Esther Fitzgerald
Rare Textiles

28 Church Row
London NW3 6UP   
T:+44 (0)20 7431 3076 
Click on capitals to find definitions starting with that letter
Textiles under £400
Rare Objects
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Aniline dyes:
Chemical based dyes developed mid 19th century.
Designs for brocades from 1690-1710, known for their exoticism.
Compound weave in which additional colours are added, originally by hand held brocading shuttles.
Indian word for tie-dye.
Belonging to a camel-like animal e.g. llama, alpaca.
Man's coat from Uzbekistan.
name for the painted blocked or stained calicoes imported from India.
Compound weave:
General term for complex weaves.
Christian influence in Egypt.
Long tunic, long sleeveless shirt.
An early patterned weave, pre-dating brocade originating in Damascus an important Syrian city in the east west trade. Reversible fabric, woven with an ornamented and often self-coloured design.
Floss stitch:
Raw and untwisted silk thread.
A lightweight coat worn over kimono. It was used as a jacket or to prevent the kimono from becoming soiled and wet.
Substance obtained from plants in the form of a red/ brown powder, used as a red dye.
an Egyptian symbol of the soul, perseverance, morning; sacred to Thoth.
Method of weaving where the warp threads (or in rare cases the weft threads too) are dyed off the loom prior to weaving. Once woven, this process adds a beautifully fuzzy property to the design. Also called bandhna in Orissa.
The last dynasty before the conquest in Peru 1200 AD -1535AD.
A natural blue dye from the plant Isatis tinctoria used from antiquity.
Insect yielding brilliant and fast scarlet dye.
Tibetan monks habit, often sewn together from fragments of donated pieces of cloth.
A silk presentational cloth from Palambang Sumatra.
Mercerised thread:
Method of strengthening cotton developed in 1844.
Fixative for dye.
A dye source from shell fish. very expensive used up until 15th century, then replaced by kermes, cochineal and madder.
Pre-Columbian culture which emerged about AD 200 from the Paracas culture in Southern Peru.
Embroidery from the Punjab, India.
A symbol of fertility. In the Hebrew tradition it is said to have 613 seeds that correspond to the 613 commandments of the Torah. In Islam, its fiery red colour evokes the devotee's zeal for God. In Christianity it can signify suffering, the blood of Christ. In Asia, displaying the pomegranate in the bedroom is said to enhance the chances of having many healthy, prosperous children.
The term Pre-Columbian is used to refer to the cultures of the New World in the era before significant European influence. While technically referring to the era before Christopher Columbus, in practice the term usually includes indigenous cultures as they continued to develop until they were conquered or significantly influenced by Europeans, even if this happened decades or even centuries after Columbus first landed in 1492.
(pl. putti) a wingless baby (not to be confused with the winged cherub) often used as a decorative motif from Pagan times onwards.
is a transparent fibre made of processed cellulose. It was originally named 'artificial silk' or 'wood silk' but the name rayon was created in 1924. Unlike nylon, rayon absorbs water.
a powerful colour, referring usually either to fire (sun, light, the bridal torch, burning passion, sexual excitement, joy) or blood (blood-lust, warlike passions, rivalries, sacrifice, martyrdom etc). Alchemic: masculinity; Amerindian: Joy; Buddhist, the life force; Chinese: the sun, summer; Christian: Christ’s blood, zeal, martyrdom (hence saints' days are printed in red and known as red letter days); Greek: active masculine (as opposed to passive royal purple); Mayan: victory; red with white can signify death, or with white and black can signify three stages of initiation.
Sacred Geometry
An ancient science devoted to the mathematical order that underpins the universe. The main streams are Babylonian, Pythagorean and Hindu.
An early complex weave found in antiquity.
Screen Printing
Method where ink is forced through a design-bearing screen made of silk or other material onto the material to be printed.
signifies totality, the first number to contain both the spiritual and the temporal; there are seven pillars of wisdom, seven heavens, seven hells, etc.; Buddhist: seven steps of Buddha; Christian: God is the 7th ray in the centre of the six rays of creation, 7th day the day of rest, seven Sacraments, seven cardinal virtues and deadly sins.
A type of resist dyeing in which certain areas on the cloth are restricted from dyeing by binding dots, stitching, or clamping and squeezing the cloth between boards. Different from other dyeing techniques, shibori creates a raised and wrinkled surface on the finished work.
Silk Routes; Silk Road
broad term used to describe the main trading routes (and their key trading posts) reaching from the Roman Empire to the Far East via the Middle East and Central Asia. Centuries of trading along these routes resulted in a widespread exchange of ideas and influences, many of which are apparent in textiles.
Symbolizes perfection, totality, productivity. China: the four directions, plus the realm above and the realm below, make six; Christian/Hebrew: six days of creation.
An ancient Persian civilization sited in Bukhara, Samarkand and Kesh, in what is now Uzbekistan. The Sogdians occupied an important position on the Silk Road and therefore played a significant part in facilitating trade between China and Central Asia.
Six-pointed. The Six Pointed Star has its roots in sacred geometry, its power having been realized in India, China, Egypt, Persia, Greece and by Jews, Christians, Moslems, Freemasons, Witches and Alchemists. A Six Pointed Star is composed of two triangles, the upward triangle representing male, the downward triangle being female. From the transcendent central point a third triangle is formed representing God. In all cultures it is sacred and represents man and woman in the universe with God.
Technique of weaving long, narrow strips, which are then sewn together, so that a larger cloth is produced.
An embroidered wall hanging originating in Uzbekistan or Northern Tajikistan.
symbolizes divinity, the cosmos. Islam and Christianity: the basis of "tithing"; Christianity: ten commandments. Hindu: multiples of ten, e.g. 100s, 1000s, form the basis of cosmology.
Described by Aristotle as 'the first number to which the word "all" is applied' three symbolizes multiplicity, creative power, Father-Mother-Son. Christian: The Holy Trinity; African: the three-personed moon goddess; Buddhist: the Three Precious Jewels, namely the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha.
Dying technique, where the cloth is tied in various ways before dying, to create a particular pattern.
an emblem popular in many cultures, with a wide variety of possible meanings depending on the context. In the positive sense it represents strength, martial prowess, authority; in the negative sense, cruelty, elemental danger and destruction. In Chinese Buddhism it is one of The Three Senseless Creatures: the Tiger (anger), the Monkey (greed), the deer (love-sickness).
Tree of Life
An ancient and near-universal image of spiritual and temporal growth, common to most major cultures and belief systems, most notably Amerindian, Norse, Islamic, Asian and Judaeo-Christian. In Islam (as a design on carpets, palampores etc) it refers to the Celestial Tree in the Gardens of Paradise. See The Tree of Life, Image of the Cosmos, by Roger Cook, Avon, London 1974.
The Turks prized tulips for their beauty and perfection, and held them up as examples of the perfection of God's creations. Eventually tulips came to be thought of as the flowers of God, and were strongly symbolic. The Turks also associated the tulip with God since the Turkish word for tulip, lale, and Allah are composed of several of the same letters. Tulips were brought from Constantinople to Antwerp in 1562, marketed as a rarity, giving rise to "tulip madness", a flurry of trading and speculation in the flower that finally crashed in 1637.
Symbolizes, duality, alternation. Hindu: duality of man and woman; Islam: the Spirit; Tao: the yin-yang.
the colour of intelligence, knowledge, priestly rule (Christian), imperial authority (Graeco-Roman). Violet can also signify fasting, penitence, sorrow, mourning.
Wax resist
A technique in which a wax-based medium is used to create a pattern on fabric. The wax' resists' the subsequent dyeing process and thus a pattern is created.
Symbolizes non-existence, nothingness, the void