Carol H.

TEXTILES - Early Memories

It all started with Mrs Harding - I don’t know how my family knew her - I used to visit her on my way home from school.    I must have been 7 or 8 (old enough to ride a bike).   She was elderly and I think lived alone and she was making a beautiful, magical hexagonal patchwork quilt.   I remember the sensational colours and textures of the fabrics and I would run my hand over them feeling the different surfaces - shiny, matte, velvety - and looking at the way the colours and textures interacted - some of them catching the light, some absorbing it.   I suppose it’s no wonder I’ve always been interested in patchwork and setting one thing against another.

Another early memory - knitting - my mother was a great knitter and made me smocked dresses too, but it was my father who taught me to knit.   He was an Orthopaedic Surgeon who had learned to knit during the war.   He had started by making wonderful fair isle gloves (he always quietly enjoyed a challenge!)   Again I loved the colours and the feel of the yarns.   Shopping for yarns was fantastic - the shelves with marked-off squares each holding wondrous collections of different colours of fine, thicker and fancy yarns.

Then there was the intricate lace wedding dress, complete with orange blossom headdress, belonging to my mother, which I was allowed to wear for dressing up and I remember how the fabric floated and bounced as I danced around the rose bushes in the garden.

Then the dolls clothes…    I had a doll called Annette with long flaxen hair.   The mother of a school friend of my brothers had made a full-length panelled dress for her with flowers delicately hand painted on the panels and my aunt had made her a pair of jodhpurs out of fine chamois leather, complete with minute pockets, and the tiniest of purl buttons fastening them at the sides.   Annette disappeared when the family home was finally sold and I was working in New York and not there to save my childhood treasures.   I still think of this doll with her hand-made wardrobe and wonder what happened to her.

Then there were the names….. I remember sitting on the floor in the bedroom of my eldest brother (10 years older than me), where he had laid out his costume designs for a production he was designing for the theatre in Richmond, Surrey, near our family home.   My mother was helping him with suggestions for fabrics and the names were magical to me…..moygashel, grosgrain, taffeta, satin, chintz, gingham, lawn, moire, organdy, organza, poplin, seersucker, brocade, chiffon, damask, shantung, crepe de chine.   I wanted to see all these sensational sounding fabrics and create things with them too.