If in doubt, embroider honeysuckle: T shirt for a 7 year old


T shirt with embroidered honeysuckle (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

At the moment, doing a bit of embroidery on a T shirt fits my life perfectly. Honeysuckle is my fallback flower when I’m not sure what the recipient might like. After another week in London where sewing didn’t figure very large (the only thing I’ve done is to repair Sylvanian mummy bear’s pearl decorated dress), I spent a relaxing Saturday  in Cheltenham embroidering this flower while listening to the Test Match.

Recovery from the damaged Achilles tendon has reached a critical stage when the sufferer might think things are getting much better, is tempted to overconfidence, and ends up doing a bit too much. Of course we learned this after the patient went for a work meeting only to be dropped off by her Uber further away from her destination than was desirable so she had no choice but to walk further than she should have. The next day after a physio session, she attempted a comparatively short walk to meet someone locally but was in too much pain by the time she got to the end of the road, so had to come back. We’re hoping no further damage has been done. Perhaps the warning of doing too much is timely. The London family are now away for a couple of weeks staying with other relatives  and any temptation to take a little walk in a favourite Lake District location will now be firmly resisted.  I shall have 2 weeks of luxury all to myself, including a few days staying in a cottage on the Owlpen estate (of which more next week).

T shirt with embroidered honeysuckle (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

This week saw the obituary of Janet Kennedy, a much loved designer whose work for Clothkits defined an essential part of  childhood for a generation of children who grew up in the seventies. I was too old for them myself and my children were just that bit too young, although I do remember some earth mother types kitting their children out in hand me down Clothkits bits and bobs. The shapes were simple and the colours bright. Prints were bold and distinctive, stylised animals and flowers in a darker shade  of the background colour and there was a touch of the Romany about them. And as the same suggests, the clothes came in kit form. A length of fabric came with the pattern pieces ready  printed, so all you needed to do was to cut it out and sew it up. Spare fabric offered itself up to patchwork or sometimes even came with little rag doll pieces between the main pattern pieces. Somewhere I think I still have a Clothkit kit for a ragdoll. At the company’s height there were a few shops but mainly it was a mail order business. Then came the eighties and cheap readymade clothes and false sophistication trumped the folksy, hippie aesthetic that defined Clothkits. Freemans, the catalogue monolith bought the company and unsurprisingly it sank without trace … until in 2008 the company resurfaced under then hand of Kay Mawer and today it is doing quite well, especially as it now also sells a whole range of dressmaking patterns from all sorts of interesting independent designers.

Honeysuckle T shirt on its new owner

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  1. Janet
    Posted August 15, 2021 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    The honeysuckle embroidery on the blue tee-shirt is lovely and would suit an adult as well as a child. Ooh, I remember Clothkits. My children were born in the 1980’s and I made several items for them when they were small. I also remember making a pair of dungarees for myself and doubtless one or two other items as well. As a full-time working mother in those days, the simplicity of just cutting out and stitching up a garment was a godsend- no having to trot about town seeking patterns, suitable fabric and so on. The quality of their fabric was very good – most of the items I made were handed on to relatives or friends. By the time my children ( both boys) needed fly zips on their trousers, I think Clothkits had closed, or I’d lost interest. I certainly wasn’t into sewing fly zips on trousers for small boys – a bit too fiddly.

    • Mary Addison
      Posted August 16, 2021 at 10:51 am | Permalink

      Thank you, Janet.
      Clothkits really brings back memories doesn’t it? I never got round to actually making any of the kits as my 4 children were small together and I never had time to do sewing. But I did love the look of those prints, the colours and the fabrics. Zips on trousers definitely sounds a step too far compared to just zapping up a couple of side seams, a bit of hemming and neck and armhole facing.

  2. Amara Bray
    Posted August 16, 2021 at 4:43 am | Permalink

    That is so tricky — that part of recovery where you should be mobile, but just the exact right amount. I hope she will be ok. The honeysuckle is lovely.

    • Mary Addison
      Posted August 16, 2021 at 10:53 am | Permalink

      Thanks, Amara, it is such a frustrating injury and progress can only be slow. Glad you like the honeysuckle.

  3. Elizabeth Ashby
    Posted August 16, 2021 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    I had my two daughters in the 80s and was working full time so making clothes the Clothkits way suited us perfectly, as well as the inevitable hand-me-downs being very welcome. I always felt there was a somewhat Eastern European influence to the designs?

    And as always, your embroidery skills inspire awe. Might I ask how you started embroidering, Mary?

    • Mary Addison
      Posted August 16, 2021 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

      It’s lovely to hear people reminiscing about Clothkits. I think you’re right they did look a bit exotic with those padded jackets, bright colours and cosy needlecord.
      So pleased to hear you enjoy my embroidery. I started embroidering when I was at junior school because I enjoyed embroidering the felt animals we made (and because some of the class projects we did were fun -like embroidering felt scales for a dragon on sacking that covered the back of a rather dilapidated school piano). I think then I took notice of Women’s magazines like ‘Woman’s Own’ which often had embroidery projects like the signs of the zodiac I mentioned here http://www.addisonembroideryatthevicarage.co.uk/2015/12/13/sagittarius-november-22-december-21/ I then went on to buying little booklets in specialist needlework shops (or from department stores) and found myself hooked.

  4. Posted August 17, 2021 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    Yes, it’s important to take it easy with injuries like that, and it’s so easy to get impatient!

    I seem to remember that, brought up on thrifty layouts, when I saw a Clothkits kit, I was a bit scandalised by the wastage – but then, as you say, you can always Do Things with the leftovers!

    • Mary Addison
      Posted August 18, 2021 at 9:38 am | Permalink

      And difficult not to be impatient with a prolonged injury when you’ve always run at life and got on with doing things.
      It was those off cuts of lovely fabrics started me off with patchwork – I still look at the quilts I made and remember fondly where the fabric came from.

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