Linen damask designs from Victorian and Edwardian times often feature wonderful fronds of ferns, woven in sinuous borders or decorating medallions in centre of banqueting cloths. Here are just a couple of examples of fern napkins and cloths which have made their way into the Revived Damask collection here at McBurney and Black.
I was intrigued as to how this plant In particular seemed to appear so often on some of the finest pieces. So I began to do some research.......
As you would expect fashion trends and crazes are nothing new. But it would appear that back in the mid 1800s a craze took hold of Victorian England which was to last for over 50 years and which had huge influence in the world not only of botany, but also the decorative arts. The fern motif was presented in many different ways on pottery, glass, wood, printed paper and of course, textiles.
Some of the designs are just breathtaking in the detail; look at the centre of the napkin at the bottom of this group of photos - simply stunning and so accurately reproduced.
Pteridomania was a word coined in 1855 by The writer Charles Kingsley and at the height of the craze in the 1870s Britain was importing the plants from as far afield as Brazil, the Philippines and Tasmania.
I think I'll stick with Fern Fever, just a little easier to pronounce! But I am so glad I took the time to find out more about this fascination with the plant.
And I love that fine linens continue to feature these delightful leaves in some of the napkins and placemats available today. Nina Campbell has a gorgeous design in her collection, not only embroidered in green, but also in silver and soft gold - just gorgeous.