Hawthorne & Heaney :Dismantling of a Victorian Mourning Shawl


Hawthorne & Heaney was given the Victorian shawl by Sue Thomas from Savile Row bespoke.


In the Victorian era, black was considered the appropriate colour to be worn when mourning the loss of a loved one and in some cultures, this is still the case today. It is believed that the mourning attire was a protection against negative thoughts. By wearing the colour black it also informed family, friends and acquaintances that the wearer had recently lost someone close to them and was a warning not to approach them within this sad period of time. For women, the fashion symbolised the depth of affliction with the colour of clothing indicating the gradual return from black to bold clothing through the hues of purple and violet, this was recognised as the second stage of mourning. The length of time Victorian women wore mourning garments varied on the degree of relationship with the deceased from a week up to a year.


The dismantling of the shawl was a very long process as parts of the shawl was originally constructed using an embroidery technique called tambour beading. Tambour is French for drum and is done by using a hook where the fabric is stretched as tight as a drum. The fabric can be stretched by being sewn onto a rectangular frame or placed in a wooden hoop. The Tambour hook makes a chain stitch in a technical order where it will keep each bead securely in place. If the knot or process of the tambour chain stitch was to be done incorrectly then the whole beadwork would come undone. Depending on your experience using the Tambour technique beads can be secured in place very fast this is why a lot of fashion houses such as Dior are well known for using this technique in order to get garments completed on a tight time schedule. To get each bead loose from the shawl the embroidery stitches were cut allowing the bead to be free. Once all the beads were eventually dismantled from the Victorian shawl they were sorted into bags so all the same beads were neatly secured and measured ready to be used again. Below you are able to see photographs of sections from the shawl being dismantled.


It is very important to Hawthorne & Heaney that the beads are used in another exciting project. This is because of the heritage behind this shawl and the construction that went into the making of it was exquisite. With the shawl being so old it was beginning to fall apart and unable to be restored therefore there was no other option but to take it apart and store the beads safely away until we find a project that will give them a new purpose. We are unsure currently what that project will be but we are sure we will know when the time comes.

Hawthorne & Heaney for Sam Faulkner’s ‘Unseen Waterloo’

SF 1Hawthorne & Heaney have been working very closely with Photographer, Sam Faulkner on his ambitious, most recent project entitled, Unseen Waterloo.

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For this project he has created a series of 81 life sized portraits which re imagine the soldiers from the battle of Waterloo, 1815. A painstaking amount of detail has gone into producing these portraits as all the costumes are historically accurate and document the great variety of men who were lost at this battle. The portraits were hung at Somerset House against a great sea of scarlet red Hainsworth fabric, which is the same cloth used to make the traditional ‘red coat’ uniforms which is still being made in the same way hundreds of years later in the West Yorkshire Mill.
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Along side the exhibition of the portraits, a book has been created to accumulate the pieces. The ‘Thin Red Line’ edition of the book is limited to a run of only 25 pieces, embroidered by Hawthorne & Heaney in silver onto the same Hainsworth fabric and presented in its own embroidered solander box. The cover depicts a map of the battlefield of Waterloo using a variety of stitches to represent the different areas and features of the landscape. As a military embroidery company, the collaboration between Hawthorne & Heaney and a project of this nature seemed natural and we are very pleased to have been involved in making Faulkner’s vision, a reality in the anniversary year of such a historic event.

sf4If you would like to seem more of the exhibition, Sam Faulkner‘s work or what is on at Somerset House, please follow the links and your curiosity.