As you might guess, I juggle a few roles and responsibilities in my life and however hard I try, occasionally I drop one of the balls. It happened earlier in the year when I was supposed to be at one meeting when actually I was at another. Not only that, I was supposed to have collected Marion too, so one way and another, I had a considerable bit of grovelling to do.
That’s how I came to be standing at the ironing board on a sticky-hot summer morning, not doing my own ironing but making my way through a pile of vintage tablecloths from the Gloucestershire WI archive. As I stood there, I had a distinct feeling of deja vu.
What treasures Marion has assembled for our Tea and Textiles event, though! Pieces such as this beautiful linen cushion, worked in a variety of pulled work techniques by one of Carolyn’s close relatives. Exquisite work, incredibly time consuming to do and stitched to such a consistently high standard. That the embroiderer offered it as an example for a collection of samples seems surprising to me. I find myself peering at the label and wondering if it says “lent by” rather than “sent by” – I do hope she wasn’t expecting it back but if she was, perhaps the ongoing admiration for her skills all these years later will be some recompense.
More representative perhaps of the things we “donate” today is this little quilt which lay dormant in the bottom of an archive box. Yes, it was one of mine, worked in haste with absolutely no heirloom techniques at all as my contribution and creative response to our Big Read. Funny to come across it again having forgotten all about it.
We weren’t the only ones unearthing bits and pieces from the past. Whilst we unpacked boxes and gathered treasures, WI secretary Peter was preparing the house for the decorators’ arrival next week. Removing the coat rack from the wall revealed the changing taste in decor over the last twenty years, too. I wonder what colour has been chosen for the 2014 layer? (I hope they leave a little of that flowery wallpaper, just for fun)
With the ironing done, photographs taken and everything sorted for the sold-out event in a couple of week’s time, I stood back and reflected on the skills we are in danger of losing. I consider myself to have a higher level than many when it comes to needle skills, but my ability to create something of a similar standard to this 100% hand stitched nightie from the 1920s or 30s is doubtful. Even if my needlework would pass muster, I am certainly lacking in the patience and tenacity needed, that’s for sure.
Could I even create something similar with all the technology and modern materials available to me today?
Dare I suggest you watch this space? (but don’t hold your breath )