Monday, 16 May 2011

Biased Opinion

Sorting out some craft bits at the weekend, I found this label lurking at the back of a cupboard


I have no idea what happened to the binding around which it was originally wrapped, I suspect I used it years ago.

I do not even know what colour the binding was.

But the wording and the design fascinated me, so I did a bit of research into the “Wreath and Lion” brand.

This was the trade mark of W Williams, a company based in Bread Street London, for over 120 years [till the Blitz!] whose website declares…

“The oldest and most respected Haberdashery Wholesale Distributors in Great Britain. Our Lion Brand has been a sign of Quality and Service since 1819”

The website is fascinating, and has some contemporary craft videos as well as the history of the company.


Soft edge folded bias binding” I understood, but wasn’t so sure about “highly mercerised nainsook. To mercerise cotton is to treat it with a caustic alkali substance, such as sodium hydroxide. This will shrink the fibres, make it stronger and give it a lustrous appearance.

And nainsook is the name of a type of softly woven muslin  cotton. The name comes from the Hindi word nainsukh, which means pleasant to the eye.

W Williams deems it to be ‘a Beautiful Binding for All Purposes’. The company is very proud of its heritage, declaring

“For the sake of those who may remember, we mention as Notions 'Vorwerks Skirt Bands', 'Breeze Hat Grip', 'Gairs Blouse Grip', 'Fibre Chamoise', 'Leopold Skirt Grip', all of which we introduced to the British market and were the sole suppliers for Great Britain and the Colonies as they were called in Victorian days. “

I am afraid I do not remember any of those things! Originally haberdashery ‘notions’ were called ‘smallwares’


Here is a wonderful advertisement from the “Forfar Directory and Yearbook of 1887” which actually mentions Vorwerk’s Patent Skirt and Dress Bands – so presumably Mssrs Thom & Barclay up there in Scotland were purchasing their smallwares from the company in Bread Street!

Another bit of trivia – the poets John Milton and John Donne were both born in Bread St

Somehow “I visited a ‘Mercers, Milliners and Mantle-makers’ for my paletot and window hollands” is much more exotic than saying “I popped out to Marks&Sparks for a new jacket and a kitchen blind”


  1. What a lovely post Angela - have to say 'Leopard Skirt Grip' conjures up a picture though :)

  2. Oh, for the old days when things were carefully made to last.

  3. Stays and umbrellas in the same list...I suppose the construction of each was similar!
    Jane x


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