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Curated Submission
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Circa 1847
DIMENSIONS in centimetres
143 x 144
Materials & techniques
Wool; Embroidered
Gift of Rebecca Lee Taylor
Textile Museum of Canada T03.29.1-2
The design of bright roses, morning glories, forget-me-nots, pansies, nasturtiums, and strawberries surrounded by green foliage was skillfully embroidered by Emily Langs, probably around 1847, when the tablecloth was demonstrated at the exhibition of the Provincial Agricultural Association of Upper Canada in Hamilton, Ontario. In recognition of her skills, a diploma for “the best worsted work” was presented to her on October 8, 1847, and signed by the President and Secretary of the Association.
During the 19th century, vividly coloured naturalistic flowers were in fashion in North America and featured prominently in woven and embroidered textiles. Called “Berlin work,” the embroidery with Berlin wool on canvas was particularly favoured in the mid-19th century by fashionable ladies. They occupied their leisure time by copying patterns from coloured charts onto canvas with cross-stitch and raised stitches. Berlin or German wool, the most popular embroidery thread, came from Merino sheep in Saxony; soft and fleecy, dyed in Berlin in an enormous variety of strong colours, it was easy to handle and especially suitable for creating the naturalistic flowers much loved at that time.
The lavish floral designs of the tablecloth as well as the scenes of seasonal fieldwork and symbols of harvest on the diploma correspond well with the Agricultural Association’s goals and purposes. The Agriculture and Art Association of Ontario – then called the Bureau of Agriculture – was founded in 1830 with the intent of establishing agricultural societies that would encourage agriculture and creative work. In 1846, the first Provincial Exhibition was held in Toronto; the following year it was held in Hamilton in October and was attended by Lord Elgin, appointed the Governor General of Upper and Lower Canada in 1847.
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