The Wheelwright & his Lad; A Working Smock
Oh I do love a smock! But having examined so many over the years, I like to look for something special, and in this one, there is! See the spoked circles making the main embroidery design? Well, these are to signify a 19th Century wheelwright, a maker of wheels. Whether wheels for carts or wheels for carriages, everyone in 19th Century England required wheels. Every tradesman had their own symbol, a discreet language that is a study in it's own right.
This is a small version, so probably for the Wheelwright's son, or maybe an apprentice. One thing for sure - it was constructed, smocked and embroidered purely in linen thread, which may have even been homespun. And the work was completed by a man. Probably the wheelwright! The stitching wonderfully subtle but masculine, nothing like the light touch of a female. But tactile and equally fine.
If you read my blog written on 16th May 2016, you will see just how special these antique textiles are. If you like authentic rural artifacts. You can almost smell the grass and the soil on them [if you have a good imagination!] Made entirely of squares and rectangles, every inch of fabric being used with no waste.
The linen of this piece appears coarse, but is actually very soft and supple.
Another delightful but classic feature is that the front and back are identical - this is so that the smock could be turned back to front once one side became soiled or worn - so clever! [This smock is excellent on both sides though, so probably not worn for very long.]
Here, the smocking is a simple design but in all the right places - to the centre front and back panels, at the tops of each arm, and above each cuff also, to give the sleeves a nice full effect. Then of course, the smocking is surrounded by flat embroidery, which is where we find the cartwheels; to the collar parts, shoulders and flanks [called Boxes as you will read in my Blog]
A completely charming garment, all hand made, and for a young boy just beginning his working life.
It measures just 28" long at centre front and back, and the underarm sleeves are 14" long, not including the cuffs.
Really in excellent antique condition, especially for a working garment, I have found one very small wear hole to the 'skirt'.
No other damage at all, the slightest hint of age discolouration which just adds to the appeal, these pieces are completely washable by hand but you will not believe how clean it is!
The cuff buttons are missing, I will possibly be able to find a couple to send with it.