Laura Ashley: her part in my downfall

As I walked into work today in the brilliant, blazing sunshine that we are (temporarily) enjoying here, I was musing on what to blog about as there has been a bit of a gap recently.  The reason for the gap is that I am employed on some good old-fashioned patchwork and quilting and it takes considerably longer than machine quilting – and the results are less showy.  But there is something very therapeutic indeed about doing it.  So at the moment I am working on another death quilt to counterpoint the previous heavily embellished one that I wrote about in a previous post.  But these things take time.

The interesting thing for me is just how much this Laura Ashley project has slowed me down – like slow-cooking or the slow-city movement.  All that handsewing gives you time to think.

So, my thoughts, as I was walking in (thinking at three miles an hour as the psychogeographers sometimes refer to it), fell to Laura Ashley.  Here are a few random thoughts and some pictures.

  1. I wonder just how many quilters began with those 50p bit bags from Laura Ashley.  She probably did more to spear-head the 1970s quilting revival than any other individual.  She made it possible and accessible to a whole generation who didn’t have access to US printed cottons (and there weren’t even that many of them).
  2. Having said this, I wonder just how much money I have spent on this hobby/obsession over the years.  I know it isn’t up there with collecting vintage Bulgari or dressage, but still.  Would the mortgage be nearer to being paid off?  Would our house be more immaculately decorated?  Would we have needed that loft conversion?
  3. If I hadn’t taken up quilting though, would I have made such wonderful life-long friends in Bristol?  Would I have had quite such a clear case example in front of me of the glue which holds British life together – unnoticed, unthanked middle-aged middle-class women who just get on with it?

Historians (unfortunately the wrong sort, according to the Medieval Historian) sometimes deal in counterfactuals – what would have happened if – so what would have happened if Napoleon had won at Waterloo, Henry VIII had had a son with Katherine of Aragon, Cleopatra’s nose had been half an inch longer, that sort of thing.  What if I had never come across Laura Ashley and patchwork?  Would I have found another outlet for whatever makes me want to create?  Or would I have done something quite different?  And what would have happened if I had ever been the sort of woman to have been able to wear this:

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