Ruskin Library


Ruskin Research


22 April - 13 September 2013

'Teaching silkworms to spin': Ruskin and Textiles

Reacting against the ugliness he saw around him – particularly poverty and pollution – the great Victorian critic of culture, John Ruskin, began to teach about what we now call ethical consumerism.  For Ruskin, ‘the simplest example’ of this, ‘which we can all understand’,  is ‘the art of dress’.  He explained this ideal of ethics and clothing in simple terms to an eight-year old niece, telling her a story of  ‘how the Fairies teach silkworms to spin the silk‘ used in dresses for girls.  The lessons that emerge from this are that textiles should be inspired by nature; sustainable and environmentally friendly; community-focussed; regional and rooted in the local; simple, yet aesthetically pleasing; and  flawed (utter perfection is the work of machines). 

W.G. Collingwood

W.G. Collingwood: Interior, with woman at a spinning wheel

This exhibition, the first ever dedicated to Ruskin and cloth, explores these ideas through related paintings and drawings of the Victorian era, books and manuscripts, and textiles inspired by Ruskin.  Items on display include the rarely-seen dress designed by the celebrated illustrator Kate Greenaway for the May Queen Festival at Whitelands College; examples of work from the Langdale Linen and Ruskin Lace industries, including original embroidery patterns and items made from them; and contemporary items made by the Lancs and Lakes Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers.  The exhibition will appeal to anyone with an interest in textiles or ethical consumerism and is appropriate for visitors of all ages.

Audrey Pemberton - Ruskin Lace Box

Audrey Pemberton: Ruskin Lace Box

Opening times:
Gallery: -
Monday-Friday 10am-4pm - during Exhibitions (closed weekends and Bank Holidays)
Reading Room: - Monday-Friday 10am-4pm - (by appointment only)

Read Ruskin Library News
Lancaster University Logo

Ruskin Library - Lancaster University - Bailrigg - Lancaster - LA1 4YH - England
Tel: +44 (0) 1524 593587 - e-mail:

Visit our Facebook page

Text and images (c) The Ruskin Library (Lancaster University) unless otherwise stated
Webpages created by Jen Shepherd (Ruskin Library)