I was delighted to see the article because I volunteered at Killerton as a room steward several years ago and I loved spending time in the vintage clothing exhibition they have at the house. Many of the dresses on display were decorated with intricate and beautiful embroidery, representing many hours of painstaking work. For more on the Killerton fashion exhibition visit http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/killerton/things-to-see-and-do/events/exhibitions
Killerton House also has lovely gardens and serves excellent food so a visit to the house, and to other National Trust properties, is a great way to restore one’s feelings of wellbeing. October is the perfect time to visit as the trees are dressed in their autumn colours and there is nothing more restorative than a walk through woodland on bright and chilly day followed by afternoon tea. I have always felt thankful that the creation of the National Trust has provided access to this country’s most beautiful houses and gardens for everyone – a most civilised and British form of common ownership. In 1944 Sir Richard Acland (who was a socialist who believed in common ownership) donated Killerton House and gardens to the Trust. Sir Richard also sold some of the surrounding land to the Trust to raise money for the Common Wealth Party that he founded. I think that, perhaps, the National Trust today offers us Common Wellbeing – the opportunity to appreciate beauty both natural and man-made, to take exercise in the fresh air, to enjoy good food in attractive surroundings with our friends and to take time out from busy and stressful lives. It is also focal point for community activities, environmental conservation and volunteering – all of which are key aspects of wellbeing.
Creative hobbies also contribute to our wellbeing. Several of the embroidery techniques employed in making the Killerton quilt are described in our new book – Lillie London’s Needlework Book. The book includes lessons on embroidery, cutwork, appliqué and quilting, as well as over 80 projects from the 1930s. My grandmother (who was a skilled tailor and dressmaker) and my great-grandmother (who made some of the items in the photographs below) would have made the cushions, tablecloths, chairbacks, etc. from pre-stamped fabric kits that they bought by mail order. However, this is not to detract from the needlework skills they had to employ to produce such high quality results. The slideshow below shows examples of vintage embroidery created using the skills that are described in Lillie London’s Needlework Book.
By the way, the chairbacks were earlier known as antimacassars. Oiled hair was fashionable in Victorian and Edwardian times for both men and women and Macassar oil was often used to achieve the desired look. It was so named because it was reputed to have been manufactured from ingredients (such as coconut or palm oil and ylang ylang oil to make it smell nice) purchased in the port of Makassar in Indonesia. However, it left nasty greasy marks on the back of chairs and sofas. Therefore, an antimacassar was used to protect upholstery as it was easier to remove the antimacassar and wash it than it was to clean your chair and sofa fabric. Antimacassars are still used on trains, planes and coaches today to preserve the life of the upholstery and for reasons of hygiene.