ID number: TQ.2015.026
Name of interviewee: Anne Murphy
Name of interviewer: Zoe Aiano
Name of transcriber: Take 1
Location: Anne’s home
Date: 22 May 2015
Length of interview: 1:08:16
Anne wanted to explore the local history of her new hometown, for a quilt for her City & Guilds course, so researched the linoleum industry and particularly the Nairn’s factory. She explains how what she found out and the industry and how it inspired the quilt. Anne used a variety of techniques in the making including origami, Dorset buttons and dyeing fabric. Later Anne talks about some of her other projects including a quilted jacket and quilted pagoda.
Zoe Aiano [ZA]: Okay this is Zoe Aiano I’m here with Anne Murphy in Kirkcaldy, um ID number TQ.2015.026 and it is the 22nd of May [laughter] 2015. I’m glad I could remember that. Okay, um so could we start if you could just tell me a bit about this quilt? Describe it for me a little bit and um tell me a bit about the background.
Anne Murphy [AM]: Okay. Well, er, I’ve just moved to Kirkcaldy, in the last few years so the main industry here was linoleum and there’s quite a lot of information about linoleum around the town and there’s even, er the poem about linoleum in the railway station. So the quilt is actually as a result of all of research about Michael Nairn which was one of the, only one of the linoleum manufacturer’s. There’s quite a few in Kirkcaldy and most people worked or knew somebody who worked there. So the quilts actually um a lot of the ideas were taken from a sketch book that I did, cause I’m doing a City and Guilds course and this was in year two. So it represents really a roll of linoleum so it’s really very long, it’s only about metre deep, it’s nearly four metres long and it’s supposed to be a roll, roll of linoleum laid out and there’s a small strip along the bottom of various little origami squares all decorated differently and they are supposed to represent Kirkcaldy linoleum which is a huge sheet of a marble was just tiny and sets of flowers or some design that you get in big er office blocks and things these days. So it starts off, like the story of it starts off at the right hand side of the quilt which is an image of the factory in Kirkcaldy, which is a funny shaped little factory where the um raw materials came in and they were rolled off into Nairn’s factory. So I’ve got rows of um patchwork pieces coming down and passing what a factory which is made up of a tox in an oblong and above the harbour I’ve got a huge er star because Nairn’s won the start of merit for many years and they’re the big poster with the star of, the Starry Eye Retained written on it, very broad and they just changed the year every year and that went on the works outings, very proud of that. So the, the rolls of linoleum come off, roll past the factory and then they open out in the main body of quilt and it’s made up of a lot of different patchwork squares which was really good fun to make, circles, half circles, tox, all sorts of different things and it then rolls out into the memorial garden at Kirkcaldy and the story about that is that Nairn’s grandson was killed in, in the First World War and the, his son and his wife built the art gallery, the local art gallery and that’s why Kirkcaldy has the biggest war memorial and memorial gardens in the whole of Fife and that’s one of the reasons for that, they put the money in. So there I have the flowers on the trees representing that.
The colour of the quilt is a just self-coloured calico and the reason for that is in the oxidising process you don’t get white linoleum, you get a creamy colour and that’s the reason for that, but because, if it had been all one colour, I was actually getting a bit depressed, to be honest with you, so I’ve dyed some calico a turquoise and dropped that through the quilt just to lift if a wee bit. All of the pieces um are folded quilting types, all from different books that I’ve read up and there’s quite a lot of origami folding in it. And because a lot of the flowers in particular have raw edges in the middle, I’ve had to quite a lot of embroidery, er, solutions to cover up the raw edges in the middle. So there’s a lot of, of embroidery involved as well and I’ve, I think I’ve embellished quite a few of the pieces as well just because my background is embroidery and I’ve been an embroider for about 30 years, but now I think I’m a quilter. I’ve had a great time doing this and I’ve a quilted bag, quilted box and this year I’ve made a quilted jacket and a pagoda because this year I’m doing the plant hunters. So quilting is a very forward [laughter]. I really love it. So and what I find is that it’s the same as embroidery, it’s as long as a piece of string, you can do any type and there’s lots of dyeing involved and modern approaches that’s just fantastic, so. That’s, that’s the story so far with my quilting.
AM: I don’t know what else you’d like to ask me about it.
ZA: That was a very good start, definitely. Um so you could tell me a bit about er the process of making it. I know you did quite a lot of research and…
AM: Yes I, I discovered all the things that quilters have never told me before. That you get this 505 spray. So you put the base fabric down, you spray, you spray, um the fabric and then you put down the wadding and it goes down wrinkle free because this wonderful gluey stuff. Then you spray the top of the wadding and then you put the top on. But because everybody said to me it would get all wrinkled up and it would be bunched up and I would end up with not enough fabric I’d loads of bits of, either side, just in case I ran out and I also, if you see every five inches I’ve, I’ve put a row of stitching, can you see that? Machined squares… rows there every five inches and I’ve put a little diamond. They’re covered up with a lot of the decoration in the quilt but that’s the backbone to make sure it doesn’t move around when I was adding. Because all of these pieces were made separately and I used bias tape to stitch them all on. So I must have made, I don’t know, but eight or 10 yards of bias tape maybe much more, to, so I learned lots of different ways of doing that as well from the all the patchwork books [laughter]. So they’re all, everything’s covered with that. And underneath all the pieces there’s word, another layer of wadding as well. So there’s the original wadding under here and then under all these pieces there’s little squares of wadding hand stitched on the back of them all and then the, the bias tape goes round and then it’s all slipped stitch. So it was slip, slip stitched till you drop basically. And so just [inaudible] and I had to put it on the table cause it’s quite heavy so. In fact the quilt, the quilted jacket I’ve made this year you could hardly barely wear it, it’s so warm and it’s just that wadding and two layers of calico, of calico dyed and then the stitching on the top. It’s, it weighs a ton, so. So that/s how I’ve put it together.
ZA: And then.
AM: And then of course you’ve got to learn all the quilters stuff about doing the corners and then you’ve got to learn how to do the tapes to hang it up. That was another problem because, because it’s so long it wants to wave, so we first of all brought the narrow blind, er, it’s almost metal stuff, narrow stuff, we put that and it was waving, it was far too heavy because there’s quite a lot of weight in it. So we had to go and buy the old fashioned [cotton ball?], you know the swish stuff, so that was fixed along there and then if you turn it to the back, it’s, it’s got all the, the rings all the way along to hang it up and that, then that, that attaches to the, the wires that hang down in art galleries. So it was easy to, to hang it up. And then you have to sign it as well, that’s another, there’s so many rules, its great isn’t it? So, it’s signed as well for prosperity. But one, one of the things I, I found really interesting was [inaudible] of the tops, so I had to make up lots of ideas to, to fill up the middle. So these are cutting lines and all buttonholed. These are the old um linen buttons you used to get. I had to scrounge them from various people. I used to get them on Liberty Bodices, so some of these are dyed, that’s one of these dyed and then I did a little knitted one, like you would get on your knitted jumper.
ZA: Hmm hmm.
AM: A little one and that’s us, that’s our, a plumber’s washer with silk embroidery thread buttonholed through it and these are the Dorset buttons that you can make and then old fashioned pearl buttons with different stitches to hold them on. So I’ve used quite a lot of these things in the, in the quilt just to cover up all the bits and pieces. I mean that’s a different fold, that’s, that, that’s a basic fold for the base and every single one of these is, is a variation of that. That’s, that’s how, when you fold it that’s what you get and then you get, you can do all these different shapes with it. You can make it flowers, diamonds, different insert in the middle. You can make that fold inside the fold like here and then this is a different fold applied inside and then you can, you can take the fold and pick up the four corners like so and then you’ll get that little flower shape. So just infinite possibilities [laughter] really, so. And this one these, these tuck circles, these are all different where they’re created in the middle as well cause that’s our edge, so all these raw edges have to be covered and… This is a specific fold that takes ages to work out how to do. I had to learn all about valley folds and mountain folds and the diagrams are for paper. So once I’d learnt how to do it on, on paper I then had to work it how I could do it in fabric and what to put inside it and how it would, how it would work and the, the fabric, the calico’s one of the fabrics that does fold and you can press it and, and you can get it to work. If, if I tried to these with er a modern polyester cotton it would be just keep on furling I wouldn’t be able to do it. So it, it was, it really was a, a, a learning curve. I like this one. This one is um, all these little points go underneath there. That one, and that’s a y stitch on a circle of a pelmet vilene with the dyed piece and there’s old buttons that, you can see all the different centres that’s in them and that’s French knots round there. And I love this. This is, this is a brilliant thing that Jennie Rayment does. It’s er how to make the handle for a bag. It’s how put she used it for and then you just, you just fold in your two raw edges and you zigzag it on the machine and what you do is you put a thick fabric in the spool and do it upside down, a silk thread rather, a thick thread in the bottom and the it, it, it makes that lovely and, and you don’t have any bother with it. It’s a brilliant bag. So there you go.
ZA: Amazing. So it just has so many techniques.
AM: Yes that one there, see that’s, that’s a really quite a thick, er, crochet cotton and if you put it in, in the spool and do it upside down you get a nice, a nice pattern to it. These are, this one is actually, this is a sample that’s meant to er resemble. When they did the linoleum at the beginning it was like wood. They made it to look like Turkish rugs or wood and this is a, a wood, a wood sample. But what Nairn did, was Nairn invented the tile, the vinyl tile which more or less put them out of business because linoleum is a very expensive fabric and a very, very, it’s really deluxe because it’s um, it’s very eco-friendly. There’s nothing um, what’s the word, you don’t have to dispose of anything, you know, it’s just a, a natural process with natural er resin but the, when they made the vinyl they never could buy a roll, roll it out, cut it out themselves, well or badly… and then you could get the tiles and just stick them down, so that was that. So it’s, it’s become more a bespoke thing now which is one of the reasons it’s faded away. It’s er, it’s really an interesting subject I think. The quilt especially I love. So I don’t really know what to say after that.
ZA: Er how did you, how did you manage to find all of these techniques? It sounds like you, you kind of took things from all over the place.
AM: Yes I did. I, I had er, I didn’t get a lot, I, I, I went, first of all I went to library to get the research about Michael Nairn but I didn’t get many books In the library. Mostly um I got a, I bought some, I bought a linoleum book, that was the funniest bit. There are a book about linoleum, they were all going, a book about linoleum and then the, you could see all the different patterns over the, over the centuries really. So that give me a lot of ideas for, for these pieces in the middle, all the different shapes. There’s a, there was a lot of flowers and stars and things so that’s why that’s there, but mostly it’s um, the internet, I got a lot of, er the origami stuff was from, er I presume Chinese and Japanese girls on the internet who just did it on YouTube. You just access you… origami stars, there’s somebody doing it. Origami flowers, there’s somebody doing it and then you just have to learn how to do that. But I have got an origami book and paper and I made things in paper. Um this year I’ve been doing um the flamingos and the storks and all that sort of stuff and then making them into, doing fabric versions of it, which is pretty tricky and lotus flowers and all that sort of thing for this year, so. I mean it’s, it’s infinite really. It just goes on and on.
But I think the interesting thing is the, that was one colour and this year it’s a right of colour. So in order to do my quilting this year, I’ve had to completely invest in finding out about dyes, soak dyeing, procion dyeing, all sorts of different, transfer dyeing, because that’s all part of the quilting process as well cause you’re making your own fabric and in the City and Guilds, you’re not allowed to buy any commercial fabric. You’re only allowed to use fabric that you’ve bought and coloured yourself. So you have to do all that as well. So this year I’ve… and the one I’ve done this year, I’ve had to learn about batik. So there are a whole lot of waxing. I’ve, I’ve got a, a wax bath and you, you [chuckles], you take things like a fork and you do little wax bits like that and then you dye it and then once you er you put another bit somewhere else and you dye a different colour and then when you iron it all off with lots of papers you’ve got all these different shades all through it and you can do um, that was hilarious, things for cutting your scones. You put, I think craft people are a bit daft, a bit crazy, you put a clothes peg on it and put in the red hot wax then you lift the clothes peg actually and then you’ve got circles all over your… and you can, what I was doing was making petals because oval shaped ones, so. What else I have…? then I found out you could do um make circles in different shapes with er pipe cleaners. So dipping them in the barrel and because I was doing flowers again this year, I had jars of all the different dyes all along the window. So I was making the origami flowers and the patchwork, putting them in all the different colours, then you have to set all the dyes, oh that’s another thing I should mention with this… because it’s two colours and it’s a throw, it has to be fit for a purpose, so I had to dye my blue and throw it in with the calico and hot wash and hope that the blue which it didn’t dye out. So that should be able to be washed cause that’s part of it as well. So all I can say is it’s like an adventure just, you know. Because there’s a lot of… this year, um next year I’m going to do the plant [inaudible] but it’s gonna be India and although I’m thinking of doing hand stitchery, I also want to do the Indian patchwork, the seminole patchwork because I’ve done that in the past as well and I love that, the tiny wee squares, got a wee bit there in my bag and I really enjoy doing that, so.
ZA: Oh wow.
AM: So I might take that up. This is all, this all had to be dyed all different colours as well and that’s a, this is a, a nod to traditional, the hand stuff but there’s Sussex puffs and some of these circles are Sussex puffs turned round as well for a bit and that’s the, the space dyed and all the different ways of dyeing the fabric and then all the different wee patterns. And that’s my first go at these tucks that’s on there. That was the year before. So with books I’ve just umped it up a bit I think and then this little triangle thing as well. So, there you go [laughter].
ZA: So you said you, um, for this year you made a pagoda and a, and the jacket.
AM: Aah. Well the, then I went into the realms of 3D quilting and this was a lady er Julia C Barnes, June C Barnes [correction name is C. June Barnes], sorry and she makes the most, this is a fantastic book [background chatter], it’s um, she’s into ge, er geometrical shapes so it’s all 3D stuff and her pagoda that she did is purely quilting whereas mine’s got loads of embroidery in it as you can imagine but it’s squaricle. So you start off with a square and I made all my squares er so because it was China, it was silk paper, so I’d learned how to make silk paper and I put, have you, have you seen silk hankies? You get silk hankies, you stretch it on this wee board with pins, you dye it all different colours, so then I put that onto a square of calico that was spaced dyed, then I, I machined it, then embroidered it, then on the top I did one of these big circles and with the tucks I started off with a circle that size and just ended it up at that, 13 inches er square was the biggest square and er there are seven, so it’s 13, 11, 13, 12, it just goes up like that and the smallest ones are the best and if you join the, the square, I’ve yet to get this right now. The circumference of the circle and divide it by four that’s the side of one square and if you join the square to the circle it curves up at the corners like a pagoda, that’s how it works and you have to join the, join the two of them together [inaudible] it turns up but then you have to put bias tape, our famous bias tape again, all round the edges for the raw edges and then you go in about an inch and stitch it there and then you, you stuff it slightly and because it had to be built up in a pagoda it’s on a, a copper pipe, a stand with a copper pipe, so in the middle is a bun, you know, the bun catcher things, like a doughnut, I think they’re called doughnuts. So in the bottom one there’s two all covered in fabric, put in the middle and all stitched on so you can slot it on and then at the top and it’s two then, it’s one one and then it’s three small ones, so there’s seven altogether. So it starts off with big doughnuts and it ends up with wee doughnuts at the top and then between them because I’m doing a George Forrest and then a China, he loved this pagoda and took a picture of it and they were rounded, not like the one in Kew Gardens [INAUDIBLE], the places in between were rounded. So then I was at a talk in The Guild and it was a lady that did um costumes for theatre and she had a puppet and we should use for the arms was the piping that you put round for lagging pipes, that polystyrene stuff with the hollow in the middle. So I did these tucks here but this one, this is called er a square tuck because it’s, it’s tucked under like that as oppose to the, the tuck on the side. So I did them all the way round in the green fabric and gathered them up at top and bottom. So they’re in between everyone in the Pagoda pieces and then on the top there’s just a tiny wee brass top that you put on pipes that plumbers, plumbers put on pipes. So that was great and I really loved to do that and she does things like um cylinders and the vessels and all sorts of stuff. So I really want to get into that but I’ll have to finish my course first.
But I, I, I don’t feel I was really copying her because what she did was she had like a square that size on the bottom and it was like a box or a big piece of polystyrene or something and it was just covered in fabric and then her pagoda piece that come up was vinyl um, pelmet vilene, vilene and she had done all the loads and loads of er the two layers and loads and loads of er vermicelli, all different things like that, that kind of stitch which I can’t do. I’m gonna learn but I can’t do. So she had all that and then there’d be a square slightly smaller and so hers went up. So it was different entirely. Mine is what they call an embroider’s [inaudible], stiff with stitches, there’s loads of stitches cause that’s what I like to do. So and the top was a circle of calico and I dyed that all different shades as well. They’re all different, they’re all different colours and then they’re all embroidered as well and then all made… It’s like a wee cushion but if you imagine, if there’s a circle on top of that, that would turn up at the corners like that, that’s exactly how it looks.
And the jacket, because it was China, I had to make it with the, the band that comes down like the Chinese jackets. So that’s silk embroidery and the hands are, the arms are silk embroidery but all the rest is quilting and had – I saw a really beautiful art book and what she had done this girl was put a twin needle in the machine and do lots of big flowers on the twin needle. So on the back before I even started putting the flowers on I had these twin needle flowers that I just sort of made up and because it’s er Robert Fortune who discovered the tea as well, I’ve actually got tea leaves going up the side of the sleeves and I just did three hand little… like that, so that’s quilting as well. So I’m really enjoying it, I must, I must admit. But I think it’s good to learn the two. I don’t think you should be too precious about what you’re interested in. I think you should be able to do all sorts of stuff and not be too… and generous. I mean that, that June Barnes’s book I mean, I, I emailed her to see if I could use her pictures and so on in my sketchbook and she emailed back and, and said I haven’t done anything since I finished that book because she obviously every single thing she thought of, she had done, and she just used up all her inspiration. She was away doing something completely different. So there you go. So [whispering]. I tend to do that.
ZA: [Whispers] Not at all. So you said you started off with embroidery?
ZA: And how did, how did you learn that? Were you, did you learn it at school or…?
AM: No my, my mother never had the sense something like that or, or at school. At school we did, I, I went to an Academy so you didn’t really get that, you didn’t even get biology cause we were ladies but we didn’t actually get sewing either but to make a dress sort of thing that was about it. But um when I was about in my mid 30s er I went to a meeting at the church and it was a, a girl from an embroiders group that and it happened to be the Embroiders Guild and she was showing all her stuff and she said ‘ooh there’s one in Stirling, hmm’ and it, it was a great and I imagine quilter’s groups are the very same which is why I want to join. Um they do day classes and they meet once a month and, and experienced people come and tell you about what they’re doing and then you go ‘ooh black work, hmm’ and then somebody maybe comes and does a workshop on black work and then you maybe work on that for about a year and somebody else is doing gold work and you think ‘ooh I’ve gotta try that’ and, and that’s, that’s how I get into it. Just, and you just slip from one thing to another and there’s a cross thing as well because somebody came and showed us sashiko which is quilting and we all had a go at that as well. So I’ve had a go at that as well. You do, you don’t think you’ve done a lot of quilting but you actually have because they’re all alike together and you can look at somebody’s work and no what their influences have been, you know, just by looking at it, so.
ZA: Cause yeah you said to me earlier that you, also you, you made a few quilts in the 70s.
AM: Yes I did. Uh huh.
0:26:21 ZA: But they were of a very different kind.
AM: Totally different. I mean I’ve gone one upstairs on my bed at the moment and it’s more or less I think the call it All Around the World. It’s more or less just as you start with the square, squares, and I did it in velvet and it was a, a cotton velvet and in those days it frayed like mad, whereas now nylon velvet and all that doesn’t do that. So every time I finished doing that I had to have a hoover up the kitchen because of stuff everywhere and it was huge and I had a huge… I mean there was no knowledge really. It was just mucking around to be honest with you. I had, I went to the shop, Remnant Kings, and they say do you get this polyester wadding, so that’s what’s in it. What about a backing? Well what have you got and I an old dupion curtains, cause I change, I changed my colour scheme from the roaring turquoise that was all the rage in the 70s so that was the backing and then I did a nice for my daughter with a wee Holly Hobby pictures on it and they were great because it would be a little heart and you could put wee, I did dress making so you did lots of wee strips of um braids and different things on the hearts and wee button boots and different things on all the, the little pieces, so. And each square between the Holly Hobby was actual proper patchwork, like um more carbon and different ones like that. So I have done it but just not for a long, long time till recently well about four years ago.
But I did it, I did do it for a long time and I once had a patchwork skirt that was much admired in the 60s. I found a piece of a tweed with, you know where you have the bits hanging down and it was just a small piece of remnants. So all the rest was the 60s dirndl skirt top with a tweed on the bottom, so. So I have done it and enjoyed doing it but as, as years went on it’s, it’s, the thing with er embroidery is that it’s small and until I discovered this type of quilting I didn’t realise, I thought well you have to have this big quilting table and but you actually don’t. I mean, my friends at college think I’m an aborigine because I come with this little bag in, on the train and I work away all day, if you cut it, all your squares or all your hexagons or whatever, you’re all ready to work away all day. You don’t actually need to have machinery of any kind and er then the, put it it altogether at the end or have an hour of machining where you do that on a separate evening which is why I have done it. I mean the, these hexagon flowers. That’s a technique that takes the woman on the internet seven minutes to do one of these flowers and when I was folding it the first year with paper, it was, it’s an endless job to actually fold, but when you actually start with the thread in the middle and put it altogether it’s much quicker and you can do it from five stars flowers, five petal flowers right up till sunflowers you can get 12 petal flowers doing that technique, it just depends how many sides then you are into the geometry then you have to get your, a set squares out and your compasses and measure it all off to make your own shapes. That’s the other thing, you’re, you’re not allowed to buy shapes so any shapes you do plates, some of these circles are cut down my dinner plates by the time I cut them in, you know. And sides plates so that’s basically [chuckles] we have to do, so.
ZA: How do you feel about all the rules involved?
AM: Well that was, one of, this was a wee er a bit of um I would say rebellion on my part because I didn’t see how you could hand stitch a garment and there would be no machining because that’s not natural. Even if you’re doing an embroidery you have to set it on something or, or back it on something or, you can’t just hand embroider and the same with machining. So this was my get out clause, you can do both, which is more natural. It’s not natural just to, to stitch a thing and then embellish it. Do the big stuff with the machine and then do the small stuff by hand. It doesn’t seem natural to me sitting hand embroider one wee thing, you know. So that was a bit of a rebellion. But that’s the City and Guilds rules, that’s the… and we argued, don’t tell me we didn’t argue. Everybody in the class had an axe to grind about it but that’s the rule, so um, I want to change it so. I want to go with it, so.
ZA: What is it that you enjoy most about the process? Is it kind of the learning the techniques or is it the creative aspect of coming up with the idea or…?
AM: Actually um I love the sketch book process which I had never ever done before and it amazes me because I’ve, I’ve spoken to the City and Guilds people who did the embroidery before and they would say you make the thing and then you back track but I have never done. I’ve done what they teach to you say which is to start putting your search in and ideas just come to you and you think ‘ooh’ and you talk to somebody or you see a book and it’s amazing how it all comes together at the end. It really, it’s a surprise for me and that, I like that. But I do like the constant stitching, I do like the constant stitching. But I worry a lot about the design process to get it right, especially when it was somebody that you, you read about and you respect and you think well I don’t want to make this, such trouble to this person, pathetic, you know. So I like, I like that it, I enjoy it, what our tutor says is that un, unlike popular belief crafting is really um it’s, trying to think of the word, you use your brain as well at, at, it’s not just your hands, you have actually have constant problems that you have to solve throughout the whole process and you’re thinking ahead all the time.
When you’re working, you’ve solved something, so you do it and all the time you’re doing it you think the next thing I have to do is that, how am I gonna do that and it is a thought process. So it’s not a mindless… and then you go ‘oh do you know what would work in there, now I’ll get somebody who knows how to do that, a book on that and they’ll tell me exactly’ or ‘it’ll be in the internet’ and, and you, and then you put your own take on it. You don’t steal folks ideas especially you, you work out the technique that, you think ‘well that’s old fashioned technique, how could I made that different for today rather than just copy out’ because even with embroidery I did the pagodas and everything all down the front and it’s in silk threads but it’s more than, some other take on it, it’s not Chinese long and short stitches or shading or anything, it’s a modern… and I did it all in the calico which I dipped, I wanted, I need you to fake like the old um Emperor jackets. So I dipped the, the calico in the wax and then what you do is you crack it all, then you dye it and then when you take all the, the, the wax out, you’re left with a crackle glaze and it looks like an old fabric and then I embroidered on top of that. So that was a modern, you don’t just, you know, you have to jazz it up a bit. I mean that the waves there, that’s just the basic tucking, but it’s um a variegated machine embroidered fabric is threaded so that it’s all, all different shades of the blue that’s along the edge and you have to do that first before you tuck it and that’s brickwork that’s done with er running stitches there and then I carried it through into the quilt to make it all…
That’s the other thing about the quilting you have, if you’re applying stuff, it’s like a rockery you can’t plank it on the top you’ve got to actually integrate it all with the other stuff and that was quite tricky. Where, where the turquoise should flow through… but in the end I wanted it to be like a sort of corner copier and I think I’ve done that, I think it’s worked. You eye goes along it the way you would roll on a bit of linoleum. That was planned. I think, I think I that’s what, I like the idea.
ZA: Was there, did you have any real tricky bits that were really hard to overcome?
AM: Er now let me think now. I think that was the trickiest bit, the piece along the bottom because I had to have it even each side and I had to work out where the blue was going to go rather than just have it equal and make it sort of staggered and I had to work out which ones they were, the, the basic origami is square but then I had to work out which ones should go where. So that, I found that quite tricky whereas once I got, once I got the um harbour on and I knew there were that, I, I basically, if I go back a bit, I basically need that big star first and the tutor wanted me put that in the middle square and I thought I think that will be better to the side and then I liked it on the diagonal and once I’d done that and I knew I was doing an oblong factory at that, that was obvious and when I drove past the factory you can actually look up the side. So although I’d finished that I then added that piece on the side because I think that makes it more 3D. But the, that was a trickiest bit, that bit, that I, to me anyway because there was, there was more exact piecing in that and the other thing, see when you do the origami squares, the tighter you do them, the square becomes a different size although you start with the all the same square the basic square goes down and you can judge exactly where that’s going to go down into. But once you start adding the twirly bits and going at the angle it starts coming in a bit and you have to allow for that. And so therefore there’s you have to put little pieces on like this, to make sure it fits the same size as the ones that are basic. So that, I found that quite, quite difficult. But I think if I, if I had been a more experienced quilter I wouldn’t have [background chatter].
But I did find that very difficult I have to say. But I mean I’m saying that, some of these squares when I was learning to do these, I’d be sitting here at 3 o’clock in the morning and if you fold it the wrong way or, er I misunderstand the directions and sometimes the directions for the origami stuff is about four pages long. I have to say the Jennie Raymond stuff was easy because she explains it so easily so that and she’s a quilter and she’s coming from there. So all the pieces that are from her books were, I wouldn’t say they were easy peasy but they weren’t complicated. Whereas when I was going from paper to, to cloth it really was a lot more difficult to, to work out how you do it. But er, I thought this process was great fun. I mean that, that one there that’s, that’s um low cabin but on the circle. I have never heard of that before. It was great, it really was and now crossed my French who’d know how do that. That’s got a special name as well, so. But that was my most tricky bit I think was the, I worried about it a lot about it being, you know, I would go on the back and it would be all lumps and bumps and as I say, an 80 year old lady I go to the Probus with, said ‘you’ll fail Anne if it’s like that’. So I don’t [chuckles], so that was, that was a big worry.
But everything else was just, it was good fun actually. It was really. But that was a problem that but, but I think if I had more experience of piecing that wouldn’t have been so much bother. That was my problem. It was until I actually started to put it together that I realised they were all different sizes. That, so that was my mistake. That was I, I hadn’t thought that through. So that was the trickiest bit. But I covered all the rest with an embroidery that was the easiest bit, cause that’s, I don’t have a bother with that. But that was the hardest bit. And this year the hardest bit was dyeing the fabric cause all the flowers are different batik. They’re, they’re quite similar to these different ones but they’re all working out the design of it. But that, one of the designer that was I tend to do what my father used to call the back of a fag packet and I just, and if you, see that design in there, you’ll see it’s so straightforward. I mean that’s just, that’s what I drew at the beginning and that’s more or less how it ended up. It’s not exactly the same as that but you can see the elements of it are pretty, pretty similar to how it ended up and you can see I had this idea that it would go like that and I was gonna put er a line of the, the poetry along there but once I put M. Nairn and that was very formal, a hand written line of the poem wouldn’t have worked. I was gonna put um, you know the smell one, you know that poem. There’s a poem all about linoleum and it’s up in the, the railway station, you’ll see it when you go on the train and it’s um, in fact it’s in here… cos this is the bit I liked all the… ah there we are, the Boy in the Train, there it is, that’s it there and I tried all these but, so I was gonna do, there’s a guy, queer smell, see it and, and I thought I would leave that all along, in between all of these and at the top here I would have its Kirkcaldy cause that’s the last two words but I was just too busy. But when I showed it to the chap, er the, the [chatter], they, they gave me all this stuff about me and at the art gallery, he said [inaudible]. So he was quite pleased I hadn’t actually put on it, so. But I’m really pleased that somebody’s interesting and it’s, it’s quite exciting for me to have somebody who’s high school entrants and find out but, so that’s good.
ZA: Well er when you exhibited it did you get much of a, er a reaction from people?
AM: I got a, a huge reaction from the, I actually stood at it the whole day that it was there start at the end and doing all that but [chuckles] and then starting again [chuckles]. I had to put a sign up saying what I represented and er I sometimes gets asked by local groups to, to bring it and talk about it and I get er an amazing reaction cause everybody comes up with stories about people knew that were… I mean you could get, what was the story somebody told me? You could actually get linoleum jigsaws that… whether they made them in the factory you know, Nairn, they used to make [inaudible] things and bring them home and or pokers in their spare time and then take them home. Well they did jigsaws, so you actually got I think it was a map of Scotland somebody showed me and it was a jigsaw made of linoleum of a map of Scotland, can you believe that? So. I, I was get, I, I got a lot of input from people about stuff like that and about all the buses waiting to take them all over Fife from the linoleum factories. I mean if you look round Kirkcaldy there’s great big um tall buildings because linoleum was hung on great big calendars on about five storey’s high. So if you see a big ruined factory building that was a linoleum building. So that’s how you can tell because the, they, they dipped er the… by the way Nairn had their own canvas works as well, they got the jute from Dundee and made their own canvas then they made the linoleum and it would come up in these big rollers. And they also had, which was good I thought, um levels of expertise. I mean the men were doing their, the fancy and laid stuff at the top but the girls had a lot of expertise further doing, different things as well and all the designers were men and all the lab assistants were men. It’s nothing like that now. But that’s what it used to be like. So I found out, I found all that quite… I found actually the, the soften the sketch but gathering all that was absolutely brilliant and she made us, she kept us going until February. She would let us stop and go on to making the thing. So you actually did end up instead of just having an idea about a factory you ended up with loads and loads stuff. There’s more not included than there is included to be honest because you could, I became the world’s expert on linoleum. People would ask me stuff and I’d go ‘ooh well I can tell you about that’. It was discovered by Sir William Walton. I think Kirkcaldy, er sent it all over the world Australia, Opera House, all sorts of places have linoleum from here. So it’s just quite, it makes you quite proud doesn’t it? So.
ZA: Did you have, how was your knowledge of linoleum before? Like what was it that made you choose that topic specifically?
AM: I chose it because um I wanted to do patchwork but also I thought there would be so much scope in linoleum, all the patterns through all the decades, but also because I’d come to Kirkcaldy and everybody talked about it. And there is a, as I say a Lady Nairn Avenue and there is Factory Road and they’re all called after different, I mean there wasn’t just Nairn’s, there was Barry’s, there was lots of different places all making linoleum but he started it. He built the first factory and they called it Nairn’s Folly because he borrowed 4,000 pounds and they all thought he’d go bust. Ended up making a fortune, so. But that was a, as I said the thoughts processes of that was really interesting and I don’t know, it was about like topsy, it growed, I started off thinking Kirkcaldy linoleum and patchwork and it just went on and on and on and all they had, I mean you realise that you can’t do the, the jazz everything, all fighting each other. You realise all of that as you’re working through it, so. I don’t know what, what else to say really.
ZA: How, how long did you spend actually doing the research?
AM: Well we started the research um, now let me think, October, after the October break and we worked right through till February, March just doing the research. So that was quite a long, I mean you had, you had to go out and take little, er that’s another thing I liked about it, you could go and take loca, local photographs and there is an exhibition about linoleum and permanently in the Art Gallery because they built it, obviously. So I could’ve, I had access of that. Unfortunately all their er ancient er pattern books are stored and, to be honest, if I needed them they would’ve, I think they would’ve got them out of the storage for me but I really felt I had plenty of information. I didn’t really need to go into it to that depth to look at old pattern books cause I had this book about linoleum which hilariously is two American ladies who refurb houses in America and everywhere they go when they left everything they would find this linoleum. So they started cataloguing it and ending up writing a book about it. So I had that as well and they had a lot of er historical information. But quite a lot was local people because I’m in the, the Woman’s Guild and I’m in a Probus and you just need to mention linoleum and everybody starts telling you all about ‘my aunty worked there’ and ‘oh so and so was in an apprentice there’ and because the labs were um they were very innovative names so they constantly, every, every time the raw materials come in it was all checked out so that there was a consistency about it all cause it was a top quality product. So there was a lot of training and lab training for boys as well and a lot of apprenticeships. So people weren’t just in there, pressing buttons and things there was actual training involved, so. I thought that was, I think they were a good employer and I’ve heard anecdotal stories about people who, one of my friends runs a, ran a nursery before she retired and she approached Nairn and said they wanted a floor done, and they did that free for the nursery. And up at, um, the Fisheries Museum in Anstruther they’ve done a floor for them up there and I bet they never paid for that. So they do a lot of community work but are very community based firm as well especially in the heyday. Maybe not so much now, so. But I’ve learned a lot about them [chuckles].
ZA: [Laughter] So do you think you would, can you see yourself doing another, another project where you get to explore an aspect of the local community in this way?
AM: Yes I think I would, I think I would. I mean next year I’m doing the plant hunter’s over a two year period cause that’s just for my finals but for this year I chose China which is George Forbes and Robert Fortune but next year I’m gonna, one of the people I’m doing, it’s David Douglas, the Douglas Fir, which is America, so I can American Indian stuff but the other person is called George Dunn and he’s from Forfar. So I’m hoping that if I contact people in Forfar and the council and the various places they will have information about him because his father also discovered in my reading this year, he was a great naturalist for Scottish… finding out about the Scottish natural plants and that’s what he did. So a plant collector who had a plant collector as a son. So I’m looking forward to finding out all about that which is Forfar and my tutor’s from Broughty Ferry she’s very keen for me to find out about that for her. So I found, I think that’s, I do find it when I’m talking about the quilt there’s far more interest in the, the folklore side of it than there is in the craft side of it because that’s what people, I mean they go ‘oh that’s, oh that’s…’ and all that but they’re actually, they want to talk to you about their experiences and find out I didn’t know that that was the case about that, ‘ooh and, you know, where did you find that out’. So that, I find that aspect very interesting, quite intellectual really. So I find that really good.
ZA: So on the technical side is there anything that you’re dying to try out for your next project?
AM: Yes [laughter]. Well I would like to do more of the Seminole patchwork and change that in some way and I’d also like to do the crazy patchwork. I’ve got an awful notion to do the crazy patchwork because, because it is crazy and it’s Victorian which is the sort of era as well, so I’d like to find out more about that and what the modern take of that is. And also this 3D woman has really got me interested in her stuff. I mean she has taken a piece of um pelmet vilene and made, you know the, the windmills, she has worked out how to do that shape and quilted both, quilted it, put a circle in the middle and put them on glass rods on the windmills. I mean she’s er fantastic, so I’d love to explore more of her work cause she is really like Jennie Rayment you know up here. So I’m, I’d like to do that. But I think what I’m going to do more as well as the making stuff like that for people. You know the last… normally I do an embroidery for somebody’s wedding but the last wedding I did a quilted cushion and the only piece of embroidery was their names in the middle and they loved it and it was all these 3D flowers but it was bought fabric and it was very popular. So I think I’ll do more smaller pieces as well cause I enjoyed the box and the bag and, and I did these things at Christmas which are, you know, er. So I like all that, I like the idea of doing the 3D side of things, so there’s that. That’s the back grid quilting that I did on it. You have to do all these samples as well. And that’s, that’s the quilting dyed. Isn’t that nice. And it looks totally different when you paint it. So I’d like to do more of that as well. This year I’ve done a lot colour dyeing and silk painting but I think I’d like to do this acrylic painting cause I think you get lovely effects with that. And, and it’s just, I just feel it’s gonna go on and on. I really am running with it basically. I’ve got so many ideas in my head and, but I’ve just finished this course and I’m like, you know, don’t do anything just now but I do intend to really go with it again cause I’ve loved it and I would, I would consider doing another throw as well cause I, I don’t think I, I don’t think I could do physically a great big, you know, that in a square. I think that would be too difficult for me because I, one of the problems for, you have to keep it flat, that was the one piece of advice I was given from one of my friends to hand stitch all of that or it will end up all bumbled, so that had to lie on the dining room table for quite a lot of weeks and I just had to move it along and move it along, you know. So that was, that was, physically that was quite difficult. It wasn’t intellectually challenging or, or a problem but physically it was quite difficult because of the weight of it and the length of it and it’s quite an awkward shape. But I would do another one cause I thought it was great and as I say all these bits are, are wee separate but, so you can sit and do them anywhere, so.
ZA: So what, when you finish your course then.
AM: The sky’s the limit! Well when finish my course I’m gonna join The Quilters’ Guild because I’m missing out here. I’m missing something and on the course there’s quite a few quilters. And that’s another quilter’s secret that I have a beef with them about, the quilter’s pen. You get this pen in WH, WH Smith and its 3.99 and it’s, it says on it do not write cheques with this cause the heat makes it disappear. So you can draw anything you like as an embroider onto fabric with this pen, stitch it and iron, hot iron from the back and all your, so see this prick and ponce rubbish that embroiders do and tracing something, put about paper and running stitches teaches you don’t have to do any of that. You just use this magic pen and I’ve been complaining about them all about not telling me about that. So that was a 505 spray and the modern quilting stuff and the pen, I didn’t know any of, so if I was in The Quilters’ Guild I would’ve known all of that, you see, the secrets.
ZA: Initiated into the circle.
AM: Absolutely, absolutely, so. But I have done a workshop and it was the, the square and everybody more or less was shown how to do, go away and do nine squares and make it into a cushion front, so I did that for a day and that, that went down really well and lot of them were quilters who had the Jennie Raymond books, who had never gone with them and tried them, so. Cause it looks like that difficult. Her work’s so fantastic that you think, she keeps saying I don’t do difficult but you don’t really believe her but once you start you realise actually you can make minor mistakes. Whereas if you’re precision piecing and you make a mistake it starts off as a wee mistake there but by the time you get to the end it’s a gigantic error, you know which I found to put me off when I was young because I, I didn’t have the equipment. I mean the big ruler and the cutter, I didn’t have any of that stuff when I was younger. So the time you draw round shapes free hand and then cut it free hand you’re losing the smartness or the sharpness of it. So you get quite disappointing results. Whereas when you’ve got the big ruler to hold the fabric flat and you’re sitting up with this and the mat and everything it’s very precise and I think that will be really good for Seminole patchwork. Cause when I tried it before at a day course for The Guild, you had to, the people who didn’t have all that gear had to put rulers down and draw it with pencils and then cut them and so you weren’t quite as exact as you would’ve been if you were, cause of your length of your ruler, as you would’ve been if you had had all the gear. And I think, and the last thing I bought, the last quilting thing I bought which I now love as well, is it’s little um metal rods and different woods and what you do is instead of doing the um the bias tape or you know how you do a row and you stitch it and you turn it outside in and it’s a bit of a pain in the neck, sometimes you lose a half, the drawing, safety pin blah blah blah what you do is you measure this, the, the length you want, you just do a normal machine stitch and then you put this bar in and you seam goes to the back. So then when you press it, you take the bar out and you put this perfect seam, perfect er folded like a, like a bias tape and your seams at the back. So I’ve got that and my new one. So that’s, so that’s what I’m saying it’s gonna be a huge learning curve and I showed that to one of my quilters friends and she says I have never seen that before. So there you go.
ZA: There you go, so you can give some secrets back.
AM: Absolutely. Absolutely. And I learnt, I mean with the bias tape there’s about three different ways of doing that as well. You can, you spray, silliest thing, you spray um starch on a wee bowl and you brush round the shapes, say it’s a circle, and then you iron in onto your, onto your shape and starch, and it’s starched with the iron, that means you take it out you’ve got this perfect circle with all the ends turned in to stitch on. So I learnt lots of things like that in all these quilting books and interestingly a lot of interesting stuff was in the old books that you could then adapt to modern, modern approach. Done with horrific fabrics like orange and, you know, talk about foxy. So to do it in modern pastel what’s, what’s in sort of thing. I’d also like to do the patchwork that’s um the lazy patchwork with a stained glass windows. I think that would be lovely. Cause you could do all batik on the back and then all this black raw iron work on the front. I think that would be a lovely quilt as well. So I’m, I’m enthusiastic but I’ve only got one life, so and I’m a bit late coming into it. But I like combining the two and I couldn’t have done that without my background and, and embroidery first because I can do loads of embroidery techniques. So I can think of an embroidery way, working round a problem, to be honest. And the dressmaking as well helps, you know, to do.
ZA: Have you, have you made many clothes?
AM: I used to make all my children’s clothes and my own stuff for weddings and things and then nobody had the same outfit. And you could take bits of a leftover and do the hat and, you know. Cecil used to come up and say don’t tell me you made that for 50p or [chuckles] whatever. Yeah I did a lot of dressmaking, so. But I found this jacket quite difficult because it was quilted and because you had to um I altered it and all the facings had altered as well because it was this Chinese jacket and, and they fasten here with two fasteners on its hanging loose, so I had a lot of, I managed it finally but I had to think, there was a lot of thinking involved in that. The most difficult thing was deciding what colour to make the background to put all these, throw all these bright flowers on and it was forest green in the end.
ZA: Where do you get your inspirations for your colours?
AM: Well that was experiment. I had to do er, I did a lot of, what I think works really well with calico is if you crush it when it’s wet and then dye it, you’ve got lots of interesting markings on it. So when I did the jacket I washed the fabric first cause you’ve got to get all the stuff out of it and er I rolled it all up, crushed and let it dry like that. So when I, I wash-dyed it with a machine, normal machine dye, I put twice as much fabric in it, I didn’t want it to strong and all the creases all had, it went almost like, like a darker green. So almost looked like er leaves and things. But I did have four… and I had deep grey, cause I just wanted a forestry background, so I had, and the green and I had er a sort of almost a lilac but just shading into the grey and one other, I can’t, I can’t, I think it was lime green, thought it might work. But I went with the dark green in the end. But the colours are, I think it’s an eye I’ve picked. I’ve got, I don’t want to sound… but I think over the years we’re choosing colours to because at first when I was learning embroidery I would take a picture and I would be matching up, I wasn’t designing at all. So I’d be looking at, I didn’t do cross stitching or anything but I was looking at well that’s that colour so I would be matching it up in my mind. So I think I’ve got all that in my head over the years. So I might not know where I’m going but once I see it I know if it’s right or wrong. So with the jacket it was um, they all cross these really dangerous er cane and they were like a course of, of just wood and tied up with a vine and they had, the climber, the plant hunters had to climb a way up into the Himalayas, cross these gorges and things and carry all the plant and stuff right down. So that was really interesting thing about them. So along the bottom of the jacket I’d all these, it’s a, a quilted, er they call it a butterfly, so it looks like that but it’s a folded, starts as a square and ends up. So them in three different batik shades of green all along the bottom and I knew that I had to introduce that colour up the top where the flowers were or it would look, it wouldn’t work. So I knew that. I, I knew things like that instinctively but the rest is, it is trial and error, you know. My biggest problem as an embroider is leaving gaps cause I want to fill everything. And to leave these big spaces was torturous for me but I knew that I had to cause your eyes get… you have to leave gaps in the quilt to let people get a rest but that’s, that’s difficult for me. So in the design process that’s the hardest bit. But I, I, I did kinda opt out, yeah that’s a bit of a cop out because it’s only two colours.
So this year it was really stepping up a gear, having to work it all the different colours that, that didn’t clash but were… I was trying to get the impression that when they climb to the top of the mountains and looked into the valley of the two rivers and saw these wonderful flowers that nobody had ever seen before, as far as the eye can see, like the [Machair?], the wow of that was what I tried to get in the quilted jacket. So I think I managed that as well. I was quite pleased with that. Sounds awful but I think that was… The problem with that was that er I made about 50 flowers, 50 bow tie, there’s a bow, a way about doing a bow tie that folds as well which I’ve discovered instead of that torturous way and added lots and lots of them and never actually used them. But I’ll have, I’ve got all them, so I will be making something with them [chuckles], you know, cause they’re all floor colours and I’ve dyed them all and done the batik and everything, so. I am rambling now though. [Background chatter].
ZA: Um what about fabrics? Has your use of fabrics over the years changed much?
AM: Very much so, very much. I don’t think I’ve made anything in calico before that, ever. Always bought um, always bought fabrics, readymade, never… In the embroidery I would, I would silk paint a background so you don’t have a white background but I’ve never um painted directly onto fabric which I did with the aborigine bags. I just put the fabric down and got a big paint brush and the silk paint and just went for it and got the, it was in the way, so it was greens and lemons and colours. So that was, that was my first start. But this one I was actually doing it all in one colour, I was so depressed I can’t tell you. I had to put the blue in and then I had to get um the turquoise and the threads had all, it would be going with that as well.
But I have changed my fabric over the years because you, you go with the fashion as well and I’m such a small person I can’t use busy stuff anyway. So I’ve never ever used busy stuff in my work at all. So that hasn’t changed but the quality fabric and the amount you can get and doing your own. I don’t know if I would ever make anything now an art thing without dyeing my fabric myself, because it’s so, you don’t know what you’re gonna get and you have a lot of stuff that doesnae [sic doesn’t] work but you have lots of stuff that does work that inspires you to make something and I would never start anything without sketching and thinking about it first as well which I’ve never done before either. So the coaster’s been absolutely brilliant for me. I’ve really enjoyed the fact that you can and she doesn’t, she doesn’t allow you to have white pages. So you’re not filling this blank sketch but with blank pages, you have to go in the first day and just start putting water colourings, put, throwing salt on it, stamping… I did a lot of stamping this year as well, I’ve a lot of, on the fabric that I’ve never done. So that would be good in a quilt as well. You could have, I mean this year in the exhibition there’s about, I think it’s about six quilts, maybe more and they’re all totally different and they’re absolutely fantastic, they really are. Some of them have, that’s another thing I found out about that recently I like the raw edge quilts. I’m, I’m sad that when I was doing the jacket, you have to do 10 samples, a tradi, modern takes on traditional quilting. So I’ve got puff quilting, I’ve got, you name it, all sorts of different quilting that I’ve done and they’re all up in the exhibition and I’ve got that [indecipherable – Lana cane?] thing and different flowers. What I did this year with the flowers was sometimes I dyed the fabric and then folded it but sometimes I folded it and then just dropped colour in as well and sometimes I wet it and crushed it and then painted, so I was getting, also and the wax. So I was getting all sorts of different, from one basic flower you were getting millions of different things using colour, which was quite exciting actually [chuckles]. So I’d like to explore that and I would like to include, um I used to dye beads with special bead dye and I would like to include that in something as well. Because that’s, it’s quite an unusual thing to do and you can dye buttons and everything. [My voice is packing in [background chatter].
ZA: Unless you have anything um any final words on, on quilting I think we can call it a day.
AM: Well that’s good then. I mean I’ve got a lot of um most of my information that I could blab on a bit forever is about the names, that’s the thing that I because the quilt you can see it and there it is, you know [coughs].
ZA: Where does the quilt live now?
AM: It’s a throw on my bed upstairs.
AM: I put it on the bed. But I’ve, the reason it’s all covered up is because this is a new rug and everything. If you kneel down you’re just covered in it, as you can see. If you kneel down you’re completely covered in it. So that’s why it’s on a, on a cloth to stop it from getting covered in stuff. Cause everything glues to the calico, so
ZA: Lovely well thanks you very much.
AM: Thank you, I hope I’ve not yammered on.