Stash heaven

A new year …. new projects, new thoughts, new ideas … And, after the rush of Christmas and its busy preparations, January offers such space, such time!

I promptly filled the space with a new project – one of my favourites.  Out came my fabric stash. This is messy play in our small house on a grand scale …And the cats love it!I dig deep into my stash for various projects – doodle stitcheries, patchwork quilts, and, of course, GiveWraps

But my stash is a great sentimental and luscious pleasure, so this week (as my husband was away and I could take time with my mess) I indulged myself on a slow journey through these beautiful fabrics and some of the stories behind them.

The core of my stash came to me via my Australian grandmother Dora, then in her second incarnation as a grand Leicester lady. Married to a local businessman, she would often have occasion to dress up glam, and she could really go to town properly.  Here she is at a smart event in the 1960s …And a few years earlier at a London wedding …These beautiful beautiful dresses were made for her by her Leicester dressmaker, Fernanda. I have very vague memories of visiting Casa Fernanda when my grandmother attended for a fitting – wish they were more vivid!  But what I do have – perhaps even more precious – is scraps from the dresses of other Leicester ladies which Fernanda would save for my grandmother. I doubt if any other of the Leicester ladies wanted these pieces, but my grandmother, my mother – and my great-grandmother – were enthusiastic patchworkers and treasured these scraps.

Later, the leftovers came to me … I don’t have many of them left now, but those I do have are Glamorous! See that tiny little gold piece in the middle? Far too small for me to ever do anything with it, but I keep it as a memory of the gorgeous ostentation of those Leicester ladies …My grandmother only went to Casa Fernanda for the seriously smart stuff. The rest she made herself. She had a particular penchant for batiks which has left a lasting influence on my own taste, – and what sits in my fabric stash.  Here she is in her beautiful Leicester garden, wearing a dress made of Egyptian cotton – and yes, I still have pieces of this material …As I do have of this batik dress that she is wearing outside her London garden in 1971 …I wonder how representative a sample this is of my grandmother’s taste that still sits in my stash?  There’s certainly lots of batik and Indian fabric, also some Thai silks and you might just be able to make out a scrap of fabulous pinky-green tweed. She wasn’t afraid to wear vibrant colours and strong patterns …When she died in 1980, a great many of her batik dresses came to me – I guess nobody else in the family wore such patterns. They were mostly shift dresses which the younger me disdained, so I re-pieced them into other styles. As there wasn’t a great deal of fabric in a shift dress, my trick was to mix several of her dresses into a very 70s-style smock dress. The irony is that now I am in my 60s, I wear lots of shift dresses, and would happily wear these dresses of my grandmother’s. But they are long cut up and re-pieced …

A major contribution to my stash (and my mother’s as well) was a donation of imperfect tie silks.  My parents were living in Kent at the time, near to a factory where fine silk ties were made – and these are just a few of the fabrics. I still have lots left. Indeed, I was amused when I looked these pieces out to see that some of the bundles are still wrapped in elastic bands as they were when they arrived. I guess they’ve just never been used …These have been fabulously useful pieces of strongly coloured material, used in so many projects. Again, there wasn’t really a lot of any one piece of fabric, so the trick was to be ingenious with their use – as here, lining sleeves with different coloured fabrics.  Who would ever know?I wonder if some of you will find my next collection of scraps as evocative as I do? They are so much of my 1970s youth!

Clothkits, Liberty and Laura Ashley really made such a big contribution to our fabric world – and in those days people really did make their own clothes.  John Lewis in London had the entire ground floor dedicated to sales of fabric and cloth. We would pick up fantastic Tana Lawn and Varuna Wool fabrics at Liberty’s in the sales.  Many of these pieces are too small to ever be much use in a project – just look at the snip of red with white spots fabric! – but they won’t be thrown away any time soon …In the 1990s another wonderful gift came our way with a bundle of unwanted church silks. My parents had moved to Wells in Somerset, and my mother – a very find needlewoman – offered her services to the good ladies who repaired the cathedral altar clothes and clergy vestments.  If you know your Christian year, you can identify the fabrics below: red fabrics (used for the commemoration of martyrs), purple fabrics (used in seasons of penance like Advent and Lent) and yellow or gold (used for days of celebration like Easter).  Not much green because that was the fabric of ordinary time and so probably the most used. But aren’t they wonderful?!  So wonderful that I just get them out, stroke them and put them very carefully back again – no, sometimes, I allow myself to use just a little …I’ve been so very lucky – all sorts of people have given me their old dresses so I can make use of the fabrics. These are just a few of them. I particularly love that yellow scrap – from a dress either my mother or grandmother wore in the 1950s.  How I wish I had more of it!But it’s the green fabric with black/brown flowers that really sparked my imagination and sent me off on my first doodle stitchery. Thank you so much, Mandy, for passing this dress on to me …These are all scraps from my clothes – not necessarily my handmade clothes.  Some of these are dresses I wore as a child which my mother made, and some of them are from garments I purchased readymade.  In those cases, I loved the fabric so very much that when the garment no longer suited/fitted me, I kept the fabric for sewing projects …Perhaps a preponderance of red and orange …? Yes, I did use to wear a lot of orange when I was younger …And I did get married in orange batik too, which must say a lot for my taste …More generous donations – this times animal print fleece. I have very little of this left, I guess because I must have used it up on children’s projects …Clockwork Orange scraps left over from my daughter Helen’s art school studies …Look at this wonderful collection of pieces that Helen found for me from another art school! I am struck by the OTT glitteriness of these fabrics – they remind me rather of the fabrics the Leicester ladies wore in my youth …And this is batik heaven! The imagery and colours used by African wax designers is really unsurpassed. My Instagram friend in Nice, Isabelle, shares my passion for batik fabric and has given me many of these lovely pieces. Thank you so very much!And, of course, I’m still wearing batik fabrics …Yet more fabulous fabrics have come my way from other friends on social media.  A big, big thank you to Claire, Anne and Louise.  These pieces are all treasured and admired, lingering in the mind as little nuggets of inspiration …I think what I love most is the picture fabrics …So what did I make from this heavenly stash play, I hear you ask …? Well, I made some GiveWraps, my stock of GiveWraps being reduced by the Christmas season of giving …

This GiveWrap use pieces from an old Japanese yukata which I loved so much that I wore it out.  It is good to see these beautiful Japanese ladies taking pride of places amid the other fabrics.  I guess I won’t be passing this on any time soon, as this fabric is so very precious to me …Quite a contrast here! These strong fabrics are almost all from old dresses of mine …Orange – rich glowing orange. The centerpiece and many of the side pieces are fabric prints made by my cousin, Polly …More of Polly’s prints here – a mixed bag … I hope the colours I’ve used draw them together …And my favourite – orange and purple – what a heavenly strong mix! Just a glimpse of a butterfly from one of Isabelle’s statement batik fabrics in the centre …That’s what I did in the first weeks of the new year.  And then my husband came home and I tidied away the fabrics for another month or so … (He doesn’t mind my fabric mess really …)

I’m struck by the generosity of so many friends, businesses and organisations which has gone to make up this collection. It gives me so much pleasure. Thank you all so very much. And Happy New Year!

Published by

kaydeerouge

Lost - and found.

15 thoughts on “Stash heaven”

  1. What wonderful sources of inspiration! It is so nice that you know the stories behind most of them too, that adds to their allure! And I love how you combine them into the Give Wraps. It must be hard to let some go, but it seems new ones find their way to you to refresh your collection.

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    1. Yes, I am very lucky to know so much about the history of these fabrics – and I know you who also have textiles handed down in your family will understand particularly how precious this. Most GiveWraps travel on (as they are meant to) spreading the word (as it were) – but some are just too precious and get used for every birthday, every Christmas, right here. 🙂

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  2. Ah, batiks! As someone who grew up in Macau, this brings up memories indeed. Thailand was just a quick plane hop away and so all the (Portuguese) ladies who went there on holiday brought a lot of dresses with bright colours back home. My mum was no exception 🙂 Your stash is fantastic! Please do continue to make beautiful things with it, it’s the best way to honour those who have passed on and/or gifted you the fabric. I’ll be here to read all about it.

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      1. Sorry, I missed your reply before!
        Unfortunately I became a goth after returning to Europe, so black became my staple wardrobe. Funnily enough, I still wear mostly black but go mental over bright fabrics (and the wool I hand dye has to be full of colour!)

        I still love looking through my mum’s wardrobe and seeing the Thai fabrics, and the Chinese silks…

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  3. I see we used the same Laura Ashley fabrics all those years ago! Clothkits was such a good idea – I made up a lot of their clothes as they made it so easy.
    I love it when fabric has such a history and especially like the fact that you have photos of the people wearing it.

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    1. I think it was a particularly wonderful time in fabric design and we were very lucky with all these firms. Some have restarted, but I don’t think the workmanship is quite what it was.

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  4. Thank you K for this tour of your fabric stash. Very impressive, as are your wonderful givewraps. You really should be lecturing somewhere! Interesting to see the provenance of your hobby and skills too. Dawdy really was quite a fashion icon. Your librarian experience is put to good use too, in keeping and recording the precious pieces. Do you remember when we shared a flat in Earl’s Court, you working in publishing and me in advertising. On pay day we would dash out to John Lewis, Dickens & Jones, Liberty’s and bring home dressmaking materials, cutting the pattern pieces on the floor that evening, laughing because we had splashed our whole month’s spending money! So glad to see the daisy fabric came in useful…

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    1. Thank you, Mandy! Glad you enjoyed it! If you look at the picture with your green fabric in it, you will see to the right a tiny bit of black/brown spotted fabric … that was yours – do you remember? I certainly remember the very expensive shop you bought it in – and the gorgeous (but very simple) dress you made with it. Yes, we were extravagant, but what fun we had!

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  5. What a colourful trawl through your library of fabrics! Wonderful. And then to find the three with my prints at the end, two completely new to me. Utterly brilliant colours in that last one, and fascinating to see my bits of life drawing peeping through, so well surrounded and supported, in the previous one. Fantastic!

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    1. So glad you liked them, Polly. I wasn’t sure how you’d feel about me cutting up your prints so as to spread them round the GiveWraps more – but took the risk because I was sure the result was going to be worth it!

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