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15 Sept 2023

It’s a Wrap at Weaver’s Cottage

Written by Emma Inglis, Regional Curator (Glasgow & West)
A close-up of a folded red and green tartan woollen shawl
A fine woollen shawl, circa 1860–90
Tucked away in Weaver’s Cottage – in cupboards and kists, and under beds – is a surprisingly large collection of shawls relating to the town of Kilbarchan.

These shawls were woven and worn in the Kilbarchan area throughout the 19th century, giving us an insight into the fashionable colours, patterns and materials worn at the time. Made from fine muslin, cotton and wool, and woven in checks, tartans and stripes, they bring a splash of colour to the softly lit interiors of the cottage. They also show us the skill of the handloom weavers, who were responsible for weaving much of the cloth. This period saw the march of industry, as new dyes and printing techniques created more varied designs and cheaper cloths.

At Weaver’s Cottage, we’re celebrating this once popular form of dress in a multi-faceted project called It’s a Wrap. With the help of designer/maker Sarah Diver Lang, we’re asking the community in and around Kilbarchan to share some of their memories, family connections or even their own heirloom shawls with us, to help us further our understanding of this important but under-researched collection. We want to uncover the stories behind these beautiful objects – who made them, who wore them, who designed them or who bought and sold them? What memories do people have about these shawls? What was life like for the people who made or wore them?

At a number of community events, Sarah is inviting people to fill out postcards, have fun with a mini weaving challenge and to join her for a free creative textile workshop. The culmination will be a community exhibition at Weaver’s Cottage later in the autumn.

As a further strand to the project, this year we’re also investing in the Weaver’s Cottage collection by commissioning condition assessments of the shawls, and creating a plan for their conservation. Due to the effects of time and wear, many of the shawls have become faded, torn or stained and are in a fragile condition. With the impetus of It’s a Wrap and a future programme of treatment, our hope is that many more of these wonderful objects can eventually be brought out to display.

To see a sample of the collection, come and visit us this autumn – we’ll be delighted to welcome you.

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