What Is Your Passion?

Most of us have a passion in our lives - often more than one. For many people, this is their family, their children, their home etc. Lucky people have jobs they love, and then there are their hobbies. Our passions.

Mine of course is textiles! So how did I become a ‘fabric freak’, a textile junkie’, a lover of indigenous designs and techniques?

Me and my Mum in the 1950’s

Me and my Mum in the 1950’s

It all started with my mum, way back when I was about 10. She had taught me basic knitting, but the Sewing Machine stood on the table, shiny and black with gold patterns and it tempted me! It had a handle (yes, I’m that old!) and the bobbins, heavy and silver-coloured were shaped like weaving shuttles with pointy ends. It may have been a Singer … I don’t remember, but it probably was.

Anyway after much nagging and admonition to be careful, she taught me to use it. Yay! Then I was taught to cut out clothes, using patterns and sew them together. My mother was studying for her City and Guilds Dressmaking exams at the time and enjoyed my interest in the various pieces of clothing she had to make - including an evening dress with floral embroidery, all hand done, around the V neckline.

In secondary education in those days Domestic Science actually taught us skills! So at my Grammar School our needlework sessions saw us learning lots of techniques like putting in a zip, sewing on a waist band, hand sewing a button hole and even free machine embroidery of a sort!

When my mother died I found the pink tray cloth that I had machine embroidered all those years ago and remembered that she had used it for a long time! Little did I know how important all these skills were going to be in my life!

At work on my maps at The Ministry of Housing, London late 1960s

At work on my maps at The Ministry of Housing, London late 1960s

When I left home and moved to London for an apprenticeship (as a cartographic draughtsman - I hadn’t been allowed to go to Art College) I was given a sewing machine for my 18th birthday and haunted the John Lewis fabric department on Oxford Street for beautiful fabrics to make dresses for myself and friends. … And I still haunt fabric departments and textile shows to this day!

Fast forward a few years and I am living in Sweden, working as an au pair in the house of a prominent batik artist. His work blows me away. In payment for my housework and child care, in my free time I am allowed to join him in his studio and learn his techniques! Wonderful! Vibrant and colourful!

Then I spent a week deep in the forest learning natural dyeing using mosses, lichens, bark and leaves to dye wool yarns. What a glorious range of greens, browns and yellows we produced!

This story to be continued soon…