Friday 17 April 2020

Reading recommendations and volunteering opportunities

Here are a few book recommendations to help keep your mind off the COVID-19 lockdown.

For those of you who are interested in books which relate in some way to textiles and/or clothing, here are a few suggestions:
·         Arnold Bennett, The Old Wives’ Tale (1910): This novel focuses on the lives of two sisters in a provincial draper’s shop, offering a considerable insight into the importance of such shops in Victorian communities. One sister manages the shop, while the other sister runs away to Paris. Lots of references to clothing and fabric in a novel which is a masterpiece.
·         Joan Lindsay, Picnic at Hanging Rock (1967): This is set in Australia in 1900 and concerns a group of schoolgirls who visit an enigmatic local landmark, the Hanging Rock. Some of the girls are mysteriously ‘lost’ and if you are interested in the history of clothing and its cultural significance, then this novel offers a fascinating read. There are wonderful images of girls freeing themselves of their corsets as they climb.
Still from the 1975 film version of Picnic at Hanging Rock
·         Colm Toibin, Nora Webster (2014): Set in 1950s/60s Ireland, the novel is focused on the recently widowed Nora. There’s lots of references to clothing and home dressmaking. A wonderfully evocative novel.
·         H.G.Wells, Kipps (1905): You may have seen the film version, but the novel offers a negative view of the drapery trade. Kipps, a young draper’s apprentice, hates the fabrics he has to sell, dreaming of a more adventurous and ‘manly’ career. Nevertheless, H.G. Wells was himself a draper’s apprentice as a teenager, and he certainly knows a lot about fabrics.

Poster for the 1941 film version of Kipps

Hillary Lette:  I am totally engrossed in Threads of Life by Clare Hunter - it has even stopped me knitting! What an AMAZING book, on so many levels.

Wendy Riddick: The book I’m reading at the moment is The Golden Thread: How fabric changed history by Kassia St Clair

Rosamond Peet: I have at last started to read the book my sister gave me to enjoy on winter afternoons and evenings.  It is Alexander Mc Call Smith’s reworking of Emma but brought up to date.  He certainly has brought his clever wit to the work, but so far I am in the early chapters so I will have to see how it progresses.  I feel at the minute it centres on Emma and Isabella before the Austen story starts.  Other than that, I have lots of books to reread on my shelves and some that have been unread and really I should put my head into some French literature and exercise my brain, but not Proust.  Marcel Pagnol is nice to read to perhaps I shall start there.

Janice Knight: I couldn't resist replying to your email about books when I saw your reference to Barbara Pym. I've almost finished all my books from Oswestry library with no chance of getting any more in the foreseeable future but I was lucky enough to find a Barbara Pym I hadn't read in a charity shop a few days before our enforced self-isolation. So I'm really looking forward to reading Excellent Women.
As for suggestions, I always find Tracy Chevalier books worth reading especially for their references to art/textiles:  Girl with a Pearl Earring (Vermeer); The Lady and the Unicorn (tapestry); The Last Runaway (quilting); A Single Thread (embroidery).
Poster for the 2003 film adaptation of The Girl with the Pearl Earring
The last library book I read was, surprisingly by a male American author, but is well worth reading: The Last Ballad by Wiley Cash (the story based on truth of the fight for equality and fair pay in the cotton mills of USA in the 1920s so vaguely to do with textiles).

Elaine Rowland: I'm currently reading Millions Like Us, Virginia Nicholson's study of women's lives during World War II. I have already read and enjoyed her books about the 1950s and the inter-war years (both of them were referenced in my dissertation), but reading this one at present serves as a useful reminder that being forced to stay at home and sew is hardly the greatest hardship ever encountered.

Ann Martin: I'm reading books about the detective Vera as on TV. (Anne Cleeves, Vera Stanhope books).

Darcy Lear: I thought I’d let you know that I’ve just read A Single Thread by Tracey Chevalier. A definite link to craft and textiles! Some time ago I read a book called Singled Out by Virginia Nicholson - a social history covering the period just after the Great War. It looked at the issue of ’surplus’ women, the many who’d been trained only to fulfil the career of wives and mothers and who now suddenly found themselves without husbands and in need of jobs to support themselves. Tracy Chevalier’s novel explores that idea.
I’ve also thought of another novel I enjoyed ages ago with a textile theme running through….Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood…..a theme of quilts and quilt making running throughout.

Sharon Forsdyke: Reading recommendations: Carola Dunn’s ‘Daisy Dalrymple’ series and I’m bingeing on Agatha Christie’s Poirot books.

Volunteering opportunities:

Maralyn Hepworth: Friends of Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings have now set up and extra Volunteers facebook page where people can post. If you have any interesting snippets about anything to do with the Flaxmill, it would be great to share.  I have posted about the dye planters there, all ready to go when it re-opens to the public, and spinning wool for an 18th century shawl. Others do research and random other things!!!  

Debbie Marais: Here's a link for a volunteering-from-home opportunity:

Here are a couple of links to patterns: crochet tutorial - not quite the 6.5cm required but could add a second layer of double crochet all round or use bigger wool and hook

How to crochet a simple heart measuring about 2 inches by 2 inches. I hope you enjoy! (^-^) Written version: Instagram: Website: Facebook: Patreon:

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