Monday, April 30, 2007


"In the kitchen of the home where I grew up there was a drawer for nothing but aprons. My mother and my grandmother would not be caught in the kitchen without one. The first thing I see when that room rises up in memory is a woman standing by the stove ... a woman in an apron."

A. Skeen, autor and professor

"In America, in a tenement flat, my grandmother wore one apron and over it another, to keep the first one clean for when company came."

E. Shakir, Lebanese autor and professor

Source: Joyce Cheney, Aprons: Icons of the American Home, Philadelphia/London 2000, inside cover

Sunday, April 29, 2007


"A pot might be used for cooking dinner or for brewing a spell, a needle might be used for sewing clothes or for piercing an effigy, a broom might be used for sweeping the floor or for flying out of the window. The tactile, gustatory and olfactory practices which were expected to keep women confined to close quarters, were transformed by witchcraft into media for mastering the world.”

Constance Classen, The Witch’s Senses: Sensory Ideologies and Transgressive Femininities from the Renaissance to Modernity, in Howes, David (ed.), Empire of the Senses: The sensual culture reader, Berg, Oxford, New York 2005, p.74

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Linen Connection

Some linen fabric I bought years ago at a street stall in Brighton (100% linen), a purple linen dress from a charity shop (55% linen, 45% rayon), a dark blue linen shirt left behind by a visitor from Germany (100% linen), a light blue Jigsaw summerdress from E-bay, a mistake, never worn (70% linen, 30% viscose), a pair of black summer trousers, worn thin between the legs (60% linen, 40% COTTON), a reel of thick linen thread as used for book binding: these have become the materials for "The Linen Connection" (see, 21 April 2007).

Thursday, April 19, 2007


"Moire is a ribbed or corded woven fabric which has been subjected to heat or heavy presuure (originally from stones weighing as much as 30 tons), to create a rippled appearance, often referred to as 'watered'. This arises as a result of the differences in reflection between the flattened and the unaffected areas. Moire fabrics are believed to date back as far as ancient Egypt, and by the 17th century had become a major industry in England and France."

Source: Dickson, Elana, de la Haye, Amy, Dodd, Eugenie, Lorenz, Rolf (eds), Textile Tales, boxed set of cards, Published by TextileTales 2003,

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Black & White

"I remember making myself a black and white striped skirt which I was very fond of and which made such an impression on my then boyfriend that he ended up marrying me; but I don't think I have ever worn a striped garment before or after this one."

Source: Comment by Arielle on the textile files/barcode/3.4.2007

"I also have a hazy memory, consisting of rough wooden beams and the old black and white striped ticking of a mattress, banging my head and being told unsympathetically that it was because I hadn't done what I was told! I was born in 1943 and the war ended two years later. I also remember waiting in my grandmother's black and white kitchen for the Daddy I had never met to come home."

Source: BBC Radio 4 Memory Experience

Striped skirt

"When we went on family holidays my mother used to wear a very brightly coloured cotton skirt. She never wore it at home. It was a lovely cool skirt, with many bright coloured stripes, which I remember her wearing on the beach. I can remember the feel of it when I held onto it while walking beside my mother, down a path from the caravan site to the beach. I think this is one of my earliest memories but it is very difficult to say how old I was. My mother had this skirt for many years. She wore it on many holidays and I was always very fond of this skirt."

Source: BBC Radio 4 Memory Experience

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


"I can remember sitting at the table in the house I shared with my parents/grandparents/great grandparents and uncle. The cloth was green chenille with tassles on it, wearing thin in places, and I can remember feeling the differences in texture and counting the missing tassles where I sat."

BBC Radio 4 Memory Experience

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Gold-colour Curtains

"My earliest memory is sitting on the floor of the second bedroom in my house when I was two years old and looking up at the bed in which my mother was lying. I ate some of her grapes. She was terminally ill. I still remember the swirling brown and white texture of the carpet, and the gold-colour curtains, and the smell and the stillness..."

BBC Radio 4 Memory Experience


"Linen (cultivated from flax) is the most ancient of all textile fibres: its use dates back to 8000 BC. It was used for Tutankhamen's bandages, Jesus Christ's shroud, Cicero's toga, the Phoenicians' sails, the Greeks' handkerchiefs and Charlemagne's underpants. The crisp white ruffs worn by the stern-faced men depicted by Franz Hals were made from linen, as were the fichus which hid the nudity of the 18th century courtesans. Lartigue's early 20th century portraits show how linen was used for summer sports wear; the Wright brothers used it to cover the wings of their aeroplanes; and it was appreciated by 1930s intellectuals such as Ciana, Cocteau, Hesse and Mann."

Vittorio Solbiati in Dickson, Elana, de la Haye, Amy, Dodd, Eugenie, Lorenz, Rolf (eds), Textile Tales, boxed set of cards, Published by TextileTales 2003,

Monday, April 09, 2007

Anger is Red

"I was very unhappy and struggling with life. I was crying and in despair about many things. A friend was sitting comforting me and I remember feeling embarrased. I was aware of how lovely an evening it was - it was summer - and could hear people laughing and chatting and I felt locked in a cold prison. I was shivering.I was sitting on seats with red cushions and remember thinking how much I hated the shade of red. Then she suddenly said to me - not unkindly but firmly - ‘how long are you going to remain a victim for’. I was shocked rigid. It felt like she had stuck a knife in me. Then I was furious with her, red hot angry and then suddenly realising that she was right. I was so angry that she was right. But it was a turning point in me getting my life back."

Source: BBC Memory Radio 4 Experience,

Life saving fabrics

"Perhaps one of the most humble textiles imaginable is 'oakum', the loose fibres obtained by untwisting old rope. Our forebears, for whom recycling of waste was an economic necessity, found employment for the inhabitants of workhouses and prisons picking apart discarded rope - a difficult and unpleasant task. Oakum was used by carpenters and shipwrights for caulking, by tailors for padding, and papermakers for making millboards. In hospitals, oakum was one of a variety of absorbant textiles available for dressing wounds. Joseph Lister, a professor in the School of Medicine at Glasgow University, revolutionised the practice of surgery with the idea of antiseptics to prevent the infection of wounds. He noted that the tar used to preserve rope, that found its way into oakum, contained resin and paraffin. Lister added these ingredients to liquid carbolic acid and saturated a cheap muslin gauze, thus forming the first antiseptic dressing. Lister's system for antiseptic surgery was published in the Lancet in 1867."

Dr. Philip Sykas, Manchester Metropolitan University, in Dickson, de la Haye, Dodd & Lorenz (eds), Textile Tales, UK 2003

Red blanket

"I can remember being taken out to an ambulance wrapped in a red blanket. I remember the neighbours standing nearby to see me. I had a burst appendix and perionitis but I don't remember the pain."

Source: BBC Radio 4 Memory Experience


"Many superstitions surround flax. To dream of the plant indicates a happy and prosperous marriage. To dream of spinning flax, however, suggests bad fortune. When it blooms, flax can be cut for use as a protection against witchcraft. It can also be woven with chants and incantations to protect the wearer of the final garment."

Batt, Tanya R., The Fabrics of Fairy Tale: Stories spun from far and wide, Barefoot Books, New York 2000, p. 148


"Red is the most powerful, the most vibrant, the most exhilarating of colours: it is the blood of life and of death. As such it is also ambiguous: life, fire, the sun and power are counterbalanced by sacrifice and death. Red threads and fabrics are associated with spirit worship and demons, with youth and marriage, with talismanic chamrms and secret powers. It is the predominant colour in all tribal and peasant embroidery, but is used in two entirely different ways - to protect and to mark."

Paine, Sheila, Embroidered Textiles: Traditional Patterns from five continents, Thames and Hudson London 1990, p.148

Sunday, April 08, 2007


Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Barcode stripes

"Striped patterns have been used since the beginning of civilisation. At the same time, a modern bar code contains information which human beings are prevented from reading; only machines can read it."

Kirsten Nissen, in Matthew Koumis (ed), Art Textiles of the World: Scandinavia Volume 2, Telos Art Publishing, Brighton 2005, p.67