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:

Monday 6 April 2020

Textile Therapy: Craft ideas for the Covid-19 Lockdown

Now are in 'lockdown' and unable to do our usual activities, many people are appreciating the therapeutic value of crafting. Here are some suggestions:

Hillary Lette
Last autumn I went to Blists Hill and saw a blanket that gave me some inspiration as a change to the knitted square blankets I had been making for the dementia ward at the hospital. So, I started knitting diamonds as opposed to squares. They don't take very long, use up any left-over wool (even tiny bits long enough to do a couple of rows) and when stitched together look kind of quilted. 

I join them into bigger diamonds of 9, which makes sure that the colours can be very random, and also makes it easier to put them together. When it comes to the edge, as you can see in the bottom right hand corner, I am finishing it off with black triangles to make it a regular rectangle shape. Just in case it helps, I use Size 4 needles, knit in rib, increase up to a 25 stitches, then start decreasing.  I think it is the rib that makes it look as if it is quilted. Very much a work in progress, and will be for some time.  Most of the wool comes from charity shops, so it is a win win situation. My fingers are busy, and the charity shops benefit.

Wendy Riddick

I have been keeping myself happily occupied with working on the small pieces and research for my Attingham Park four panelled screen and my family piece called ‘DNA’. Unfortunately, the screen itself, which is in progress and already has some applied pieces on, is down at my studio. My last outing too Attingham was with the Friends of the  the Flaxmill in March just before everything shut down which has given me some more inspiration to work from.

The ‘DNA’ piece is based on my own family members that share my DNA. I have been drawing family members past and present in a sketchbook, transferring the images onto fabric which is then stitched with my hair. I have been saving my hair for this project for some time. This week I have been stitching the manipulated pieced silk bases which they will be applied to. I have a very large family with some interesting stories. My cousin has been doing research into our family tree and I have the family albums here fortunately to work from.

Rosamond Peet

I wonder how far I will get with my project. I have started to work on a tapestry cushion cover for my first grandson to mark his birth - ….4 years ago??!!  I have had some design help from my very talented sister (thank you Hester) and am doing William the Whale squirting his friend Huffin the Puffin, the intention being to use his initials W and P as a sort of rebus.  I think it was a device the Tudors liked.  Fortunately I went to Abakhan to buy more wool before they closed for the time being.  So far only William and Huffin are stitched.  I want to do Holly the Honeybee on a poppy for my grand daughter I wonder how old she will be when it is finished??

Ann Martin
Just showing what I'm up to craftwise. I'm spinning recycled jeans from India mixed with raw cotton and on another wheel I'm spinning merino mixed with silk. I'm also knitting socks and a jumper and needle felting.

Daphne Wiggett
I do knitting for the homeless; the neonatal unit, & for refugees. Anything is appreciated. 

Free patterns are available online also wool needles etc . Folk may not realise that patterns: wool:needles & knitting info. can be found on line. There is a site "knitting for charity " which could be useful. We could become a new circle. ..maybe called the Knitwits! !

Georgina Spry
It would be worth looking at the Facebook group creating in the teeth of corona created by one of the ladies in my north wales Feltmaking  group. It’s taken off massively ans has lots of posts every day:

Sharon Forsdyke
I managed to set up a WhatsApp sewing group... It went really well.  Here are some photos of e knitted puppets made by one member and a collage of my work:

Ann Gibson
I have been knitting a cushion cover and here is a detail:
And the pattern:
Allow 3 balls of 100g double knitting wool. Size 4 needles. To fit a 16 x 16” (40x40 cms) square cushion (will vary according to tension).

1         Cast on 200 stitches (sts)
2         Work 30 rows in moss stitch (knit one, purl one first row; purl one, knit one second row)
3         Next row: work 20 sts moss; 60 sts plain; 40 sts moss; 60 sts plain; 20 sts moss
4         Next row: work 20 sts moss; 60 sts purl; 40 sts moss; 60 sts purl; 20 sts moss
5         Repeat last two rows for 88 rows (making 90 rows in total)
6         Work another 30 rows in moss stitch
7         Next row: cast off 100 stitches; knit remaining 100 stitches in moss stitch
8         Work a further 30 rows in moss stitch (to form inside/outside flap of cushion) and cast off
9         Fold and stitch up sides to form cushion shape, leaving flap to fold inside/outside
1       Attach buttons and button loops                                                                               amg/24.3.2020