I was sitting minding my own business at Bristol Quilters on Wednesday when out of the corner of my eye, I spotted the marvellous Trish, who is one of the organisers, with Rosie, of the Bristol Quilters Exhibition (2-4 June, 2011, more info to follow) walking towards me clutching a polythene bag. Most people who make textiles resort to the polythene bag to store their latest project, so it might have been something she was working on, but this one was clear plastic and I could see it contained fabric.
‘A little bird told me you were collecting Laura Ashley fabric,’ she said, ‘so, would you like this?’ She handed me the bag. I was a bit taken aback because it had such wonderful fabric in it; I could see that even at a first glance. Oh, yes, I would most definitely like it. I was still a bit stunned by the fabric, and spotting her chance, she said, ‘If you don’t use it all, I DON’T want it back.’ Which made me laugh, because I knew just how she felt. If you do patchwork you end up with all sorts of things that you have hung onto for years, but are glad to get rid of eventually. So I said I would keep it.
The reason I was so thrilled by Trish’s cache, was that it contained so much stuff that I have never seen before, and a lot of the really vintage stuff. So…
And this one:
This one in particular reminds me of the work of Walter Crane, such as:
or possibly more characteristically:
This Crane endpaper even looks like the Laura Ashley signature print:
Compare these with this print from Trish’s stash:
I really love Crane’s illustrations, probably because of an unhealthy dose of nostalgia, and this explains why I fell in love with this fabric as it came out of the plastic bag. These are really high quality prints on very high quality dress weight cotton. And they bear close inspection. For example, this is a hunt scene and if you look closely it is far from pastoral with pools of blood everywhere:
This is the last thing I expect to see on a Laura Ashley print. It reminds me of Timorous Beasties, the design studio which produces provocative prints such as their toile collection, which plays with the traditional toile, showing scenes of contemporary working class Glasgow life:
This one famously or notoriously has a heroin addict strung out on a park bench, and was featured in the V&A quilt retrospective last year.
So, this collection was a real cornucopia for me, because it introduced me to prints I don’t remember ever seeing, as well as some time machine fabrics, which transport me back to being seventeen and being entranced by the dresses, even though they were totally impractical for my life:
Some of these prints are so distinctive and so beautiful in a mass produced fabric, that I really want to think of an interesting and innovative way of show-casing them. In short, a fantastic gift deserving a special piece of work.