Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Home Beautiful: Trimming from Houldsworth & Co., 1853

Silk Embroidered Trimming
Made by Houldsworth & Co. for the 1853 Dublin Exhibition
The Victoria & Albert Museum

The section of trimming that we see pictured above would have been used as upholstery edging.  However, the real reason that this band was made was to demonstrate the capabilities of Henry Houldsworth’s embroidery machine.

Henry Houldsworth--a Manchester silk spinner, purchased his first industrial embroidery machine in 1829.  Along with the machine, he purchased the British patent rights from Mulhouse in France, where it had been invented in 1828.

Houldsworth and a fellow manufacturer, Louis Schwabe, worked together to improve the machine.  By 1834, the duo had perfected the machine to their satisfaction.  Schwabe's first successful use of the machine concentrated on embroidery for theatrical costumes, especially men's waistcoats.

After Schwabe's death in 1845, Houldsworth took over the business. From this time it was known as  Houldsworth & Co.  The company would become the leading manufacturer of machine embroidery in Britain, exhibiting their wares at the Great Exhibition of 1851.

This piece of embroidery, made in 1853 for the Dublin International Exhibition, is akin to the example exhibited at the Great Exhibition.  This was created by the famed machine which was operated by up to five girls at a time, working up to forty-two needles to create the complicated patterns and ombré (a shaded gradation of color) which were remarkable identical on both sides.

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