IN THE years of writing this column I have never come across a pattern book from a Dundee textile manufacturer. Perhaps they were not required for ‘out-of-sight’ jute products, such as sacking, bagging and carpet backing, and possibly the linen lords, like Baxter Brothers, who preceded the jute barons, felt their exports spoke for themselves.
The comprehensive collections of textile records at Dundee City Archives, the Wellgate Library and Dundee University Archives may hold samplers of this sort, but I cannot recall seeing Dundee jute/linen pattern books in the usual quorum of collectable showgrounds – auctions, dealers, fairs and the internet.
So, while in York at the end of July, my antennae twitched when a rare set of 10 Victorian leather-bound designer pattern books for Sutton Mills in Macclesfield appeared at Rydale’s Auctions.
Sutton Mills was owned by the silk manufacturers J. & F. Jackson & Co.
Each of the Cheshire company’s design books showed a range of samples and hand-drawn pencil and painted design sketches dating from 1885 onwards, with many in vivid colours.
The pages displayed all types of weaving techniques and designs of the period, as well as the fabrics used in the manufacturing process at the time.
With pattern and design numbers, and information on designs and the materials used, the books offered a timecapsule of the weaving trade either side of 1900. More than that, they also provided extensive information on the weavers themselves.
Sutton Mills’ silk products were also described. There were samples for silk scarfs and mufflers, including items for the 1897 Queen Victoria Diamond Jubilee, animal and bird patterns, including lions, elephants, flamingos and peacocks, Paisley and Prince of Wales patterned items and the new 1924 muffler range.
So this was a significant item of local history and probably the best pattern/sample books I have described here since 1999 and the remarkable Thomas Justice & Sons catalogue illustrating furniture from 1905 made by craftsmen at the firm’s workbenches in South Ward Road. This catalogue helped to prove that Dundee possessed its own Art Nouveau designers, many working in the Glasgow School style of Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
Estimated at £5000-£8000, the J. & F. Jackson pattern books justified Rydale’s hopes by taking £7100.
Picture: Silk mill pattern books, £7100 (Rydale Auctions).