When asked to name my favourite flower, my answer changes with the seasons. Springtime brings pasque flowers, their buds shrouded in softest mohair, and the auriculas with their intricate petitpoint expressions. For summer I grow the flamboyant silks and satins of peonies and bearded irises with their gorgeous velvety petals. In autumn I am dazzled by the diamond glitter of nerines and goblets of goldwork sternbergia. But in winter I happily trade all those for the quiet charms of snowdrops, those whitework specialists par excellence.
With textiles too, I like to ring the changes, sometimes appreciating a limited colour palette of tranquil neutrals or Vermeer-like soft blues and yellows. Other times I crave a carnival of rainbow colours, the brighter the better. I do always prefer working with natural fabrics and threads, enjoying particularly the sensuality of silks, linens, fine wools and velvets. It is of course the varied texture of textiles that is so enthralling; the slipperiness of satin and the comfort of cotton. I like to re-purpose and re-use and I empathise with fabrics that are frayed at the edges.
I appreciate artwork that has more depth than mere prettiness, like that inner life you can see in Vermeer’s young women. I am fascinated by the way a piece of textile art, marks on cloth, can tell a story, just as if it were a poem. I relish the quirky; from the fascinating marginalia of medieval manuscripts to Saima Kaur’s joyfully idiosyncratic embroideries that draw upon her Punjabi heritage and I like that combination of the classic with the contemporary. Takashi Iwasaki’s hand embroidered landscapes, the narrative threads of Pascal Monteil, Sara Impey’s textile texts and Tilleke Schwarz’s intriguing responses to modern life are inspiring.
I love the rhythm of hand stitching and the individuality of imperfection. I like to sew while sitting in bed with that first cup of tea of the day or outdoors surrounded by my flowers. I do also use a borrowed Bernini machine, my hand-me-down Singer having somewhat bizarrely decided, since moving to Norfolk, that there is more to life than stitching.