In today's continuance of The Gentle Art of Domesticity book study we're completing the chapter on Style.
It's a funny thing, but as I began reading this section I was transported way back to my teenage years and my favourite way to dress. I wonder if you can remember what your favourite outfit or style was when you were in those early to mid teenage years?
I always wore a white t-shirt with a sleeveless cotton vest over the top and I partnered them with blue jeans or shorts.
When I began watching Rosemary and Thyme quite a few years back I was always taken with the character Rosemary because she often wore 'my' favourite outfit of vest over t-shirt and a longing to fill my wardrobe with that style again would stir in my heart.
Jane begins the next section of the chapter with her own ruminating over vests, or 'slipovers' as she calls them. She's specifically concerned with the knitted kind, and I admit to once having owned a few of them as well. I also knitted some for my eldest son who begrudgingly wore them for the shortest amount of time before hiding them away in hope I'd never find them.
Jane draws our attention to author Enid Blyton's love of the slipover ...
"It's...no coincidence that Enid Blyton made sure that her adventurers were well-dressed for outdoor pursuits in slipovers that their invisible mothers and nannies no doubt whipped up for them while they were busy apprehending villains and foiling both criminal gangs and the police." (page 148)
Jane also equates slipovers with bookish domestic style and points out the Prince of Wales (before becoming King Edward V11) as a style icon, portrayed in this painting below wearing a Fair Isle slipover...
"There's a lot to be said for fogey slipover style: the faintly shabby and eccentric air it carries makes the wearer look as if he or she has just emerged from some time-warp where they were having a very pleasant time." (page 149)
Nana used to knit vests for Pop. Perhaps that's where I got my love for them?
STITCHING BY NUMBERS
Questioned by her young daughter Phoebe as to why she chose to embroider an iron-on-transfer pattern instead of creating her own, Jane pondered the art of stitching by numbers before championing her love for collecting and embroidering crinoline ladies.
"Crinoline lady embroidery was despised by 'art' embroiderers as dull and lifeless, and a waste of good skills, but these dainty designs remind you just how few people can embroider beautifully these days." (page 150)
Jane considered retracing an old graphic of one of these ladies and 'updating' it to the twenty-first century with lime green hair and tattoos, surrounding the modern lady with plants, blue leaves and sequins. But this idea diminished quickly and she decided to embroider the traced crinoline lady in colours and stitches of her own choosing (rather than stitching by numbers or a pattern).
"It made me realise just how many variables there are in this sort of filling-in....every chosen stitch requires concentration, every new colour can make or break the effect, every space can be filled or left empty." (page 150)
I can't tell you how much I loved reading her words here, because as a designer of embroideries, it is indeed a huge investment of my time and planning (after the initial design process) to choose the fabrics, thread and stitches which will bring to life a sketch and breathe life and beauty into every finished piece. Thank you Jane for so eloquently noticing that.
THE TATE POSTCARD QUILT
Just wandering through the Tate Gallery one day Jane's attention was captured by a Terry Frost painting "June, Red and Black" (1965) because it made her think of particular fabrics waiting in her cupboard for a great quilt idea to form.
Heading off to the gallery shop she purchased a range of postcards depicting various paintings which featured red, black and white; paintings in a mix of styles from post-impressionism right through to Tudor and photo-montage.
"My fabrics had initially appeared quite difficult to work with, but these paintings helped me to see them in a more manageable light." (page 152)
The result was to become Jane's "Tate Postcard Quilt".
"Although like most people, I can only be a patron on a very small scale, I enjoy the opportunity to practice what I preach in regards to buying directly from makers. I think we should support independent craftspeople whenever possible." (page 154)
"Even when I have had little or no spare cash, it has always been worth investing in something from a maker whose work I may never come across again." (page 154)
Being a designer means I need to 'sell my wares' to earn a living, so again, I deeply appreciated Jane's words here. And I also agree that even if we only have a few dollars it blesses the maker when we purchase of their hand made wares.
About five years ago Mr E and I were travelling down south and stopped to wander a market in a town we'd never been to before and probably would not visit again. I came across a maker of the most beautiful pottery and wished dearly to have been able to afford a bowl or mug or vase but my purse was not equipped for that kind of outlay.
So I turned my attention to the maker's small pieces, determined to purchase a trinket to treasure in my home and in doing so acknowledging my admiration for the work of her hands.
This beautiful tree embossed hanging pear came home with me that day and has been displayed somewhere on the large bookcase ever since...
"I think that anyone who is interested in the gentle arts should become a patron saint of craftspeople." (page 154)
Our next reading will open the chapter on Comfort and we'll be studying pages 156 - 167 which I'll share after Mr E's school holidays on July 16th.
* How has your personal style changed between your teenage years and today? Or do you still follow the same basics today?
* What do you find challenging about embroidery? Are you confident making changes to a pattern or do you prefer to follow it the way it's written?
* With regards to quilt making, have you been inspired to create a quilt from difficult fabrics in your stash? What was the source of inspiration and were you happy with the end result?
* What have you purchased direct from a maker that has become a treasure?
Leave your comments below because I find them very interesting and so do thousands of women who visit my blog each day.