The Fabric of Flowers - Flax Flower to Fine Linen

The Fabric of Flowers - Flax Flower to Fine Linen

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This talk is the fourth in our online series exploring how flowers and gardens have inspired textile artists on Mons@6pm from 19 Sep £5 each

About this event

Our interest in gardens has so much to offer us and in this, our latest series of talks, we are taking a sideways view by exploring how gardens and flowers have influenced and inspired other arts and crafts. This first series of 6 will focus on textiles and explore some of the historical and technical aspects of embroidering, weaving and printing using floral designs on fabric. We will look at textiles from Elizabethan crowns to Edwardian table linen to see how flowers provided inspiration, taking in the prolific art embroiderers of the Arts and Crafts Movement. We will then be brought bang up to date with two contemporary embroiderers with very different approaches to floral imagery who will share their design processes with us.


This ticket is for this individual session and costs £5, and you may purchase tickets for other individual sessions via the links below, or you may purchase a ticket for the entire course of 6 sessions at a cost of £24 via the link here.

Attendees will be sent a Zoom link 2 days prior to the start of the talk, and again a few hours before the talk. A link to the recorded session (available for 1 week) will be sent shortly afterwards.

Due to a recent Apple decision to charge a 30% fee for paid online events unfortunately you may no longer be able to purchase this ticket from the Eventbrite iOS app. Please use a web browser on desktop or mobile to purchase or follow the link here.


Week 1. 19 September: The Broderer’s Crown. First in a series of 6 online lectures, £5 each or all 6 for £24.

Week 2. 26 September: For Pleasure and Ornament. Second in a series of 6 online lectures, £5 each or all 6 for £24.

Week 3. 3 October: The English Rose in Life and Textiles. Third in a series of 6 online lectures, £5 each or all 6 for £24.

Week 4. 10 October: Flax Flower to Fine Linen. Fourth in a series of 6 online lectures, £5 each or all 6 for £24.

Week 5. 17 October: Gardening with Silk and Gold Thread. Fifth in a series of 6 online lectures, £5 each or all 6 for £24.

Week 6. 24 October: The Embroiderer’s Floral. Last in a series of 6 online lectures, £5 each or all 6 for £24.


Week 4. 10th October: Flax Flower to Fine Linen with Fiona McKelvie

We will explore the journey from flax flower to table linen and consider the wonderful design and manufacturing heritage of the industry that once contributed to Belfast being called Linenopolis. The design heritage of damask linen in particular draws widely from nature, the representation of flowers and botanicals woven in intricate patterns into the finest of linen fabrics continues today but was at its height in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

And not forgetting the skilful embroidered embellishment on fine linen cloth which has graced dining and tea tables from the stately home to the parlour of the 1930s terrace.

The quality of linen cloth produced in Northern Ireland was world renowned – the crisp and luxurious feel of the linen and the way in which the woven patterns of damask cloth almost hover on the surface result in the perfect combination for a fine tablecloth and napkins. A table laid with linen damask was described in advertisements of the 1920s as ‘impressively correct’. And Emily Post the author of “Etiquette” declared that “The dinner of dignity is dependent on linen damask.”

Linen occupies a special place in the world of textiles – a strong and long lasting fabric with some exceptional properties, and all the while delighting the eye with its designs, whether woven or embroidered.


Fiona McKelvie has had a career in textiles for more than 30 years, much of that time with Liberty of London. Originally from Belfast, she has a passion for Irish Linen, collecting since the 1970s. Fiona is particularly interested in the history and heritage of the linen industry and has spent many years researching the connections and legacy of Irish linen, flax and textiles. In 2013, she launched her website, specialising in the sale of antique and vintage Irish linens as well as vintage haberdashery. In 2021 she contributed to the British Textile Biennial via the Cloth Cultures podcast with Amber Butchart. The design element of linen damask is of particular interest and Fiona has collected a varied archive of material, from hand painted point charts to sales sample books, and the search continues……

Image: © McBurney and Black


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