These are a few of my favourite things! Part two

These are a few of my favourite things…

Part two of my post showing you some of the  materials that I regularly use and that just make me smile  – as seen through the eyes (and camera lens) of Carole Fitzgerald of Lazy Sunday catering.

I mentioned my love of garment pieces in part one of this blog. I’m currently working with a collection of vintage baby garments and shoes for my ‘Not Just Blue’ series. There is something beautifully poignant about these tiny little garments. I wonder about who wore them and what they went on to become. I think about the mother carefully dressing her baby – there are so many hidden stories before I have even started stitching.

A funny thing about this photo below. While we were setting up the shot Carole asked me if I had an old newspaper that could be used as a background and I proudly produced a September 16th, 1937 edition of  ‘The Evening News’ that I had literally come across in my stash the day before (I’d totally forgotten that I had it). Carole then spent a few minutes flicking through the pages – just looking for a headline or something that stood out to her for the photo. Imagine our sheer delight when she came across this article ‘These Lonely Mothers’ by Irene Stiles – it couldn’t have been more perfect. I do love it when synchronicity lends a hand.

You can read more about ‘Not Just Blue’ – my ongoing series of work exploring mother’s personal experiences of postnatal depression.

baby dress and kid leather shoes
Vintage baby dress & kid leather shoes

As well as these baby dresses I’m also continuously on the look out for garment pieces such as sleeves, cuffs or bodices. Again children’s garments can be a real source of beautifully shaped pieces.

Bodice piece
The cut of a simple bodice piece

This leads us neatly on to buttons. I think every stitcher has fond memories of playing with their mum’s or gran’s button box. I clearly remember my mum’s tin of buttons and could happily spend hours playing with the contents. Maybe that’s why so many of us have a fondness for buttons. My favourites now are linen laundry buttons – as always the tattier the better!

Linen laundry buttons
Linen laundry buttons & beautiful handmade Dorset buttons to the right

Another favourite is vintage mother of pearl buttons especially tiny ones from children’s or even doll’s clothes.

mother of pearl buttons
Tiny mother of pearl buttons

More and more I find myself using vintage threads whenever I can – there’s something about wooden cotton reels or a card of darning thread that is just enormously pleasing. Some of my favourites are vintage hosiery darning threads. They often come in sets of beautiful subtle colours and of course super fine to work with – gorgeous for detail work. I also love using vintage silks threads and sewing threads from my collection of Dewhursts Sylko wooden cotton reels. Favourite colour? It has to be  Turkey Red – I’m going to be devastated when my last reel runs out.

Box of threads for mending stockings
I love how there is only ever one or two spools missing – we only ever wear one or two colours of stockings or tights don’t we?

And finally I can’t possibly list a few of my favourite things without mentioning old quilt fragments. The hours of work that were poured into these beautiful but oh so very functional of items.

Vintage Quilts
Worn and tattered 1930s feedsack quilt pieces

Again I find myself drawn to the tattiest of pieces – faded colours and shredded fabrics. These beauties are very tattered pieces of American feed sack quilts from the 1930s. Find out more about feedback quilts at ‘Quilt History’.

Don’t just look at the front of the quilt piece – I often use the backing fabrics. These ones are made from a gorgeous muslin fabric marked by the lines of quilting stitches that I have unpicked in places. Number one rule of textiles – forget about there being a front and a back. Instead think in terms of ‘side A’ and ‘side B’ and use either or both!

Vintage quilts and yoyos
Beautiful hand stitched ‘yo-yos’ or Suffolk Puffs.

Find out how I have recently been using some quilt fragments in my series ‘Somethings’.

These truly are just a few of favourite things – I’m sure I’ll share more at a later date! A huge thank-you to Carole Fitzgerald for such delicious images – it’s such a joy to work with someone who gets as excited as I do over a pile of tattered fabrics!









These are a few of my favourite things! Part one

These are a few of my favourite things…

Definitely brown paper packages tied up with string but apart from that I thought I’d write a post showing you some of the  materials that I regularly use and that just make me smile. However when I started thinking about it I quickly realised that there are so many that I can’t possibly write about them all  – so here really are a few… and still so many that I’ve split the blog into two parts!!

Wherever possible I use old and used materials for my artwork – often the more tattered and worn the better. I know that they carry their own stories with them all wrapped up in their own history. Sometimes I will ‘imagine’ these stories and this will become part of my piece but often I am perfectly content to let the story remain ‘hidden’ and no less present for that – I know that it is there captured in the layers of my art.

Like so many textile artists, I am a bit of a collector. I wouldn’t say ‘hoarder’ because I am quite specific. There are some things that I know I would never use because they just don’t ‘speak’ to me and they happily get passed on elsewhere. I am a huge fan of Ebay and online sellers of vintage textiles, I love flea markets, I’m not hugely lucky in Charity shops but I am very lucky in that many bits & pieces seem to find their way to me when people are having clear outs. My favourite words ever are ‘could you use?’ – I literally hold my breath until I hear what follows.

‘Could you use some old table linen – it’s a bit marked and stained?’ – Yes please!

‘Could you use these old scissors – they don’t work anymore I’m afraid’ – Yes, yes, yes!

‘Could you use a bit of bling – I’ve some vintage sequins & beads?’ – No sadly not for me!

A few weeks ago I let photographer & stylist Carole Fitzgerald of Lazy Sunday loose in amongst my stash and here is just some of the gorgeousness we uncovered.

Old French table linens
Beautiful old French linens & tea towels

Lets start with vintage linens – old cream table cloths and tea towels. I find white a bit stark but it can, of course, be dyed or tea stained. I just adore french linens with their red stripes – cream & red is one of my favourite colour combinations and probably in the proportions it is used here and all the more gorgeous when it fades through time and use.

Vintage French linens
Frayed edges & woven selvedges

I love the edges and corners of linens – whether ripped and frayed or a beautiful woven selvedge and they are often the first pieces of the fabric that I will use. I’ll buy a piece of fabric just because it has a fabulous edge!

Vintage table linens
Why was I never finished?

I love finding stitched table linens or even those not yet started but have the pattern transfer with that gorgeous blue line. I wonder why this one was only just (beautifully) started? A life too busy? I really quite love finding very badly stitched pieces – I just imagine someone being forced into the pursuit of embroidery under duress and a little bit of ‘ill humour’ going into every stitch. Apologies I know I’m over using ‘I love’ in this blog but I just can’t help it!

Personal markings

Vintage handkerchiefs are another fabulous source of fabric. Often with a small piece of embroidery or edged in lace, monogrammed, washed & worn. Just imagine the emotion that these little squares of fabric have mopped up or helped conceal.

I’m always excited when I find something with some personal markings stitched in – initials or sometimes just seemingly random marks. Always check the back of stitching – it may look more intriguing than the front.

Old & darned cotton organdie
Edges, corners & holes

I often choose to use the most vulnerable parts of the textiles – edges that have been ripped & torn, pieces that have been worn almost threadbare. I look out for different weights of fabrics – cotton organdie is a beautiful very light weight fabric which can be used where you want just a wisp or just a suggestion.

Old garments with darns
Seams & darns

Perhaps my favourite thing to collect is fragments of old garments  – for me in creams & neutrals. I take them apart and use the shape of the garment piece, carefully unpicking the seams so that the stitch holes remain. I also use the seams themselves  – combining someone else’s stitching in with my own. I think above everything else I treasure patches, mends and darns (though I will probably say that about everything – I have a lot of ‘very most favourites’!

vintage sewing sample
Buttonholes & bands

Buttonholes and button bands would have to come into this category of very favourite things. This pic is a real beauty as it is a sewing sample made at school by someone probably in their domestic science classes. I don’t use these in my own sewing but keep them as little masterpieces in their own right – but I do wonder about the life of the stitcher.

Perhaps more mundane but really useful are buttonhole  & button bands from any old shirt. I love deconstructing shirts revealing the seams & shapes and using these as a background to personal stories. The piece below uses a wonderful vintage detachable shirt collar (very high up on my favourite things list) but the cuff comes from a very ordinary man’s white shirt – actually not so ordinary because and old friend of mine gave me some of her dad’s white shirts when he passed on. She discovered, while clearing out his wardrobe, no less than forty identical white shirts all hanging there – now therein lies a story I’m sure!

Artwork by Ali Ferguson
Collars & Cuffs

I’ll talk more about garments pieces in part two of this blog in a couple of weeks time  along with quilts and haberdashery so do check back. In the meantime you can see how I use some of the materials mentioned in my series ‘HiStories Uncovered’.

I’ll leave you with the gift of a couple of my favourite sellers –  but do, please, tell me more:

Sallie Ead who travels the Uk selling at fairs & shows and also regularly on Instagram

Joan – a lovely friend of mine – is on Etsy at Mamaisonfrancaise

and in the USA  – The Cherry Chic.