Another brilliant website

Game of Thrones

I must admit that I know nothing at all about Game of Thrones.  I have never seen a single episode, and the Medieval Historian comes out in hives if we so much as brush against a boxed set in Sainsbury’s, but I think that I might have to have a look after seeing this fantastic website, as suggested by Judith, an old friend of mine from Bristol Quilters.  The website is Michele Carragher’s.   This website is very definitely worth a look if you are interested in costume and/or embroidery.  It really is glorious and Michele Carragher, the costume designer on the show who makes the wonderful embroidery is very generous with her ideas and techniques.  There is a lovely timelapse video of one of her embroideries.  You do not have to like Game of Thrones to love this site.

Thanks to Judith for putting me onto this website, although I might have lost a significant chunk of my life to catching up on the three series.

In case the link doesn’t work on your computer it’s


Strongly recommended blog

Captain’s log, supplementary, as Captain Kirk used to say.

This is a lovely blog for anyone who loves historical textiles:

Particularly if you are interested in the real technicalities.

It might also prove some consolation for any of you who bravely ploughed on with The White Queen.  The Medieval Historian finally cracked this week and sat there with his head in his hands moaning, no, no, no to himself throughout the Battle of Bosworth section. Even I wondered why there was snow on the ground for a battle fought in August in Leicestershire.



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Mandy Pattullo at the Festival of Quilts


I posted earlier in the week about the Festival of Quilts at the NEC.  I had walked all the way round several times, I thought, but almost at the end of my visit I came to a white cube gallery that I had missed, Mandy Patullo.  Before getting onto her work, I thought it would be worth explaining what a white cube gallery is, as one of my blogging friends asked me after the NEC post.  The white cubes are my descriptions of temporary structures, painted white and with decent lighting, which are dedicated to invited artists.  Sometimes it’s a group or it can be a well-known or particularly interesting lesser-known textile artist.  They vary in size, but the standard in them is particularly high, and they are generally invited people.  They look like trendy white cube art galleries which is where I got the term from.  It is very prestigious to be invited to exhibit in them.  I once helped out my friend, Liz Hewitt with hers and it was totally exhausting, but very interesting meeting people and seeing how they behaved.

The white cube that particularly struck me was Mandy Pattullo.  She was not there but I talked to her partner who said that she was overwhelmed by the reaction at FOQ, as her work was not particularly well-received in the North-East of England where she lives and works.  I thought it was absolutely stunning.  She uses old textiles and then embroiders on top of them and the results are stunning.  It is very hard to explain why something appeals to you, why you find it beautiful.  There were lots of gorgeous things in the main competition and in the other white cubes, but what would I have taken home if it hadn’t been almost entirely sold out?  One of Mandy Pattullo’s small pieces.  They are full of life and exuberance and joy.  They seemed to rejoice in their textile-liness to me.  These were textile pieces not trying to be anything else, not trying to ape anything else, just being cloth.  I think there is also something of the love and respect for cloth, no matter how battered and bruised, that comes through the maker’s approach.  I got the sense that she loved the materials and so I loved them too.  Perhaps I shouldn’t try to explain it, but these seemed to me to cloth lovers’ cloths.  So here is a selection of the work.  Again, I am sorry about the reproduction, but phone photographs are so much quicker to load that pictures taken with a camera.

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These are small pieces which show the way that she includes needlepoint and patchwork in her work.  She also makes pieces based on clothing:




These seem to quote from old Welsh quilts particularly for me; I think it’s the use of washed out red fabric.

There were some larger pieces as well:

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This one shows the broderie perse which is also a feature of Pattullo’s work.  The final piece which I really loved contained a section of what must have been a quilt, so frayed that it looked like a red and white print rather than the wadding showing through:

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I don’t normally much like all this patriotic union jack and keep calm and carry on stuff, but this had a lightness of touch which I liked, and it did remind me of tattered battle colours, which is a subtle reminder of our imperialist past in this country and how it was achieved.

So, a real highlight for me, as was meeting Pattullo’s lovely partner who was very happy for me to take photos.  Her website is  So now I just need Bristol Quilters to arrange a workshop with her!

Textiles for when you can’t sleep.

The other night I was finding it very difficult to sleep, so I turned on the television and watched Troy (2006).  It is not a great film, but it does have the most fantastic costumes.  The Trojans wear gorgeous indigo-dyed outfits, and it is worth watching just for those.  I couldn’t find many pictures on the web, but all the way through people turn up in beautifully dyed cloth.  Towards the end Peter O’Toole as Priam turns up in a gorgeous white robe with dip-dyed indigo shoulders.  Lovely.  Here are a few pictures that I could find.

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I suggest some knitting or something for the interminable battle scenes, though.



A very good friend of mine is having a bit of a torrid time of it.  She is a particularly big fan of my dolls, so I made her a present.  It’s a bit whacky woo woo for me, but she is made as a healing doll.  I know that people who go in for this sort of thing often claim that rose pink is a healing colour, but for me blue which is the colour of the sky and the sea and the infinite and utopia is much more therapeutic.  So this doll is all in shades of purple-y blue.

I made her while I was at my mother’s and she is made of scraps from the substantial fabric bank at mum’s house.  The body is made from an old sample pack of Rose and Hubble fabric.  They are now out of business so the doll is almost an historic artefact and record of Britain’s mighty textile past.  The head is scrap curtain lining, and the hair is waste yarn from a textile factory.  So she represents recycling and saving stuff from landfill.

I made the pattern myself and I stitched it entirely by hand.  It would have been quicker to have made the doll on the machine, but for some reason I wanted to hand stitch her.  I was surprised how sturdy my stitching was.  The stuffing did not strain the seams.

I had a bit of a go at needle sculpting her face:


I’m not sure it was entirely successful.  The back stitch down the centre to make a nose is a technique that a lot of US doll makers who make something called ‘Prims” – primitive dolls – use.  It’s very easy but looks better, I think, on dolls which you are trying to make look ancient and battered and, indeed, primitive.  The eyes and mouth are beads.  I put some dilute koh-i-nor paint around the eye sockets and on her cheeks.  My mother thought she looked like the swimmer, Rebecca Addlington, so we called her Rebecca.

I thought her clothes looked a bit sixties hippie infused boho chic.  I used to wear these sorts of trouser suits as a little girl.  My aunt made them for me.  She was a professional dressmaker and made children’s clothes and bridal outfits.  I was a beautifully dressed child!  She also had a magnificent bit bag full of scraps from wedding and bridesmaids’ dresses.  I suspect that my love of textiles, making and luxury fabrics got a good start from my aunt’s bit bag.  I was a bit surprised to open the September issue of Vogue and discover I may have been channelling high fashion when I saw this advert:


I like the flared trousers and that would be an easy thing to incorporate in another doll.

Rebecca was a great hit, and here she is at the handover in a very nice restaurant in London:


The waitresses all rather charmingly worked round her.


Festival of Quilts, NEC

Retro, one of the magnificent quilts on display at this year's Festival of Quilts

Retro, one of the magnificent quilts on display at this year’s Festival of Quilts

This year I managed to get to the Festival of Quilts at the NEC in Birmingham.  I went with my Grate Frends, Alison, Becky, Ceri and Ruth, collectively known as the Dympnas.  Saint Dympna is the patron saint of the slightly doo-lally, not the entirely mad, the slightly not quite all there, which we think describes us perfectly.

Anyway, this is my take on the show, followed by some very personal highlights.

  1. The standard of work overall was very high, I thought, much higher than last time I went.  I don’t know why this should be the case, but the design standard was high and the execution was pretty good throughout.
  2. The show has become a sort of tripartite event with the competition quilts, the invited white cube exhibition work and the traders taking up a third each.  The actual square footage was bigger than last time I went with more room for tea, coffee and picnics which was welcome.  There are far fewer quilts submitted by the ‘serious leisure’ quilters, and I think that is a shame.  Maybe people still prefer Malvern for that.  In general, though, I like the combination as the white cube quilts were stunning in many cases.  One in particular was a group of Dutch quilters who did not allow photography so I cannot include a photo, but had masterly and very controlled use of vibrant colours. ((Willy Doreleijers, Olga Prins and Anco Brouwers).
  3. There were two big trends: phototransfer and lettering.  In the worst examples, the phototransfer seemed like a thin excuse for showing holiday snaps with some co-ordinating fabric round them, and by and large I didn’t think that the technique was used all that well.  One exception was the professional quilter, Annette Morgan:
    Annette Morgan, Transported - paddling - Mille and Emma

    Annette Morgan, Transported – paddling – Mille and Emma

    And there were some nice lettering pieces like this one by

    Jean Ball, I love fabric

    Jean Ball, I love fabric


  4. There were some great new books on sale, particularly in the Quilt Art category.  I bought Sandra Meech’s new book.  I love her work.  I find the books a bit samey, but buy them anyway because they are so beautifully produced and illustrated and I find her work magnificent and really wish I could do something similar (and here’s a woman who really knows how to make phototransfer work)IMG_2306 IMG_2307
  5. Our trip was very civilised.  We travelled together and then split up and met for lunch and tea.  Otherwise everyone went round on their own which was a good idea as it meant you could go at your own pace and see quilts or go shopping.  On the other hand, the level of rudeness from people was amazing and we all had a tale of grabby fellow shoppers, suitcases on wheels over feet or stroppy traders.  So much for quilters being piecemakers and wanting to cover the world in cuddle quilts.

Here, then, are a few of my very favourite pieces – just a personal selection, and not the prize winners or the much admired portrait of David Tennant in sepia patches.

IMG_2275 Liz Howlett, Bead all you can bead

This is Liz Howlett’s ‘Bead all you can bead’.  I love beads and I love indigo shibori tie-dye techniques so I loved this, and I very much admire the skill of the tying to get those lovely smooth curves.


Lisbet Borggreen, Circles in Squares

Lisbet Borggreen, Circles in Squares

I liked the attention to detail on the quilting on this piece and the very confident use of the circle motif.

Sheena Norquay, Decorative Spirals

Sheena Norquay, Decorative Spirals

I admired the virtuoso quilting on this piece.

Joyce Dorsett, Jonny wanted lizards

Joyce Dorsett, Jonny wanted lizards


For some reason I find lizards really appealing in art works (and sometimes in the flesh, although the enormous one lumbering through the Indian jungle  I encountered with my mother was less cuddly).  I also really like the take on attic windows in this quilt.

Elizabeth Barton, Battersea

Elizabeth Barton, Battersea

I think I might have done a bit more with the quilting in the sky here, but otherwise a gorgeous small quilt.

Dijanne Cevaal, Childhood Memories, Billabong Creek

Dijanne Cevaal, Childhood Memories, Billabong Creek

This is a terrible photograph of a stunning piece which showed the fabulous effects you could get with circular machine quilting:

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This second close-up is very blurry, but shows the black on black which worked brilliantly.

Linda Onions, Der Dah Whoosh

Linda Onions, Der Dah Whoosh


This was a great combination of a painted quilt which really worked and a lovely use of seeding to quilt and enhance the painted cloth.

Jacqueline Amies, Hip, Hip Hooray

Jacqueline Amies, Hip, Hip Hooray


Another lovely painted quilt, which also used negative space in a way that was well-integrated with the rest of the piece (and there were a lot of ideas in this quilt).

Christine Restall, Windfall

Christine Restall, Windfall


Christine Restall seems to me to have really mastered colouring cloth – these pears look like she has used a crayon like Inktense on them.  I must have liked her work because I too photographs of two pieces including this one of flat irons:

Christine Restall, Flat Irons (Grandad's kitchen)

Christine Restall, Flat Irons (Grandad’s kitchen)


Janie Harvey Douglas, A Slight Murmur of Starlings

Janie Harvey Douglas, A Slight Murmur of Starlings


Lots of people have a go at this sort of quilt but very few seem to be able to pull it off with this quality of line.  On a similar theme, the master of this sort of work is Linda Kemshall:

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The gold detail here is painted on and I think the background may have been discharge-sprayed out to bring up the orange.  I love her work.

Anne Ames, Inner Strength

Anne Ames, Inner Strength

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I really loved this.  The quilting was inventive and the colour palette was subtle but punchy.

This is  To The Left of the Moon by Hazel Ryder and was based on a saying of her dad’s.   It is so beautiful and that horse is so lovely.





This post is getting a bit unwieldy and so I will stop here, but I will blog about my very favourite white cube exhibition at some point., and finish by saying that I had a great time with the quilts and the dympnas.

Hello, I’m back


It has been quite a while since I posted.  This is because of a combination of extensive travel and the consequences thereof, but I am on the mend, and ready to blog again.

One of the events that I went to was a Summer Institute at Manchester Metropolitan University which had sessions on a number of contemporary social theorists and philosophers.  As I could only hear out of one ear at this point, I was not well-placed to develop much insight, but I did realise that there was a whole body of theory which will be extremely useful for my Laura Ashley project.  This is the New Materialism.  Essentially it is a response to what social scientists call the Linguistic Turn.  This posits that all our experience is mediated and constituted through language.  The way we experience the world is dependent on the language we use.  Where this language is manipulated for political reasons it is usually called discourse.  A fairly trivial example of this would be putting -ette on the end of a word to make it feminine, but also thereby making it sound less significant that the masculine version, hence the preference of many women to be called actors rather than actresses (think of the old as the actress said to the bishop jokes).  The New Materialism agrees that discourse is vital but it insists that there is more than words making the world.  Things matter too.  And things can have agency.  We treasure objects passed on from our forbears, for example.

There are a number of theorists in this area, and I have a solid reading programme lined up for the summer, but following on from my (D)rag Dolls, I want to write a piece about the New Materialism and men’s suits (as you do).  My argument will be if you are going to write about objects and our bodily responses to them you will need a new sort of embodied writing.  This is a piece of my writing attempting to do some of this new sort of (academic) writing:

My hand on the shoulder of a well-turned jacket feels the solidity of masculinity, feels how it has endured all these years, and how it will endure into our granddaughters’ days and probably beyond.  That shoulder with its carefully turned seam has the grainline of its dull woolen cloth running in parallel with the musculature beneath.  As he moves, it moves.  As he becomes still, it becomes still.  It remains forever smooth, forever unwrinkled, uncreased.  The shoulder of a bespoke man’s jacket tells us everything.  My hand on it touches smooth expertly steamed and formed cloth, but it also touches something permeated with the erotic: power.  The masculine hegemony rests upon those broad, perfectly level shoulders, tapering down to the slim waist and narrow hips.  Where these do not exist, the exquisite craft of Saville Row can conjure them, ordinary magic, everyday of the week.  By layering all those stuffs with arcane names: melton, boxcloth, lappet cloth, keysermere, nankeen, domette, perfection can slip effortlessly onto those uneven shoulders, stooped backs, pigeon chests.  Everyman can ape the Apollo Belvedere.  Every man can, with enough cash to pay his tailor, slide into the torso that always has and always will rule the world.

When I smell that matte wool cloth I am momentarily infantilised.  I am back being carried on my father’s shoulder with my cheek pressed against one of his tailor-made suits.  Whatever else had to be sacrificed, the dandy that was my father never gave up his carapace, his armour against a hostile world.  And he was a dandy in the true sense, the Beau Brummell sense: restrained, elegant, unshowy, concerned with fit, detail, taste and quality.  The sight, touch and smell of a well-made and well-fitted woolen suit can turn me into a little girl again.

If it can turn me into a little girl again at a wedding, or a black tie dinner or in a superior men’s outfitters, how much more of a transformation can it perform in an office?  Masculine power and privilege is stitched into the seams, turned into the lapels, eased into the shoulder roll, pressed into the neck dart, couched down into the buttonholes and pocket flaps.  Sobriety.  Restraint.  Austerity.  Strength.  Nobility.  Discretion.  Perfection.

When my hand rests on the promontory of the tailored shoulder, it rests on a whole genealogy of male perfection and beauty.  I breathe in, along with the warm and slightly thyme-y smell of the wool, bodily power.  This look, which echoes the Greek hero, every ready for battle, is tailored to and for men.  The proportions of the suit, the cloth cut to move freely and and then drape back again, the details, fossilised forms of military uniforms with their buttons and their epaulette aping shoulders, all speak silently of and show hidden in plain view masculine entitlement: power, privilege, prestige, and place at the top.  And that suit, modelled on the perfect male silhouette and proportions, will never sit properly on a woman, and she will never be asked by her tailor, ‘And which side does madam dress on?’.  And so the drag will never convince.  Belle can never become a Beau.

This is a bit of a visit to Academic Quilting territory, butI have some exciting things coming up, including the Festival of Quilts and a trip to the David Bowie and Zandra Rhodes exhibitions in London, so the blog should be back to normal shortly.