Northern Society of Costume and Textiles
The long and the short of it
Church House, Ilkley

Saturday 6th October 2018

Venue:  Church House, Church Street, Ilkley 

"The Long and the Short of it"

The day was absolutely classic stuff concerning yarns, fabrics, decoration and dyes, with some philanthropy woven in in the form of self perpetuating workshops and environmental aspect through recycling.
The morning session was given by Gill Rawlings who had prepared a wide ranging introduction to quilting and patchwork, starting by defining the two techniques.
We were told how social class gave rise to different levels of work due to availability of fabrics and threads and the fact that for the poor it was a necessity to extend the useful life of old items and for others it was a leisure pursuit with selected finer fabrics and threads.
Often the quilter would insert items such as a love letter so that it would be close to the recipient's heart. These crafts often provided the opportunity for people to work together and socialise, particularly in the early settlements of America.
Quilted work was functional as well as decorative being used to insulate, provide warmth, and sometimes protection eg farmers, miners and more recently sportspeople.
Gill gave interesting historical aspects such as quilting being banned at one time and fabrics being created to get round the ban. Quilts were evidently valuable as they appear in people's wills. In 1850 the sewing machine allowed work to be completed more quickly and manufactures started to supply ready cut fabrics. New professions emerged such as "stampers" who made templates and transfers, and quilt makering started as a business in the north east. The 1920s saw renewed interest in the technique and the in the 1970s there was a resurgence of interest as quilting became a leisure activity that developed as an art form. The quilt moved from the bed to the wall.
After an excellent lunch, the afternoon presentation was by Mary Holt, a Town Planner turned textile shop owner who was inspired following a tourist trip to India.
Mary told us about travelling through different areas, observing and collecting fabulous and fascinating examples of different techniques and fabrics. She talked about the salt desert of Gujarat and the wonderful colours of the women's clothes, how the landscapes and climate gives rise to different approaches to the creation of textiles and their decoration. 
She showed us tie dye and its painstaking bandani work to create minute dots to form a pattern. Then there was block printing and some of the blocks used. Dabu work uses mud as a resist method giving a similar crackled effect as batik, but without the laborious effort of removing the wax, resulting in a lovely soft fabric.
Mary spoke about the recycling that  is done to create garments from discarded saris turning them into jackets, rugs and leads for camels!
She concluded by telling how a group of tourists had clubbed together to provide sewing machines for a group of women in a village to enable them to be trained and become self sufficient. Once a woman has trained she is given a machine and is then able to work to repay the cost and so enable the next person to have training and a machine and for her to support her family. A very virtuous circle.
Both speakers were interesting and knowledgeable and provided a very hands-on day for us. It was stimulating and really re-charged the batteries. Lunch was good too! 
Lynn Beech