For as long as I can remember fabric, and sewing, has been a part of my life. Born and bought up in New Zealand, mostly in small rural communities, a strong sense of “self-help” and what we now call “make do and mend”, were how we lived our lives. My mother, a trained milliner and dressmaker, had a sewing room which was a magical treasure trove for us. Buttons, beads, lace, fabric, feathers and hat blocks sat upon her work bench. Little tins of paint, glue, varnish and brushes hinted at the other activities undertaken. As the wife of the local headmaster my mother made school concert costumes, painted the backdrops, made fancy dress costumes , made hats for a small number of clients(and remember everyone wore a hat in those days), stitched curtains, covered furniture, and dressed my sister and I and herself in beautiful outfits. One memory is of winning a fancy dress costume and the only part of the costume I recall is that my hat was a frying pan with all the ingredients for a healthy breakfast i.e. sausage and eggs! Old family photographs show my sister and I dressed in matching dirndl skirts elaborately stitched on my mother’s much loved Elna sewing machine, and I can remember the excitement of watching a new outfit appear off the sewing machine as if by magic.
We now live our lives in a very different way, and those sewing skills that were essential for my mother, are being lost. One exception is the continuing interest in the skill of quilt making. Both my sister and I are quilt makers, with our own style, but influenced by the intrinsic skills learnt at our mother’s side. Like a lot of women of my mother’s generation, my mother’s creative and artistic imagination took flight through the garments and hats she created for her family, and friends.
An abiding love for fabric, it’s potential to be transformed into something beautiful, or treasured in a stash for another time, is my mother’s legacy to me. I have fabric that I can remember buying in Liberty in London in 1975, the first time I visited London, and quilts are treasured because of the story attached to the fabric.
To see our full collections please visit us at one of the events we are attending.
In Ireland tweed manufacturing is most associated with County Donegal, and from my first visit to Ireland in 1975 the fabric has etched out a place in my fabric stash. Not traditionally associated with quilt making, tweed has taken a while to work its way into the quilt maker’s fabric collections. The history of utility quilt making tells us that tweed was re-cycled into quilts, but often as a lining or backing cloth, and rarely given pride of place on the front.