I have been getting on with my first garment as part resolving my Style Crisis I promise! However it’s not quite finished – and besides I was beginning to fret that you might all think I was totally obsessed with my clothes, all the time – which isn’t the case at all. There are times when I am quite happy to put on something quite skanky and head off into the distance withouth being in the least bothered about how I look.
Like many of you I love to go for a run. It reconnects me with the countryside where we’re lucky enough to live – and as I remind myself on tough mornings – I always feel better afterwards. I know I’m not alone in this – Handmade Jane was blogging about sewing and running just a couple of weeks ago – and I’ve had similar conversations with our customers too. For about 15 years now, my trainers have usually been the first thing to be packed on a business trip or a holiday – ClothSpot was even conceived with my running buddy around the trails and riverbanks in the area!
It occurred to me on a recent run however that although I might be looking at a fairly industrial (if at times, breathtakingly beautiful) farming landscape – it’s not as far removed from the ClothSpot workroom as I might think. In fact it’s a bit of a
busman’s draper’s holiday. Take the field of flowers that bloomed over the road last year…
…the field full of hazy blue had been planted with flax – nowadays used as a break crop to produce seed for oil – however in the past taller varieties were grown for linen production in the area – as evidenced by this building (en route to the Farm Café as it happens)…
It sits right by the river – an important water supply when it was in operation. Built in 1851 during the Industrial Revolution, it ceased production before the end of the nineteenth century, with a brief period of use at the end of WW1 when it produced linen for uniforms and aircraft.
Elsewhere on my run there are other fabric producers – not only the sheep that wander around nibbling at old brussels sprout stalks during the late winter – but these characters, newly shorn.
They’re alpacas – huge eyes following me along the river bank as I run by. This pair are a couple of miles further down the road – still waiting for their haircut and back-to-back looking for all the world like Dr. Doolittles ‘pushmepullyou’
I encountered a less traditional fabric while on a run in Yorkshire a few weeks ago, visiting my sister outside Harrogate. Heading down a steep hill (a novelty for a Fenlander) I crossed this lovely stream…
It reminded me that the stream was the ‘Crimple’ and that I was in the Crimple Valley. In the 1960s ICI used to have a headquarters nearby, as well as a production centre for fabrics including Terylene and – you guessed – Crimplene! For those of you who grew up after the 1970s, this might be a bit of a mystery item – however those of us growing up during the 60s and 70s will be only too familiar with this (indestructible) textured doubleknit fabric, used for trousers, dresses and more besides. The mainstay of the M&S children’s department and many a market stall besides, you could say it was the ponte Roma jersey or scuba of its day.
Here’s a fabulous piece of archive film all about Harrogate from 1970-1971. Pulled from the Yorkshire Film Archive, it’s worth a coffee break I promise you. My personal highlights include the male fashion show at 4m 18s, culminating with a white-cloaked poseur at about 4m 50s. You might also notice that the boardrooms and business meetings are full of (dreadfully important) gentlemen – whilst the research and product developers (9m 06s), production supervisors (9m 20s) and dyers (10m) are almost exclusively women.
For the full film do take a look at the YFA archive. Meanwhile – if you’re running or going for a walk over the weekend do keep an eye out and let me know what fabric finds you come across down your way – I’d love to know!