1970s Hexagon Patchwork

Lots on one to one tutoring has been going on this autumn at Studio QP.  I think I have mentioned on here before how much I like this side of my work.  After getting the email or call to book the session, I usually have an inkling what is coming out of the bag, but it is sometimes a complete surprise.  One of the things I love about working like this is that I get to hear stories behind the the reason the quilt is being made.  However, with this session I only got the latest instalment of why the quilt was being made, as it was bought in a charity shop and so its first maker is unknown.

It is no secret how much hand sewn quilts get me all a flutter, so this box of treats meant I almost needed a paper bag to breathe into!  Jess, who booked the session, had bought the patchwork in a charity shop in Hove.  There was a lot of unfinished patchwork in these boxes, and she wanted a way to finish at least one of them into something usable.  We looked at the contents of the box, and decided this was the best one to finish…

1970s Hexagon Quilt
1970s Hexagon Quilt

It has lots of lovely pattern and prints, but the whole top is currently rhomboid as pieces have randomly been joined together.  There were lots of tacked hexagons in the box, so we sorted and laid them out to work out how Jess could make the quilt top square.  The prints are amazing – an assortment of clothes and household textiles.  We loved the way it had been constructed, just pieces joined together, individual hexagons, circular rosettes, and random shapes.  There were papers still in most of the patchwork, a very thin paper, most of them from pools coupons and football results.  We spotted a year, 1977, on one of the pieces of paper.

1970s Hexagon Patchwork - Close Up
1970s Hexagon Patchwork – Close Up

The back is just as beautiful as the front, showing the blocks of colour.

1970s Hexagon Patchwork - Reverse
1970s Hexagon Patchwork – Reverse

The second large piece was darker, and had lots of dress cottons.  It didn’t lay flat, due to odd pieces of fabric in non geometric shapes being pieced in.  The fabrics are wonderful though.

1970s Hexagon Patchwork Top
1970s Hexagon Patchwork Top

There was a piece cut out of one side, for another project.  As this piece of patchwork will not lay flat, Jess is planning to do this with the rest of it – to cut into it to make pieces to cover a footstool or something similar.

Patchwork with cut out
Patchwork with cut out

There were also these experimental pieces (I did say this box was FULL of treats!).


It was a pleasure to work on this project, and Jess is going to come back when it gets to the quilting stage.  I can’t wait to see the quilt develop, and am so pleased that it did not get thrown away, and was bought by someone who is going to work on it to make something to be used in the home.



Textile Tourists in Manchester – Part 2

So after spending the first half of the day at The People’s History Museum (more about this in Part 1), we walked the short distance to the Museum of Science and Industry.  It looks huge, but we only had a couple of hours to spend there so headed straight to the textile gallery.  Luckily (for us) we timed it perfectly with the demonstration of the textile machinery. The textile gallery is well laid out, with the machines being in the centre of the room and slightly lower so visitors can get a good view of them.  The demonstration gave a hint of the noise and dust these machines caused.  I cannot imagine it was a pleasant way to earn a living (unless you were the owner of course!). The demonstration started with the raw cotton in big containers about to be carded…

Starting with cotton in its raw state

We then saw the machines spinning the cotton.

Spinning - Mosi
Spinning – Mosi

The cotton goes through several machines to get to the strength required to weave it.  I love this photo…

Spinning - Mosi
Spinning – Mosi

The mule was the machine that really caught the children’s imagination.  We heard awful stories of children working underneath these machines as they worked, and about written evidence of mill owners chaining children to the machine as they kept running away.

Spinning - Mosi
Spinning – Mosi

The last stage showed the cloth being woven.  Lots of gruesome stories here to capture the children’s imagination, possibly the tales of large wooden bobbins flying out of the machines were the worst.  We discovered that mills started putting the windows higher so the stray bobbins didn’t break glass – hitting a worker was obviously more acceptable as it cost less money than a window.

Weaving - Mosi
Weaving – Mosi

The guide was really good, and she answered lots of individual questions after the talk about the technical and social aspects of the 19th century cotton industry.  I was interested to hear that the damp climate in Lancashire was good for producing cotton.  I know a little about dyeing fabric and how the weather can affect it, but not a lot about spinning.  When you see the process, from growing the plant to weaving, it makes you realise that perhaps cloth is not as expensive as we think.

Textile Tourists in Manchester – Part 1

I love going to stay with my older brothers family in Yorkshire, and know Leeds and Halifax pretty well by now (well the city centres anyway).  I hadn’t been to over the Lancashire border to Manchester for a good five or six years, so this summer decided to have a day out there with my daughter and eldest niece.  Always on the trail for some textile eye candy I planned a day at The People’s History Museum, followed by Museum of Science and Industry. As lots of photos were taken, I have split the day over two posts… We started the day at the People’s History Museum, and didn’t know what to expect.  “Where are we going” the kids asked, “well, to a museum about democracy” I replied.  Not really the answer the two bright and inquisitive, but My Little Pony and iPod obsessed girls would probably want. The museum was originally the National Museum of Labour History, but re-opened in 2010 as The People’s History Museum.  Although the museum has its roots going back to the 1960s when a small collection of Trade Union, Labour and Co-operative society artefacts were collected by a society, its website notes it has no political affiliation.  The collection is based around the history of democracy, the struggle for equality, and looks at how ordinary people lived their lives.  My previous sentence makes it sound very serious, and while the subject matter is (the first exhibit is about the Peterloo Massacre), the displays are really interesting and thought provoking.  It is also really family friendly.  The trail my girls did (aged 8 and 9) captivated them, so while they looked for objects and information, I could look round with leisure.  This is often a rare thing when taking the kids out.  As well as the trail, there are lots of things they can touch, wear, and do.  For example, they could time how long it takes them to make up match boxes, then compare their time to whether they would be able to make enough to eat and house their family (unfortunately the results were not good!). The main reason I wanted to visit was the museums collection of banners.  It holds the largest collection of trade union and political banners in the world, and as well as displaying them, restores them. The banners are dotted about the exhibits, then on the upper floor there is a room where they are hanging. Here are some photos I took, excuse the quality as I did not use a flash… On the top floor there is a gallery with the banners hanging at full height – and they are huge!  A lot of the ones hanging when we visited are from the 19th century, painted using oils, and made by commercial banner makers/sign writers. Behind these is a long room, with windows so you can see inside at what work is being done.  This is where the museums banners, as well as textile items for other museums and individuals are worked on by conservationists.

The Peoples History Museum - Banners
The Peoples History Museum – Banners

A close up of one of the painted banners.   This one is from the 1920s, oil paints on a jacquard silk fabric. P1010745

I, of course, was particularly interested in the stitched banners.  This is a Suffrage Atelier banner, from about 1910.  Silk and gold embroidery are among the techniques/materials used.


This banner is from The Primrose League, a conservative grass routes organisation.  This banner is undated, but the organisation started in 1883.


I think this was my favourite banner.  The Central Labour College was founded by a group of students and the dismissed dean of Ruskin College, Oxford in 1909.  Its aim was to promote education for the working classes and was funded by trade unions.  Aneurin Bevan was one graduate of the college.  The banner is made from sateens and silks on hessian, and one of the embroiderers was the author Rebecca West

. P1010751

Here is a close up… I really like the effect of the stitching on hessian.


This book made me chuckle – what a dilemma to have…


A photo of this banner was taken for my husband.  It is about the Professional Footballers Association, and was painted by John Midgely in 1991. The PFA was established in 1907, and the information about it notes that the footballers wage cap was abolished in 1961.  Something which sparks a lively debate amongst football fans. P1010775

I also just had to take a photo of these.  Football boots, once worn by Sir Stanley Matthews.  I would love to see a premier league match played where the players had to wear these!


Downstairs there was a WWl exhibition, which in the ethos of the museum looked at the war from the perspective of the working classes.  There is also a space dedicated to community exhibitions; the museum is very much active in the field it documents. The banners change yearly, so I will definitely go back next time I am in Manchester.  It is free to get in, however I read this opinion piece in The Guardian earlier this week, which says that their funding is under risk.  This would be such a shame as there is really nowhere quite like it.

So, the important bits for the girls; the shop and cafe were very good.  They walked out wearing badges, and my Votes For Women postcard is up at work.  Our next venue, the MOSI tied in really well with The Peoples History Museum, as the kids started to see what democracy has led to – education, holidays and not being tied to ruddy great big mill machines at the age of 7…

My summer travels – Birmingham and Halifax

Ta ta summer – Autumn seems to be here, along with tights and boots!

I did quite a lot of travelling round the UK this summer…and here I am using my delay leaflets in my English Paper piecing (waste not want not as they say)

Grand Central Hexies
Grand Central Hexies

Mid August was Festival of Quilts, of course.  I loved this quilt, made by Tracey Aplin and called “My Love for Liberty”.  I admired the quilt, then was thrilled to discover I knew Tracey from quilt shows, and she came along to my talk in Canterbury last month.  Isn’t it fabulous?!

My Love for Liberty
My Love for Liberty by Tracey Aplin

Later in August I spent a week in Yorkshire with family.  One of the places we visited was Bankfield Museum in Halifax.  My brothers’ family live fairly near so I have been there quite a few times, and every time I go I desperately want to get some white gloves and and sneak into the achieves as they always have such lovely textiles.

Bankfield Musuem
Bankfield Museum

The upper floor has a new exhibition based on WW1.  Called “For King and Country” it draws on local stories, objects and images to discover what life was like at the time.  All of us found it interesting and thought provoking.  I was particularly interested by the garments on show as well as an excellent display of WW1 embroidered postcards.

WW1 Postcards
WW1 Postcards
WW1 Postcards - close up
WW1 Postcards – close up
Dress from the 1900s
1900s Dress - Hand sewing detail
1900s Dress – Hand sewing detail

Bankfield was originally a private house, and is amazing to look around.  Imagine popping out of this door every day when you need a pint of milk…

Bankfield Museum
Bankfield Museum

While on our travels, we also had a textile day over to Manchester.  However I will talk about this in a separate post later this week as we saw some amazing textile work, so the camera worked its socks off that day!

Retro Sewing Sunday – Machine Embroidery by Dorothy Benson

Visiting the 1950s in todays post.

Machine Embroidery - Cover
Machine Embroidery – Cover

I bought this book, well more of a soft cover 79 page pamphlet, for £1.50 a couple of years ago.  The 1950s style cover appealed to me – I like the colours and that it is an illustration, not a photograph.  There isn’t a publication date printed, but according to the internet it was first published in 1952.

I didn’t know anything about the author, however a quick 10 minutes on the internet has revealed a small amount of information (see links below).  Dorothy Benson worked for the Singer sewing machine company from 1916 to 1960 in their embroidery department.  She also stitched designs for the embroiderer Rebecca Crompton.  I was quite surprised to find the book seems to be going for quite high prices on the internet at the moment, one went on ebay earlier this year for £41, and there is one on there at the moment for £19.99, and one currently for sale on Etsy for £54.15.

Machine Embroidery Inside Cover
Machine Embroidery
Inside Cover

There is a well written introduction – my favourite paragraph is:

“Our hope is that no longer will the family sewing machine be regarded merely as the household drudge for sewing long seams, but the means for enjoyment in producing beautiful, decorative needlework”.
I wondered if this was a hint to the crafters of the second world war  to get making for pleasure, not necessity?  Also, with the book being from the Singer brand, perhaps there was a commercial aspect to it.  Trying to get people to look at their machines for far more than making clothes would appeal to a wider audience.

Each project/technique is numbered in the book, and referred to as a lesson. There are 25 in total with lots of photographs.  The lessons include cording, wool embroidery and granite stitch.  I thought this piece of work below was exquisite, an interesting design and the stitching is fabulous.  The note underneath says it uses techniques from three of the lessons.

Machine Embroidery
Machine Embroidery

Being a quilter I liked seeing the lesson on quilting, and the further on in the book there is a lesson on free quilting.  Most quilters see to think of this as a recent technique, but heres the proof it’s not.

Free Quilting
Free Quilting

I used a few webpages to collect information for this post – links are…herehere and here.

(Oh, and husband, if you are reading this and noticing the prices at the top, the book is not to go on ebay.  It is lovely to look at and is an excellent design and embroidery technique resource.  If this disappears, so will one of your records..!) x

Retro Sewing Sunday – Leather and Suede Diamonds

After a little break for the summer, I am back with more Sunday retro sewing loveliness.

Today we have a stylish project from one of my stack of 1977 Golden Hands.  This jerkin has been made from brightly coloured diamonds of leather and suede.  I like the tag line of “Look lively in leather and suede”, as you would indeed stand out from the crowd in this.


The instructions for making it are under the photo inside.  This is one of my loves of seventies craft books, none of the step by steps we take for granted these days, there is an assumption the reader already sews so the project is there to inspire.  Its says to buy a pattern, then to glue the shapes onto a heavy cotton background, already cut to shape, and finally zig zag stitch over the edges.


Simple eh!  I can remember my mum had a suede waistcoat from the early seventies in her wardrobe that I swiped for a few seventies themed parties when I was at college, so they must have been the in thing.

There are a few pages devoted to leatherwork.  I like the opening paragraph on page 2 of the issue (part 87/Vol.6) it says:

“One of the oldest of crafts, leather work feel into obscurity at the end of the nineteen-thirties, when pride in craftsmanship gave way to mass production.  Thonging, as a means of joining two pieces of leather, was out and fashion demanded that craftsmanship did not show, and that the article bore as close a resemblance to the machine-made as possible”.

This reference to handcrafts trying to look machine made is still very current to makers today.

Retro Sewing Sunday – Streamlined Decorative Sewing

A 99p bargain from a charity shop a couple of years ago – this book was originally 90p when it was published in 1970.


It is a small hardback book, about A5 size, packed with ideas.  The intro explains…

“The idea of this book…. is to make sewing both easy and fun, an exciting challenge rather than an exacting task.”

It goes on to say…

“It not only shows ways of short-cutting traditional methods,  cuts out the usual inhibiting rule and avoids the complicated mumbo jumbo of old fashioned craft techniques.”

“…We will show you how to prevent your sewing becoming dull or boring, by always being on the lookout for new ideas, as this is part of what makes sewing exciting.”

So, sounds pretty good then…

I have to say, for someone who loves applique and embellishment, it is a little gem.  I am also rather obsessed with sewing in this period, so love the ideas and illustrations used.

Here are some snippets of the patchwork pages…


This is a close up of the “Fish-scale Patchwork” illustration.  I love the little prints, this box measures about 2″, so shows you what attention to detail there is.


I haven’t been able to find out much about the authors, but the book notes they both teach at Hornsey College of Art, and graduated from the RCA.  They wrote several books, and I am trying to get my hands on “Streamlined Sewing for Fun”.  There is a lovely quote inside the back cover from The Observer that says “They have done for sewing what Fanny and Johnny Cradock did for cooking”.

This is an illustration at the back of the book.  I love the early 1970s romanticised ideal it portrays.  I bet she shopped in Laura Ashley!


With the summer holidays, plus work, my Retro Sewing Sundays have been a little neglected for the last few weeks.  I have taught a class this afternoon, then got home and looked at the book shelf to see what would be suitable.  I am so so pleased I spotted this book.  I haven’t looked at it for a while and plan to take it to bed with me tonight for some sewing inspiration.  43 years after it was published, the authors are still achieving their aim.  Pretty good huh!