Book review: Sara Impey – Text in Textile Art

This is a book I’ve been waiting for. I first saw an example of Sara Impey’s work at the V&A exhibition ‘Quilts 1700-2010 – Hidden Histories, Untold Stories’, and like many other visitors I lingered over it reading the text, and being impressed by the perfect execution of the quilt. I subsequently saw one of her pieces that I liked even better – ‘L’inconnue’ at the Quilt Art at 25 exhibition at York’s Quilt Museum – this was also beautifully made, and I found it witty and thoughtful. In both exhibitions, Sara Impey’s work was amongst the most striking exhibits for me; I really admire her rigour and formality.

Sara Impey - Text in Textile ArtSo, to the book and what I thought about it. It’s in Batsford’s relatively new hardback style, with a very pleasing cloth cover. I enjoyed reading the text very much; there’s plenty of it (which isn’t always the case with books about textile art) and it’s very well written and put together. Each time I dip into the book I seem to find something new. There are some examples of text art that I hadn’t seen before (e.g. Lorina Bulwer’s angry sampler from 1901 which is a real find – if you get the book have a look on page 17). I also found some more familiar pieces, like Caren Garfen’s excellent and unusual ‘Main Course, Wafer Thin, a Study of the Role of Fat’ which I saw at last year’s Knitting and Stitching Show. In summary, then, there’s lots to recommend about this book.

Any criticisms? Well, much as I like Sara Impey’s work, the illustration of it doesn’t come across very well in book format. I think this is a problem for many books about quilting where the objects themselves tend to be so large, but it applies particularly in the case of her work because you want to scrutinise the text so closely. Also, there are areas I wish she’d had the space to explore in more detail. For example, she mentions in passing the embroidered banners used by trade unions and I’d really like to know more about them. However, I guess that would be a big enough subject on its own for another book.

  • Did I like this book? Yes
  • Would I recommend it? Yes, definitely.

Has anyone else read this book? Do you agree with me? Any comments?

Isn’t logwood amazing?

Recently I’ve been doing a lot of dyeing with logwood.

So what is logwood? According to the Wild Colours website, logwood is a tree originally found in the forests of Central America. Obviously it’s not something you can easily grow in your back garden (well, not here in rural Lancashire) so the best way to buy it is either as a powdered extract or in the form of chips of wood. Logwood gives purples and, if overdyed, can produce blacks.

I tried the extract and found it’s a very strong one. I used about 5 grams of the powdered extract and it just kept on yielding colour, getting progressively weaker, eventually producing some excellent greys.

Some purples and greys from using logwood

This shows some of the big range of colours I obtained by using and reusing the same pot of dye. I dyed various weights and types of silk, linen, cotton and wool.Threads dyed with logwood - shading to grey

And here are some of the thread colours as well. I dyed silk, wool and cotton threads which all yield different colours.

I’ll write some other posts about techniques I use, about mordanting fabrics, the results from different dyes….

My blog: Materiality

Welcome to my new blog.

This blog will feature posts on all the activities and interests that I’ve listed on my ‘About’ page: so there’ll be something (lots, if it all goes according to plan) about

  • Stitching and embroidery
  • Art and design
  • Drawing
  • Dyeing fabrics and threads, mostly with natural dyes

So, if you’ve got this far, I hope you’ll keep on coming back to see what’s new.

PS – why the materiality blog? Well, it’s a bit of a play on words – it gets the word ‘material’ into the picture, but also materiality means ‘the quality of being relevant or significant’… and I hope the blog will be relevant and significant to me and to you.