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The Beauty of Experiment

A publication in two parts:

Shadow Tissues at Turnbull & Stockdale
Philip A. Sykas, with a foreword by Paul W. Turnbull

The Rediscovery of Shadow Tissues
Patricia Belford, assisted by Beth Milligan.

Isle of Man: Turnbull & Stockdale, 2013
ISBN 978-1-905476-87-9

Beauty of Experiment book cover   Sample opening from Belford's 'Rediscovery'

In the period between the two world wars, a type of warp-printed furnishing fabric known as "shadow tissue" enjoyed a great popularity. The Lancashire textile firm, Turnbull & Stockdale, was an eminent producer of the fabric. Its willingness to experiment with mechanised production, new design styles, fancy yarns and weave constructions allowed Turnbull's to develop the fabric further than its competitors. However, the fabric was not revived after the war, and the specialist knowledge entailed in its production was lost. Using the Turnbull Archive, Philip Sykas set out to regain an understanding of shadow tissues from surviving samples and documentary evidence. Parallel with this study, Patricia Belford undertook to test this information in practice, and to continue to develop shadow tissues to make fabrics suited for today's marketplace.

While focusing on one specialist fabric type, the authors demonstrate how historical and practical knowledge support each other in gaining an understanding of the past. Together, the authors show that historical textiles are not simply things of beauty that provide inspiration, but repositories of craft knowledge that can put us in touch with the makers of the past. As Belford sums up in a quote from the designer, Minnie McLeish, "There is a whole vast world of knowledge wrapped up in a piece of patterned cloth."

This paperback edition of 190 pages is lavishly illustrated in colour throughout. It will appeal to those interested in historical textiles (especially textile printing) and interior decoration of the early twentieth century. But it will be of particular value to textile practitioners and students looking for a model of how to explore textile heritage in greater depth while retaining contemporary relevance.

Sample page from Sykas' 'Shadow Tissues'   ample page from Sykas' 'Shadow Tissues'

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