We talk quilting with the Dalston Darlings as the W.I.’s commemorative quilts go on display.
Photo: The Dalston Darlings with their Liberty window display
Not only is 2015 the year of Liberty’s 140th birthday, it also marks the 100th anniversary of the Women’s Institute. To celebrate the occasion, the Shoreditch Sisters and the Dalston Darlings have each created a commemorative quilt, working to a brief inspired by the heritage of our iconic store. The groups were given licence to interpret the maritime tattoo theme however they saw fit, with a focus on reflecting the ethos of the W.I. The results draw on subjects as broad as feminism and London history: how better to demonstrate the ever-evolving values of this quintessentially British institution? With an eclectic Liberty print patchwork forming the basis of their designs – in Tana Lawn, no less – a series of imaginative illustrations has been brought to life, painstakingly finished with hand-embroidery and appliqué.
We spoke to Bryony of the Dalston Darlings for the inside scoop on this unique project:
Why do you think the W.I. is still so important?
The W.I. began with the aim of bringing together women in rural communities and contributing to the war effort. I think the essence of creating a network for women and a space in which they can develop their skills and in doing so, make a real change to the world, is still hugely important. The world might have moved on, and the political landscape shifted over the last 100 years, but the WI has remained relevant throughout because so many women continually need what it provides – support and skills.
Do you feel a certain responsibility to uphold the traditional values of the WI?
In that its ‘traditional values’ are ‘to provide women with educational opportunities, help them to build skills, take part in a variety of activities and campaign on issues that matter to them’, yes I do. People consistently spout ‘jam and Jerusalem’ at us without realising that the values of the W.I. translate today, and don’t need to include jam making. The Dalston Darlings invite inspirational speakers to share their experiences and impart their skills to our members. We make sure we provide as many fun and new experiences we can find in London and beyond. We support the campaigns the WI champions and we raise money for our nominated charity each year which we ensure is a local organisation helping to develop and change our area for the better. These activities play out the traditional values of the WI and I think are certainly worth upholding.
Photo: The Dalston Darlings’ quilt
What do you love about Liberty?
As soon as Liberty’s name was mentioned we were inundated with offers to help out! I think everyone loves Liberty because of its association with classic style and innovative design. Many of us have grown up with Liberty fabric and it was brilliant to see the designs from the past decades which triggered lots of warm memories in our members. Personally, I studied History of Art and was particularly inspired by the Arts & Crafts Movement. I am really interested in its influence on how British design evolved and Liberty’s role in that process. Some of my favourite designers worked for Liberty & Co (such as Archibald Knox) and I think everyone loves the heritage that Liberty represents – whether they know the detail of its history or not, Liberty is a national treasure and an instant byword for style.
Did you have much experience in quilting prior to this project?
Not at all! When I first met with the girls at Liberty running the project they suggested we make the quilt where our group meets, and were surprised to hear we hold our meetings in the back room of a pub! We do a range of activities which often include crafts, and the majority of us work in the Creative Industries, but quilting was not part of lots of our repertoires, including mine. I can do basic sewing but was definitely excited, if a little daunted, at taking up the quilt challenge which was completely new to me. Thankfully we did have a few experts such as Tara Adamson though, who imparted their wisdom and without whom, I’m not sure we could have done it.
How many people were involved in creating the quilt?
Over 30 of us created our quilt. We divided up the squares which were to be decorated between members so that everyone contributed their own ideas, designs and pieces of embroidery. We got together for a few weekend sessions to get people started, swap ideas and help each other out with any tricky designs, but also because we wanted this project to be a social experience which gave us the opportunity to feel like we were creating something together. Our trooper, Tara, sewed all the finished squares for the front side together herself as we thought this was a task which required a single effort rather than trying to co-ordinate many different sections being put together by different people – we wanted the seams to match up! Then about 15 of us who were available met up for one final session to put the whole thing together with the wadding, backing fabric, border and the odd extra sequin we felt it needed. Sarah Waldie bravely took on the final daunting task of sewing on the border as we all nervously held the quilt to feed it through the machine…and tried not to squeal.
Photo: A few of the Shoreditch Sisters with their quilt
What challenges did you face along the way?
Definitely time management. We are a relatively young W.I. and so most of our members work full-time, and everyone juggles busy schedules. It was difficult to fit in sewing sessions that everyone could make and if I’m honest, there were a few times I thought co-ordinating such a large group was not going to work. However, we all pulled together and once we had made up bags of fabric squares with copies of the quilt pattern we were following, we had packs we could hand to members to complete in their own time before getting back together at our sessions – that really helped move things along.
What message do you hope to project with this piece?
The Dalston Darlings is all about creating a sense of community within the sprawling city and I really hope our quilt reflects that. It is a joint effort which displays a group of women’s individual personalities combined together to form a riot of colour and pattern that somehow works as a whole. I think that is our group in a nutshell. I hope the quilt embodies these friendships that the WI forges and the power and beauty of what women can achieve when we work together.
How does it feel to see the finished creation on display?
Emotional! It’s actually really overwhelming to see, I’m not sure we could all quite take it in. It really focuses our combined achievement and as I said, we all love Liberty and so to have that presence in the store is something we are all beaming with pride about.
Has this piece inspired any future quilting projects from the Dalston Darlings?
Not just yet! But we are all really pleased with what we created and I think many of us surprised ourselves at the extent of what we did. This project has certainly played out the WI’s aim of developing skills, and I think we should capitalise on what we’ve learned – we just need a bit of a breather first, and then I’m sure should another project quilt challenge present itself, we’ll be raring to go. The experience of creating something together was perhaps what we all enjoyed most, so watch this space for a re-quilt…
See the outcome of this labour of love for yourself! The finished creations will take turns occupying a space in our window display this June, before finding a permanent home in-store in our Haberdashery department on 3rd.
We caught up with British artist Louise Gardiner after she got creative in our window display last week.
Louise Gardiner with her birthday quilt for Liberty. Photo: Emma Williams
Louise Gardiner is bringing embroidery firmly into the 2010s thanks to a unique combination of spontaneity, crafstmanship and creative vision. After a whirlwind career – including an exhibition at The Saatchi Gallery, multiple industry awards and a feature in The Guardian – Louise continues to produce work to inspire the next generation of crafstpeople. Last week, Louise staged some guerilla embroidery live in our Great Marlborough Street windows to coincide with her exclusive quilt being on display. We caught up with her to talk needlework, inspiration and creating a commemorative quilt for Liberty’s 140th birthday. . .
Louise Gardiner in the Great Marlborough Street window. Photo: Sophie Broadbridge
Did you enjoy getting creative in our windows?
I love new opportunities, so getting in the window to embellish my quilt was a great opportunity to flag up the wonderful medium of embroidery in such an iconic store.
What kind of response did you receive from passers-by?
A mixture! Being a Northerner it didn’t faze me at all to smile, wave and blow occasional kisses in-between stitching on PVC stars. Besides promoting my career, it was a great opportunity to bring vitality to the window, connect with my work and make people giggle. The biggest challenge was to encourage stern commuters to engage; the quilt is cheeky so I did win over a few smiles. It was a refreshing change to my cow-surrounded studio in Cheshire!
What was the best part of collaborating with Liberty for the 140th birthday quilt?
Liberty gives me projects that are exciting; the challenges allow me to show off my sense of humour and finest stitchery witchery! I am passionate about inspiring people with creativity, colour, texture and thought-provoking imagery. It is my mission to push the boundaries of contemporary British embroidered art to new exciting places. The two quilt projects I worked on with Liberty have enabled me to produce textile art with the wow factor.
What inspired your quilt design for Liberty?
I was asked to produce the quilt in 20 days on the theme of Maritime tattoos. As soon as I got the email I just started researching as it’s such a specific subject.
Stitching is perceived to be such a dry old pastime so I was looking for an excuse to bring an edge and show that it is still a beautiful, rich and timeless medium. Tattooing is an ideal theme for the needle, as punching elaborate threads into canvas is so closely related to transferring ink onto skin.
Louise Gardiner embroiders live in the Liberty windows. Photo: Sophie Broadbridge
What made you take the leap of faith from cards and wrapping paper to canvas and quilt embroideries?
Since graduating from Goldsmith’s, I have always created art by drawing with a needle. It is a spontaneous technique that fits my style of working. I have completed many different projects from figurative book illustration, hospital art works, advertising campaigns, greetings cards, velvet poufs, pillows and scarves. The Liberty projects are up there in my favourite challenges though, as they require lightning decision-making and ambitious large-scale planning.
You mention on your website that you create work that will enhance our environment; can you explain what you mean by that?
Life is full of beauty, wonder and kindness and I hope that my work celebrates this. My aim is to create artwork and garments that are inspiring, thought-provoking and uplifting. There is nothing better than to see people smile when they see my work – it makes the many hours spent making it worth it.
Do you have any advice that might help aspiring artists?
Do what makes you happy and people around you will be happy too. Seek help and advice when you need it. Be brave. Be game. Have fun. Music and sherry are marvellous at releasing the creative beast too!
Finally, can you share any plans for the future?
I am developing a beautiful British-made collection of silks that derive from my original embroideries which is very exciting. I’m also working on a superstitcher book based on my teaching philosophy which will showcase a variety of my past colourful projects – maybe even a few sherry cocktails here and there too!
Louise’s quilt is now on display in the Haberdashery department on the 3rd floor.
We invited illustrator Camille Rousseau to decorate our Great Marlborough Street windows.
In celebration of our revamped and re-decorated haberdashery department on the 3rd floor, we invited illustrator Camille Rousseau (who has collaborated with Liberty on the decor) to come and decorate one of the windows of the Great Marlborough Street storefront live. We caught up with Camille to find out her thinking behind the design, and how it felt to be a living window display for a day. . .
What was the best partof working for Liberty?
Visiting the building, and diving into the history of the most incredible and inspirational example of heritage British culture.
What inspiration did you take from the haberdashery theme?
I was thrilled by the theme because it encapsulates both the functional and the aesthetic aspects of fashion, the basic technical drawing mixed with tools and the structure of an old industrial environment. I was interested in the discipline and the tools around it. I guess there is an aspect of freedom in floral pattern mixed with structural architectural lines, the old technical drawings mixed with nature.
What were your initial thoughts about the project?
I originally wanted to use the building like a kaleidoscope. The building structure would be a the lens that would generate a mirror effect, mixing floral pattern with architecture, the drawings on the glass window acting as the lens. . .
What was it like illustrating a window space live?
Illustrating on windows is just an other aspect of a childhood dream. It was like diving into the most inspirational landscape in one of London’s iconic architectural structures. People walking by were exited just by seeing anything moving inside a window display!
Shop the collection online, or visit us in-store in the 3rd floor
We drop into the Get Stoned event in the Liberty jewellery hall: four days of new collection launches, personal appearances & exclusives.
For the last two days, the stars of the Liberty jewellery hall have been in-store launching exclusive pieces and discussing their collections. Anna Sheffield was on hand with bridal consultations, while Alex Monroe launched his exclusive Eyes of the Stars collection and Melissa Joy Manning met customers at her jewellery counter.
If you haven’t dropped in yet, make sure you visit before 6pm Sunday to meet Anna Sheffield, enter the Astley Clarke prize draw and get a first look at exclusive and limited edition collections from Kojis, Dinny Hall and Alex Monroe.
Liberty Loyalty customers will get triple points* on any jewellery purchases made during the event, and a hand engraver will be in residence to give your jewellery a personal touch.
Click here for full details and Get Stoned terms and conditions
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Get an exclusive peek at our in-store launch of the Lean Dean by Nudie Jeans.
Last night, shoppers were treated to an ice-cold beer in our menswear department as they tried the brand new Lean Dean out for size in a new, Scandi-style space. Every purchase granted access to an exclusive after-party to celebrate all things denim. If you didn’t make it down, Lean Dean is availabe online and in-store now.
The Lean Dean joins the slim division of Nudie’s Family of Fits; the 11th jean to join the range is straight from the top, all the way to the bottom with a narrow leg opening.
The launch of the Lean Dean coincides with the Nudie Jeans refreshed Liberty shop-in-shop fit, which projects a Scandinavian feel. Raw materials such as leather, metal and wood have been used and like a pair of dry Nudie Jeans it will age organically through wear and tear, creating a unique history.
Shop Nudie Jeans online and share your Lean Dean @LibertyLondon