Sunday, 2 October 2016

The Forum: A New Norwich Wrap

From Saturday 1st until Saturday 15th October 2016, my hand knitted wrap, "The Forum: A New Norwich Wrap" will be on show to visitors at the Hostry, Norwich Cathedral. In "Norwich Shawls: Past Glory Future Inspiration", the Norwich Costume & Textile Association (C&TA) is taking a look back at the stunning shawls in the collection and then looking forward with interpretations and inspirations from the shawls. I am very proud and excited about my wrap being part of this exhibition! In this post, I would like to share some of my research and design development.

The Forum: A New Norwich Wrap
by Emma Vining
Norwich, Edinburgh and Paisley were all major British centres for Shawl production in the 19th Century and each centre had its own distinctive style. You can read more about Norwich Shawls in this Antiques Info article by Zita Thornton and more about British shawl production in Meg Andrews' article in Victoriana Magazine. A large number of original Norwich Shawls are held in the Costume & Textile Study Centre in Shirehall, Norwich. As part of my research for the Exhibition, I visited Shirehall for a Norwich Shawl Study Day. The chance to get up close to the wonderful shawls and to view the fascinating blue-prints of shawl designs from the Board of Trade Design register was not to be missed! I thoroughly enjoyed the day and appreciated all the fascinating insights shared by the curator. Sketching the delicate details on the shawls really helped me to understand the flow of the designs and patterns.

Detail from my sketchbook
Copyright Emma Vining
During my trip there was time to take a look around the beautiful city of Norwich and my visit to the Sir Michael Hopkins "Forum" building provided the present-day inspiration for my design. The seating in the public area in front of the building suggested a curved design with a smooth stepped surface to contrast with the delicate pine cone and leaf details that I had seen earlier in the day.

Seating outside the Forum Building, Norwich
Photo by Emma Vining
Further research took me to the V&A Museum's Clothworkers Centre where I spent a day surrounded by fabulous Norwich Shawls from the V&A's collection. The Clothworkers team were extremely patient with folding, unfolding and turning the shawls and I particularly appreciated being able to climb the ladder for an overview of the largest shawl! Reading books and publications in the National Art Library in the V&A Museum helped me understand how Norwich, Edinburgh and Paisley competed in the 19th Century for the market in printed and woven shawls. The wonderful books by Pamela Clabburn, The Norwich Shawl, and Helen Hoyte, The Story of the Norwich Shawl, were particularly insightful and helpful.

I spent considerable time thinking about all that I had learned and working on my own interpretations of the designs. Through drawing and sketching, then charting and knitting, I experimented with a wide range of designs. However, it was the combination of the elements of time and scale that became prominent. My final design, The Forum Wrap was inspired by details in a beautiful original 19th Century Shawl in the Shirehall Handling Collection, as well as the modern architecture of the Forum Building in the centre of the city of Norwich.

Detail from my sketchbook
Copyright Emma Vining 2016
My Forum Wrap is knitted in Rowan Silk Wool DK weight yarn that was perfect for this project. The yarn has excellent stitch definition and the elegant sheen of silk. This combination meant that the detailed twisted stitch sections stand out clearly and that the long curved lines inspired by the Forum building look smooth and ribbon-like. The wrap begins and ends with five individual knitted points. The pine cone and leaf twisted stitch design flows from these points and changes in scale as the wrap narrows. A gentle curve to enhance drape and fit around the shoulders is created by working more depth at one side of the wrap.

Detail of The Forum: A New Norwich Wrap
by Emma Vining
I hope that visitors to the Exhibition will enjoy viewing the beautiful Norwich Shawls as much as I have. There are several stunning examples displayed in their full glory in the Hostry and the new textile art that has been inspired by these stunning shawls is fascinating.

Exhibition Poster by the Norwich C&TA

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