What I did at the weekend

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On Saturday I went to Builth Wells in Mid Wales to do a talk for the area day of the Quilters’ Guild Region 12.  Their small but magnificent banner is shown in the picture above.  Quilters, kindly notice the exquisite piecing on those sawtooth patches, plus the very lovely applique of the dragon.

It was a really good day.  I drove up through the Brecon Beacons along roads that looked like they regularly had adverts shot on them: windy and almost totally empty, through the lovely autumn trees.  The sun was out, the music was on and it was great.

The morning session was ‘Travels Along the Silk Route’ by Jane Davies.  She brought along a number of Suzanes (pronounced Suzannas) which she had bought in Samarkand and Bokhara.  She even had a lovely green coat made in the technique:

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All the green you see is Bokhara couching.  I thought the motifs were great and did a fair bit of sketching while she was talking:

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Some really good strong shapes to use for printing.

She was a fantastic speaker and I would recommend her to any group looking for someone to talk (www.janedavies.btck.ac.uk).  She also does work with hand-dyed fabric and thread and felt.  I really enjoyed her talk.

I was on after lunch and so got to talk to a lot of the Cowbridge or officially Glamorgan quilters I was sitting with.  They were a delight.  One knew that I was speaking about Laura Ashley and so brought along a quilt that she had salvaged from a junk shop for a couple of pounds.  The photo with the owner in it is a bit blurry but I wanted to include it:

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I offered to buy it, but she wasn’t parting with it.

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Not all Laura Ashley fabric, but quite a bit:

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I think this makes the point that I made in the talk and which my interviewees have confirmed, that Laura Ashley fabric was just better than anything else that was available.

My talk went down really well.  They were a bit predisposed to like it, because I was talking about a Welsh institution in Wales and one woman in the audience had worked at the Carno factory as a lace collar inspector.  So, not what you would call a tough crowd, although several came up to me at the end and said they thought it would be boring but actually they had really enjoyed it.  But the best bit for me, other than the fantastic coffee and walnut cake and tea loaf which would have won the Great British Bakeoff easily, was the fact that they started telling me their Laura Ashley stories, some of which I remembered enough of to write down.  I really do need to take tape recorders on these occasions.

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This is what a typical area day looks like with traders which you can just about see at the back, tables full of people comparing notes, showing what they have bought and doing stitching.  Increasingly it is full of iPads and mobile phone cameras.  At the other end is the speaker talking to people, often too shy to shout up in front of a roomful of strangers:

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I had that strange experience of the spirit of Ethel Merman coming upon me as I stood up to speak and somehow I managed to make the whole thing funny.  I have no idea how that works.  I don’t plan jokes ahead of time.  But I think that this talk is unique in the sort of work I do in that it is like leading group nostalgia to a time when things were open and possible, and the sad things in life hadn’t happened with quite such frequency.  One of the things I went away wanting to think more about was whether I am encouraging rosy nostalgia as escapism, or whether it is good to provide a forum for people to re-experience some of the joys in their lives.  Probably a bit of both.

And an added bonus, they loved my clothes and hair.

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8 thoughts on “What I did at the weekend

  1. What wonderful pictures. I know the area you visited well, my dear father was from the Beacons, Also, I teach often in South Wales – and not quilting. I’m amused to see that I recognise quite a few of those faces as ex students. It’s a small world, isn’t it. One day I’ll tell you about my Laura Ashley quilt…. but it isn’t a very happy story.

    1. Thanks very much for this and for taking the time to reply. I would love to hear your Laura Ashley quilt story – the ones I have heard are almost exclusively happy so it would help my research.

  2. i have just finished joining, backing and quilting a quilt made by my (now 92 year old) mother in the 1970’s and early 90’s.at last it is on her bed!This is a photo of it. I also have another one nearly finished which has some other patchwork she did incorporated into it and is nearly all Laura Ashley fabric.-will send you a photo when it’s finished.
    Judi Hasell. PS sorry can’t see hoiw to attach photo!

  3. I like the travel to nostalgia… as I understood it as “feeling to know” or the feeling of knowing… and if it is rosy or escapist… who could tell. I’m also thinking that it is related to what was said of great artists such as Klee or Matisse.
    In the process of becoming an artist I am coming across a number of new artists and people who can inspire my art, apart of the great masters, and I found this lady Charlotte Hardy, very inspiring. A mixture of Mary Fedden with the most contemporary trend on illustration and hand-drawing things. Anyway, what is problematic with rosy escapism?

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