Thursday, 25 March 2010


I went to see the V&A's British Quilts exhibition the other day...and all I can say is "GO AND SEE IT!" It's a real tribute to the women and men who so laboriously and lovingly patched together the fabric of their lives to create some seriously beautiful and intricate work. It's incredible to see what they managed to do, often with very little space, probably very little light, and sometimes in secret or on the high seas. I was amazed at their attention to detail and ingenuity when it came to finding things to make their patchworks. I love the fact that each fabric tells a story - many of them were of course cut up old clothes or household linens. There were girls in a Japanese prison camp who cut pieces from their dresses to make a quilt for their Guide leader, or the man who used army flannels to construct a quilt consisting of thousands of hexagons no bigger than a 1p coin. I had no idea either how women from the Welsh Valleys quilted in the 40's to supplement the incomes of their miner husbands, and how some of their work ended up in Claridges hotel. The modern work was interesting too, but for me it's the really ancient quilts that impress the most. Wonderful animals, people and scenes all sewn painstakingly onto their backgrounds. The only quilt I've ever made was something I rustled up over a couple of nights as a teenager. Using the sewing machine, I patched together loads of squares and joined them all together with strips of an old sheet. I then backed the whole lot with another sheet. I still have it now - and I love the fact that I can identify most of the fabrics as this or that dress, or those curtains. My rough and ready attempt is nothing compared to the beautiful hand work on the quilts in this exhibition. But seeing them makes me appreciate even more, the dedication needed to create a real heirloom.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Rag Rug Workshop

I've just had a great day making rag-rugs (see my attempt at a rag-rug bag above!) with Jenni Stuart-Anderson in Worcestershire. If you've never tried it before, I suggest you give it a go, as not only is it quite easy to get started, it's a fun and decorative way to use up old clothes, scraps of fabric and remnants that you've got no other use for. I went to Jenni's one-day course at The Hatch, which is run by Ben and Nada. They are the most lovely couple - so welcoming, with delicious veggie food on offer too. The Hatch is an incredible place. Set in idyllic countryside, it boasts a super-cool recording studio, as well as space for all sorts of different creative workshops. I went for the B+B option. You choose to stay in the house, an artisan-built log cabin, yurt or tent. There's a calm but energetic atmosphere, and little homely touches are everywhere. I was offered a glass of wine on my arrival and there was a pretty vase of Spring flowers in my room. We joined the family for supper - a delicious homerty pie followed by chocolate and pear brownies. Next day we tucked into a really tasty soup and salad lunch. We even had the most delicious damp lemon cake for tea to break our hard work rag-rug making! It wasn't JUST about the food of course, although it really was superb! I think they should do cookery courses next. Jenni was a great tutor, introducing us to her craft through simple techniques which don't take too long to master. It will be some while before I reach her level though. She's a real artist, and twenty years in the business makes her a very hard act to follow!

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Spring flowers

I've seen flowers like this in the window of Anthropologie in London and New York - in fact I've featured the flowers elsewhere on my blog. They're made out of plastic drinks bottles, and are a great way of recycling them. Anyway, I thought I'd have a go at making the flowers myself. It's easy. To make a flower, use the drinking end of the bottle, and cut off the rest about half way down. Slice the bottle into strips, shape each strip to make petals, and then bend them outwards. Use spray paint (experiment with different types to see what works) to colour the flowers. I sprinkled glitter on the smaller one and it seemed to stick really well. Then cut a length of stiff wire (an old coat-hanger would work well) a few inches long, and wrap it around the drinking end. Use the length of wire to stick into the soil or a vase. I'm going to see how these fare outside after a few bouts of rain! I'll report back. They'd be a great way to decorate a garden or a window box.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Patch Walk Easter Trail

Imagine wandering around a beautiful garden resonant with the spirit of creativity. Now imagine you've been given the means to make a fabulous textile collage of all the things you see and experience. That's the plan for Easter Sunday at Charleston in Sussex. Charleston was the country home of the Bloomsbury group, and is a unique example of the decorative style of Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell who lived there during the 1920's. Viriginia Woolf, E.M Forster, Lytton Strachey and Roger Fry were all frequent visitors to the house. I'll be leading what's been christened the "Patch Walk" which is aimed at encouraging young visitors in particular to really open their eyes and experience the colours, textures and spaces that make Charleston unique. There'll be a number of "patch stops" along the way for people to pick up different bits and pieces like scraps of fabric, leather and buttons. They'll work all the things they collect into collages which they can put together in the barn. Do come and join us if you can. It's not JUST for children of course. What better way to spend a Sunday afternoon on Easter Day. Let's hope the sun shines! Find out more on the Charleston website just click here.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

A wanderer through the woods

I have to admit, this isn't one of my photos I'm afraid, as I neglected to take a camera on my recent walk along part of Offa's Dyke. I actually didn't want to bring my camera. I just wanted to look, observe, and record without resorting to photos. But of course an image does convey things to other people perhaps more easily than words sometimes. Thus this photo of Tintern Abbey on the banks of the Wye. It was lovely just to be outside in the fresh air, especially as these days I spend so much of my time in London. But I think all that could be about to change. Yes, I feel the need to move on. I'm not sure where I'll go, but I hope a leap into the dark might be met with a firm landing somewhere. Or maybe I'll get a camper van and continue my travels. I would just like to be unburdened for a while of stuff. Walking with a rucksack on your back, you realise just how little you really need to get by. Travel light and maybe you leave room for other things to grow.