Textile Tuesdays: Red Edition: February

Join us once a month during 2022 on the CDMC Stories blog for Textile Tuesdays: Red Edition! Students in the UW-Madison Design Studies class “History of Textiles” (Fall 2021) wrote these posts, choosing the color red as the theme through which they explored the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection (HLATC). While of course red holds particular resonance for the Badger community, it also has a special place in the history of textiles. We can chart the development of textile dyeing and printing through the use of madder plants, cochineal insects, synthetically-produced alizarin, and other substances. Focusing on the color red allowed the students to feature a wide range of textiles from HLATC in terms of chronology, geography, use, and cultural meaning. 

Jackson, lambrequin, United States, 1860s-1870s, wool embroidery with glass and metallic beading, 5 x 13in., E.A.US. 1565, Gift of Doris Jackson


This 19th-century lambrequin is covered from edge-to-edge in intricate needlepoint and beadwork. Not much is known about the creator of this piece, but it was likely used to decorate the edge of a shelf or a mantelpiece somewhere in Wisconsin. The intensity of the work is stunning because even the background is done entirely in needlepoint. I also think that combining hanging tassels with the needlework is very effective– I have never used “floating” beads in any craft before, but I think having a string of beaded tassels peek out the bottom of an embroidery hoop on a finished piece could look very interesting. It takes a lot of precision to balance exactly the same number of metal beads on each tassel, and balance exactly the same tassels on each panel. In other words, whoever made this piece must value craftsmanship, and has an interest in fancywork.

Vi Bui is a junior majoring in Textiles and Fashion Design. 


Robe, China, 1875-1911, embroidered silk, 55 x 72 in, 1999.16.0


This Chinese robe was made around the turn of the 20th century, likely hand made, and embroidered with orchids, butterflies and bold borders that outline the garment. This robe is made of silk, a textile produced in China with deep rooted culture surrounding it, and dyed a vibrant true red. The color likely points to this being a celebratory garment as red symbolizes good fortune in Chinese culture, so it is appropriate for the Lunar New Year that we celebrate this year on February 1. Furthering this association is the embroidery design, which is applied directly onto the red silk. Butterflies are common embroidery designs, often relating to joy and love in Chinese symbolism. Orchids also represent friendship, nobility, and honor. The symbolism often is related back to the Chinese philosopher Confucius who paralleled orchids to a virtuous man. Orchids and butterflies together have a separate meaning, and are meant to convey the message “tieh-lan”, which means ‘may you only die of old age,’ in other words, these are symbols of health and happiness. The intricate double borders that outline the garment, composed of both floral and more butterfly motifs, enhance its decorative quality, outlining a person’s figure like a painting. 

Chloe Hogenson is a junior majoring in Consumer Behavior and Marketplace Studies with a Certificate in Textiles and Design. 


Mittens, Norway, 1950s, knitted wool, 11 x 6 in (each), K.H.S.0129a-b, Gift from the Estate of Professor Helen Louise Allen, Adopted by Paul M. Berge in loving memory of his wife, Mary Kunz Berge


Many Norwegian patterns are being incorporated into all types of garments today, from your Christmas sweater to the knitted scarfs, this popularized pattern expresses a sense of warmth on an extremely cold day. Norway is known for its colder temperature, so there is no doubt that Norwegian mitten captures the national identity of warm people that lights up a cold nation. What’s fascinating about this knitting style is that it’s all made by a basic stitch that every knitter would start with, yet by adding contrasting colors when knitting the stitches, it creates this heart shape pattern that is later manipulated into snowflakes, diamond pattern, simple hearts ranging in rows, and more. The colors used in these mittens typically do not exceed three to four different colors choices. Historically, the lighter colors were used as background, while the darker color stitches would highlight the pattern that the knitter created. I believe that Norwegian mittens such as the pair in HLATC, hand-knitted with love, are the most romantic and iconic of all winter textiles, and appropriate for the month of February! 

Qing Qing Chen graduated in December 2021 with double majors in Marketing and Chinese, with a Certificate in Textiles and Design.  


Handkerchief, printed cotton, 15 x 15 in, 1992.05.477, Gift of Josephine H. Pollock


Romance blooms on this handkerchief. The text on the sides of the handkerchief says, “My love is like a red red rose,” which is a quotation from the Scottish poet Robert Burns. Even though this text is printed, it mimics a handwritten style that evokes a love letter, adding to the romantic feeling of the piece. There are nine bouquets of roses on the handkerchief pointing at different angles and with variable amounts of leaves and flowers on them. The colors of the roses and leaves are vivid and bright. Even with the passage of time, the synthetically-produced colors remain bright to show the eternal love that the maker wants to convey. This handkerchief was made of Irish linen by the Herrmann Handkerchief Company using the brand name “Occasionette.” This company was popular in the mid-20th century in the United States and known for their brightly colored, innovative designs, often highlighting particular holidays such as Valentine’s Day! 

 Wei Wei is a Masters student in Accounting, with a Certificate in Business, Environment, and Social Responsibility.  


Dress, Yemen, 1960s, appliqué, embroidery, and sequins, 53 x 52 in, 2008.01.001, Gift of Catherine Briggs Hanafi


The textiles created in Yemen illustrate the significance of the traditional religious and cultural values, practices, and art forms. This dress, produced in Yemen between the years of 1960 and 1970, demonstrates the role of fashion in the county’s history and civilization. The dress consists of a variety of bright colors and designs through embroidery, sequins, and seashells. Yemeni women wear several dress silhouettes that depict the traditional attire and appear similar to this textile, such as the Sana’ani dress, which is a colorful square-shaped garment. There is a separate cloth that covers the head, and some women add an additional headpiece embroidered with complementary colors. The art of embroidery expresses a reflection of Yemeni society and identity. Clothing embroidery reflects many other Yemeni art forms, such as painting and architecture. Dresses from Yemen are often embroidered around the neckline, similar to this dress. The beauty of these garments was often elevated with the inclusion of other decorative items alongside embroidery, such as seashells, beads, colored metal threads, and other embellishments, as seen on this dress. 

Stella Koondel is a sophomore majoring in Consumer Behavior and Marketplace Studies, with Certificates in Business and Textiles and Design.