I would have really struggled had I been born a century or so ago – the thought of endless evenings of embroidery and needlework fill me with the immediate and urgent need to go for a long run. I do, however, covet the output of all this painstaking labour.
A few carefully selected textiles can make a world of difference to a room, particularly antique or vintage fabrics, and those with texture. So much is written about colour for interiors, and yet for me, the lack of texture can render a space totally flat.
The exquisite bedspread below is several hundred years old. What dreams must have been dreamed here? What plans hatched and what sorrows wept into the pillows?
I love using touches of this forgotten world to soften the edges of our technological age.
These exquisite cushions are made from pieces of embroidery from Samarkand – that ancient and mysterious city. They would look beautiful in so many contemporary homes and summon memories of times long past. The saddle cloth below is lavished with gold thread: its workmanship and intricacy are breathtaking.
So how to work these into today’s homes? The most obvious and easy way is through cushions – a little bit of texture is easily added that way. In addition, you can hunt out your own exquisite pieces while you travel and then make them up when you get back.
Fabric can look great on walls and I have successfully framed pieces of textile before. This is cut from an antique Indian sari, embellished with beads and metallic gold thread. It looks magnificent in almost any room. Make sure you find a good framer who is prepared to stretch the fabric evenly and preserve the embroidered pattern.
Alternatively, you can scour antique shops and auctions for old tapestries: straight away you can be transported to European castles, hunting parties and fairy tales… The older ones are much more desirable as they are dyed with vegetable colours, meaning the palette is much softer.
Tapestries, when hung on the wall, also perform an important acoustic function. I find that today’s homes are often designed with hard floors and surfaces, so that sound bounces in a very aggravating way. It can sound as though you are in a gallery, not a comfortable home. Tapestries absorb the noise wonderfully and soften all those echoes and clatters.
For an injection of high-octane glamour, this sequined cushion is hard to beat. It is actually from Zara Home, but in Australia, Country Road has an almost identical one, unfortunately at three times the price. However – you don’t need an airfare…
I have also used the trim from vintage saris to edge blinds:
You can see more on this older post: https://doesntcosttheearth.wordpress.com/2010/04/24/hand-beaded-trim-on-gold-silk-blinds/
I do have some more sari trim that I’m just waiting for the perfect project…. The Indians are so fabulously talented with their embroidery and fabrics.
Other fertile hunting grounds in Asia include Japan: an Obi can make a fabulous border for a blind or curtains. They are so long that they can also be hung either side of a doorway to give it focus and zing. Here is one that I’m just dying to use – cream and black woven into a coral-red.
You can find pieces all over Asia: small fragments or even whole coats and kimonos that can be hung or framed. You might have linens passed through the family that are sitting in a drawer. Don’t let them rot unseen! Frame them or include them in a cushion so that you can enjoy them every day.
Otherwise, you can buy fabrics that look as though they have provenance. I’m a sucker for silk velvet, with softness and amazing lustre. Some fabric houses are now also producing intricate textiles with the patina of age.
What ever it is that you love and treasure – make sure you inject some of it into your home.