Simple Direction in Needle-Work… with specimens Executed by the Pupils of The National Model Female School (Kildare, Ireland), £8500 at Mellors & Kirk.

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Sally and Marion Foale were at the heart of the youth fashion revolution of that era, known for their “lively, graphic and very wearable clothes for women”, says the V&A. They sold through department stores and their own shop just off London’s Carnaby Street.

Tuffin was later partner and design director of the Moorcroft Pottery from 1986-93, when she founded Dennis Chinaworks with her husband Richard Dennis.

Several items of vintage textiles/needlework from her collection came up for sale at Mellors & Kirk (20% buyer’s premium) in Nottingham on August 15-17.

It is a field which is experiencing a revival for the best examples. Collectors look for stories and sentiment: charities, poor schools and similar backgrounds make for heartfelt purchases.

Sold for £8500 (estimate £4000-6000) in the auction was Simple Direction in Needle-Work and Cutting Out; Intended for the use of the National Female Schools of Ireland together with Specimens of Works Executed by the Pupils of The National Model Female School (the Quaker-established Kildare Academy/ Kildare Place Society).

It was published by ‘Direction of the Commissioners of National Education in Ireland, et al’, 1846. The model schools were set up to promote the education of the poor. They often taught needlework, as did orphanages and workhouses, with the aim of providing girls with a skill for gainful employment.

And Mellors & Kirk noted: “There are several tantalising indications that this finely bound copy of a usually more restrained volume, two of which have been sold in these rooms before (a c.1836 edition, July 2022, and the 1853 edition, January 2023), might have been a copy presented to Queen Victoria during her 1849 visit to Ireland.”

Another Tuffin lot, sold for a top-estimate £5000, was a rare early 19th century industrial school teacher’s specimen portfolio. A tacked-on sampler states: “The following specimens of needle work were executed by Isabella Erskine, Teacher of Industrial Schools Patronized by Count and Countess De Salis…”

In July last year the saleroom sold Specimens of Needle-Work Executed in the Female Model School, Kildare-Place, Dublin. Published as a fundraiser in c.1836 by the Dublin printer George Folds on behalf of the Society for the Promotion of Education of the Poor of Ireland, it took £7000 from an online buyer (see front page, ATG No 2552).