Sunday, 15 September 2013

The back story

Child's quilt, approx 36in x 48in £85

Several years ago, a quilt that I was particularly proud of - I still am, actually - and which was personally dear to my heart, was selected for an exhibition at which volunteers acted as stewards. As I approached from afar, I could see that whenever anyone neared my work to get a better a view, the steward on duty turned over the corner of the quilt, whereupon the would-be viewer slunk away and went elsewhere. When I went closer, I too was shown the back of the quilt and told how awful it was. And when I disclosed that I was the maker, the unabashed steward berated me for my poor fabric choice.

I still haven't decided whether to be appalled or amused by this incident. But it has certainly made me aware that the back of the quilt can be nearly as important as the front, especially if it is a cot or bed quilt that will become rumpled, unlike an "art" quilt whose reverse-side secrets are known only to the wall and to over-zealous stewards. It is a last chance to add an unexpected thematic detail. And a great way to use up scraps of fabric too small for another project.

Here are a few of what my Swedish quilting friend refers to as "back sides".  


Child's quilt, approx 36in x 48in £85

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Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Pink for girls and, er, pink flowers for boys?

Having dedicated myself for a couple of weeks to designing and making babies' and children's quilts in preparation for the Country Living Christmas Fair, and, it has to be admitted, choosing pink for girls and blue for boys, I find my mind turning again to a question that preoccupied me for several months while doing my degree: what is it that makes flowers an almost no-go area for boys and men? I'm not talking here about gardeners, who have presumably nurtured the blooms by the sweat of their manly brow and leave their wives to put them in vases, or even about artists - Van Gogh was not considered a wuss for painting sunflowers - but about what men and boys are allowed to dress in and surround themselves with.
Much has been made recently about the obsession of little girls with pink, and even the Daily Mail has raised the alarm about sexist stereotyping and how this might affect house prices There is, indeed, a campaign against the "pinkification of girlhood", called Pink Stinks

Yet very few people are questioning little boys' rights to a gender-neutral nursery. Fabrics designed for boys are full of tractors, trains, boats, rockets and superheroes  (the one above comes from my favourite US fabric retailer, Why can't boys go to sleep snuggled up in a bed of flowers, untroubled by the screech of heavy machinery?

In my degree project "Men and Flowers", leading to "Men in Suits" (the module coincided with a particularly unhappy time in my office career in a testosterone-fuelled City environment) I realised that although male fashion does not prohibit flowers, they have to know their place: on ties, in buttonholes and sometimes on shirts. A floral fly button or embroidered suit collar (as in my samples above) would be unthinkable - although lots of fun.

Then I realised that one flower associated with men, on Hawaiian shirts and swimming trunks, is the hibiscus. I wonder why.

I gave my favourite sample, above right - made of suiting, shirt material and pages from The Financial Times - the title The Ups and Downs of the FTSE 100.

Anger is a powerful colour to have in one's artistic palette.