A Christmas Tale With "No More Twist!"

December 16, 2019 2 Comments

A Christmas Tale With

I've had a copy of "The Tailor of Gloucester" (Written by Beatrix Potter in 1901) since my late teens we didn't read these lovely little books when we were children preferring to play outdoors then read indoors. I only picked up the book to read it last night and had a lovely time sitting next to a log burner reading Christmas tales.

(Given as a present from Potter to ten-year-old Freda Moore, the daughter of her former governess.)

Inside the books cover a dedication to Freda Moore.


Beatrix Potters tale was based on a real story involving a Tailor in Gloucester called John Prichard (1877–1934) John was commissioned to make a suite for the new Mayor of Gloucester and on a Saturday he left the suit cut out ready to start sewing on the following Monday morning but when he came in on the Monday the Suit was completely finished apart from a note attached saying "No more twist" to finish off a button hole. Of course it was his assistants who worked through the night and not tiny mice with nibble fingers, John was keen to encourage a fiction that fairies had done the work and the incident became a local legend. Beatrix heard about this story when staying with her cousin Caroline Hutton in Gloucestershire and was inspired to re-imagining the story for her young friend with mice not human assistants.

See the detail in the water colour you can even see individual stitches.

The Tailor of Gloucester what a delightful little book by Beatrix Potter. We've all been there "No more twist!" I don't know about you but when I'm running out of thread I work faster, as though to outrun it's running out, but for the Tailor of Gloucester this was more alarming.

The Story In Short.

An elderly Tailor in Gloucester sends his cat Simpkin to buy food and a twist of cherry coloured silk to complete a commissioned by the mayor for his wedding on Christmas morning. Whilst Simpkin is gone, the tailor finds mice the cat has imprisoned under teacups. The mice are released and scamper away, but turn back when they hear the Tailor taking in his sleep about the work to be completed.

When Simpkin returns and finds his mice gone, he hides the twist in a teapot in anger.

The tailor that night falls ill and is unable to complete the waistcoat in the deadline, but, upon returning to his shop on Christmas morning, he is surprised to find the waistcoat finished. The work has been done by the grateful mice. However, one buttonhole remains unfinished because there was "no more twist!"

Simpkin gives the tailor the twist to complete the work and the success of the waistcoat makes the tailor's fortune.

The book is based in the 18th century, a time if you had a fortune you could could be quite the Dandy. Beatrix Potter must of had an insight into a Tailors skills. Beatrix Potter went on study visits to the V&A Museum, (London, England) to sketch and see close up the details in the clothing from this time.

Detail from 1780 Man's suit, cream Silk Satin embroidered coat and waistcoat with brightly coloured embroidery worked in silk floss thread. Images taken on a field trip to The Fashion Museum of Bath in 2018.

This French Waistcoat (1790's) is stunning, white taffeta, embroidered with coloured silk floss depicting animals in a hunt and exotic plant and flowers. Part of the V&A collections.

Pattern courtesy of the Met Museum.

Shown here the pattern, painted out by an artist on Satin Silk and mounted on slate frames, each part is embroidered with Silk floss using Embroidery techniques like long and short and satin stitch.

Courtesy of, collection.cooperhewitt.org

Finished embroidered pattern before cutting out to make into the Waistcoat, sadly never made up and finished.

This amazing jacket was owned by Napolean Bonaparte, 1800 from the Chateau de Malmaison Costume Collection, this beautifully embroidered jacket was given by the city of Lyon to the first consul in 1800.

Potter gave a copy of the book to her Chelsea tailor who, in turn, displayed it to a representative of the trade journal, The Tailor & Cutter. The journal's review appeared on Christmas Eve 1903.

We think it is by far the prettiest story connected with tailoring we have ever read, and as it is full of that spirit of Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men, we are not ashamed to confess that it brought the moisture to our eyes, as well as the smile to our face. It is got up in choicest style and illustrated by twenty-seven of the prettiest pictures it is possible to imagine.

I was myself a Tailoress assistant for many years and reading the book I found myself also nodding and smiling remembering the deadlines, working late and sometimes all-nighters. But always the best of fun and the best of company. I look back with happy memories.


2 Responses

Tina Rhea
Tina Rhea

January 18, 2022

A fine story, but two paragraphs below the “No more twist” illustration: “Beatrix Potter must of had an insight into a Tailors skills.” Must I point out that it is “must have had”? And the last paragraph: “I was myself a Tailoress assistant”— I assume you mean “tailor’s”. Other than that, I enjoyed reading the story, and your illustrations are wonderful. Thank you.

Lisa  Ryan
Lisa Ryan

January 18, 2022

What a beautiful story! I have always loved Beatrix Potter’s stories and I stitched bibs and such from kits featuring her characters for my daughter after she was born (alas, 37 years ago—time does fly!).

The photographs of the suit and waistcoat are so beautiful; what a lovely thing to behold. One of my great dreams is to visit England and continue my ancestry searches. Your photographs have added another dimension to my dream, visiting the Fashion Museum of Bath!

Your crewel designs are some of the most beautiful I have ever seen. I can’t wait to receive my order and get started on these original creations.

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