small round crochet lace pincushion cover, pouch-style, to fit over a padded innner. Hand crocheted in white cotton yarn, the front in a 12 -petal...

Irish Dance dress

Irish Dance dress

An embroidered dress, belt, and matching cape, for Irish Dance. The dress, of teal-coloured cotton velvet, is knee length, and has long sleeves. Two...

chainmail purse

chainmail purse

Chainmail purse with 4 suspended metal beads lining bottom. large metal clip frame engraved with filigree and floral design. inside of frame is inscri...

blouse

blouse

Woman's white muslin blouse with long sleeves. Hand and machine stitched. Centre front opening. Yoke, pin tucked front and back. Piping at shoulder an...

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 ...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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 ...

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...

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...

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...

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 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...

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...

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...

Linen proof cloth

Linen proof cloth

A proof cloth for a napkin in damask linen. Woven in unbleached and red linen yarn. Loom width 53 cm. Unhemmed. The pattern is of a large central ...

Linen proof cloth

Linen proof cloth

A proof cloth for linen damask napkins, two on this sample piece. Woven in unbleached and red linen yarn. One selvedge (short side), all other edges...

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...

Bedcover

Bedcover

A patchwork bedcover machine pieced mosaic -style, of Turkey red and white cotton, in a 'T- quartette' pattern. The red and white 'T' pattern altenat...

Pincushion

Pincushion

A heart-shaped pincushion of yellow cotton satteen, with an outer cover of crochet lace worked in shaded cotton yarn, yellow, cream and brown. A leng...

Linen proof cloth

Linen proof cloth

A proof cloth for a huckaback linen hand towel. Woven in unbleached and red linen yarn. Loom width 50 cm, hemmed ends. A band of pattern runs leng...

Linen proof cloth

Linen proof cloth

A proof cloth for a hand towel of linen huckaback with a damask border design of large peony-like flowers with leaves. Woven in unbleached and red li...

Antimacassar

Antimacassar

An antimacassar for a settee. Plain beige linen, with an edging of machine made cotton lace. One of a wide range of domestic furnishings made by Cope...

Lace collar

Lace collar

A dress collar of ecru cotton Irish crochet lace. Segment -shaped with a triple picot edging all around. The motifs are arranged in a symmetrical patt...

card case wooden

card case wooden

A visiting card, also known as a calling card, is a small paper card with one's name printed on it, and often bearing an artistic design. In 18th cent...

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