Gifts Fit for a Queen

Province’s Royal Gift Completed After Long And Exacting Work

(News clipping found in an order book, Loomcrofters Studio Collection, 23 October 1951)

Two Handwoven Motor Rugs To Be Presented By Premier

By Marianne Grey Otty

RCAF Tartan detail from the replica motor rug, 1951-1952

RCAF Tartan detail from the replica motor rug, 1951-1952

Gagetown, Oct. 23 – (Special)- The glancing shuttle of history wove a golden thread into the traditions of this old Loyalist-founded village of Gagetown today. This was the day on which The Loomcrofters put their last stitch into a pair of motor rugs, handwoven for England’s future Queen, Princess Elizabeth and her Consort, the Duke of Edinburgh which will be presented by Premier J.B. McNair at Fredericton Nov. 6.

Only those who have done intricate weaving can realize the difficulties of the happy task accomplished by Miss Patricia Jenkins and Miss Muriel G. Laurence in producing the two perfectly matched replicas of the coat of arms of New Brunswick which adorn the plain azure lining of the two rugs.

The tops, of Royal Canadian Air Force tartan, originated by the Loomcrofters themselves have been done by Miss Enid Inch. To her the weaving of this beautiful combination of azure, cardinal, cream (crossed out and corrected to white) and dark blue, is an old story, for she has woven over 3000 yards of this particular tartan without an error.

Commission By Premier

It was the first week in September that The Loomcrofters were commissioned by Premier McNair to make the two handwoven rugs as New Brunswick’s gift to the Royal visitors. The suggestion as to what form New Brunswick’s gift would take is credited by the premier to Hon. D.L. MacLaren, lieutenant governor of the province.

The Loomcrofters began this thrilling piece of work on Sept. 5, and now it is finished and awaiting its honored destiny as a gift “fit for a Princess.”

First to be done were the azure blue linings of finest wool. To weave the provincial coat of arms into this background was an undertaking which called for the highest degree of skill, to have copied the crest in needlepoint on a plain woven background would have been difficult enough.

Coat of Arms Used

Design process with sample of RCAF tartan and coat of arms

Design process with sample of RCAF tartan and coat of arms

To ensure absolute accuracy, the provincial coat of arms, which is kept in the vaults of the Legislative Buildings in Fredericton, was placed in the hands of the Loomcrofters for their use. An enlarged photograph was made of this, with the Royal crown placed above the coat of arms. The photograph was then traced on thin paper, to give an outline of the whole in the required size, 20 inches in depth from the top of the crown to the lower tip of the shield.

From the tracing, (handwritten note: Miss L. did this.) an enlarged chart was made on squared paper, somewhat resembling the patterns used for doing needlepoint. Using this chart, the number of stitches of each color required to produce in hand weaving a correct reproduction of New Brunswick’s Coat of Arms was worked out. A trial copy this was then woven in a width of azure blue wool; and after a few changes had been made, the actual work on the Royal rugs began.

After weaving the azure lining up to within 12 1-2 inches of the centre, the weave was changed to a double twill, and the difficult task of incorporating the coat of arms into the cloth was started. This part was made extraordinarily difficult because the pattern had to be put in from the back of the web. What the finished work was going to be like could only be ascertained by dividing the threads of the warp and holding a hand mirror underneath. However, when the web was removed from the loom not an error was found.

Replica motor rug, 1951-1952

Replica motor rug, 1951-1952

To add further to the difficulty of the work, the lengthwise of the coat of arms was placed across the centre of the rugs so that the crown would be upright when the rugs were laid across the Royal knees.

This caused many more changes of color in placing the threads in the design than if the coat of arms had been upright on the lengthwise of the robes.

All Threads Counted

Every thread woven into each coat of arms had to be counted one by one. While Miss Jenkins wove the coat of arms into the cloth, it was Miss Laurence’s part to sit beside her and call out the colors and the number of threads— “red, two threads; ruby, one thread; blue, 13 threads.” Hour after hour this went on. Proceeding at such a careful pace, only about one inch could be done across the rug in a day. The two estimate that it took 66 weaving hours to produce one crest. Their “day” in recent weeks has lasted from 8 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

In the midst of this work, so weighted with importance and responsibility, the usual activities of the Loomcroft went on, – visitors were met, orders completed and parcels sent out; but hurried though their tension-filled hours were The Loomcrofters sent out word to the school children to come and weave a few threads each in the “Princess’s rug.”

The children came by the half-dozen, both boys and girls, eager to take advantage of the opportunity. “I made one of the lion’s whiskers!” exclaimed one little girl delightedly. This experience will be something for them to remember—a link between them and Canada’s Queen-to-be, for the rest of their lives. Former English women were among the fortunate older people who wove a bit of ermine, or put a jewel in the Royal crown, while The Loomcrofters guided each thread.

There are 14 shades in the coats of arms—three of green, for the sea; pearl gray for these jewels around the curves of the crown; two shades of grey for the ships and her sails; white for the ermine; black for emphasis in border, fur and dividing lines; red, ruby and emerald green for the Crown jewels; and three shades of gold in the British lion and the background. A rich effect has been produced.

The completed rugs, seven feet long and 40 inches wide, are finished with a deep, thick fringe, made by knotting the fringe from the tartan with that of the azure lining.

The presentation to Princess Elizabeth, November 1951

The presentation to Princess Elizabeth, November 1951, with Miss Jenkins and Miss Inch

It was early in October, 1944, that Princess Alice and the Earl of Athlone, then governor-general of Canada, visited the Loomcrofters, and expressed delight in the quality and beauty of the handicrafts they saw there. Among the things they ordered was a tartan for Princess Margaret Rose. It was from a suggestion made by Princess Alice that the idea of the new and distinctive R.C.A.F tartan (handwritten note: in car rugs) was evolved. This tartan, registered in Edinburgh, became the official tartan of the R.C.A.F and was first used by Pipe Band No. 9, at Centralia, Ont.

When H.R.H. Princess Elizabeth and her consort, the Duke of Edinburgh return to England with the Loomcrofter rugs from New Brunswick, we can be sure that Princess Alice will greet the work with the appreciation and understanding of an old friend.

For more information about the rugs or the Loomcrofters Studio Project, contact info@queenscountyheritage.com

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