I am the granddaughter of a haberdasher, daughter of a haberdasher’s assistant and great-niece to a head of sewing. I was raised in a handmade world: from clothes to cushion covers, toys to ipod socks, my mother’s hands had made them. I am also a Library Assistant here at the NPL. Discovering in the library an expansive collection of works showing many other lives influenced by thread felt like finding a slice of home. These works allow a space where sewing or weaving is more than just a practical outlet; it's the foundation of communication between others and our inner selves. As our 'Poets in Vogue' exhibition explores how fashion & textiles have shaped some of the greatest names in poetry, I want to spotlight some of the wonderful material on the shelf, that takes fabric and reveals something new.
Outfitting by Kate Fletcher & Helen Mort
Writing together, Fletcher and Mort focus upon the North of England in this collection of poetry and prose. Using lived experiences of these geographies they explore connections to clothes; from industry and environment to the practical needs met by the clothes we make. Rather than allowing a disconnect to form between the fashion industry and our daily routines, both writers bring to life different items of clothing — from pockets that suggest when we can and can’t touch, to how to listen in windy weather wearing rustling hoods without ‘ear lids’ to block out certain noises.
Pulling Threads : Between Warp & Weft by Jennifer Sturrock
This collection looks at the idea of journeying between place and self, along the lines of the warp and weft that occurs in fabric. The x-ray-like images accompanying the poems seem to replicate elements of the writing, in the subtle gestures of the threads. Playing with rhyme and double meanings, and combining this with the vocabulary of cloth, this collection is an interesting browse, with a particular favourite being ‘Not Really’.
Text on Textile by Isabella Ducrot
This pamphlet, part of The Cahiers Series, opens with a traditional styled poem in both translation and the original Italian. It goes on to explore the mythological and historical ties between thread and narratives through prose poems, alongside detailed images of cloth patterns. From the beginnings of the universe to Penelope's unravelling of her tapestries to put off marriage, this collection covers many narratives of thread. Exploring etymologies of weaving alongside art history, literary and social relevance, this beautifully written pamphlet collates a small world of thread that's not often unpicked.