Aug 15

Paisley: The Town That Thread Built

 

 

 

Paisley has been all over my Twitter feed recently because it’s been shortlisted for City of Culture 2021. I’m definitely keeping my fingers crossed for it. And if you want to know why I think it deserves such an accolade then watch this delightful BBC documentary, The Town That Thread Built, which aired last night. Hint: it has something to do with J&P Coats and their magnificent thread empire.

It was fascinating to hear the memories of the women who produced Paisley’s thread (for it was mostly women), and refreshing to hear a former factory manager (a descendent of one of the original Coats founding fathers) talking enthusiastically about the unsung importance of thread – even the distinct type used to make sanitary tampons. This is just the sort of obscure textile detail that I love to hear. So, please enjoy! Sincere apologies to those outside the UK who will be unable to view it. And note that it’s only available for another 28 days.

I was pleased to see a box of J&P Coats Bear thread featured prominently a couple of times in this film; in terms of design, this is one of my favourite antique reels, and I’ve had a full box (see below) tucked away in the Museum of Haberdashery the for some years now. The pink, dyed reels and orange thread are also a salutary reminder that the past was often more colourful than we tend to imagine.

 

Vintage haberdashery

J&P Coats Extra Strong Bear Thread, made in Paisley, Scotland

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Apr 26

The Stitch Society* apron

 

 

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An array of aprons c/o The Stitch Society*

 

I’ve been on a quest for the perfect apron for a while now, and I think I’ve found a compelling solution in The Stitch Society*‘s offerings. It seemed appropriate to share details during Fashion Revolution Week when we push for fairer conditions in the garment trade.

I caught up with The Stitch Society*’s Charlotte Meek at the Selvedge Fair at the Assembly Rooms in Bath last month.

 

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Charlotte Meek of The Stitch Society* at the Selvedge Fair in Bath

 

All her aprons are individually crafted here in the UK, from robust materials and often using remnants for pocket linings, and vintage buttons to secure the straps. They’re soulful labours of love, equally perfect for the artisan maker, or just in the kitchen or craft room at home.

So, I had to come home with one.

 

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Delightful packaging – with matching pouch and ‘Friend of The Stitch Society*’ badge

 

Here’s what I love about it:

  • Robust striped twill
  • Deep, capacious pocket – lined with a remnant of fabric, in this case a vintage piece of Liberty from Charlotte’s own family scrap-bag
  • Made sustainably/fairly here in Yorkshire (‘God’s own county’, they say), UK
  • a 10-year no quibble repair guarantee

Yes, Charlotte (who loves mending) will take your apron back any time to fix it for you.

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Vintage Liberty remnant lining pocket

 

But, if you’d rather make your own apron, you can also buy their pattern here.

When it comes to sustainable, soulful aprons, I think The Stitch Society* has really got it all covered. I’m looking forward to wearing this one out. She’s called ‘Martha’, incidentally, and is dubbed ‘the workshorse of the range’. Perfect. I’ll be proudly wearing her for my next darning workshops (early June and early July) at A Yarn Story.

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Ready for work

 

Check out The Stitch Society site for further apron details.

 

 

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Mar 28

Shaping Victorian Bath

 

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I’m late plugging this, but you may be interested in a story I dug up and wrote that was happily featured on the front cover of March 2017’s The Bath Magazine. It recalls what you might call a Victorian corset entrepreneur, a German emigré named Charles Bayer, and the factory he built in Bath 125 years ago. Originally called the ‘Albion Stay Factory‘*, it was a huge success and helped turn around the city’s then slightly dwindling fortunes.

The monumental Bayer building still stands on South Quay, not too far from the railway station. So, if you’re interested in garment history and happen to be in Bath, do wander down and take a look at it – at least from the outside; it’s still occupied by businesses today – though none of the garment-making variety, as far as I know.

And if you happen to be a Bathonian and worked in (or know/knew someone who worked in) the old corset factory, then the Museum of Bath at Work would be delighted to hear from you. The factory closed 35 years ago  (1982), producing foundation underwear right up until the very end, and the museum is collecting and recording recollections of former Bath garment workers as part of its ongoing oral history project.

My grateful thanks to the wonderfully helpful local historian at Bath Central Library (which is currently at the centre of a campaign to keep it in the purpose-built location that so many Bath residents know and love) for digging out a load of old press clippings for me – plus the 1930s brochure mentioned in the article – and also to the Fashion Museum, Bath for allowing me to study a handful of WW1-era Bayer corsets that they happen to have in their collection – which will have to wait for another post to get their airing.

Anyway, here’s the article. Enjoy!

 

*on the eve of the triggering of Article 50 and Britain’s imminent departure from Europe, that’ll be my wistfully subtle Brexit link for this post

 

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Mar 27

Darning 101

 

 

I’m really happy to be offering one-off introductions to darning called ‘Darning 101’ at A Yarn Story in Bath. We hope to make this workshop a regular fixture, so if you’ve been meaning to find out how to repair the holes in your socks (or elbows), one of these would be a very good place to start.

We have three dates set up so far, all Sunday afternoons, on 2nd April, 4th June and 2nd July. More details here.

If you’re not familiar with A Yarn Story, it’s based in Bath’s artisan quarter, Walcot, and sells the most beautiful selection of small-production fine yarns. It also offers a range of crochet and knitting classes for a range of abilities. Carmen, the owner, is incredibly knowledgeable, nice and helpful too. Well worth a visit.

 

Darning 101 Workshop, A Yarn Story

Darning 101 Workshop, A Yarn Story

 

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Jan 02

American embossed wooden thread reels

 

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The Museum of Haberdashery* –  a virtual, crowd-sourced collection of sewing equipment – needs your help. What do you know about embossed wooden thread reels?

I believe that all these North American (mostly) silk reels date from the earlier part of the 20th century. The brands include some of the biggest names in North American silk thread production: Belding, Corticelli, Richardson, Coats, Clark’s (in various guises and partnerships). What they all have in common is that their reels have embossed, dyed ends rather than gummed paper labels. If you can help at all with the questions below, please do leave a comment.

 

Q1. Were embossed labels a particularly North American phenomenon? 

Q2. When and where was factory-embossing of wood introduced? 

Q3. Was embossing reserved mainly for silk thread reels?

 

It would make sense that the same or very similar technology would have been used for other wooden items such as pencils, rulers etc too. Did thread companies ever employ other companies to emboss reels for them? I’m wondering how expensive the process was, particularly in comparison with gummed labels? It would appear to have denoted a premium product – and would have carried the distinct benefit of never detaching from the reel, so there would have been some branding advantage there. From an online conversation with textile artist Hannah Lamb, I understand that silk producer Lister’s in Bradford, UK, decided to invest in such embossing technology, but I haven’t yet discovered further details. I’d be delighted if you would disclose more here, Hannah, if you could bear to!

So, any enlightenment or thoughts you can offer, fellow antique thread enthusiasts, would be really wonderful. Thank you in advance. And may I take this chance to wish you a very happy new year?  Here’s a close up of one of the more obscure reels in this selection, produced by Berkshire and Becket, a Massachusetts thread company, and featuring the wonderful slogan ‘Bountiful & Better’. Here’s hoping for a bountiful and better 2017!

 

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* You’re warmly invited to use the hashtag #museumofhaberdashery on social media to share you own sewing collection or interesting sewing-related items you’ve spotted on your travels

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Aug 24

Blackberry brownies

 

 

Brownies

Brownies

 

 

Blackberry season seems to have arrived, so here’s a magnificent way to use them.

These brownies are a-m-a-z-i-n-g. The basic recipe is now a family heirloom, developed from one my mother found in the 1970s. As an American who had moved to Europe in the late 1960s, she felt chronically frustrated by the absence of both brownies (bland British chocolate cake – more of a tinted Victoria sponge – was really no substitute) or any brownie recipes that would work with the ingredients available here. She finally found this one in a supermarket cookbook and declared that it passed muster, producing something with the necessary richness as well as the right texture: essentially a crust with some goo underneath, verging on the undercooked. 

I’ve substituted spelt for the regular wheat flour of the original recipe, but you can use almost anything to hand – rye, for instance, adds an interesting nuttiness. And I’ve added the handful of blackberries, but blackcurrants or raspberries will also work very nicely. The black fruits, in particularly, act as a wonderfully sharp foil to the rich, smothering chocolate.

This is enough to make 16 brownies. Enjoy!

 

You’ll need…

2 oz cocoa

4 oz butter

2 eggs

8 oz caster sugar

1 tspn vanilla extract

2 oz spelt flour

half a teaspoon baking powder

a handful of blackberries (or blackcurrants or raspberries – or whatever you happen to have to hand – you can use frozen ones too)

 

How to make…

1. Pre-heat oven to a moderate 180 degrees.

2. Grease and line a 20 cms/8-inch square pan with grease-proof paper/baking parchment.

3. Carefully melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat. Then add the cocoa to this and blend (it will smell really wonderful). Set aside to cool.

4. In a mixer, beat the eggs and sugar together till light and fluffy.

5. Add the cocoa/butter mixture to your eggs/sugar mix, along with the vanilla extract. Mix well.

6. Sift the flour and baking powder over this, and fold in gently.

7. Throw in a handful of blackberries (or whatever else you’re using) and fold just enough to distribute the fruit.

8. Turn into your prepared tin and bake for about half an hour. No need to test that it’s cooked all through the centre – it should be gooey, still sizzling, and be slightly squishy when you prod it.

9. Cool in the tin before cutting into 16 pieces (4×4). Drench with icing sugar and decorate with some extra fruit, if you like. I can recommend these served as a desert with more fresh fruit and a dollop of mascarpone.

 

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Aug 13

#heartstrings

 

June’s events here in the UK made pretty tough going. In our dejection at the state of the world, the regulars at the Big Mend came up with an idea: #heartstrings. We wanted to do something positive – something to celebrate connection, unity and diversity in our city – rather than sowing more division or wallowing in despair. We needed to find a way to take heart.

 

#heartstrings

The term ‘heartstrings’ originally described the nerves or tendons formerly believed to brace and sustain the heart. But it also refers to our deepest feelings of love or compassion. And ‘to hearten’ is to make more cheerful or confident.

 

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All senses held resonance for us. We wanted to join Ruth Singer in her healing idea of yarn-bombing racially or culturally sensitive parts of her locality with fabricated hearts – to craft for solidarity, as she has coined it, inspired in turn by the hashtag #randomactsofequality on social media.

Then we heard about the safety-pin campaign, a tacit way of displaying in public that one is ‘safe’ (tolerant and supportive) to anyone who might be feeling vulnerable or threatened. So, let’s join them together, we thought: solidarity, unity, community demonstrated in crafted hearts that are linked shoulder to shoulder. It all seemed to tie together.

 

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Embracing the city

So, in July we started making up #heartstrings at Protestival in Green Park Station, then had a session at the One Two Five Gallery in Abbey Green (see above). As our #heartstrings began to grow, we felt that we were metaphorically hugging our city with hearts – you can see Alison above, literally yarn-embracing ‘the hanging tree’ in Abbey Green – a tree with a troubling history as the location of the city’s public executions. 

 

Join us!

We’ve found that people really like the #heartstrings idea and want to get involved. Can you help?

We’ll really need your heartsindividually made or linked into strings. Hearts can be crafted in any material and method, any colour, embellished however you like. Just aim for them to be about the size of the palm of your hand, if possible. Follow any crochet or knitting pattern you like. You can simply cut hearts out of felt or fabric – a cookie cutter is a useful aid, if you don’t want to draw freehand. And please personalise your hearts with words, slogans, objects – whatever you like. We’d also welcome donated materials or safety pins. 

 

When and where?

We’ll be making #heartstrings at all the Big Mend mending sewcials over the coming year, and will arrange for periodic #heartstrings yarn-bombing of local landmarks, with a big city-crossing link-up on the first anniversary of the referendum in the third week June 2017But we’ll need your help to eventually cross the entire city of Bath with little linked #heartstrings!

 

If you’re in Bath, please come to two August events at which we’ll be creating heartstrings:

One Two Five Gallery‘s first birthday party in Abbey Green, Bath on Sunday 14th August from 3-5pm 

A Yarn Story in Walcot, Bath on Thursday 18th August from 7pm

 

By post 

You can drop off or post your hearts, strings or material donations to the Museum of Bath at Work at Camden Works, Julian Road, Bath, BA1 2RH or the One Two Five Gallery in Abbey Green, or A Yarn Story on Walcot. Please attach a label to your hearts telling us who you are and preferably with a contact name/number/email. Thank you.

 

On social media…

If you’re on social media, feel free to share your own images/selfies with your hearts or #heartstrings, wherever you happen to be in Bath or beyond.

 

 

 

 

 

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May 20

Undressed: a brief history of underwear

 

 

 

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Undressed: a brief history of underwear exhibition at the V&A

 

Undressed: a brief history of underwear is this year’s big fashion show at the V&A. Curated by Edwina Ehrman and sponsored by luxury lingerie maker Agent Provocateur plus make-up producer Revlon, it explores men and women’s undergarments from around 1750 to the present.

Displayed thematically alongside images from the V&A’s extensive archive, the exhibition charts notions of the intimate and private, the healthy and hygienic, the advance of materials and their mastery, and the curious structural re-shaping of the body that has taken place over the past 250 years or so. That covers quite a range of emphatically gendered female silhouettes, from the stately panniered court dresses of the eighteenth century through the exaggerated hourglass figures of the corseted Victorian and Edwardian eras, the flat-chested androgyny of the 1920s to the conical bosoms of the 1950s. Men’s underwear has changed less dramatically over that time, as (by and large) men’s private layers were designed for comfort, not the radical alteration of physiology.

I spent three hours yesterday poring over the exhibition with as great an attention to detail as I could muster. Photography is strictly not allowed there, which is wonderfully good discipline in that it forces you to really look closely and observe – though it’s undoubtedly frustrating when you have a blog post to illustrate. 

What struck me right away was how the prosaically personal and the fantastically erotic rub shoulders; there is underwear here that is worn quite unselfconsciously, and then there’s ‘private’ wear that is worn to be seen in. In the former category are the simple, functional body-covering shifts or chemises made from linen (and later cotton), the direct descendants of medieval base garments; the shift’s function was to provide a protective, comfortable layer between body and outer, non-washable clothing. And it needed to stand up well to a boil-wash – the presence of embroidered initials remind us that these items would receive the attentions of a professional laundress. Lingerie, as it developed in the twentieth century into flimsy silk and lace concoctions, provides an example of the second type of underwear, worn with display very much in mind.

And the second thing that struck me was the advance of technology through the centuries. Underwear has represented serious engineering kit requiring earnest hardware: hooks, eyelets, buttons, strings, whalebones, busks, pins, horsehair pads, metal hoops, elastic panels and more, to contain, attach, raise, lower, restrain, shape, frame, bulk out and sculpt the body. You wouldn’t want any of this to give out on you at a critical moment – a wardrobe failure representing a kind of social death, if not a literal one; a few very unfortunate women did actually meet their maker wearing unwisely voluminous crinolines, though many more must have accidentally displayed their drawers (and blushes) to the world sitting down a little carelessly. 

 

What I really liked…

My personal highlights included:

Stays  – the forerunner of the corset and such beautiful things. The exhibition includes several examples such as a very ‘real’ rough-and-ready pair worn by of a working woman from Whitby – complete with pin hidden inside one panel (just visible on an accompanying x-ray). And also busks – made of wood or bone – which would have kept the centre front straight and rigid. These were often personalised with carving and would have been given as love tokens – appropriately, lying close (as they did literally) to the wearer’s heart.

Men’s shirts – these were considered ‘underwear’ in the eighteenth century because worn next to the skin. Indeed, it would have been considered indecent to show one’s shirt sleeves in public. And that fact alone provides the perfect excuse to view this scene again with a renewed sense of its Regency shock-value (though Darcy’s lake swim was a BBC elaboration and not included in Jane Austen’s original book).

Maternity gear – there were some great examples of how women managed pregnancy and breastfeeding while retaining the various fashionable lines of the nineteenth century. For example, there’s an 1820s empire line day dress with slits in the bodice to allow breastfeeding, plus a 1900 maternity corset with side-lacing to accommodate a growing belly, and poppered openings to enable infant feeding.

Rear view – several items illustrated that exaggeration of the bottom in the form of the bustle, back when a woman would presumably have asked her friend: ‘Does my bum look big enough in this?’. If not, the answer might well have been the lightweight and collapsible Keelapso bustle, which is illustrated in the exhibition by a delightful contemporary advert, or a striking black-and-white striped cotton crinolette with a scalloped black braid edge – quite beautiful enough to wear as an outer garment today by someone bold enough. You’ll find it, featured in detail in Eleri Lynn’s Fashion in Detail (see below).

Rational dress – women’s growing activity in the later nineteenth century led to the advent of various items of ‘sportswear’, including specialist corsets for riding, cycling and golf (which were sometimes a little shorter and made of more robust materials) as well as the rise of the bloomer. 

Jaeger – founded in 1884,  Dr Jaeger’s Sanitary Woollen System Co Ltd ushered in a craze for wearing wool next to the skin, on the grounds that animal fibre was superior to plant matter, cotton being the default textile for underwear at this time. Wool underwear was favoured by many explorers, including Ernest Shackleton. George Bernard Shaw (GBS) was a big fan too; his Jaeger wool undershirt is included in the exhibition, alongside a picture of him in his Jaeger combinations.

Corsets – often with impossibly tiny waists, and in sumptuous colours and fabrics. I really appreciated the hand-stitched corded quilting on an an early (1825) version. The fuchsia corset on the front of the exhibition catalogue (below) illustrates the two-part front-fastening busk, first introduced in the 1820s, an advance that allowed women to dress unaided for the first time – before that, you needed someone else to lace you up. Curious to think that putting on your clothing before that (at least, for women) had to be a collaborative act. 

 

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Undressed – image from the exhibition poster and catalogue

 

The advance of materials – periodically, new materials have revolutionised how underwear works. Nylon, for instance, made it easy to wash and quick to  dry – and did not require any ironing. And the advent of Lycra in the 1950s made a huge difference to what structural garments could achieve. Hello girdle!

If I had any quibble with this show, it was that I found some of the contemporary inclusions alongside the historical garments slightly arbitrary. I would, for example, rather have seen display space in the early cabinets devoted to more of the deep historical stuff (more shifts, more stays, more busks and some jumps, maybe) than a selection of contemporary bamboo knickers featuring days of the week; these might instead have been grouped into a section illustrating the growth of ethically produced, sustainable underwear in the modern era.

I really like to view things in the order that the curator/s intended, so found the large print accompanying spiral-bound guide (free to use within the exhibition) very helpful and would recommend that any visitor takes that round with them.

 

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Victorian advert for a collapsing bustle

 

Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear sponsored by Agent Provocateur and Revlon runs at the Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington, London until 12th March 2017. Entry standard price: £12. Accompanying catalogue: £10. 

Underwear: Fashion in Detail by Eleri Lynn (first published 2010),  a wonderful book featuring 120 objects from the V&A’s collection, is available at a special exhibition discount (£20, down from the usual £25). 

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Apr 26

The big mend’s 4th birthday

 

 

 the big mend[2] copy

 

 

It’s hard to believe that the monthly mending sewcials I kicked off in Bath four years ago are still going strong. We’ll be celebrating, true to form, with a spot of mending on Wednesday 27th April 2016 from 7-9pm.

Thanks to all the people who’ve come along to the Big Mend sessions over the years, especially those who have picked up the pieces and kept it going when I couldn’t (notably Alison, Annie, Su, Lizzie, Divya, Kathy and Hannah) and to the Museum of Bath at Work for generously allowing us use of their wonderful space every month without fail.

We must have repaired approximately 500-1000 garments and household textile items over the years, but have nurtured skills that must have saved many more textiles from the waste stream as the repair know-how has spidered out into local hands and households.

 

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One of our repair sewcials in progress at the Museum of Bath at Work

 

Why has it kept going? I can’t exactly say, but people seem to want it and to value its esprit de corps. The sessions, I’ve noticed, provide a contained space where the cultural norms of consumption, ‘fast fashion’ etc don’t apply. In contemplative, collaborative, purposeful activity, we sit and repair, share skills and news and put the world to rights. It feels like a very old activity – and it must be. I’ve just written a piece for Selvedge magazine (issue 70, May/June 2016, the Delicate issue) exploring some of the history of mending. For that, I included evidence of mending from antiquity, and even pre-history. And it makes sense that the act of repair must be about as old as the hills and as ancient as sewing itself. Because making and mending are like chicken and egg; when early man/woman first stitched a pelt together with sinew and thorn needle to make it stay on that little bit better (creating a ‘garment’ rather than just a piece of animal skin), was that not technically a repair? Or an upcycle, at least. Discuss.

 

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Flash mend event in Waitrose

 

What have we achieved? At the Big Mend, we’ve contemplated our place in the world and how we’re connected by a long thread to all the people who make our clothes. We’ve considered what repair means to us – how it preserves objects that make us feel good, how it prolongs the wearable life of our clothing and demonstrates our resourcefulness and resilience. We’ve discussed whether we want our repairs to be visible – conspicuous even – or not and what wearing something with an evident repair says to others. We’ve made a stand against the brutality of ‘fast fashion’ – well, we’ve wandered around the city with our clothes inside out for Fashion Revolution Day, held ‘flash mend’ events and spoken to local people and retailers about inhuman factory conditions. Some of us have given up most of our clothing for a while to raise money for garment workers. We’ve planned a project to work with the city’s students on textile waste reduction (which, sadly, didn’t win funding) and taken part in numerous local open days and public-facing events. Now we tend to stick to the monthly meetings only, because we aren’t funded in any way, so the entire venture is one of generosity and open-handedness and has to be dovetailed in with our own demanding lives. I would do more, if I could afford to, but I can’t. However, the monthly session on the final Wednesday of the month is treated as sacred – not to be messed with unless medical emergency or a clash with Christmas absolutely prohibits it.

So, on we trundle. A fourth birthday sounds like a good opportunity for a game of Pass the Darning Mushroom or Musical Mannikins, but instead I’ve arranged for a visit from local tailor, Ben of City Tailors. He will be spilling the beans on some of his professional repair secrets. I’m looking forward to seeing some hard-won artisanal textile skills in practice – probably rather more deft and invisible than most of ours. Join us, if you can. Everyone is, as ever, very welcome to attend. All we ask is a small donation to help towards museum costs. So, please grab a tired textile to bring along and we’ll do our best to help you revive it.

 

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Jan 05

In with the old

 

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Floral scrap from a 1979 Sanderson furnishing cotton called ‘Border Incident’

 

Happy new year! You’ll find this a largely resolution-free, reflection-empty zone, which may come as some relief. It’s going to be a full-on 2016 for me, and I won’t have much time or opportunity for making. But I do need to carve out a little stitching in order to preserve my wellbeing. Rather than rushing headlong into something new, I’ve decided to finish some of the things I’ve already started. And this old hexagon patchwork quilt top is top of my list.

I started it, oh, twenty-something years ago, and can’t quite remember why the project lost steam – something to do with having children, perhaps…? Culled from 228 scraps (so far) of mostly vintage furnishing fabric (Sanderson etc) interspersed with rows of unbleached calico, it’s been packed away in three house-moves and lived deep inside a box for much of that time. I had it draped over one side of our sofa for a while (see below), the backing papers still basted in place around the edges, waiting patiently for the stalled process of precision tessellation to resume. And there it sat for another year or two. Well, enough’s enough; if this baby could talk, it would be crooning this little number at me.

 

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Slung for years over a sofa, unfinished

 

Those who’ve tried the very traditional method of English pieced patchwork (or EPP, also known as mosaic patchwork) can confirm that this kind of stitching is a slow and painstaking business. There’s no rushing it.  You have to take it just one piece at a time, cutting out your backing papers accurately, then covering each one with fabric, folding the edges over smartly to get those sharp, precise sides as you baste/tack them down in order to create the best possible fit between pieces. But joining each hexagon to its neighbour – seam by hand-stitched seam, two together with right sides facing – is simple and pleasantly mindless once you get going.

Or possibly mindful.

As more and more practitioners are pointing out, slow hand-sewing of seams brings its therapeutic rewards. Whipstitching hexagons together is a very absorbing, relaxing thing to do. For me, it works wonderfully to dispel anxiety and level my mood. And for those hung up on ‘wasting time’ (and who therefore might not go for a colouring book, say), EPP is ultimately a productive process too – if you ever get around to finishing whatever you’re making, that is…

It’s worth pointing out here that there is a certain leeway in the creative EPP process – it can be totally ‘hap’ and random: a pure product of the hand-stitched moment, joining piece to piece as you happen to pick them up. Or you can focus on a meticulous and fussy-cut result, carefully selecting fabric colour and design and pattern placement, forming your hexagons into clusters of rosettes etc – as I’ve tried to do here. 

Here’s the backstory. When I started this project, I wanted to create something that looked a couple of hundred years old – at a superficial glance, anyway. I was studying patchwork history at the time, and this kind of patchwork goes back to the earliest documented days of the English craft in the 18th century. This was also during IKEA’s ‘Chuck out your chintz’ period, so – because I’m perennially contrarian – I think I probably made this as a direct, defiant response. I don’t remember being influenced by any particular quilt, but by an amalgam of fabrics and 18th and 19th century styles. I wanted to convey something of that time when the new printed cottons were so treasured that your middle-class leisured lady patchworker would want to make the very most of every scrap and display each motif to optimum dazzling effect. And then I re-found my diary from 2011, with a distinctive V&A quilt on the cover which looks very, very similar to mine. But the diary was obviously produced many years after I’d started this quilt. It’s possible that I could have spotted the same one in a book somewhere and filed it away in my subconscious. Anyway, it was very spooky to note the similarity. There’s more about that particular quilt (which is dated 1797-1852) over on the V&A site.

Back to the business of finishing, as I said, I have 228 pieces joined together, including 19 seven-hexagon rosettes. I estimate that about 500 pieces will be needed in total (and another 20 or so rosettes) to create something close to a full-sized quilt top. I’m setting myself the goal of adding just one hexagon a day, which (at the moment) seems manageable. I’ll try to come back with periodic updates. There are more pictures of my quilt so far over on my Instagram feed.

What kind of unfinished craft business do you have lying around? What do you think prevents you from completing it? And what is stopping you from ditching it altogether? If you’d like to join me this year in completing something you started a while back, do leave a comment and, if relevant, a blog/social media link below. I’ll be happy to cheerlead and provide encouragement. 😀

IMG_7738

Floral motif (maker unknown) from my 25-year-old unfinished quilt top

 

 

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