Monday, June 25, 2007

Remembering clothes

"Why are these clothes so etched upon my imagination, as if history can be pieced together by a patchwork of this stuff? When I try to get things straight in my head - to tell the story properly, as stories should be told - it seems impossible to un-jumble; though maybe memory is not a jumble, but a kind of loom, shuttling through the warp and weft, weaving together a whole."

Justine Picardie, My Mother's Wedding Dress: The Fabric of our Lives, Picador, London 2005, p.21

Good Clothes

"We find our clothes, our clothes find us: they save us from being lost. At home in dress, we enjoy its touch, its crispness, smoothness, softness, texture, its feel on the skin it fits: these pleasures serving the larger pleasure of being at last, or hoping we are, our more glamorous and more potent self. In dressing we enter an inheritance which may include a 'true' self, revealed or rather realized by the donning of these good clothes."

John Harvey, Men in Black, Reaktion Books, London 1995, p.14

Bleach and Paper

"The greatest event was that the Misses Jenkyns had purchased a new carpet for the drawing-room. Oh, the busy work Miss Matty and I had in chasing the sunbeams, as they fell in an afternoon right down on this carpet through the blindless window! We spread newspapers over the places, and sat down to our book or our work; and, lo! in a quarter of an hour the sun had moved, and was blazing on a fresh spot; and down again we went on our knees to alter the position of the newspapers. We were very busy, too, one whole morning, before Miss Jenkyns gave her party, in following her directions, and in cutting out and stitching together pieces of newspaer, so as to form little paths to every chair set for the expected visitors, lest their shoes might dirty or defile the purity of the carpet. Do you make paper paths for every guest to walk upon in London?"

Mrs Gaskell, Cranford, Collins Clear-Type Press, London & Glasgow n.d., p.33

Thursday, June 14, 2007


"When I was growing up, all the women in my house were using needles. I've always had a fascination with the needle, the magic power of the needle. The needle is used to repair the damage. It is never aggressive, it's not a pin."

Louise Bourgeois, Destruction of the Father, Reconstruction of the Father: Writings and Interviews 1923 – 1997, edited and with texts by Marie-Laure Bernadac and Hans-Ulrich Obrist, Violette Editions, London 1998, p.222

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Der Naehkasten - the sewing box

"Ein Zweifel ueberkam mich, ob der Kasten von Haus aus ueberhaupt zum Naehen sei. Dass mich die Zwirn- und Garnrollen darinnen mit einer verrufenen Lockung quaelten, bestaerkte ihn. Sie ging von deren Hohlraum aus, der fuer die Achse bestimmt gewesen war, deren Drehung den Faden auf die Rolle gewickelt hatte. Nunmehr war dieses Loch auf beiden Seiten von der Oblate ueberdeckt, die schwarz war und mit goldnem Aufdruck Firmennamen und Nummer trug. Zu gross war die Versuchung, meine Fingerspitzen gegen die Mitte der Oblate anzustemmen, zu innig die Befriedigung, wenn sie riss und ich das Loch darunter tastete."

"I began to question whether the box was really meant for sewing in the first place. That the spools of threads and yarns within it tormented me by their shady allure only strengthened my doubt. What attracted me about those spools was their hollow core; originally, this was intended for an axle which, on being rotated, would wind up the thread on the spool. Now, however, this cavity was covered on both sides by a black label which bore, embossed in gold, the name and number of the firm. Too great was the temptation to press my fingertips against the center of the tag; too intimate the satisfaction when it tore and I dipped into the hole beneath."

Benjamin, Walter, Berliner Kindheit um Neunzehnhundert, Suhrkamp, Frankfurt am Main 1987, p.72

Benjamin, Walter, Berlin Childhood around 1900, Translated by Howard Eiland, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge/Mass. & London/England, 2006, p.113

Useful things for the summer

Sunday, June 10, 2007

hand weaving

"As far as weaving goes, I'm quick - it's probably an obsession! I believe that if you weave too slowly and too thoroughly, you risk the result becoming too 'proper and splendid.""

Annika Ekdahl, textile artist, Sweden

in Koumis , Matthew (ed), Art Textiles of the World: Scandinavia, Telos Art Publishing, Bristol 2004, p.10

Saturday, June 09, 2007

The smell of leather (and a hand-knitted shawl)

"We waited at the front door for her to arrive - I did not really understand what all the fuss was about, but then she arrived, dad had gone to fetch them, it was such a special event, why? not because my mum was coming home but because she arrived in the car of a neighbour, he was the only person in our street with a car - it was 1964, was I keen to see what was in the bundle mum was cradleing, no I was more interested in asking 'uncle' George if I could ride in his car when he took it off to park in his garage around the back of the houses. Joy he said yes! I remember the smell of the leather seats and the sensation of the movement, I felt tiny sat on what seemed a huge back seat. I always associate that smell with that time. p.s. I was interested in my sister after that, I particualarly recall the hand knitted shawl that she was wrapped in, you could not see her, my mother had to pull it back from her face to show her. I thought she was beautiful.

Source: BBC Radio 4 Memory Experience

Leather button

"My earliest memory is of my father taking me to start school. He walked me to school for the first two weeks and then I walked with other children. When he was walking me to school he lost a leather button from his camel coat, I remember searching for it for weeks and weeks after, I never found that button."

Source: BBC Radio 4 Memory Experience


"Die Tage vorher hatte ich Pech mit meinen besten Struempfen, 1,40 DM kostete mich das. Da gewinnst du und da verlierst du, so ist es im Leben! Heute platzte bei einem anderen Strumpf auch eine Masche, aber bei dem lohnt es sich nicht mehr zum Aufnehmen lassen. Ich kriege zu dicke Beine, richtige Stampers..."

(The other day I had bad luck with my best stockings, it cost me 1.40 DM. You win and you lose, that's life! Today I had a ladder in another stocking, but with that one it's not worth getting it mended. My legs are getting too fat, real stompers...)

From: Letter written by mother, seven months pregnant with me, to my father.

Looking after my father's socks

From letters written by my mother to my father in 1952:

"Deine Socken sind gewaschen und gestopft." 20.4.1952
(Your socks have been washed and mended.)

"Gestern Abend hat Oma deine Socken gewaschen, sie trocknen jetzt bloss schlecht, denn es regnet schon, genau wie gestern, den ganzen Vormittag." 20.8.1952
(Last night Nan washed your socks, but it's difficult to get them dry, because it has been raining, just like yesterday, all morning."

"Ein Paar Socken muss ich nachher von dir noch stopfen, die andern sind fertig, Oma bringt erst Stopftwist mit." 22.8.1952
(One pair of socks I still have to mend later, when Nan brings the mending wool, the others are done.)

"Deine Socken sind gewaschen und gestopft. Dein Pullover muss noch trocknen." 7.11.1952
(Your socks are washed and mended. Your sweater still needs to dry.)

"Dein gutes Hemd ist gebuegelt und dein Schlafanzug, eine Unterhose und ein Paar Socken sind wieder gewaschen und trocken, die anderen Sachen sind gestopft." 3.12.1952
(Your best shirt is ironed and your pyjamas, one pair of underpants and one pair of socks are washed and dry, the other things have been mended.)

More about socks

"Abends nach dem Abendbrot (zwei Spiegeleier hatte ich mir nach dem anstrengenden Tag erlaubt, und Tee) habe ich dann Struempfe gewaschen. Es blieb mir nichts anderes uebrig, denn seit dem verdammten Regenwetter seit Donnerstag ist der Strumpfverschleiss enorm. Deine Socken habe ich dann mitgewaschen, oh waren die dreckig! Ich habe sie bestimmt zehnmal gespuelt."

"After supper (I allowed myself two fried eggs after the exhausting day, and tea) I washed stockings. It had to be done, because of the dreadful rainy weather since Tursday I have been through loads. I washed your socks at the same time - they were so dirty! I had to rinse them at least ten times."

Letter from my mother to my father, 23.3.1952

Monday, June 04, 2007

The Sock

"The first cabinet that would yield whenever I wanted was the wardrobe. I had only to pull on the knob, and the door would click open and spring toward me. Among the nightshirts, aprons, and undershirts which were kept there in the back was the thing that turned the wardrobe into an adventure for me. I had to clear a way for myself to its farthest corner. There I would come upon my socks, which lay piled in traditional fashion - that is to say, rolled up and turned inside out. Every pair had the appearance of a little pocket [bag]. For me, nothing surpassed the pleasure of thrusting my hand as deeply as possible into its interior. I did not do this for the sake of the (...) warmth. It was the 'little present' rolled up inside that I always held in my hand and that drew me into the depths. When I had closed my fist around it and, as far as I was able, made certain that I possessed the stretchable [soft] woolen mass, there began the second phase of the game, which brought with it the unveiling. For now I proceeded to unwrap 'the present', to tease it out of its woolen pocket [bag]. I drew it ever nearer to me, until something rather disconcerting would happen: I had brought out 'the present', but the 'pocket' [bag] in which it had lain was no longer there. I could not repeat the experiment on this phenomenon often enough. It taught me that form and content, the veil and what is veiled [the wrap and what is wrapped], are the same. It led me to draw truth from works of literature as warily [carefully] as the child's hand retrieves the sock from 'the pocket' [bag]."

Walter Benjamin, The Sock, in Berlin Chidhood around 1900, Transl. Howard Eiland, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge/Mass. & London/England, 2006, pp 96, 97

in square brackets alternative translations suggested by me as , maybe, more in line with the German text

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Nylon Stockings and Art

"Nylon stockings conjure up associations from the past and tell hidden stories. We have for many years been playing with their subtle variations in colour and texture, and feel that we have as rich a palette as any painter.


Before our work with nylon stockings, for many years we made quite strict, clean pieces using folded plain cotton. Then we developed an interest in used materials, such as woollen army blankets, men's suits, socks, rainwear, bubble jackets, knitted clothes and nylon stockings."

Wagle & Lovaas, textile artists, Norway

in: Matthew Koumis (ed), Art Textiles of the World: Scandinavia, Telos Art Publishing, Bristol 2004, pp 99, 100

Food and Language - The paper napkin as hybrid, interface or multi-task device?

We eat & talk through the mouth - a meal with friends is about good food and good conversation. This paper napkin, found in a Greek restaurant in Dorsten/Germany, fulfills the practical purposes of its cloth predecessor, while at the same time carrying -like the page of a book - text and images.

In the everyday, the real and the abstract, fabric and paper, nutrition and expression, mind and body, are linked in many ways, through the senses.

Paper handkerchief with tassle print

The Return of the Handkerchief?

"For centuries women have gathered to embroider, quilt or weave. These groups provided a place to speak, listen, laugh and cry. The Tamielle Handkerchief Club is devoted to reviving the practice and to bringing back the personal touch. To this end, each handkerchief, embellished with vintage motifs, features a tiny print telling you name of the woman who made it. Beautifully presented in gift boxes, the handkerchiefs for men, include charming classic cars and sporting illustrations they would not only make a great Father’s Day gift, but provide an ethical income for their makers who come from all over the world. Visit our Object Catalogue to order one from only £15"

Selvedge on-line newsletter, 1 June 2007