Friday, 28 February 2014

The Anniversary Quilt: An Update on Progress

Fiona Roberts Writes:

'All 25 blocks have been completed – how exciting!  Every member of staff and alumna has stitched their block with care, and showed such imagination and skill in how they have articulated their themes.  We have such a kaleidoscope of colour, and a fascinating range of interpretations from the group.  At the February meeting, those present laid out all the blocks and decided on what position would be best for he blocks in the final layout.  We photographed this (how could we hope to recall all these without a photo!)

We found that having taken a photo, we decided on a slightly different layout, to make it more balanced with predominant colours not being placed next to each other.

Our Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Adrian Lee was passing and popped in to see what we were up to!'

'A smaller group will be meeting up at the Quilter’s Trading Post in Buerton to stitch the blocks together and add the sashing.  We have decided to see what colour sashing looks best when we are in the shop!

Once the blocks are all stitched together to form one piece of cloth, we will leave this in the capable hands of Pam, who will be putting this on the gammill long arm quilting machine, and quilting the top, wadding and backing fabric together, and enhancing the designs on each individual block.  We can’t wait to see how it looks!

Next on the agenda is compiling the information needed for our book.  Everyone is writing 250 words outlining how they chose the design they created, supplying a photo of themselves and a description of how they are connected to / what they do at the University of Chester. 

Anne, Shirley, Louise, Kath and Pat have a look at Shirley’s draft pages for the book.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Wearing Rags in Victorian Britain

The circulation of clothing across class barriers created uncanny effects for social observers in the Victorian period. At the Derby races at Epsom in 1861 the French writer Hippolyte Taine noted the confused jumble of garments worn by ‘low’ characters in the crowd, discerning there the ghostly traces of fashionable West End clothes. The vision of unwashed and unkempt people wearing ‘gentlemen’s cast-off clothing’ and the once ‘stylish dresses’ of ladies prompted Taine to reflect:

This tatterdemalion attire, which has clad four or five bodies in succession, I always find painful to see. It is degrading: by wearing it a person admits or declares himself to be one of the off-scourings of society. In France a peasant, artisan or labourer is a man who is different, but not inferior. His working blouse or overall is his own; it has been worn by nobody but himself. This readiness to wear rags is more than a mere singularity; it denotes a want of proper pride; the poor, in this country, resign themselves to being other people’s door-mats. (Notes on England, 1861)

W. P. Frith, Derby Day (1858)

Taine’s belief that hand-me-downs were inadequate clothing because they did not properly fit the wearer, having been made for someone else, suggests that he sees clothing in a modern sense as an expression of identity. He also believes that the poor in France did not wear second-hand clothes but made their own homespun garments. I wonder if this was true?

The multitude of poor people in cities like London and Manchester were forced to wear the clothes rejected by the wealthy, clothes which had filtered down from owner to owner, via pawnbrokers' stores and secondhand clothes shops. The fact that earlier owners' lives could be read in the dilapidated garments worn by the poor suggested to writers like Taine that they had descended to being ‘ragged’, losing their social identities. Yet this sublimation of an individual’s identity into a collective state of raggedness meant that poverty was difficult to ignore. It was always visible on the city streets, particularly in London where beggars shared the West End pavements with wealthy shoppers; the well-off had an ever-present warning of what happened to a person when poverty struck. People in rags also indicated the presence of an underclass, discontented people who had the potential to rebel. Rags thus had a potential to act as political statements, to ‘speak’ of social inequality, to express discontent on behalf of the wearer who had no effective public voice. Visible raggedness inevitably made a statement.

Image: Children Rescued by Dr Barnardo's_year.htm

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

The Anniversary Quilt: An Update

Kath Roberts reports that her cross-stitch block representing the University of Chester crest is now finished. She adds, ‘I have decided to outline some of the main shapes to give definition.’

The mission statement square is also just about completed, with just some outlining in backstitch to do.

Kath writes: ‘The next square I have taken on is one to represent the celebrations for the inauguration of the University in September 2005.  As part of the Balls held for the celebrations fireworks displays were held and I have decided to represent these on black velvet, using fabric paint and metallic threads, with beads and sequins to be added on following the completion of the quilt by the Quilters Trading Post.’ 

'I have approximately 4 weeks to do this square before our Saturday session at the Quilters Trading Post on the 1st of March. Then we will choose the sashing, before cutting and sewing the squares and sashing together, this has by necessity to be a quick square to complete!  So I am intending to use mainly fabric paint and pens in silver and gold to produce the bulk of this work.  The stitching in metallic threads will be mostly stem stitch, chain stitch and bullion knots.'

Amy Jones has now completed her block, the Amber ‘Peace’ cross designed by Frederick Starkey in the garden outside the Cloisters:

We are all awaiting the moment when the quilt will be assembled after the 1st March meeting.