Cloth Cultures
curated by Amber Butchart

In the Cloth Cultures exhibition, fashion historian Amber Butchart explores movement, migration and making through cloth, using pieces found in the Gawthorpe Textiles Collection, to tell the stories behind what we wear. Focussing on four fabrics – silk, linen, wool and cotton - she investigates the global strands of local stories that link Lancashire, at the heart of the textile industry in Britain, to areas throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas. 

To discover more, listen to the Cloth Cultures podcast, where Amber speaks to artists, historians, makers, and scientists to shed light on our textile history. Available wherever you get your podcasts. 










The Gawthorpe Textiles Collection was amassed by Rachel Kay-Shuttleworth, the last resident of Gawthorpe Hall, over the course of her lifetime, comprising around 11,000 items spanning lace, embroidery, woven and printed materials, costume, accessories, books, tools and other craft related items from across the world. Artefacts range from the highly functional to the finest decorative or ceremonial pieces and span five centuries.

Rachel was interested in the everyday textiles which filled Lancashire homes, as well as those made by skilled craftsmen and women from across the globe. Many of the pieces in the collection were donated by her well-connected and well-travelled friends. She often used the objects in the collection to teach various textile techniques.

Following Rachel’s death in 1967 the collection continued to grow and now stands at over 30,000 items which are housed at Gawthorpe Hall, Burnley.



Amber Butchart is a curator, writer and broadcaster who specialises in the cultural and political history of textiles and dress. She is a former Research Fellow at the University of the Arts London, and is a regular public lecturer across the UK’s leading arts institutions. She researches and presents documentaries for television and radio, including the six-part series A Stitch in Time for BBC Four that fused biography, art and the history of fashion to explore the lives of historical figures through the clothes they wore. Amber is an external adviser for the National Crime Agency as a Forensic Garment Analyst, working on cases that require investigation of clothing and textiles. She has published five books on the history and culture of clothes, including The Fashion of Film, Nautical Chic, and a history of British fashion illustration for the British Library.