Highlighting Historical Romance with Bronwyn Parry on historical wool textiles.
Calamanco, camblet, lastings, shalloons… chances are, you may never have heard these terms. They’re the names of various worsted (wool) textiles that have virtually disappeared from our cultural memory, and yet they were once so common that everyone in Georgian and Regency Britain would have recognized both the names and the fabrics. Alas, very few of these textiles have survived 200 years. Most were ‘everyday’ textiles, used for clothing and furnishings, and weren’t treasured the same way that fancier silks or fine muslins were. And, being wool, moths find them very tasty indeed!
As a spinner and a weaver, I’ve always been fascinated by historical textiles and clothing and I researched these worsted textiles for my Honors thesis some years ago. Fortunately, some have survived in the sample books of clothiers of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Sample books are like catalogs, with small rectangles of cloth pasted in, and details of width, length and price per yard. It was fascinating to see these samples of fabric – many of them very fine, with a high level of skill in both spinning and weaving. And all done by hand!
By the late 1700s the Industrial Revolution was underway, with machine-spun and woven cotton fabrics becoming cheaper and cheaper to produce – and thus more attractive to the growing population of the UK.
I argued in my thesis that most of the fine worsted fabrics couldn’t be replicated by machine, and that is why they’d disappeared by the 1840s. I often wondered about the people who produced them, the clothiers that organized the spinners and weavers, and what happened to them when cotton took over – and so that’s part of the background to my Regency romance, The Clothier’s Daughter.
About the Book
In the unseasonable summer of 1816, Emma Braithwaite struggles to keep her family’s traditional wool cloth manufacturing company afloat. Her father has died, her brother is missing, and the new cotton factories are spreading, rendering the fine worsted fabrics the Braithwaites have made for generations, expensive and unfashionable. Being a woman in a man’s world of trade is challenging enough, but when her warehouse catches fire it brings her only a step away from financial ruin and debtor’s prison.
After eight years of war, Major Adam Caldwell is returning for the first time to his family home, Rengarth Castle, when he stops to assist at a warehouse fire … and comes face-to-face with the woman he once loved and lost. Despite all his efforts to forget her, in truth she’s never been far from his thoughts. He was unworthy of her then, and even more so now.
But as the threats against Emma escalate, they discover that someone wants control of Emma’s family company and is prepared to murder anyone in the way of getting it – including Emma.
About the Author
Bronwyn Parry has written six romantic thrillers set in outback Australia, and has won or been a finalist in numerous awards, including winning the Australian Romance Readers award for Favourite Romantic Suspense three times. In 2019, she published her first Regency romance, The Clothier’s Daughter, drawing on her long interest in social history. As a textile and costume historian, she volunteers at a local museum documenting the clothing collection, and she enjoys researching and making historical clothing, particularly using authentic techniques. In addition to writing more books in her planned Regency series, The Hartdale Brides, her bucket list includes one day spinning, weaving, dyeing and stitching an entire late 18th century outfit – but that might have to wait a while, since there are so many books to write!