It’s tempting to believe COVER’s devotion to its readers means we are chained to our desks rather like folios in Hereford Cathedral’s medieval library, but we do get out. Yesterday your scribe was at the British Museum for the press preview of Shakespeare Staging the World. Yes, we are devotees of contemporary and modern carpets and textiles, but as any good designer will confirm, a knowledge of history is no bad thing. So with weave in mind, here’s a few exhibition objects that caught our eye.

In Shakespeare’s time you needed to guard yourself against cut purses and conny catchers, and a four foot long steel blade rapier would be a huge deterrent and possibly a guarantee you wouldn’t need a trouserful of mugger’s money. Difficult to see, but the wooden grip of this circa 1600 rapier is covered in fine metal filigree wire woven in a basket weave pattern.

The 16th century Sheldon Tapestry map is wool with a fillip of silk to highlight key areas. Each of the four sections records a different English county and were made on a frame or a loom. The design was transferred onto the warp threads from a full scale drawing, possibly using a pounce bag. Here is COVER’s view of the top of the tapestry viewed against the oculus of the Round Reading Room exhibition area.

Yes, it looks like a burned pie, but a flat cap like this brown wool knitted and felted version (with some silk) was de rigueur male gear in mid to late 16th c England. Prescribed by Parliamentary statute as Sunday and holiday wear between 1571 and 1597, the statute helped support the native wool industry.

The objects in the exhibition run a wide date gamut reflecting the diversity of Shakespeare’s subjects. The Tempest features an island with resident witch, similar to Circe in this Greek Black figured skyphos (450-420 BC). See the big boar next to Circe’s warp-weighted loom? Used to be a man before he drank the witch’s poison brew. You can just see Odysseus to the left look nervously at Circe while he declines the poisoned cup. “Thirsty? No ta. I’ll grab a brew back on the boat”. Mwahaha! There’s quite a few witchy things in the Shakespeare show, so if like your scribe you’re drawn to goth-like evil doings, book your ticket now. Don’t be that person who waits until the last day. DJ

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