For the past few years I’ve been fortunate enough to attend Summer School at Cardiff Met. This year I chose Made with Love run by Joanne Terrar Young. The brochure described it as “Exploring culture, family and heritage through 3D textiles.” Just up my street!
The first morning the group tentatively came together. Unfortunately we were seated in a class room configuration which I felt stilted the creative flow. Joanne started off by asking us what we thought textiles were then we split into small groups to discuss “What are your experiences and memories of textiles from childhood? Have you any stories of family heirloom textiles?”
I thought about two categories, home furnishings and clothes.
Heavy, dark, large floral patterns for curtains. Some plain with boarders of patterned material stitched on. Years later I found out the reason for this style; they were blackout curtains from WW2 when fabric was scarce.
In the early 1960s colours zinged into the house – I had pale yellow curtains with pelmets, a bed cover, lampshades and a large storage box all lovingly made by my mother out of the same fabric. The chosen wallpaper complimented the design. The front room was redecorated in a Sanderson William Morris printed material and each chair had its own arm cover and antimacassar hanging on the back. They were ‘loose covers’ as my ever practical mother wanted then to be washable.
Golden Lily by William Morris
In 1965 my parents moved to an up-to-the minute designed house but the home furnishings came with us and remained until 1997, when my father died.
In the meantime my first home furnishings consisted of Indian throws for curtains and sofa covers. The cushions were made out of large flour sacks which I dyed then re-inked in the name of the mill.
Then I turned my thoughts to clothes and again the 1960s introduced me to change.
In the 1950s my clothes consisted of hand made dresses usually from the same fabric my mother had used for her new dress. Sometimes a skirt was made from an old pair of my father’s trousers but worst of all were the pyjamas handed down from my brothers. Thankfully I wasn’t expected to wear any of their day clothes! But second hand clothes were a staple of my wardrobe – usually gleaned from WI jumble sales where my mother helped out – she had the best pickings before the garments were piled high onto trestle tables to be rummaged through minutes later by the hoi-polloi. The shame when another girl from the village recognised her cast off on my back.
But at the start of my teenage years my fashion improved. One reason being was one of my older brothers had a ready supply of fabric through his workplace so I began to experiment making my own clothes. The simple shift was an ideal start as I could construct one without a pattern but this MacCall’s one is similar.
Another reason was I could buy a dress from C&A’s for 19/11 on a Saturday afternoon to wear out that evening (less than £1.00).
Joanne then showed us to the book Textiles, The Whole Story by Beverly Gordon along with a vast selection of images of textiles from around the world.
Next we were introduced to Evolon, a microfibre fabric made from polyester and polyamide chips which has a variety of uses from mite-proof mattress covers, window blinds, banners, filters and clothing.
The advantages of this non woven material:-
Can be stitches, glued
Can be heated to mould into shape
Feels like suede but acts like paper
Can be printed on using a domestic printer
After lunch we were invited to start on our own designs. I was daunted as, until this point, I’d no idea what fabric I was going to use or what size piece I had to work with. It was important that I utilised the inherent characteristics of the fabric; that I made something I couldn’t make out of anything other. I had but a short time to make my decision and chose to make an origami flat folded box. Unfortunately no computers were on hand so I left the rest of the group to work on their designs in order for me to go home and produce my digital design.
I spent the evening working on this template.