East Anglian Stitch Textiles
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Starting a new piece of work

This week I have started to lay out a new piece of work – I enjoy mark making on organza and moving the fabric around till I see possibilities start to emerge. My new window scapes are about the outside merging with the inside – a confusion of where one begins and one ends.

Sad slippers

Whilst I’ve been stitching this pair of slippers it occurred to me how much use my own slippers have had since the end of March. Unlike this pair mine are beginning to look a little worse for wear.

This image is part of my design which illustrates the F. Scot Fitzgerald short story The Curious Case of Benjamin Button first published in 1922. ‘

Marking the Journey

Finally I am making progress with my new work for our Transformation exhibition due to open in 2021.

A fantastic winter’s walk along the beach adjacent to my daughter’s house provided me with even more source material.

I love the process of photographic recording to reinforce the meaning behind my work

Sand prints are playing a big part in this next body of work.


A brief glimpse at The Prize

EAST are really lucky to have as our mentor Anthea Godfrey. Here she is speaking to Hand & Lock’s Communication Manager, Robert McCaffrey about The Prize 2020 on her involvement as a judge for their annual competition and why it is important to get the brief right.


For more information visit Hand & Lock’s Prize page.

Making sense of scent

This week is Being Human Festival week and tonight I attended an online talk about the sense of smell. We had to have some items on hand for some at home experiments (see above). This event showed what a complex sense smell is – one which is really only appreciated if we lose it. As textile artists we often think about sight, touch, sound (the rustle of silk perhaps?) but how often do we think about the way different fabrics smell? Apparently smell training can not only improve your sense of smell but also general cognition so improving our ability to smell might help us think better.

Chinese Thread Books

Chinese Thread Books or Zhen Xian Bao is a traditional folk art practised by women in remote areas of south west China. They are books made of folded paper used to store embroidery threads and other small items. Ruth Smith travelled to China to research this tradition and has written books on the subject she calls them ‘Folded Secrets’


A cold, wet and miserable day here in Lincolnshire so I decided to start a long overdue sort out in my workroom.

One hour later and I have gathered together some ‘must have’ bits. All new, unused, original packaging – and there are more, lots more!!!

Admittedly, although it is no excuse, some of them are several years old.

Is it just me or does everyone have a collection such as this?

Last daisy of Autumn

Lone Daisy in Priory Park Southend – Tricia

Mildred Blount – a forgotten talent

During her research for E.A.S.T’s next exhibition (for more on that, see below), group member Julie Topsfield discovered the story of Mildred Blount (1907-1974). This is Mildred’s story, as told by Julie:

Mildred Blount at work

Mildred was born in North Carolina in 1907. She was orphaned as an infant, and did not complete her schooling due to ill  healthy. Yet by the 1930s and 40s she was recognised as a leading milliner for celebrities and high society.

She started work at Madame Clair’s Dress & Hat shop in New York as an errand girl. She became interested in millinery while working there which led to her opening a hat and dress shop with her sister who was a dress maker. Wealthy New Yorkers formed their clientele for dresses and hats.

In the 1930s she applied for a job as a learner with John-Frederiks the leading New York based milliner. They were taken aback as she was the first black person to have ever applied, she assured them she had talent, all she asked for was a chance. She got the job.

While working at John-Frederics, Mildred designed 87 miniature hats, representing styles from the 1680 to 1937 which where exhibited to great acclaim at the New York World’s Fair in 1939.

The August 1942 issue of ‘Ladies Home Journal’ – a first for a black designer

After this exhibit, her career took off, and she came to the attention of Mrs David Selznick. This led to her designing hats for Gone with the Wind and Easter Parade making her the first black person to design hats for movie actors. Mildred did most of the work, although credit went to her employers.

Her talents and reputation continued to soar, designing Gloria Vanderbilt’s wedding veil for her first marriage in 1941, and in 1942 one of her hats was featured on the cover of Ladies Home Journal another first for a black designer.

She left John-Frederics and founded her own label in Los Angeles. By the mid-1940s, she was designing for Hollywood actresses as well as private clients, including Mary Pickford, Ginger Rodgers, Joan Crawford and Rosalind Russell, among others.

Still living in California, she continued to work until her death in 1974.  Her hats can be found in the collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the California African American Museum.

E.A.S.T members are currently working towards their latest exhibition Transformation, which we hope will open at Braintree District Museum, Braintree in Essex in April 2021. More details will be available nearer the time.

decorated embroidery on kimono

Kimono continued – techniques and design influence

Kimono deconstructed

Following on from Susan’s blog I thought I would write a little more about some of the different techniques and influences we learned about at the V&A ‘Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk’ exhibition. As seen above, the kimono is fairly simple in structure – strips of cloth joined and unlike western style dress of the time, the focus was on the way the fabric was decorated rather than the body silhouette it enhanced or created.

Kimono for a woman (kosode) 1730-70

This kimono is decorated with a technique known as Yuzen dyeing. A cloth tube with a metal tip is filled with rice paste and applied in ribbons to outline the drawing on the fabric. Then dyes are brushed within the paste boundaries – similar to techniques used in silk painting with gutta. This is a kosode kimono – because of its short sleeves.

Kimono for a woman (furisode) 1800-50

The design for this kimono is made using a kanoko shibori technique. Look closely and you will see rows of tiny circles. These are made by tightly binding the fabric as a means to resist dye when the cloth is immersed in the dye vat. The red colour here comes from the safflower. This furisode kimono has ‘swinging sleeves’.

Hand painted kimono
Kosode Kimono, c.1785

This kimono is hand-painted in ink and colours, and thought to date to around 1785. It was created by the Japanese artist Masumura Goshon (1752-1811). Just as an artist signs a painting, Goshon included his signature and seal on the front of this kimono, indicating that he considered it a work of art.

Kosode kimono
Kosode kimono, 1780-1820

This kosode kimono was made from figured satin silk (rinzu), then hand-painted with ink (kaki-e). A stencil decoration to imitate tie-dyeing was then added (sorihitta) and finally it was embroidered in silk and gold wrapped silk threads. The text embroidered on this piece is a poem from a tenth century anthology.

Kimono for a samarui class woman
Kimono for a young samarui woman, c.1730-60

Again this kimono is created with a range of techniques but it also shows a development in design – quite boldly asymmetric and something that became fashionable in the mid-eighteenth century. Worn by a young woman of the samuri class this gown also shows how the ruling classes were becoming influenced by their social inferiors. According to the hierarchy of the day, the merchant classes were set below not only the elite classes but also the farmers and the craftsmen. As people whose fortune was made through the work of others they were put in the lowest rank. As they became wealthy they gained greater power, also the ability to lead fashion.

Kimono with small all over design
Kimono, 1750-60

By the second half of the eighteenth century, small scale designs became more common. This one was produced using the Yuzen technique (the freehand paste resist dyeing as described above).

Early 19th century kimono

Then as sashes became more elaborate and wider, kimono designs moved to the hem and then the front of the garment – rather than traditionally on the back. This kimono dates from the early nineteenth century.

Japanese street scene showing Parade of Courtesans in 19th century.
Print of Nakano Street in Yoshiwara by Utagawa Hiroshige II (1826-69)

Another big fashion influence were the courtesans – the fabulous gown of one you can seen in Susan’s blog. Here is one section of a print on display in the exhibition which shows a Nakano Street in Yoshiwara. It depicts the towns greatest spectacle, the parade of courtesans who wore the most extravagant attire. The glamorous lifestyle depicted was in sharp contrast to the realities of life in the sex trade.

Sanogawa Ichimatsu – actor and fashion influencer

Actors too were often seen as fashion icons. In 1741 Sanogawa Ichimatsu wore a chequerboard waist sash (obi), which became an instant fashion craze. The design became known as Ichimatsu check. This print shows Ichimatsu coming out of his shop – many actors had their own shops and ranges of goods.

Sarasa Handbook of textile designs.
The Sarasa Handbook (1778) – Indian designs for Japanese textiles

Indian fabrics were another influence – from the 1630s Japanese textile artists made versions of Indian fabrics. The Sarasa Handbook published in 1778, was the first technical guide to such cloth.

Tobacco cases and pipe case; Dutchmen portrayed on an inro and netsuke

Indian fabrics were imported by the Dutch – the first western traders with Japan. Known as the ‘red-haired people’ (komojin), the Japanese thought their fabrics highly prized and even the smallest pieces could be turned into saleable items. The Dutch people themselves were also exoticised and turned into inro and netsuke.

Kimono for western popstars

There was much more to see in this exhibition which ended with more modern developments of kimono – from both the west and the east. However, I was particularly struck by the the global influences and connections which have been a feature of kimono for centuries. As examples of more modern day global connections I have included these three items which are all associated with twentieth and twenty-first century music artists, who have other global connections. On the left is a kimono gown once owned by British artist Freddie Mercury (whose parents were of Indian descent). The red outfit was worn by American artist Madonna (whose parents were of Italian and French Canadian descent). The gown on the far right of the trio (and in the image) was designed by British designer Alexander McQueen in collaboration with Bjork, the Icelandic singer for her ‘Homogenic’ album.

If you are unable to visit the exhibition (which may already be sold out) it is still worth looking at the V&A online curator’s tour – the first part of which can be found HERE.

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