Textiles have an incredible power to talk to us, if we can hear them. They comfort and console us, create memories, define who we are and what we might believe in. They are a detective story that we can hold. Tales of Textiles, hosted by broadcaster and handweaver, Jo Andrews, are an invitation to explore a world of colour and touch and listen to the chatter of cloth.
Pears and Pomegranates
The Italian Renaissance produced glorious masterpieces by artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Michaelangelo who are justly feted for their talent. But look again at these pictures and you realise that they show the work of other artists as well, artists whose work was hugely skilled, well rewarded, and just as valued by the elite of the day who could afford to buy it. But the names of these spinners and dyers, the weavers and embroiderers are lost to us, and their work has largely crumbled to dust. This episode is about them and the painters who depicted the marvels they could create by hand.
Five hundred years after the Renaissance it is often the paint that survives, rather than the fabric depicted. But the extraordinary skills needed to produce the lustrous and sumptuous cloth that we see reflected in the paintings lit up this age, provided a rich spectacle, and told us so much about how the people of this time wanted to be seen and the stories they told about themselves.
Across Italy, as machines replaced humans those skills have faded almost – but not quite - entirely. This episode explores two workshops where the old ways are still followed and ancient skills kept alive as beautiful fabrics are produced and processed by hand.
For a full script of this podcast, pictures, links, and show notes please go to www.hapticandhue.com/listen.
Fabric and Foundlings
In 18th century London, the secret of your birth could literally hang by a thread. If your mother took you to the Foundling Hospital because she was unable to care for you, you were given a new identity to avoid any shame. But, in case she was later able to reclaim you, she left a token, often a textile cut in two, and she kept the other half as a way of proving she was your mother. Often it was just a scrap of cloth, the only thing that could prove the link between you and your birth mother.
This episode looks at how the system of leaving textile tokens at the Foundling Hospital worked, and also the information that one of the best collections of the clothing worn by the poor in the 1700s gives us into the lives of ordinary people.
The dress of the elite tends to be preserved, but we know very little about the garments of the poor: did they dress in hand-me-downs or homespun, or did they have access to anything fashionable? Two hundred and fifty years after these tokens were first left in desperate circumstances, we can now see them both as a way to tell us about the lives of women in the past and to understand what they wore and how they dressed their babies.
For a full script of this podcast and show-notes please go to www.hapticandhue.com/listen, where you will also find pictures and links to further information about the people you hear in this episode.
The Refugees Who Dazzled London
Over the past months, we have watched in horror as nearly ten million people have fled their homes in Ukraine to escape the Russian invasion. They have become the world’s latest refugees. That word was first applied to some of the most skilled and expert handweavers who began arriving in London in the 1500 and 1600s to escape death and persecution in France. This is the story of how these forced migrants – known as Huguenots - changed the face of London, and created some of the world’s most complex and beautiful silk fabric. It is also a tale of hope and resilience in a time of difficulty and darkness.
This episode tracks the story of the Huguenots, who they were, and why a summer wedding ignited a violent massacre that forced them to flee France. It looks at some of the striking parallels between the Ukrainian refugees and the arrival of the Huguenots in Britain, and it also thinks about the amazing silk cloth the Huguenots were able to create on draw looms, working entirely without power in London weaving lofts.
For a full script of this podcast and show notes please go to www.hapticandhue.com/listen where you will also find pictures and links to further information about the people you can hear in this episode.
Introduction to Season 4
Welcome to the fourth season of Haptic and Hue’s Tales of Textiles. This season is called Threads of Survival and the eight episodes focus on people who have seen hardship and difficulty, but who have survived and often flourished against the odds.
This introduction sets the context for the new Season and provides a mini-guide to the thinking behind the episodes.
In it, we will explore stories of different peoples and different threads and textiles that in the face of poverty, intolerance, violence, enslavement, or sometimes just indifference, have shown great resilience, and have survived and often triumphed. I hope these podcasts give us a fresh way of looking at the world - one that allows us to hear what textiles have to say and helps us understand the central role cloth plays in our cultures and how it enables us to express our deepest feelings and emotions.
There are some changes to Haptic and Hue for this season. Episodes will now be uploaded on the first Thursday of every month and will continue throughout the year with a short break in the summer. This is to give us a chance to explore more widely and to research some topics that we don’t know so well. We will also be announcing shortly details of a Haptic and Hue Membership or Community scheme where we hope to provide a regular behind-the-scenes look at what we are doing, as well as some extra content.
For a full script of this podcast and shownotes please go to www.hapticandhue.com/listen.
Canada's Forgotten Quilts
Can a nation simply forget an astonishing operation in which its women and children made nearly half a million quilts to comfort the victims of the Second World in Europe? It seems that Canada has come close to doing that. Only now, nearly 80 years later, is this story being pieced together for the first time by some very determined researchers and textile sleuths. It’s a tale that has never been properly told and the women and children who made these quilts have never been honoured or thanked properly for their work.
This episode of Haptic and Hue’s Tales of Textiles begins with a mystery quilt that turned up on a cold winter’s morning 30 years ago with a strange handwritten label on it. It tracks my efforts to find out what the quilt was and how it came to be made. It uncovers the astonishing story of how millions and millions of items from bandages to sheets, from pajamas to quilts were made by Canadian volunteers as ‘comforts’ to send mainly to Britain in the Second World War, but also later to the Netherlands, France, and Germany, to help those who had lost their homes and all their possessions. The podcast hears from someone who made the quilts and someone who received a quilt and it looks at why this amazing effort was almost completely forgotten.
If you would like to know more about the quilts or if you have a quilt and would like to register it or tell someone about it then please go to www.hapticandhue.com/listen, where you can find useful links, pictures and a full script of the podcast.
What Samplers Tell Us About the Hands That Made Them
Samplers tell stories in stitch, but whose tale are they telling? Perhaps the story of a young woman describing her family and choosing her own patterns and pictures, a child learning her alphabet and numbers by stitching. Or maybe it’s an anonymous sampler from a woman being prepared for a role in which she will spend a life stitching other people’s stories, effacing her identity, working as a seamstress or a servant.
This episode of Haptic and Hue looks at how women in the past were united by their ability to use a needle. From the grandest monarch to the poorest maid they could all sew, it was a common language – one that they were fluent in and often better at than forming letters and numbers with a pen or pencil. It gave them a way of thinking that we have all but lost.
But what they sewed divided them. Middle-class women were urged to create a home with berlin wool-work, firescreens, and antimacassars, or handstitched gifts demonstrating their skill and devotion. Even Queen Victoria stitched and gave away her handiwork while working-class women were prepared for a life of earning their living from the needle – working as seamstresses or mending clothing, stitching other people’s initials onto table linen, and family laundry.
Find out more about how the needle and sewing united and divided women in this episode of Haptic and Hue’s Tales of Textiles.
You can find a full script of this episode, on the Haptic and Hue Website at https://hapticandhue.com/tales-of-textiles-series-3/ as well as links and resources to the people you hear in this podcast and the organisations they work for.
So inspiring and informative
A real pleasure to listen to! Well researched and always informative textile related podcasts on a wide range of topics. I thoroughly enjoy them. ❤️
These are wonderful podcasts. Well researched, amazing stories about textiles and the people who make them. The personal stories of textiles and people is a real comfort listen.
Top quality podcast
For anyone who loves textiles this well researched and engaging podcast is a must. Professionally put together and beautifully constructed it’s a pleasure to listen to. I’ve enjoyed listening to each episode ( more than once) whilst making myself. The show noted and additional resources are treasure troves for the listener/ reader. Thanks to Jo for such a super podcast.