Josef Frank inspired floral initial P embroidered for a little girl


Josef Frank inspired floral initial P (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

There I was with beautifully laid out sewing plans ready to take me up to the season which cannot be named as we’re really nowhere near it yet, and then I find myself seized with the desire to do another jolly floral initial for the new(ish) granddaughter of an old friend from my London days! My copy of a heavily pictorial book on the textiles of Josef Frank has been far too prominently lying around recently and honestly, I thought, how long can it take to embroider a few flowers on a piece of A5 sized linen? Well, about a week, is the answer.

Detail: Josef Frank inspired floral initial P (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

Detail:Josef Frank inspired floral initial P (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

Just before lockdown, now about 10 days ago, I was in the middle of a mending phase, sewing up all those little holes that appear out of nowhere in winter scarves, gloves and tights, not forgetting holes in useful pockets through which random items disappear never to be seen again. My husband’s speciality is making holes down the front of the lightweight jumpers he wears – probably due to the pipe he faffs about with when he sits outside pouring over his research papers. But now he had reached the point where all his jumpers had little holes – even the newest one bought in the summer – and my card of navy blue mending wool was empty. ‘No more twist ‘ as Beatrix Potter’s Tailor of Gloucester bewailed. And nor was there any in the centre of town – the assistant of  John Lewis in Cheltenham sympathised but said they didn’t stock it, in spite of badgering the buyers about its need.

Detail: Josef Frank inspired floral initial P (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

Detail:Josef Frank inspired floral initial P (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

Well, perhaps all this will change now the Prince of Wales has been singing the praise of mending to the editor of British Vogue in the December issue of the magazine. A great fan of mending, he doesn’t just get his clothes mended, he positively delights in doing so and has gone one step further, setting up a sort of thrift market at Dumfries House where people can take all sorts of things to be repaired, from holey jumpers to electrical appliances. He would like to encourage people to set up small businesses in repair, maintenance  and reuse, which is an honourable and decent ambition and it may well work with electrical appliances but I honestly can’t see many people making any money from any domestic mending when you consider how long it can take to darn even a small hole. But perhaps things will change and sporting mended clothes will become not just the right thing to do but absolutely the only thing to do – a badge of honour declaring the greenest of green credentials. Think how attitudes to smoking have changed.

Sketch: Josef Frank inspired floral initial P

But the Prince of Wales has not stopped at mending. To encourage young people to learn traditional skills and crafts, his foundation has started a textile training project in high end fashion and sewing skills. Many students completing the course have been snapped up by local textile firms  but the prince hopes that soon the tide will turn on throwaway fashion and there will be a demand for sustainability in all sorts of innovative ways. To this end, The Modern Artisan, a collaboration between the Prince’s Foundation  and the Yoox-Net-a-Porter Group, has created a collection for men and women using sustainable textiles. (Each item can be tracked using its digital ID.)  Garments, which will be available in the new year,  have been designed by 6 fashion graduates from the Politecnico di Milano, and made by 6 British artisans who have done a course in luxury small batch production skills in Dumfries House. The clothes are not cheap,  ranging in price from £400 to £1,500, but are all classical,  including an update on the camel coat the prince has worn for decades, while other pieces are very like the clothes that fill the Duchesses of Cambridge’s and Sussex’s wardrobe. Hats off to the prince! Let’s hope he’s started something very exciting, whose effect will dribble down to lesser mortals with lighter purses.

Josef Frank: Textile Designs

Update 24 November 2020

Unable to call something finished until I no longer have it, I decided to make this embroidery into a mini quilt rather than simply mount it on card. Quilting has given the whole thing more texture which will make it stand out in a more interesting way when framed. As I don’t care for bare edges, I finished these off by oversewing them in satin stitch  in a dusty turquoise. I can now use one strip of Stitchery Tape to fix the embroidery to a piece of mounting card which interferes least with the integrity of the fabric.

Floral initial P, now quilted and bordered with satin stitch

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  1. Posted November 16, 2020 at 12:03 am | Permalink

    Oh, that is lovely. Surely so nice to have something colourful and spring-like to work on as the autumn nights draw in. The flowers made me think of a cake plate I bought many (many) years ago when my family (visiting relatives who were stationed in England at the time) toured the Royal Worcester factory. A strange souvenir for a 14-year-old, but I loved it then and still do.

    Mending is having a moment right now, and many happy menders are also knitters (or vice versa). (My lockdown project was to mend all my socks. That was when I was still labouring under the delusion that I’d have time on my hands with an infant to take care of. The completed sock count tells the real story: 1 down, 11 to go…) You might be interested in the work of Tom Van Deijnen (aka Tom of Holland), whose research is fascinating and whose mending projects range from traditional to more modern “visible mending.”

    My next project is to knit a Christmas stocking for baby. Full of good intentions, I found the pattern and bought the yarn back in August. Now, as the calendar pages fall away, I guess I’d better actually get started. Nothing like a deadline to clarify the mind!

    • Mary Addison
      Posted November 16, 2020 at 10:14 am | Permalink

      Ah, that plate sounds like Haddon Hall porcelain, a design made by Minton Royal Worcester.
      I know Tom of Holland but my mending tends to be less purist than his. My daughters used to bring me their friend’s things to be mended – prosaic things like cigarette burns on favourite coats. My instinct is to embellish the mend and embroider on top of the darn like this with honeysuckle, or like this with feathers and this,, also with just a single feather.
      Best of luck with the Christmas stocking!

      • Posted November 23, 2020 at 12:23 am | Permalink

        Yes! That’s the china pattern. Such a treat to see.

        I should have known you’d know Tom of Holland. I much prefer your mending to his – you don’t just repair the items, you improve them. I remember the feather sweaters, but I’d never seen the honeysuckle coat. It’s divine!

        Christmas stocking plans got waylaid by an urgent need to baby-proof. There’s always something. Maybe this week?

        • Mary Addison
          Posted November 24, 2020 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

          Austen, what you say is very kind. I’m glad you like my mending embroideries – and woollen coats in particular are wonderful surfaces to embroider on (even if it is a bit fiddly having to pull one hand in and out of a sleeve while embroidering).
          You’re right, with the best will in the world, baby proofing takes precedence over actually making something. Embroidery was on complete hold during the time my children were little (4 of them, six years of age and under). If I’d got into knitting then, that might have worked but other wise it was just a bit of needlepoint (to someone else’s design) and patchwork.
          Hope you manage to make the stocking but don’t beat yourself up about it if you don’t manage to. I’ve been trying to make some for 40 years! Fingers crossed this year I will.

  2. Posted November 16, 2020 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    I hadn’t heard of this initiative, but I’m cheering loudly now. I already try to mend things, or repurpose them one way or another. Maybe those of us who do it need to say so a bit more loudly. Especially when we’ve mended something in such a way that it doesn’t look mended, but embellished…

    • Mary Addison
      Posted November 16, 2020 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

      You’re right, those of us that mend, mend silently with the hope the mend isn’t visible. But I suspect there are a lot more people out there who don’t mend and even see garments in need of mending as unwearable. But attitudes do change, so I’m pleased the prince is giving them a bit of a nudge.

  3. Janet Moore
    Posted November 16, 2020 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    I think a lot more mending goes on that people let on to. I certainly mend moth holes in my woolen wear, although not with embroidery, just plain darning as neatly as I can, with the finest wool thread I can find. I did read something on Facebook recently, in which a lady repaired a small hole in the sleeve of her self-made boiled wool coat by using her embellisher machine to place a small piece of the fabric on the hole. It was practically invisible; she also wrote that one could achieve the same result with hand – held felting needles.

    • Mary Addison
      Posted November 16, 2020 at 11:41 pm | Permalink

      And I hope even more mending will go on across different age groups as more people realise we can’t keep throwing things away after a few wears.
      I read somewhere about felting woollens, but it wouldn’t work with fine knits I think and we tend to mend these with little flowers, feathers or insects which add a bit of fun to something that might otherwise have gone to the rubbish bin. Glad to hear though about your penchant for just plain darning done as neatly as possible.

  4. Linda Pennell
    Posted November 22, 2020 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

    I thought the initiatives by Prince Charles sound really interesting. I have admired his support for British Wool too. I read only today that sheep farmers are reduced to selling fleeces for compost! Iwonder if you are aware of Community Clothing, an enterprise set up by the energetic Patrick Grant? It seems to be a model of a way of producing good quality, affordable clothing and supporting the textile industry in northern towns and certainly might have more to offer other initiatives . Best wishes

    • Mary Addison
      Posted November 24, 2020 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

      I too read that bit about fleeces being used as compost and it was heartbreaking. Slightly mitigating this depressing news was an item Sunday’s ‘Countryfile’ which introduced us the spectacular looking Lincoln Longwool Sheep of the Risby Flock and the dynamic woman in charge of them who was inspirational, enlightening and passionate about her wonderful sheep as she held a perfect ball of Lincoln wool in her hand and urged us to use more British wool.
      I had forgotten about Patrick Grant and his Community Clothing enterprise and all power to him and people like him. You do hope such people and their ideas are forming a critical mass influential enough to get the bigger clothes retailers picking over their ideas – especially when only recently companies including M & S are still being shown to have no real knowledge of what goes on in the sweat shops of Bengladesh, etc.
      It would be very exciting to have a resurgent textile industry in the UK – with more consideration given to quality not quantity and the realisation that transporting goods round half the world just can’t go on. Sigh.

  5. Wendy Callister
    Posted December 5, 2020 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    The framed monogram you made for ‘the granddaughter of an old friend of mine from London days’ arrived swaddled in bubblewrap and packaging so, on your instructions Mary, I opened it to check it wasn’t broken (it wasn’t) and wrapped it in floral birthday paper. It is exquisite. When our daughter, on behalf of 1 year old Phoebe, opened it, she had no idea who it was from and cried (in a good way) at its beauty and the memories of happy times with your family. Thank you Mary for taking a week out of your time to embroider this – you are such a good friend.

    • Mary Addison
      Posted December 5, 2020 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

      It’s a real joy to give such pleasure, Wendy.
      I enjoyed sewing it and thinking of a new personality in the making.
      I know it’ll be treasured.

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