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Brunel Broderers’ Exhibition at Newark Park

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On my recent visit to Newark Park I was lucky enough to see the Brunel Broderer’s exhibition, which was of work made in response to the house and gardens.  I really hate singling people out in exhibitions, because often it is just a matter of taste as to whose work you prefer, but there was some glorious embroidery on display.  I particularly liked seeing the sketchbooks accompanying the work, and I liked the way that it was spread throughout the house and not just in the gallery.  For example, my good friend Liz Hewitt had this rather lovely piece in a little ground-floor reception room:

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This is a little taster of the rest of the show:

The combination of this very high quality contemporary needlework, and the older pieces I mentioned in an early blogpost make this a really good day out for sewers of all sorts.

 

 

 

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A period Laura Ashley bedroom open for visits

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The Medieval Historian and I brushed the gathering dust off our National Trust cards and went to Newark Park to see a bedroom specially decorated to feature in the Laura Ashley home catalogue:

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I was told about this at a quilting group I recently visited.  The room was featured in the catalogue, and the entry had been photographed and laminated, but sadly no date was included:

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The whole room felt like a trip down the memory lane of Laura Ashley at her height:

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I am not sure if this is original but it looks like some of her high victoriana fabrics:

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This was a rather nice little terrarium-type decoration:

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And this was the landing with a rather nice mirror just outside the room:

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I don’t have anything very profound to say about the visit to the period bedroom, except that it felt very familiar and it was interesting to see the whole soup to nuts decor.  I knew that the family used their own homes as room sets for the catalogues but not that they used other people’s.

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Still more applique

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This piece is backed onto some curtain interlining and then washed in hot water to give it a vintage feel.  This particular interlining seems to turn into tungsten steel when you give it this treatment so I thought I would stick to something fairly simple for this piece, a spray of leaves.  Once more it is based on a lovely piece by Mandy Pattullo:

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Her’s has a lot of dynamism because of the swirl of the quilt piece behind it.  Mine is much more stable and sedate:

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I wanted to use these lovely purple-y Laura Ashley pieces which were given to me by Gill Bonham, one of the Bristol Quilters.  They were mainly quite fine lawn pieces and very easy to applique.  I decided to embroider them in pink because of the lovely foliage on some flowers I was recently sent:

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I love that pink edge on the shiny strappy leaves.  I was wondering what to do lift the piece and I decided to add some buttons:

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I am not normally a big fan of buttons, and I do actually know someone who genuinely has a phobia of them, but on this occasion I thought they matched the naive quality of the piece.  Furthermore, these all came from my mother-in-law’s button box which I inherited when she died.  Most of them are fairly vintage, which fits in with the general theme of the series.

This little piece has some really old Laura Ashley prints.  The background has some of what looks like Indian woodblock print and this is some of the first designs the company produced for clothing.  The navy and white prints in the above piece are also quite old ones.

It was a delight to do, and I think my hand applique has really improved over the course of this project.

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Fabric pictures of houses

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Quick post today.

Yesterday was the first event on the schedule that I have drawn up with my visiting US quilt scholar academic, Marybeth Stalp.  As part of the workshop, I made up some packs for people to do some sewing who weren’t ‘self-identified’ stitchers.  I made some samples to show them what they could make with the packs and the extra materials I had provided.  The theme was around the domestic and what happens when your hobby turns slightly serious.  We had a great afternoon, and here are the samples, pictures of houses or homes, to go with the theme of the day:

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Alison Moger at Bristol Quilters

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This post is about lovely Alison Moger’s visit to Bristol Quilters last night, but it is also about synchronicity and that feeling that the whole world is coming together to help you in your work, which is a bit delusional, but most definitely seems to happen to people when they are in ‘flow’ with a project.

Alison Moger is textile artist who is interested in community narratives, specifically the narratives of families and place.  She makes pieces about women’s lives and concerns, working on recycled domestic textiles such as tablecloths, tea towels, tray cloths and shawls.  She then prints and embroiders and burns and bleaches and patches them into textiles which capture the story she wants to tell.  The stories are about women’s lives and how they have changed over the past couple of decades.  She has done commissioned work on hospital wards for people with Alzheimers making wallpaper from blown up stitched pieces which allowed the patients to navigate the space through pictures but also to remember how they used to do embroidery themselves.  She did what sounds like fascinating work in South Wales with families from the area affected by the recent wave of young people’s suicides to celebrate what was good about the community and to commemorate the dead.

She is Welsh herself, and makes pieces to preserve Welsh culture.  So there were pieces about the ‘Fair People’ who had, like herself, blond hair and were mistrusted in a community of the dark-haired, and stories from the Mabinogion with its attendant seasonal customs such as the skeleton horse who seems to have been some sort of trick or treat character.  She also talked about going on holiday to Porthcawl on the coal lorry when the holiday-makers took their own furniture on the truck to camp with.  The posh person with the caravan became the leader of the field kitchen.  Then they all waited for the lorry to return home.  I liked her idea of working into and onto tea towels because women often work out their problems while doing the washing up, and her invaluable advice, ‘Don’t go out with a man from Bridgend Road, especially if he keeps greyhounds.’

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So, it was a fascinating talk, and the work was really lovely.  But over and above that, I was intrigued to see just how closely our interests overlapped.  I am interested in textiles and their connections to women’s lives and identities.  I am increasingly interested in memory and aging.  And I am getting involved in working on community pieces which will have some connection to changing the world around me.  I had had a great conversation with a colleague about this at the university earlier in the day.  It felt like the universe telling me I was on the right path and to keep going as there are allies and helpers out there.  That is a bit Californian wacky-woo-woo New Age for me, but it was a good feeling.

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Quilt chic

deluxe-productFor my birthday I asked for a copy of the The Decemberists’ new album.  I am not a big fan, but I really wanted the CD for the cover, which looked to me like one of the wonderful nineteenth-century applique quilts which I have recently been studying.  It turns out not to have been a quilt, but a painting.  According to the website plans are in hand to make the two paintings into quilts and there is a competition to win them.  I would just like the pattern:

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I think it gives a good indication of what these quilts would have looked like when they were new.  We are used to seeing the faded and worn versions, but they would probably have sparkled when the fabric was new.

On the subject of the old and romantically faded and worn, this is also taken from ‘popular music’.  I saw this poster last year and have been meaning to post it ever since:

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Never mind Mr Mayer, let’s see more of the quilt!

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I am fascinated by the way quilts are used to reference Americana, rootsiness and home.  If you want to suggest heritage, even if you are going to subvert it, get a quilt.

 

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What I learned about identity from Jan Hassard

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The speaker at Bristol Quilters last week was the lovely and very talented Jan Hassard.  She has been a member of Bristol Quilters for years, and so it was nice to see  her body of work as it developed; it was something of a retrospective, as they call it in the fine art world.

Jan’s work couldn’t be more different from mine.  Her work is totally precise, planned, ordered, structured and disciplined.  Mine is slapdash and improvised.  But even so, it is glorious because it has so much beautiful colour and vivacity.

I am not posting many photos, because a. I didn’t take a camera – even my phone, and b. she was talking about the increasing phenomena of work on the net being stolen and copied, or just used without permission.

The riot of colour which was a tonic for the soul aside, I enjoyed Jan’s talk for its insistence on craft, standards, high levels of finish and presentation, many concerns which I would like Craftivists to take into account.  I loved it even more because it seemed to me to be the perfect riposte to the anti-nostalgia rally that I seem to keep running into recently.  It is like there is something deficient in people who want to hold the past with affection.  They should be letting go and moving on.  They should be facing up to the realities of the present and not seeking solace in the imaginary golden past of tea and crumpets and church picnics.  Nostalgia is the new opium of the people, according to this analysis, and women are particularly susceptible.  At the same time we hear lots of stuff about identity (see, for example, Grayson Perry’s wonderful recent series on British television).  Most of the identity theory at the moment is about our fugitive, unstable, protean identities, constructed only in relation to others (I am different as a daughter, wife, friend, university academic, driver, customer, quilter and so on).  Jan’s talk, however, included her experience of being a very small child in the war and being bombed out of her home.  Her parents knew how to count between hearing the bomb and its exploding.  So they managed to get her to safety but the house was destroyed: everything gone in an instant.  Later on, as dispossessed person she got a Canadian Red Cross quilt.  These were utility quilts made by Canadian women to aid British allies who had lost everything.images-5 images-4

Jan talked about sleeping under hers until she was about eleven.  One day her mother just threw the quilts away.  To a collector like Jan in later years, this was devastating, but to her mother it made perfect sense.  She did not want to be reminded of the horrible period in her life when she lost everything.  Jan now acquires these Red Cross quilts.  I don’t think that this is fuzzy nostalgia of the sort that fuels our delight in Downtown Abbey.  I think this is a serious identity project.  Our identities might be shifting and relational and contextual and contingent, but they are built on experience that matters to us.  We cannot just throw off that quilt and become post-modern, or worse yet post-human.  And, once again, cloth plays a major part on our view of ourselves as people in the world.

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What I did at the weekend

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These are really not very good photographs of the work I did on the new Laura Ashley piece.  I have had a big burst of interest in this quilt, and I am wondering if it is because the other large piece has gone.  There is a lot about at the moment on the subject of decluttering.  One idea is that you have to clear out old stuff to let the new in.  I wonder if I had to let go of that piece, which had every technique I knew at the time in it, and completely wiped out my bead collection, in order to produce something new.

Anyway, I spent a couple of hours yesterday working with scraps of cloth to put together the foundation for two panels.  Again this is mainly fabric which would be in landfill if it hadn’t ended up on one of these pieces, although the Regency prints are commercially produced.

I wanted a record of how they looked before I started really working on them.  The pinkier one has some embroidery already, but the bluer one is at the very beginning.  The minute the embellishment starts to go on they really change.  All of my embellished quilts are like Vegas showgirls – nothing much until they put on the bling and step out into the lights.

I will post again when I have made some progress on them, and it’s good to have some hand-stitching to do again in these long, dark winter nights.

 

 

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What I did at the weekend

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If you read my previous post you will know that I have had a very busy time recently.  So this weekend, although I have a head buzzing with Laura Ashley ideas which need making, I found myself making small scale old school patchwork.  I made two dolls quilt size pieces.  I suddenly had the urge to do some very small, simple, self-contained bits of sewing.  They were made with the tiny leftovers from the squares I cut for the quilting bee last week, and which I couldn’t bear to throw away.  The fabric came from Flo-Jo Boutique on Gloucester Road, very kindly donated for our premature babies quilts.

The first piece is a sort of crazy quilt, just laying down the pieces in a more or less random way:

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Then adding some machine embroidery with variegated thread, and some hand stitching with embroidery floss.  The machine embroidery was done on the cheapo IKEA machine which is great, except that it has a massive take up of thread for its first stitch which means the needle comes unthreaded repeatedly and is a bit irritating after a while.  Otherwise it is brilliant, and I used it throughout to make the two pieces, except for putting on the binding where I wanted the 1/4″ foot on the Bernina.  The Bernina, incidentally was playing up and snapping threads.  I gave it a good clean with a stiff brush and removed a mountain of fluff, so let’s hope that fixed it.

Here’s the embroidery on the first piece again:

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The second piece is a variation on the old strippy quilts and I thought I might do some embroidery on the strips, but in the end, just plain in the ditch quilting seemed to work fine:

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Nice stitch on the IKEA machine.  This is the back which I pieced from a remnant I bought and which was exactly the width of the front – meaning I needed to add a bit to make sure it fitted.  Somehow, despite adding a good inch it was still the exact width of the quilt.  Strange:

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I have always liked those pieced backs, and this is about the size I can cope with.

I really loved stitching on the binding as the cotton fabric is so lovely and so crisp to work with.  It had a very soothing effect.  I was talking to some friends about why we quilt and they talked quite a lot about its bringing order and giving a sense of control.  Clearing up the scraps and making them into something and then actually finishing them did act as a restorative, I think, after a very busy week.

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Quilted beauty

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Just a quick post today.  This lovely quilt is my mother’s friendship quilt made by her friends for a significant birthday.  She lent it to me for my talk to the Bristol Quilters on Wednesday.  The subject was Friendship and Album Quilts and this one was the showstopper!