Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Blue ribbons

"I was 2 years, 2 months and 2 weeks old. It was August 1945, and I was wearing a red linen coat, a blue and white striped dress, with my hair tied loosely with one ribbon. It was tied loosely because my father had tied it up - which wasn't the norm - usually my mother did my hair - but she was in the local maternity ward, having just given birth to my sister (20th August 1945). I was going to be taken to the Torchlight parade, where my 9 year old brother would be carrying a flaming torch, along with other cub scouts. It was, obviously, to celebrate the end of WWII - but in my infant mind, it was to celebrate the birth of my baby sister!"

BBC Radio 4 Memory Experience

Pale blue ribbons

"Standing on tiptoe by my baby brother's cot, seeing the texture of the wickerwork and the floppy pale blue satin ribbons at the corner. (I love textures). Then crawling over my mother's bed to reach the grapes. I don't remember the baby at all! (no photo of occasion - and incidentally, I also know if memories are true if I can remember the colour of clothes in black and white photographs)."

BBC Radio 4 Memory Experience


"Going to see my newborn brother in hospital. I can remember the look of the hospital room and the cot, and that I wore my new cardigan, knitted by my grandmother, with kittens on the buttons."

BBC Radio 4 Memory Experience

Textiles and Books

"Sir Thomas Browne appropriately wrote of the close affinities between the text and textury - i.e. weaving..
In other words, he seems to imply that the more loose threads one attempts to work into the intricacy of one’s pattern of argument, the more the danger that one loses track of the structuration. And, moreover, like a piece of poor knitting, pull one hanging strand to retrace the route taken, and the whole garment unravels."

Graham White, What is a Book?


Textiles and Science

"Hooks and eyes: That was the description of bonds between atoms that Pauling learned when he was an undergraduate at the Oregon Agricultural College. Each atom had a certain number of hooks that allowed it to attach to other atoms, and a certain number of eyes that allowed other atoms to attach to it. A chemical bond (a bond between atoms that held them together as molecules) resulted when a hook and eye connected."

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


"The Pin Series

Because of the cyclical way in which I work, a series of related pieces will often span several years and this has been the case with the Pin Series.

The series started in 2001 with the development of the Pin Ritual performance. Originally I had a simple sculptural idea about making a piece of translucent cloth heavy with pins: I was interested in the idea of adding weight to something that might not be strong enough to hold it. However, this idea quickly developed into a performance piece, when I realised that the simple act of pinning gave people a safe space in which to talk. Something about the fact that I am working with my hands in such a familiar and soothing way encourages the sharing of tales, secrets, thoughts and memories."


Coloured ribbon and gold buttons

"Giro un poco la cabeza para observar su perfil y vio una figura elegante y tranquila que aun seguia preguntandose como era posible que tres metros de pano, una docena de botones dorados, unas cintas bicolores y unas estrellas de laton envolviendo su cuerpo tuvieron tanto poder para predisponerlo a la punctualidad, a la audacia y al trabajo bien hecho."

("He turned his head slightly to look at his profile and he saw an elegant and calm figure still asking himself how it was possible that three metres of cloth, a dozen gold buttons, some two-coloured ribbons and a few tin stars around his body could have so much power to predispose him to punctuality, audacity and work well done." transl. SG)

Eugenio Fuentes, Cuerpo a Cuerpo, Colleccion Andanzas, Tusquet Editores, Barcelona 2007, p.41

White Gloves

"There's a pair of white gloves that live in my memory.[...]. The gloves became part of my memory nearly a decade ago, during a turning point in my life [...] The gloves were only a detail in my father's story, but for some reason they spoke to me, and I felt a great release of emotion when, in my mind, I put them on. They seemed to cleanse me of guilt and confirm a path, seemed to connect me to a mythical ancestor who sacrificed himself for me. There was life in them, my grandfather's life. [...]
Ultimately, I put the gloves on because they fit. No one else in the family has fingers like mine. No one else has the same temperament.[...]
… Often the gloves have returned with their whiteness to ease the guilt over choices I have made and help me cope with the small deaths that permit life.[...] It's been eighty years since my grandfather put the white gloves aside. If only he knew how much they have mattered today!"

John Kotre, White Gloves: How we create ourselves through memory, New York, Free Pres 1995, pp. 1-5

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Printed cotton with rose pattern

The small rose pattern fabric is from a belt that belonged to a dress my mother wore in the 1950s. I don't know happened to the dress - when I sorted out my mother's belongings, I only found the belt. There is no picture of my mother in this dress among the many family photographs. Maybe it was, as the cotton fabric suggests, a house dress.

The other fabric with large roses and in similar colours comes from my local charity shop which I visit regularly to look for interesting fabrics, yarns and objects.

Wearing vintage

"The search for and wearing of vintage is about satisfying personal desires, needs, motivations. For these women being hooked on vintage, though first motivated by economics or personal histories, evolved into recognition and a revaluing of self. [...] it is about constructing images with their new vintage discoveries from different historical, cultural, and economic contexts. These women acknowledged that wearing vintage is a complex and creative process that involves making authentic judgements and being authentic."

Marilyn DeLong, Barbara Heinemann and Kathryn Reiley, Hooked on Vintage! in Fashion Theory, Vol.9, Issue 1, Berg Publishers 2005, p.39

Monday, July 16, 2007

Recycling Textiles

"If everyone in the UK bought one reclaimed woollen garment each year, it would save an average of 371 million gallons of water (the average UK reservoir holds about 300 million gallons) and 480 tonnes of chemical dyestuffs." (Evergreen)

"Over 70% of the world's population use second hand clothes." (textiles on line)

"The average lifetime of a garment is about three years." (textiles on line)

Source: http://www.wasteonline.org.uk/resources/InformationSheets/Textiles.htm

Near Perfect Shoes

"Give old clothes/shoes/curtains/handbags etc. to jumble sales. Remember to tie shoes together: part of the 6% of textiles which is wastage for merchants are single shoes."


Sunday, July 15, 2007


"I remember meeting the man who was to become step-father - and later my "dad" as far as I am concerned - for the first time. I was underneath the ironing board at our neighbour Gladys' house when I saw a black shoed pinstriped pair of legs appear. I can vividly remember jumping onto his shoe and attaching myself to one of his legs. I can even remember how the material of the trousers felt slightly scratchy but soft at the same time on my face."

BBC Radio 4 Memory Experience

Bath time

"When I was a kid, one of the great sensory delights in the bath was chewing on my face cloth."

Conversation with C., male, UK, July 2007

Wash mitten hand knitted by my sister, Germany, 1960s

Smell and Taste

"I am in my pram, crying. My eyes are closed. I can smell the upholstery of my pram, which is already familiar to me. I cannot describe it, but would know it even now, fifty years later. My eyes open and I see the texture of the creamy lining of the pram. I now see my forearm and clenched hand, which I move toward my mouth. My hand catches the edge of a pillowcase or a rucked up piece of sheet, which ends up in my mouth. I suck at the fabric, which seems almost instantly to be sodden in my saliva. I enjoy the taste and feel of the wet fabric in my mouth. I am not crying any more. The memory fades."

BBC Radio 4 Memory Experience

Elastic band

"Die Mutter hatte entdeckt, es sei, eh ich sie auf Besuch oder zu Einkaeufen begleiten duerfe, an meinem Anzug etwas auszubessern. Und nun hielt sie den Aermel meiner Kieler Bluse, in welchem ich den Arm schon stecken hatte, in der Hand, um den blauweissen Aufschlag festzunaehen, oder sie gab mit ein paar schnellen Stichen dem seidenen Schifferknoten seinen 'Pli'. Ich aber stand dabei und kaute an dem schweissigen Gummibande meiner Muetze, das mir sauer schmeckte."

Benjamin, Walter, Der Naehkasten, in Berliner Kindheit um Neunzehnhundert, Suhrkamp, Frankfurt am Main 1987, p.71

"My mother had discovered that, before I could accompany her on a visit or to the store, some detail of my outfit needed mending. And then she would take hold of the sleeve of my middy blouse (into which I had already slipped my arm), to make fast the blue and white cuff; or else, with a few quick stitches, she would give the sailor's knot in the silk neckerchief its 'pli'. I, meanwhile, would stand beside her and chew on the sweaty elastic band of my cap, which tasted sour."

Benjamin, Walter, The Sewing Box, in Berlin Childhood around 1900, Translated by Howard Eiland, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge/Mass. & London/England, 2006, p.112

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Taste of Leather

"Before I could walk. Sunny day. I was sitting in my pram outside a shop on the left hand side of Spotland Road going in to Rochdale waiting for my mother to come back out,chewing the end of the leather strap on the harness holding me in. I can still taste it, sharp, a bit sweet and delicious."

"In my cot at the side of my parents' bed. They were both asleep and wouldn't wake up. I managed to scramble over the cot side and fall on my mother. That fixed them! (I only remembered this while writing about chewing the leather strap in my pram.)"

BBC Radio 4 Memory Experience

Leather and Canvas

"We were living in Peshawar (now Pakistan) and the first memory I have is when at about 3 years old. I was taken for a picnic along the banks of a big river. I was terrified of the big water wheels on this river because of the noise the sails made as they went round. I hid, as far as I could, in the back seat of the car, and I still remember the smell of the hot leather, as well as the noise of the sails; also the feel of cactus prickles in my foot when we got out of the car."

BBC Radio 4 Memory Experience

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Philosophy and Needlework

"But it is not enough to cut out, it is necessary to sew the pieces together."

Henri Bergson, Matter and Memory (1912)

Bergson, Henri, Matter and Memory, Translated by Nancy Margaret Paul and W. Scott Palmer, Dover Philosophical Classics, Dover Publications, Inc. Mineola, New York, 2004, p. 33

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Auspicious Time

"Around the turn of the century was an auspicous time for me; and, with certain reservations, it was by no means an inauspicious time for my mother. She, after a pleasant interval of six relatively unencumbered years, had somewhat surprisingly found it necessary to get the old cot, the old pram, the old muslin-lined and beribboned basket, the Shetland shawl, long cambric robes, cashmere pelisse, heavily frilled bonnets and all the rest of the regulation kit out of mothballs to do renewed service."

Winifred Eastment, We weave as we go, Dawn Press, Wanstead 1972, p.15