This is the second of my Laura Ashley sample quilts. They are very small, probably 2.5 x 4.5 inches, which is why they are so quick to produce. One of the things that I love about making is the way that the work can surprise you. What surprised me about this piece, and the first, which is the subject of my previous post, is the amount of traditional embroidery they seemed to want. These seem to be pieces about stitching. So this one has herringbone stitch, colonial knots, feather stitch and raised chain band. It also has a sprinkling of Dorset buttons, which is a traditional form of button making over little rings (see www.britishbuttonsociety.org/20070401DorsetButtons.htm). These are bird’s eye buttons. I didn’t make them; my mother gave me a packet last time I was at home. They seemed exactly right for this piece, and replaced the rather gaudy piece of braid I had been intending to use. But, again, although I suspect these might be machine made, they represent a needlecraft tradition which is alive and well on the internet if not in that much practice. I am absolutely fascinated by the way that this Laura Ashley fabric refuses to be used in anything other than an integrated way. If I try anything fancy it looks awful. This fabric is what it is: plain, simple, traditional.
I was also musing about wanting to make a big Laura Ashley piece to go with the big Body Shop quilt. I have had a couple of false starts. I thought I might make a series of A3 size journal quilts and sew them together to form a whole. The problem with this is making them look like a single, integrated (there’s that word again) piece rather than a series of twelve individual panels bolted together. So I would have to have a single something: colour, technique, fabric, design element. I thought I might make a Sandra Meech-type journal piece with photo transfer of the lovely Welsh countryside around the Laura Ashley factory in Carno, but I have tried to do similar things before without much success. I probably do need to use a sketchbook properly to try out ideas rather improvising as I usually do. Or think about things that have worked before like my Starbucks quilt which was all panels but had a single colour scheme (coffee!) and quite small blocks (A4 size). Or my Elvis quilt which had four large central panels but a really ‘worked’ frame which made it look like an altar piece. So far Laura is proving trickier. The most successful thing has been the hexagon patchwork over papers; back to basics again. I did wonder whether the mini quilts are part of this larger project and not separate pieces in their own right. Maybe I have made a start on the quilt without realising it.
This is an interesting part of the creative process, I think, that bit where you feel totally lost and overwhelmed by possibilities and materials. I get it when I am writing up research projects, when there is just so much data that it seems impossible that it will ever fit into 8000 words. I know PhD students feel it, and masters students certainly do. They (and I) tend to fall in love with their data and not want to let it go or edit it. It is hard to leave out bits that you really love, but you have to be disciplined. I don’t really have that problem here, although I am already experiencing it writing up the Laura Ashley interview data and I haven’t even started on that process really. My problem is too many ideas that don’t come to fruition with this fabric. There are lots of theories about how tension is a driver of creativity, how the human mind wants resolution and answers to problems and will go on working away until it reaches some sort of solution. I rather hope so. According to that theory something really creative ought to appear. At the moment, I have some abandoned first attempts at a large piece. It will be interesting to see if the resolution lies in starting very small – just like Laura Ashley plc did on a kitchen table in a small London flat.
To end, here is a detail of some of the hand stitching and the Dorset buttons: