Merton celebrates heritage through textile exhibition

Merton Council will be celebrating Merton’s textile heritage with its River and Cloth exhibition from 17-23 September at Merton Abbey Mills.

The exhibition will be housed in a marquee at Merton Abbey Mills, Watermill Way and will showcase Merton’s rich heritage in textile design and printing techniques. As part of the exhibition visitors will be able to participate in workshops and learn about local history, handling artefacts, hand embroidery and traditional dyeing techniques. Visitors will also be able to learn about the legendary textile designer William Morris, whose early 20th century print works were near Abbey Mills.

Workshops are as follows:
Friday 17 September; 2:30 – 4:30pm: Local history presentation and artefact handling workshop – William Morris expert Brian Daubney evokes Merton’s past and curators from the William Morris Gallery will present and discuss objects from their collection.

Saturday 18 September; 2:00 – 4:00pm – Free drop-in stitch workshop in hand embroidery and applique techniques – led by artist Madeline Herbert

Sunday 19 September; 2:00 – 4:00pm – Free drop-in dye workshop in using traditional dye plants to colour fabric – led by Artist Viv Philpot

The exhibition is the culmination of the 18-month River and Cloth arts project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and co-ordinated by the council. Since it started, 2,000 people have benefited from the practical and theoretical workshops. The project has allowed people to explore the innovative textile industry of Merton from the 17th century onwards. It has also brought to life the stories of William Morris, who moved his workshops to Merton High Street in the late 19th century, Arthur Liberty who had prints and textiles produced at Merton Abbey Mills to sell in his famous Liberty store and the groups of Huguenot refugees who settled in the Wandle Valley area and became dyers, bleachers and print-makers.

From the 4 – 18 October, selected works from the exhibition will be showcased at Donald Hope, Pollards Hill, Morden and Mitcham libraries.

Merton Council cabinet member for community and culture Councillor Martin Whelton said: “River and Cloth has been a fantastic project. Our heritage for textiles is rich and worth exploring and this project has provided that special spark for people who want to find out more about the industrial history of where they live.”

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In addition to the exhibition, Merton’s Celebrating Age Festival will give the borough’s over 50s the chance to have a go at block printing. This workshop will be led by Artist Sandrine Case on Thursday 23 September, 9.30am until midday at Mitcham Library.