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My quilting bona fides




Most of the time I make quite small pieces, or large pieces which are more about surface embellishment or ‘ideas’.  But just occasionally I do a bit of traditional non-nonsense, uncomplicated patchwork and quilting.  This is an example of the latter.  It was originally meant to be a cover to protect the sofa from the dogs, but as time (a lot of time) went by, it became increasingly apparent that dogs would not be invited to sit on it.  It was a holiday project that I took to Pembrokeshire a couple of times, and up to my mother’s.  I started it years and years ago when I went to a Kaffe Fassett exhibition at the American Museum at Claverton, just outside Bath.  I thought that the large pieces looked like it would be quite quick to make (wrong again):




It began with scrap fabric (because it was aimed at dogs rather than people) but I started to buy fabric when i was on holiday, mostly the batiks.  It has a virtually antique piece of red Jinny Beyer fabric for the binding.  I had it long-arm quilted at Midsomer Quilting:




The pattern is called ‘Tempest’ which I thought rather suited the slightly nautical feel of the quilt.  Midsomer Quilting did a fantastic job with it.  It lies perfectly flat against the wall, the corners are totally square, the binding is dead straight and unpuckered, which says a lot about silk purses and sows’ ears.  I am really happy with it.  I think it took roughly ten years, but was worth the wait.  And it makes me feel like a proper quilter, able to hold my head up with the quilting sorority when I do talks on the whacky stuff!



I have no idea why the photographs won’t work on the last post – they are there on software.  Here they are again:


IMG_1571 IMG_1572 IMG_1573 IMG_1574 IMG_1575 IMG_1576 IMG_1577 IMG_1578 IMG_1579 IMG_1580 IMG_1581

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All our yesterdays


I have been clearing out the stuff we had to clear out from my mother-in-law’s attic in something of a hurry, and finally got round to a bag that I don’t think I have opened for at least fifteen years.  It turned out to be full of beautiful but now very dated Liberty woollen shawls, long lengths of calico which smelled really musty and required two good long cycle washes to be bearable, and a selection of my very first attempts at a number of things.  Some, like the dull Hawaiian applique piece, aren’t really worth sharing, but some are a bit more interesting.  So today’s second  post is a bit of a gallery rather than having anything very profound to say.


This is a very early quilt made from a pattern which dates from a time when I had the leisure to make things for Christmas.  I expect it was hand-pieced over papers. It looks okay from a distance, but close up you can see that the quilting is so bad that I had to stuff the centre to make it look deliberate:


The points aren’t bad, though.


I have no idea why I made this piece.  I think it fitted over a dull arm chair we had when we first got married.  It looks like it was ‘inspired’ by a workshop I did with Dawn Pavitt many years ago.  She famously told me: ‘If it offends the maker take it out.’  She didn’t believe in only you will notice it once the binding’s on.  She thought a mistake would irritate you every time you looked at it, and I think she was right.  It’s done with quilt as you go.  It has a fair bit of Laura Ashley fabric and some from Clothkits which used to have a sort of factory shop in Bath when we first moved here:


Notice the skilled use of decorative machine stitching…


And one of my earliest attempts at free machine quilting.  I am delighted to say that at least my competence in this area has improved.

Here are a couple of place mats that I was inordinately pleased with:


A Grandmother’s Fan.  Incidentally, I am now of an age where I feel that the fan should be reinstated as a fashion item.  Anyway, here is a log cabin version:


The quilting on this isn’t bad:


The fabric on the right of the picture gives some indication of the range of quilting cottons that were available.  Okay but not spectacular.  We did tend to use a lot of Liberty fabric.  I made this little quilt to go on top of a wooden blanket box we still have.  It sat in the window, though, and more or less disintegrated in front of my eyes:


This had very clear colours when it was first made entirely from Liberty tana lawn.   I always wanted something like this, very faded, almost eighteenth-century looking, but I was hoping to buy one one day rather than making one myself.  This does not help in the quest for eternal youth:


I’m not sure where that green stain came from; I think I might have to wash it again with some stain remover.

So, not all that lovely, but definitely like meeting old friends again.

Thinking about dolls – research in progress


Two posts today as this one is very much from the academic quilter.  I thought I should leaven the lump with some pictures on a second one.

This post is about the work I have been doing on dolls.  As part of this work I have been reading about puppets and trying to understand exactly what is ‘going on’ with dolls.  Why are they so loveable and so creepy simultaneously?


This post is a bit of work in progress which came about through reading Kenneth Gross’ Puppet: An Essay on Uncanny Life, which made me think about how far I have got in understanding my own relationship to my dolls as a maker.  So, this is how far I have got.

Gross writes in his introduction about:

…the hand’s power and pleasure in giving itself over to the demands of the object, our curious will to make the object into an actor, something capable of gesture and voice.  What strikes me here is the need for a made thing to tell a story, to become a vehicle for a voice, an impulse of character – something very old, and very early.  The thing acquires a voice. ( p. 1)

I like several things about it – the power and pleasure of the hand.  You would think from this that Gross is a maker as that knowledge of the two elements suggests someone who has experienced making at a deep reflective level.  There is something seductive about the power to bring something new into the world, particularly something as proxy-baby like as a doll through the work of your own hands.  There is also intense pleasure in making something and then having an object which you want, in my case something of beauty, in others’ ugliness, comedy, elegance or any of the other aesthetic categories discussed by Antonio Strati in his work on organisational aesthetics.  And the insight continues into thinking about what has been created, and this bit is specific to doll makers: the thing acquires a voice.  When I am making my dolls they have a back story and this emerges as I make their faces, choose their clothes and accessories and give them a name.  Many contemporary makers are interested in creating objects with stories and voices, assemblage boxes like the work of Joseph Cornell come to mind, and I have read books on mixed media work which insist that story is the starting place, real or imagined.  Dolls, however, have a special claim because they resemble us, and we all have stories, the myths we live by, to quote Mary Midgeley.  While I construct my dolls I hear the impulse of character – and I did this with my Threads of Identity pieces: the anthropologist’s piece, the missionary’s piece, the interior designer’s piece but these did not move beyond the impulse of character to the full working out of individual and specific character.  Those pieces remained generic for the viewer to construct imagined identities for themself, but the dolls have names and written stories.  And as Gross points out in his slightly sonorous tone, this is very old – people have always made dolls with characters for all sorts of reasons, and very early – from childhood my Barbie dolls had extensive back stories, and before that childhood toys formed friendships and wove relationships together.

He returns to the theme of narrative further on in the introduction:

Puppets do not have thoughts, they are more like our thoughts, as if our minds were populated with remnants of the older more cliched stories that we manipulate and manipulate us.  (p. 13, emphasis in original)

This seems to me to be a reference to the idea that we have stories which we live by, narratives of self that we tell and retell until they become fixed.

Dolls are not only mundane playthings for children.  Gross insists that doll/puppet making can be a metaphysical if not arcane activity:

 It is the closest thing we have in the ordinary human world to the transmigration of the soul from one body to another, or from one creature to another.  (p. 7)

I am always interested in why it is that I find it so difficult to sell work.  I can usually give it away, but I am reluctant to exchange money for it.  Part of this is not wanting to infringe copyright, but I usually come back to thinking that it is because what I make is part of myself which is hard to sell.  Gross’s suggestion is that it is part of our soul that we put into our dolls, and selling one’s soul is both difficult and risky.  Literature is full of the dangers of animating dolls, a fear which is also at the heart of science fiction stories about rogue automata and robots.  We want our animatronics squarely under our control, like our women in Ira Levine’s great Stepford Wives dystopia.

Further on there is a passage which chimes with my own developing  ideas about the ventriloquist’s dummy or the drag act: it is a permissive form which allows us to say things which might otherwise be subject to censure, self or otherwise:

Puppets also have often been asked to say things or show things otherwise not permitted; it is a theatrical mode whose words and actions are more able to slip under the radar of official censorship, something too trivial to be taken quite seriously by the authorities.  (pp. 17-18)

They become, ‘a mouthpiece for thoughts otherwise unspoken, or otherwise too dangerous to attach a name to’  (p. 17).  Puppets, dolls, dummies and drag acts ‘get away’ saying dangerous things because they are other, they are uncanny in the sense of being between two worlds and difficult to pin down.  Puppets, dolls and dummies are classic cases of the uncanny in the Freudian sense, disturbing because they cause us confusion.  We know that they are not alive, but we treat them as though they were.  We know that they are not alive and yet we cannot deny that they have some form of animation.  Drag acts are slightly different because the life force is not in question in the majority of cases, but the whole point of a drag act is to overcome uncertainty which is then frequently undermined.  David Bowie’s video for ‘Boys keep swinging’ which is freely accessible on the internet (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6SoiXlp0HAU), is a good example of this.  He sings as a heightened version of his masculine self, taking up a lot of space, absorbing all the energy of the spotlight.  He also drags up to play three backing singers, two of whom end the show with the classic wiping off of the lipstick, defiantly smearing it over their faces with the back of their hands, but the third walks off stage maintaining the act but staring down the camera in an unsettling way.  Is she Bowie in drag or is she a real backing singer?  We know the answer but we have an unsettling moment in which think she might be real because she refuses to work within the rubric of the typical self-revealing drag act.  Good as Bowie’s drag is, this is the subtlest part of the performance, and the most unsettling.

Gross ends his introduction with another telling observation.  As Mitchell asks ‘what do pictures want?’ Gross asks, what puppets want from us, and gets at another thing about them that makes them unnerving or uncanny: their patience:

the puppet’s staring eyes look at me with a candor, with a demand for attention, that I cannot forgo.  It is patiently waiting for something.  (p. 25)

This strikes me as the same impulse as our fascination with the idea of dolls coming to life when left on their own.  There is a potential in dolls: they might do something, they are waiting for something in the future with endless patience.  We suspect that they are sentient in some way even when we know that they are not.  They almost raise the question when does life begin?  I remember all the processes of making that went into the doll: finding the cloth and the pattern, cutting, stitching and stuffing.  I know the doll isn’t real, but I cannot deny the impetus to character, the urgency of the story, the latency of life.  As Gross says:

With puppets, one is always conscious of their closeness to made things, with their joints, stitches, hinges, and solid, insentient substance.  Yet these creatures take up this made-ness in a way that goes against the grain.  They are dead things that belong to a different kind of life.  (p. 28)

So, the dolls belong to human life because they mimic human form, but they have a different kind of life of their own, this potential, suspended, about to be life in another modality.  In the many worlds ontology of quantum mechanics, there is a world where the dolls are in charge and we are playthings, made-things, that are picked up and put down at will. All of which is another explanation of their uncanniness.

Gross moves on, ‘Puppets are the size of fetishes, saints’ relics, voodoo dolls, and talismans’.  (p. 39) so we have the link with ritual objects.  This is another source of uncanniness – dolls as thresholds or threshold companions to another world.  They are of this world and of another world, a frightening and dangerous world of the supernatural.  They can be used for apparently innocent child’s play, and for harm against the person, for religious veneration and for dangerous magical rites.  Dolls never yield their ambiguity.  He comes back to this in his conclusion:

I am always drawn to the idea of life in nonliving things, the sense of animation in what appears inanimate, voice emerging from the object without voice, the earless thing that seems to hear, the eyeless thing that looks back at us, or that simply thinks in silence its own thoughts.  There is a moment when this lifeless object seems not just moved but self-moving, a thing with a soul, a need, a desire, a power of sensation or intent of its own, variously comforting and frightening.  (p. 163)

This is a good encapsulation of why dolls are uncanny: they are always both of these things good and bad, comforting and disturbing, known and unknown.  I wonder if there is something about one of a kind (OOAK) dolls, dolls made for adults, dolls made to give adult pleasure, sometimes pornographic or erotic and sometimes not, which is not so true of dolls made for children. I might be idealising childhood, but it seems to me that children enter into relationships with their dolls for an extended period, whereas there is something voyeuristic in dolls made for adults. Barbie started out based on Bild Lillli, a pornographic German doll made for the adult male market, and in my research into OOAK dolls I learned how to put nipples onto Barbie dolls.  Power over has been transformed explicitly into pornographic power.

This, of course, brings us to issues of sexuality and therefore almost inevitably to gender.  Dolls are subject to the gaze.  Customised OOAK Barbies, and Silkstone Barbies for example, are exclusively made for staring at and never for playing with:


This is one of the more innocuous dolls, although there are other more extreme ones made for male and female consumption. There is, as anyone who has watched a child playing with dolls a clear gender imperative in such play: girls learn how to be little mothers, and boys learn how to be warriors, the two roles Western society still requires them to play for real in later life.

So, this is a bit of a snapshot of why I am with my thinking about my moustache dolls and drag dolls, a slice of research in progress.


Kenneth Gross (2011) Puppet: An Essay on Uncanny Life.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

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On not having a Kaffe Fassett quilt




I haven’t posted much recently because I am mainly trying to finish things off and there isn’t much to show.  I have taken two quilts to be professionally quilted which is a great way of getting them out of their plastic bags and off my workroom floor – so I feel like I am progressing the tidying up, although I then have to do something with them when they return.  I made the first one to cover the sofa when the dogs are bounding about, but, of course, so much work has gone into it that I now can’t let them anywhere near it.  It was made of scraps but these have been transformed into precious fragments after hours have gone into the cutting and stitching.

That aside, I have been finishing off a quilt that my sewing group made for me.  We all took a month of the year and chose a theme and the others in the group, The Saint Andrews Quilters, made the blocks.  So we have had pretty hearts for Valentine’s day, and sparkly fireworks for November, and shiny crystaline snow for January.  My month was either June or July (I don’t have a great head for details), and I wanted to use up a stash of strawberry prints that I have had for a long time.  I began collecting them because strawberries are the Medieval Historian’s favourite fruit.  Shortly before they closed down Rose and Hubble, did a line of really luscious strawberry prints and I couldn’t resist.  So, I chose a very simple Kaffe Fassett design and off we went.  This is the quilt from Quilt Road, one of those irresistible Rowan books:




And this is the book:




And this is Kaffe wearing the quilt on the back of the book:




And now we are getting to the point of the post.

The quilt is very nearly finished.  I am stitching the borders together, and it is really nice, but not what I was expecting, and this is what I wanted to blog about.  I really love Kaffe Fassett’s work and have done for ages.  I bought a copy of Glorious Knitting and pored over every beautiful page and photograph.  I love that idea that you don’t just use one red you use ten, or ten blues, and a flash of lime green.  I have loved his work for years.  But my quilt, which I will photograph when it’s finished, just didn’t look like Kaffe’s: lovely as it is,it isn’t Kaffe.  It has a large variety of blue fabric but it doesn’t have that Kaffe colour drench effect.

I was leafing through the introduction to the book and found out why.  As he says, traditionally quilters use a lot of contrast in terms of light and dark.  Make sure your lights are light and your darks are really dark, and be careful about those mediums is advice that I have been given on any number of workshops.  And if you are interested in playing around with block designs, that is good advice.  If you want those blocks to show up you have to make sure you have enough contrast in the fabric.  But Kaffe isn’t really interested in making Irish Chains that leap out at you, he is interested in a wash of colour, so he deliberately chooses all medium tones.  This is conventional wisdom overturned, but it does explain how his colour glows, and why my quilt with its strawberry prints on pale backgrounds don’t zing like his.  The question then becomes, does this matter or not?

At one level it does because I started out to make a Kaffe Fassett quilt, but in another it is quite a good thing, I think, that I didn’t make a clone.  I have got a quilt which mine and which makes me think of the Medieval Historian, rather than having a pale imitation of Fassett’s style, which he does much better than I can.  Starting with a strawberry printed on white, I could never have achieved a Fassett colourwash, but I have achieved a quilt which will have tremendous sentimental value and which has luscious strawberries all over it.  I remember a very well known quilter running a workshop in Bristol in which people used her techniques and closely specified materials who was then surprised when all the workshop samples looked as if they could have been made by her.  She was really disappointed but gave people no room to improvise.  I am not that good at slavish copies.  Better a really good version of yourself than a pale imitation of someone else, as the saying goes.

Yinka Shonibare MBE – Great exhibition


The Medieval Historian and I are up in Nottingham to see my mother.  While we were in the vicinity we thought we would go and see the exhibition of Yinka Shonibare MBE’s work at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park near Wakefield.

I have been a fan of his work since I saw an installation in an exhibition in the Arnolfini Gallery in Bristol probably twenty years ago.  His work is political but utterly engaging, and his project is to enrol rather than alienate spectators.  This is an information panel for the show from the cafe – no photography allowed in the galleries – explaining what he wants to do:



I can’t help but feel that radical politics in general would get further with this sort of attitude, and it is what I think I am doing in my work – making comments and provocations but not ramming it down people’s throats – in the old story the sun got the man to take his coat off much quicker than the wind.

I love Shonibare MBE’s work because of his dazzling and endlessly inventive use of African textiles, those Manchester cloths with their complicated history:


They are fussy cut, expertly and wittily.  They make their comment about slavery, racism and oppression in a way that makes you smile as you feel your colonialist, imperialist guilt.  I have never seen this piece, but it makes the point clearly that Mr and Mrs Joseph Andrews or people very like them’s  money came directly from the slave trade by dressing his figures in African cloth:



His famous massive ship in a bottle in Trafalgar Square made an elegant comment about the maritime might of Britain being used in the slave trade.

The figures in his work are deliberately headless.  This started as a joke about the French Revolution but he now uses the device to stop people putting a race on the figures: they could be any nationality.

What I really enjoyed though was the quality of the making.  The patterns matched beautifully and were cut so imaginatively that they might have been painted on.  There were little decorative details like embroidery on petticoats that very few people would have noticed but they were there.  There is a wonderful video of a ballet piece right at the end of the show which shows the costumes in motion (as well as making a point about the tenacious quality of power structures).  It is exquisite and sumptuous and worth going for on its own.

I like his themes of otherness, excess, play, the price of progress and the irrepressibility (if that word exists) of the life force.  The medieval historian was extremely dubious about going, but loved it when he got there, so I would recommend it for just about anyone.   The final image is also from the cafe info boards, about what Shonibare MBE thinks he is doing when he makes art and I think he is absolutely right:




I like his honesty – why be outside and oppositional when you could be inside and subversive.  Plus I love the idea of radical gentlemanly art.  It’s hardly surprising that he is so interested in the figure of the dandy.  I could have done without his pooh collages, but otherwise, I loved the whole thing, and there is a wonderfully classy shop and a cafe which has cinnamon shortbread which is utterly delicious.  Something for everyone in fact.


Another Inspirational Book



If you read this blog regularly (and thank you if you do) you will know that I often recommend a really inspirational book that I have come across.  Well, I have mixed feelings about this utterly gorgeous, sumptuous book by Mary Schoeser, published by Thames and Hudson.

The first of my reservations is that if you buy this book you will probably never need to buy another book for inspiration ever again, and I am addicted to buying books, so that’s no good.  Every single page is quite gorgeous and packed with photographs of every sort of textile and technique.  Here are two spreads taken entirely at random:







The second reason for avoiding this book like the plague is a bit odder.  Some of the pages showing particularly the really contemporary textile art are dispiriting because it seems like every idea has already been taken and done beautifully by someone much more talented than me.  This is a bit daunting.

That aside, I would, of course, recommend this to anyone interested in textiles.  It is the size of a coffee table itself, it weighs a ton, and is expensive, although with a bit of shopping around you can get it much more cheaply that the £60 cover price.  That’s still less than the price of a lot of workshops.

There is one page with some fantastic dolls which I must have a go at making, so you might see them feature in a future ‘What I did on Sunday’ post…











(D)rag Doll III





Some of you who read this blog regularly will know that I have been working on a project about a theory in gender studies that we are all, as women, wearing drag.  This doesn’t just mean that we dress in men’s clothing and try and pass as what are known as homologues, although many of us do this at work, it means that we have to try and dress to reach an approximation of some idealised version of femininity which very few of us ever attain.  Drag Queens ‘queer’ this image of femininity by heightening it so much that it becomes ridiculous; they expose what an artificial and ‘supplied’ ideal this is, but ordinary women are also expected to carry this off in every day life, and it is virtually impossible. otherwise we would all be considered to have film star looks and the cosmetic industry would be about tweaking perfection rather than selling us false hope.

Back to the doll.  One of the things that I have been interested in in the research that I have done is the polarisation of masculine and feminine and colour.  There are two approaches.  One is that the male is black-clad and therefore sober, rational, objective, above trifles, solid, austere, unchangeable.  This is achieved through the dark business suit.  The female, however, is associated with bright colours, embellishment, nature, the body, emotions and so on – like the ‘savage’ and uncivilised, according to Goethe.  The other schema is that men are associated with black and women with white: the bride, the vestal virgin, the weeping widow, the veiled woman, and I think, the Edwardian lady, gracious, charming, elegant, and, generally speaking, at home.  Having made the black-suited (D)rag Doll I and the colourful orientalised (D)rag Doll II, I decided to make a white (D)rag Doll III as an end to the series.  I was going to make a Frida Kahlo doll as she is so well-known for her eyebrows and moustache and the first two were moustachioed dolls, but in the end I realised I just wanted to make a Frida doll and there was no real theoretical point.  So here is (D)rag Doll III, resplendent in antique lace (given to me by the wonderful Julie, an ex-student) and silk which I bought in a pack of samples of wedding dress fabric.  I think the antique lace means that she really does come out looking Edwardian – very Downton Abbey:




I gave this one a face, because I wanted to say something about cosmetics which are such a large part of the drag act:




And I needed her hair to be soignee, and so I made her a snood out of gold tulle, which I don’t think is particularly authentic, but it was beyond me to make the hair into a convincing chignon, although I did try for about half an hour before admitting defeat:




She is a very pretty doll, but she looks sad to me.  She was an absolute delight to make, though.

What I did on Bank Holiday Monday


Well now, Easter is associated with rabbits, as we know.  A couple of months ago I bought a kit to make this rabbit in a small sewing shop on Gloucester Road, the street of still mainly independent shops that I blogged about earlier in the week.  I am a terrible sentimentalist.  If I see a lonely stuffed toy on a supermarket shelf I have to buy it.  I get upset seeing them discarded in the street and start thinking about how someone once loved it and has now lost interest (you can imagine how I reacted to Toy Story).  I often wonder what the poor souls in the factories in China or Indonesia feel about some of the odd designs that they have to make by the thousands.  I get all sentimental about furniture in junk shops too; someone saved up for that nasty brown wardrobe once and thought it was wonderful and now it is just an embarrassment to everyone lurking in the corner of the charity shop.  I daren’t go to the dogs’ home.

So, this kit was in the sale bin looking very sorry for itself and I had to buy it, even though, on reflection it wasn’t that much of a bargain.  (Flo-Jo,the shop, by the way, for Bristol readers, has some very lovely prints and trimmings and is teaching sewing workshops and so is very worthy and I would like to support it.)

I was at a bit of a loose end on Monday, because I had finished two quilt tops.  Yes, that’s right, two quilt tops which have been hanging around for years.  In my big clear up and clear out I have reached the stage where the only way to get a view of the floor in my workroom is to finish some of the virtually but not quite done projects that are in plastic bags and almost only of interest to archeologists.  I will blog about them later, but they are real proper patchwork which surprises me as much as anyone else.

Back to the rabbit.  He fell into this category: the only way to sort out the bag that he was in would be to make up the kit.  So I sat down and did it.  I quite enjoyed it, but couldn’t resist inprovising.  For example, no rabbit should be without a tail:


Or whiskers:


The little green scarf came out of another box that needed clearing out and which contained evenweave canvas from the distant past when I used to do counted cross stitch samplers.  The reason he is wearing it, though is that I stuffed him overzealously and went straight through his neck.  Without the scarf, he looks like he has some horrible life-threatening growth in his throat.

I am also posting this because I think you should talk about things that go wrong as well as things that go right.  This was the first time that I have tried stitching arms on using buttons and I was so excited about this, and getting the paw bits the right way round, that I checked and checked and stitched them on the wrong way round:


I am going to leave it that way as a reminder to myself that when I think I know best I don’t always.  He is my anti-hubris rabbit.  I think I am going to call him Stan.

Shopping on Gloucester Road




Gloucester Road in Bristol is sometimes referred to as the last high street in England, and it is a bit of a weird mix of shops.  I was walking along it last week when I saw these two fabulous dresses in the window of a charity shop.  The one on the right looks like exactly the sort of thing that my mother wore to dinner dances in the 1960s and 1970s – lame dresses with chiffon sleeves – just glorious, and the one on the left was the epitome of glamour when I was growing up with the psychedelic print and the macrame belt.  This is unfortunately the bet photograph that I could get, so I went inside and they had a small selection of clothes which looked liked someone’s mum’s wardrobe from the seventies.  I couldn’t resist this for £5.50 a very smocky dress but with this wonderful print:



The man behind the counter, of course, couldn’t resist a crack about how bright it was.  I was discussing this with my quilting friends last week – why do so many men in quilt shops seem to think they know it all and that we are just waiting for their pearls of wisdom?  They are usually second career age open a little knitting shop with the wife types.  I don’t mind men in textiles at all, you only have to go to the big quilt show at the NEC to meet some really lovely men on the stalls; it’s the patronising ones I can’t stand – I get enough of that at work, I don’t want it when I’m shopping too.  That said, I once had a wonderful time in one of the hardware shops on Gloucester Road.  Even the men I know dread going in because of the patronising ‘you were going to do what with that?’ line, so I screwed up my courage.  I bought some sandpaper.  ‘What do you want it for?’ said the man behind the counter slightly down his nose, ‘To put on the back of patchwork templates to make them grip the fabric.’  Which shut him up temporarily.  It was a while ago in the days when we still drew round templates made out of cornflake packets.

Nevermind all that, I love my frock and the gorgeous fabric.  I am a bit fed up with hearing about ‘pops’ of colour.  This is more like a full artillery barrage of colour and all the better for it.  I now need a seventies party to wear it.