News & Insights

A World of Textiles

24th January 2023.

A vividly colourful array of South American textiles is coming under the hammer in Tennants Auctioneers’ Costume, Accessories and Textiles Sale on 11th February, in the form of over 200 ‘molas’, highly decorated fabric panels that were sewn onto blouses. Molas have been made for centuries by the Guna people, who live in regions of Panama and Columbia, and are still part of their traditional costume today. Made with a complex reverse applique technique involving multiple layers of brightly coloured cotton fabric, Molas are decorated with all manner of designs from geometric patterns to representations of animals, legends, Christian themes, political statements and even advertising logos. The present collection date from the mid-20th century, and were collected by John Newall, who became fascinated by the region and visited on several occasions in the 1970s and 1980s. The molas will be sold in groups of ten, each with estimates starting at £150-250 (plus buyer’s premium).

The John Newall Collection also includes a selection of traditional Albanian costume, again collected by Mr Newall on his travels in the late 1950s. His interest in the country was sparked when his was given articles of Albanian costume that had been collected by his great-grandfather when he worked in Corfu in the mid-19th century.  The collection includes exuberantly embroidered waistcoats embellished with gold braid and trim, such as a Late 19th Century Ottoman/Albanian Red Velvet Long Robe, on offer with an estimate of £200-300.

Two further private collections of antique costume are also on offer in the sale, the first comprising a good selection of Victorian costume, such as a fine black brocade evening dress, comprising bodice and skirt decorated with woven flowers made by Lewis & Allenby of Regent Street, London (estimate: £300-500). The second collection offers millinery and costume accessories such as gloves and handbags from the late 19th century to the 1940s, and a range of dresses and evening coats from the 1920s. Highlights of the collection include a circa 1920s Black Velvet Sleeveless Evening Dress, sold together with a Black Silk Opera Cape (estimate: £300-500), and a circa 1940s Lady’s Wool Hat, punched with small spitfire-shaped cut outs. The unusual hat was made to be sold in aid of the Spitfire Fund during the Second World War, when the British people were asked to raise money to build extra Spitfires during the Battle of Britain.

Of North Country interest is a selection of quilts and quilting accoutrement relating to the well-known quilter Mary Lough (1886-1968). Born in Witton-le-Wear, County Durham, Lough became a master of North Country quilting, known for its distinctive swirling intricate patterns such as feathers, sheaves of corn, and fans. Lough became the first North Country quilter to formally teach the art, setting up classes in Weardale. One of Lough’s most prominent students was Amy Emms, who was awarded an MBE for ‘services to quilting’. On offer in the sale are examples of her fine quilts, a quilting frame, instruction books and shaped templates.

Also of interest is a fine late 18th century carved knitting stick, thought to have been a love token from a sailor. The stick, which is offered with an estimate of £300-500, is decorated with and anchor, a fish, a compass, and is inscribed ‘John Rowe March (c/y) 10.790’ and ‘Elizabeth Sturdy’. Part of a further good collection of knitting sticks, mostly from the North of England, are also on offer.

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