Monday, 28 January 2013

On the Home Front

In these days of austerity and belt tightening, I thought I'd share some snippets from another time when 'make do and mend' was the order of the day. They're taken from 'Woman' (week ending 11th April 1942)...

To hoard or not to hoard...

I love the language that was used in adverts like this one, "But the way to keep looking lovely..."

 Hooray for Chivers!

The idea of 'hibernating' as a housewife and mother made me chuckle. Such evocative wording though. However, don't you get to put your feet up when hibernating?!

A room for receiving there's an idea! 

 I often think we could learn a thing or two from our thrifty predecessors.

Even brides had to be innovative.

 And to think...we don't bat an eyelid today at women doing any job that takes their fancy.

 Even with wartime restrictions, I still think fashions of the Forties were particularly elegant.

 Stirring stuff!

 This advice could easily have been written with our busy 21st Century lives in mind.

Repair rather than there's a good piece of advice.

Pip pip everyone and happy 'make do and mending'!

Monday, 21 January 2013

A Book with a Story

It's funny how some things just find you...a piece of gorgeous fabric, a teapot that becomes a favourite, or even a woolly jumper that stays part of your essential wardrobe for years. In my case, it was a book. A copy of G.K. Chesterton's complete works, to be precise.

Back in 1996, my school's library was left boxes and boxes of books by a lady who had lived locally. As there wasn't room for them all, we were given the chance to rummage through them and choose any that took our fancy (in exchange for a small donation to library funds). I was studying for my A-Levels at the time (English Literature included) and so was drawn to anything that looked like it might broaden my literary horizon! When I picked up a very plain looking book of Chesterton's poetry I could never have known that it was to become one of my most treasured possessions and one that would take me on an incredible journey.

Opoosite the names written on the inside cover (see previous photo), was pasted this letter. 

Dear Madam,
I regret to inform you that P./O. E.A Wagstaff is officially reported "Missing from air operations on 24/25th October" - all the information we have.
Yours faithfully,
C H Wagstaff

Now, I must confess that I have never did get round to reading Chesterton's poetry. I became more interested in finding out about letter instead...and find out I did, with help from all sorts of people from all around the world.

This is Ernest Adam Wagstaff...the man mentioned in the letter in my book. He was a talented chemist from Nottingham who studied for a Ph.D and was, when World War Two was declared, part of the Research Department of the Distillers Company in London. Despite being in a reserved occupation, he joined the Royal Air Force.

Putting a face to his name was a wonderful moment. I can still remember looking at this photo for the first time and the letter in the book becoming more real somehow, more human. 

Ernest Adam Wagstaff was not alone when he went "missing from air operations". He was part of a crew of six flying a Handley Page Halifax on their return journey from a bombing mission to Milan. The crew were:

Sidney Arthur Claridge
Ernest Adam Wagstaff
Sidney Victor Goodhew
Ronald Ward Taylor (Australian) 
Bernard Dudley Swain
Kevin William McAuliffe
James Molesworth (Canadian)

I went from having just one name to find out about, to seven! It's been an incredibly interesting journey and one that I can't see ending any time soon. I've been in touch with some of the crew members' families, managed to get service records for Molesworth and Taylor (unfortunately, only family members can access UK personnel's files) and most poignantly, been to a small communal cemetry in the French countryside where these men now lie. I hope that I'll contunie to find out about these seven men and their story...who knows, perhaps someone out there can add something new?

But what has this story got to do with textiles, I hear you cry?! one of The Wednesday Group's get togethers last year, we were inspired by Penguin's latest release of books - all of which had embroidered artwork on their front covers. "What a fabulous project", we thought, "let's make some book covers of our own"...

...well, it didn't take me long to decide that my Chesterton book was very much in need of a new cover and so here is what I made. 

I made it entirely by hand using english pieced patchwork (a technique I absolutely love).

Here's the back.

I used vintage fabrics, mixed with some photos I have of the crew, as well as text taken from Ops Records and personal letters, that I printed on to fabric. Here's Ernest Adam Wagstaff, the man with whom this whole project started.
I decided to fasten the book with patriotic-coloured buttons and butcher's twine.

Right at the start, my original aim was to find out what had happened to the E.A. Wagstaff in my book...but things have a way of taking you in all sorts of different directions and who knows if I'll ever really stop researching? I could never have imagined that finding this book would take me on such a journey, so keep your eyes peeled, you never know what might find its way into your life one day, ready to whisk you off on an adventure of your own!

Monday, 14 January 2013

New Year, New Adventures

With the Christmas decorations now well and truly packed away and only a token mince pie still loitering in the cake tin, I find myself feeling rather excited about what this new year may bring. I can't help it, it starts to happen every New Year's Eve as soon as Big Ben starts's like a page has been turned and I feel full of anticipation for all the new adventures that are waiting to be discovered. I also love to start thinking about the projects (of a stitchery nature) that I could turn my hand to. This year I'd like to make significant headway on the quilt I'm making for Little Treasure (it's all hand stitched, English pieced patchwork, made out of Mr Treasure's old shirts) as well as make some things to show at The Wednesday Group's next exhibition (planned for September). In the meantime there are lots of glorious books on my shelves that are bursting with inspiration that I can leaf through when I'm having one of my tea and biscuit breaks!


I thought you might like to see a couple that kept me entralled over the festive holidays...

Now, I'm not normally a jealous person but I feel green with envy every time I open this book! It's absolutely jam-packed with the most AMAZING array of other people's studios, work spaces and collections. I can't stop picking this book up for another sneaky look at all the treasures - there are shelves stuffed with ribbons and trimmings, vintage boxes piled high and full of all sorts of wonders, drawers to peep in and studios to marvel over. It's like being given a guided tour of lots of artisans' spaces, all from the comfort of your favourite chair!

The book's divided into six main sections: The System, The Room, The Cabinet, The Shelf, The Container and The Collection. My favourite has to be 'The Container' because there's just so much to see...and there's the most wonderful collection of vintage suitcases I've ever seen (and I love vintage suitcases!)

If only my fabric stash was this well organised!

Oh, how I'd love to have a set of vintage shop drawers like Michelle Jorgensen (above, bottom row, second from the right). One of the many things I like about this book is just how many artists, designers and makers' rooms and collections are featured - Kaari Meng, Tim Holtz, Heather Bailey and Holly Becker to name just a few.

Here are some of the suitcases I was telling you about...

Now, this is just brilliant (and I must admit to letting out a little whoop when I first saw this page)...Gail Rieke has a whole wall of shelves to hold her antique suitcases, boxes, baskets and trunks!

It doesn't matter how many times I read this book, I keep spotting things I haven't noticed before.

Throughout the book there are lots of interesting snippets to read, but I was particularly taken with this one about collections. In it, it says, "Don't collect items becasue they were someone else's treasured pieces, because they may be 'valuable' some day, or because you have so many of something that they have unknowingly become a collection. Collect that which is a window into who you are..."

This is a superb book and not only provides indulgent escapism, it's also full of inspiration.

All the details:
Where Women Create: Book of Organization
by Jo Packham and the Publishers of Somerset Studio
ISBN: 978-1-4027-9151-2
Published in 2012 by Sterling Publishing

I've got several of Kaari Meng's books. I'm drawn to them because she always includes fabulous photos of all sorts of treasures, from vintage ephemera and photos, to antique notions and trimmings. 'The French-Inspired Home', all about capturing the romance of the rustic French look in your own home, certainly doesn't disappoint!


The book has five main chapters, each looking at a different part of the house - The Creative Space, The Dining Room, The Bedroom, The Laundry Room and The Garden. I love how Kaari talks about all sorts of things relating to each room and often includes stories from her own life and snippets of historical facts. The book has a very personal feel to it, like an old friend is chatting away to you.

As well as pages of beautifully arranged collections, there's lots of helpful this page all about how to choose your colour palette.

 I love wrapping presents so the pages all about gift wrapping really appealed. There's even a page dedicated to tags!

Another inspiringly lovely page.

There are lots of projects to try, including these covered journals. Other projects include a garland made from vintage postcards, a canvas wrap for storing tools or haberdashery in, etched glasses, citrus foot scrub and a fabric-covered jewellery box. There are also tips on tea staining fabrics, furnishing a bedroom, collecting ephemera and cleaning glassware. There's just so much to learn about!

One of my favourite things about this book (apart from Kaari's chatty and interesting writing) is the 'archive' at the end. There are 12 pages of vintage labels, button box labels, book plates, herbier cards, mailing labels, glass etchings, menu cards and name cards that can be copied and put to all sorts of uses. I'm already thinking about using the button box labels to organise my button jars!

If you fancy adding a bit of French elegance to your home, love looking at vintage notions or ephemera or just want to learn something new, I'd really recommend this book!

All the details: 
The French-Inspired Home
by Kaari Meng
ISBN: 978-1-60059-677-3
Published in 2006 by Lark Crafts/Chapelle

Happy reading and I hope you find much to be inspired by over the coming year!