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Hidden Treasures

As you wander through the glass galleries of London’s Victoria and Albert Museum it’s easy to be dazzled by the shelves of finely wrought goblets and wine glasses, so many of which I long to have in my meagre collection of antique wine glasses. But, take a moment to pull open the draws of the unprepossessing cabinets and you will find, as I did, a little haven of hidden treasure. No cataloguing, no labels, no dates; thundreds of tiny fragments of glass seem to be there purely for our visual delight. Astounding feats of minute craftsmanship have been captured and presented to those who take the time to look (and you really do have to get down on your knees for some of them). Most of these pieces of sixteenth to eighteenth century glass measure less than a couple of centimetres in size. Some are tiny fragments of millefiore, creating delicate stippled patterns, others beautiful sections of ancient vessels or intricate gold leafed patterns.

It is the sheer infinitesimal detail in these shards that fascinate me, and I wonder what incredibly steady 16th century hands could have created these treasures?

Getting personal

I have always been fascinated on my travels around the French ‘brocante’ sales, by the finesse of rural French embroidered garments. The fine cotton embroidery belies the tough rural lifestyle of the early twentieth century. Beneath those hard wearing outer clothes must have been these delicately embroidered camisoles, knickers and chemises, embroidered for a trousseau or by a dedicated mother. A glimpse of these delicately stitched garments would have surely been titillating to a country lad.

Who would nowadays think to spend hours embroidering a monogram onto a thick linen nightdress? The fascination for all things vintage has taken us by storm, but these delicacies have often fallen by the wayside in favour of the film star inspired garments of the 1950’s and 60’s. Let’s look underneath those coarse outer garments and see the delights hidden beneath!

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Embroidered cotton knickers

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handmade lace trimmed camisole

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delicately embroidered fragment of a fine cotton camisole

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