Whitework cushion with monogrammed ‘J’

Whitework cushion with embroidered monogram

Whitework cushion with embroidered monogram

It is both perverse and paradoxical that in thinking about yet another white cushion I found myself reaching for a book entitled ‘Colour’ by Victoria Finlay (published by Sceptre, 2002). I love the genre of which this book is a fine example in which travel, aesthetics and a heck of a lot of information come tumbling pell mell out of well written and researched investigations and I love this book in particular for the author’s curiosity in following all sorts of lines of enquiry no matter where they led, whether it be to the caves of  Dunhuang on the Silk Road in present day China or into the back streets of Hong Kong in the search for the poisonous pigments of orpiment and gamboge.

Whitework monogram 'J'  hand embroidered on a linen union cushion

Whitework monogram ‘J’ hand embroidered on a linen union cushion

Lead was notoriously a prime and poisonous ingredient in white paint and most people over 30 will remember its  use in this way being banned,  so I was surprised to read that it is still permitted in paint for the use on the exterior of Grade 1 & Grade 2* houses. I have mentioned the paint company Farrow and Ball and their multitudes of ‘white’ paints before in my blogs and reading the blurb on the back of their paint charts is a potted history lesson in itself. ‘String’ began life under the Colefax and Fowler guru John Fowler as ‘Straw Left out in the Rain’ while ‘Clunch’ comes from East Anglian slang for a piece of chalk used in building. Slipping sideways from shades on white into cream, I can’t resist telling the story I was once told about the painting of  houses in London’s Regent’s Park. All those wonderful Nash terraces, along with the cottages of Park Villages East and West, have it in their lease agreement that they have to be painted Crown Cream.  Some innocent leaseholder living in one of these desirable properties is said to have sent his decorator out to buy the best cream paint that the paint company Crown could supply but as painting progressed, it  became apparent that it was not the same cream as houses nearby. Consternation and further investigation revealed the sad fact that the crown in question was the royal crown and that Crown Cream was the singular creation of the Crown Estates which administered Crown Properties. The story may be apocryphal but too good not to retell. Whites can be very confusing and even as I write this I realize that the above cushion is not unambiguously white, being is more towards the cream end of the white spectrum. 

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  1. Rumple Chinwag
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    Superb and fascinating! I am tempted to have a go at reproducing your cushion, but with monogrammed ‘R’ or ‘C’. I wonder whether I could keep it clean…

    • Mary Addison
      Posted June 25, 2013 at 7:23 am | Permalink

      Thanks for your kind comments. Do pick up your needle and get started.

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