Needlework

My Grannie was a milliner (hat maker) and some of my earliest memories are of sitting at the big table in the back room with her whilst she sewed. My job was to carefully pick apart blocks of die stamped silk flower petals - the ones that stick in my mind were turquoise blue and pinked at the edges. In 1970 millinery fabrics ranged from chiffon and netting through satins and rayon to velvet and plush, and the colours spanned the entire spectrum (including paisley). Grannie's scrap bag was a treasure trove of shades and textures. Forty years on I still have in my scrap box a little pile of three-cornered pieces (for some reason the scraps were usually triangular) - light and heavyweight satins in teal, fuchsia, chestnut and gold.

I learned from Grannie that pretty much anything can be made from fabric if you put your mind to it - over the course of my childhood she bought me all the Little Grey Rabbit books and when I wanted to put on the play in book 14 (Little Grey Rabbit to the Rescue) and found you could only buy Little Grey Rabbit and Squirrel, she set to and made all the rest of the characters for me - she even sacrificed the pompoms off her slippers to make Mr Hedgehog and Fuzzypeg!  

At school I learned all the usual things, applique, hand and machine embroidery, macramé, screen-printing and I did Art and Craft as one of my exams, with coursework pieces that included screen printed fabric based on woven newsprint, a gold-work dragon and a three-dimensional model of the inside of a pocket watch made entirely from material. I also had brief foray into theatrical costumery, designing and making Puck's costume for the 1982 Icknield High School production of A Midsummer's Night's Dream.

These days my needlework ranges from darning socks and sewing on buttons, through my bags and Christmas decorations, to one-off embroidery projects like the Capricorn picture below which took about 65 hours and is worked in 2ply wool and stranded embroidery cotton (twelve colours on the go at the same time for the tail).

I love working with fabrics and sometimes even weave my own using an Ashford Knitter's Loom which has given me an even greater respect for the skills of commercial weavers working on brocades and paisleys.