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Colouring the Nation – Turkey Red in Scotland

‘Turkey red is a bright red fabric dyeing process, typically used on cotton cloth and yarn and produced in large quantities in the nineteenth century’… and also the opening sentence to this fabulous new book: Colouring the Nation, The Turkey Red Printed Cotton Industry in Scotland c.1840 – 1940 by Stana Nenadic and Sally Tuckett.

Early on in the project the authors visited Bradford to view the Turkey Red collection in the SDC archive.  Our well documented collection enabled Stana and Sally to fill gaps in their knowledge and also, through looking at development of the designs, place the National Museums Scotland’s collection into a more chronological order.  The book acknowledges the support of Richard Ashworth (Colour Experience Manager) and the SDC, and the importance of these accessible digital archives.

Richard also provided workshops and activities to support the community engagement aspects of the project, and was also able to link Sally and Stana with a similar textile heritage project based nearby in Glasgow.

Published as the culmination of a two-year collaborative research project between the University of Edinburgh and the National Museums Scotland, this lavishly illustrated book describes in detail the development and scale of this important area of Scottish Textile Heritage. With chapters covering the big names in the industry, the dyeing and printing processes, the designs and the distribution this book contains a wealth of carefully researched and detailed information.

Stana, Professor of Social and Cultural History at the University of Edinburgh, was Principal Investigator on this project funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh.  Sally is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Edinburgh.

More details on the project can be found at colouringthenation.wordpress.com, including an online exhibition of over 500 designs, based on a collection of 200 pattern books, known as the Turkey Red Collection, which was acquired by National Museums Scotland following the demise of the industry in Scotland in 1961.  The book is a National Museums Scotland publication, available from www.nms.ac.uk/books

Interested in historical textile archives?

The SDC archive, composed almost entirely of material loaned or donated by members, is a widely respected and vital resource. The support that we have been able to provide to the authors through maintaining a valuable and accessible archive collection is an important aspect of our work as an educational charity.

Part of our archives is held at Bradford College Textile Archive. They contain a wealth of information about 150 years of textile manufacture with products as diverse as fine silk, rayon, mohair, velvets and worsted cloth.  Bradford College act as custodians for the amazing Turkey Red collection.

The collection includes pattern books, colour cards, student workbooks, company documents and trade journals.

The archive of the SDC includes dyers notebooks and recipes. Also papers documenting the day-to-day dealings of various textile trade organisations in Bradford district (minute books and cash records) plus text books and trade journals such as Wool Record (from 1913) the Journal of the Textile Institute, Textile Month, Wool Science Review and Textile Horizon.

For further information about access to the archive please contact Helen Farrar, Curator or the Textile Archive at the college on h.farrar@bradfordcollege.ac.uk.  If you’re interested in SDC’s archive and ongoing digitization programme, please contact Richard Ashworth: richarda@sdc.org.uk


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