Strange Material – Leanne Prain – Chapter Two

This chapter deals with clothing – how fabric is one of the first things to touch our body after birth, how textiles mark occasions, rituals, functions, jobs, hobbies, show our status and political views, ethnicity and carry on enveloping us until our death and beyond, until our body is either buried or cremated. The clothes we choose to wear are part of our non-verbal communication. When people decide to reinvent themselves clothes are one of the first things they change. They can imprison us or liberate us.

Agnes Richter was detained in an Austrian Asylum during the 1890s and, using her talent as a seamstress, she recorded her story by embroidering it onto her clothing. Much is difficult to decipher as she stitched vertically and horizontally so words overlap. It is housed in the Prinzhorn Collection at  Heidelburg University Hospital.
Agnes Richter's jacket

Agnes Richter’s jacket, made from hospital uniforms and embroidered with largely indecipherable words and phrases. Photograph: Prinzhorn Collection PR

Rosalind Wyatt‘s project The Stitched Lives of Others  “brings together lettering, life and art.” Starting with family history (something I work with) and a piece of inherited clothing Rosalind stitched Ester Tuke’s 18th century bodice with words taken from  letters written by her (Ester’s) husband Daniel.DSC_G3676

The Stitched Lives of London is made from 215 garments to mark the length of the river Thames. “It incorporates historical garments and artefacts telling the story of London in Stitch.”

Teresa Burrows is a British born Canadian and digs deep into the North Manitoba culture for her bead work.Untitled

the sul(fur) queen from the (a)las in rupertsland series 2007.

Based on Alice in Wonderland she uses traditional materials in a subversive manner; the cloak includes fur, Hudson bay blanket and beaver skulls. Teressa Burrows also talks about ‘a second skin’  – the invisible skin people use to help them deal with traumas in their past by hiding their shame under it.

The next section of the chapter introduces works of fiction where textiles play a pivotal role – although not mentioned I have recently read Fabrics of Fairytales  retold by Tanya Robyn Batt with fun collages  made by Rachel Griffin; a magical trip around the world featuring different types of fabrics.

Noël Palomo-Lovinski is a professor at Kent State University and has embraced the digital  world in her work; both in content and process. She is particularly interested in the intimate public confessions women make on social forums and sensational television shows – she takes phrases, digitally prints them onto fabric and crafts the material into fashion wear.

Bridezilla 2009, digitally printed tulle

Noël makes a public confession of her own – ” As a naturally reserved person, I noticed a long time ago that if I don’t divulge anything about myself, I have a harder time being accepted by other women.”
I confess to that as well.

The chapter is concluded with an exercise based on blindly choosing an item of clothing from your wardrobe  then writing a few paragraphs based on your response to a list of suggested  questions. There is also a knitting pattern for a memory sweater design by


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