My mother was a great knitter and dressmaker. My sister and I were children in the fifties, and it was much cheaper then to make clothes than to buy them - it's not so now. So every year, we had a new dress each at the beginning of summer and another for winter, and cardigans for school and for best. There was one pattern with a multi-coloured crocheted edging, and embroidered flowers, and pompoms - mine was royal blue and Maggie's was cream. Then there was a dark green double breasted style - oh, and there was always a 'fawn' cardigan; no-one talks about 'fawn' any more, do they? I can't even think what you'd call it now - it was a sort of pale milky coffee colour, and its virtue was that it went with anything. And for summer, a white cardigan, to match your white shoes.
|I don't remember the dress, but I do remember the boleros - white and fluffy!|
Someone gave her a length of green linen, and we had square necked dresses trimmed with green and white seersucker. And there was a glazed cotton dress with a self-fabric covered belt and a flared skirt - but by that time I was heading into my teens and my beautifully made dresses were beginning to feel old-fashioned - it was the sixties, and things were changing. I started to make my own clothes. The library in Ilkeston had masses of pattern books, and I would pore over them, looking at the latest fashions from Paris as well as these interesting new designers from London, like Mary Quant, whose minimally packaged make up - black and white, with a daisy logo - we all bought from Redvers Smith in the market place.
She designed knitting patterns too. For this one, I learnt to crochet. I got the stitches, but I had trouble getting the tension right - I've a feeling I had to ask Maggie or Mum to do the collar and cuffs. (I didn't knit the socks. That would have been too ridiculous.) The jumper looked great, but I hardly ever wore it because it was too hot.
When I was looking for a picture of this pattern, I also found pictures of Mary Quant clothes I made. (Who would have thought? Isn't the internet marvellous? And notice the sizing - a 14 then was much smaller than a 14 now.) I remember deliberating long and hard over the colours for this dress. I chose chocolate cord, with the stripes in turquoise and, I think, a sort of ochre colour. And the suit! Now, that was a step too far. Mum had gone to tailoring classes and made each of us a beautiful suit. Maggie's was brown and white tweed with a curvy little jacket. Mine was an orangey tweed. The material was really beautiful, but orange? With my rosy cheeks? A match made in sartorial hell. So I decided to make my own. How hard could it be?
Well, very. Especially with contrasting trims, and a hipster skirt with a curved waistband. I made it, but it never looked right. Nice material, though - green tweed with a windowpane check, and a plain trim.
I did recently get out my sewing machine again, but it's so much cheaper to buy clothes and there's so much choice that it doesn't really seem worth the upheaval. But I still knit. Lots of friends' children are having babies now, so I knit hats for them. And I'm trying to create the perfect snood - or is it a cowl? You know, a joined-up scarf. The first was too stiff, the second not long enough. I'm on my third now, and getting closer.
I have an odd little memory. We were on holiday at Scarborough, and I was walking along the beach by myself. I suppose I was about ten. It was a cool, cloudy day. There was nothing special about it, but I thought: This is a moment, here and now, that I will always remember. Why? I've no idea, but I always have. And I was wearing a shawl-collared jumper made of tweedy wool, royal blue, flecked with primary colours. That's as much a part of the memory as the dark clouds and the wet pebbles.
Apologies - it's very self-indulgent to go galloping off down Memory Lane like this. But blame Catherine - she started it!