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The Fabric of Society

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The Fabric of Society

Do you have a vision?

I think all creative folk are visionary sorts. After all, we often have a spark of an idea, which needs working into a fully fledged project with a master plan. Sometimes the catalyst is a piece of fabric or a colourful postcard. Maybe it’s an idea on Pinterest which you think, hey, I can change this, improve the technique, alter the quantities and make something even better. Perhaps it’s an exhibition which fires you up to put your own spin on things. And what about simply crazy ideas, a flash of inspiration, one of those what-if thoughts?

This sort of blue-sky thinking shouldn’t just be kept for our sewing projects. What if you could tap into this pool of great ideas in order to improve where you live, work and shop? Well, now you can!

As owner of Hometown, I made a deliberate decision to set up shop in Rochester High Street ten years ago. I loved the fact that it was a small town, with lots of independent businesses, where history and present day sit side by side. Definitely not a clone town and hopefully a place which was supported as much by the local people, as well as being a destination for visitors. And so it is, and with your ideas, it could be even better. Quite frankly I want more people to use and enjoy our history, our town and support the local community and economy.

This month I went to a talk by our local MP, Kelly Tolhurst. In 2019 the Government are launching the ‘Future High Streets Fund’, designed to help reinvent high streets. There are millions of pounds of funding available for new and visionary ideas for our towns. There’s a special heritage category and Medway Council are putting in a bid for funding, but in my opinion, they need my help and your help. After all we’re the ones with a vision.

So the million dollar question. What would you do to improve the centre of Rochester? What would make it more vibrant, collaborative, more community-spirited? What follows, in no particular order, are some random threads in my brain.

* Could it be the availability of empty shop as venues for pop-up / start-up businesses?

* More community spaces for the young, the old, and all those in between?

* Ever considered a Rochester pound to encourage local spending?

* Maybe it’s a repair shop where we could all learn a bit more how to make-and-mend, rather than throw-away.

* What about an IT hub which runs workshops in social media or other modern day skills?

* Could it be a permanent space for a small cinema?

* Perhaps it’s regular small festivals for us, the locals - fibre festival anyone?

* What about changing an empty building into a town-centre nursery plus homes for the elderly (watch Channel 4’s ‘Old People’s Home for 4 year olds’ - it’s brilliant)

* More murals on walls, fairy lights in the trees, yarn bombing on the bollards?

* Maybe it’s having a good local website that’s the fount of all knowledge for local events?

* How about turning one of the surface car parks into a longer term 6-8 hours facility to help local staff and Hometown students who can’t park, because the multi story is full of commuters?

* What about insisting that landlords of empty shops make their shop windows available to local schools to display their art projects?

* Why not introduce town centre ’Boris bikes’ or more bike racks and dog tethering posts?

* Mobile bank, cookery school, packaging-free supermarket? Woah - OK, I need to breathe now! But seriously, what would you do to improve Rochester High Street?

Once you start to brain storm, the ideas simply flow. The filter can come later. You see, vision can be practical, inspirational, out of this world, simply common sense or a combination of all these. It could be something costing a few pounds or many thousands. So our town NEEDS YOU and your bright ideas! The funding will be awarded to those towns putting in the best plans and the Government wants ‘visionary ideas’. Initial interest has to be lodged by 22 March with final plans submitted by the summer.

If you have ideas, please jot them down on paper with your contact details. You can drop them into the shop, or pop them in a post box, or email me at . You can also add a comment to this post and be a pal, share this conversation with your friends. (Just as a PS I’m writing this to start the conversation. I’ve not been asked to canvass for ideas. My bright idea is to write this and ask you. After all as a team of visionaries, anything is and can be possible). Let’s DO IT!

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Colour Rush

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Do you ever get side tracked? I was hard at work, preparing orders and checking a supplier's website for a pattern reference, then promptly fell down a rabbit hole of colour.

One of the most common questions, I get in the shop is "how do I put colours together?" One answer is to look for a 'catalyst' fabric that you can use as a jumping off point to suggest a colour scheme. Simply analyse the fabric, see what colours it contains and then run round the shelves, pulling off these shades and tones to build up your palette. Sometimes once you've assembled a good stash of patterns, plains and tonals, the original catalyst might be discarded in favour of other designs.

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Well, Moda one of our fabric suppliers, have a really fun tool on their website  called Palette Builder (find a link right at the bottom of their web page). Simply upload a photo and it suggests a range of solids. You can then alter the colours, so it's a really good exercise in looking at colour, balance and contrast (as well as a lot of fun). To say I have been distracted, would be an understatement! I now have colour schemes for at least a dozen new quilts... but I'd better finish my work first, before I start rummaging through my shelves of fabric...

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Flowers and Quilts, Quilts and Flowers

It's a natural pairing like strawberries and cream, Fred and Ginger or tea and toast. On fabrics, there's a floral pattern to suit everyone. Whether you like the blowsiness of a peony or parrot tulip, the retro-jolliness of a reproduction feedsack, the miniature prettiness of a ditsy print, or the sophisticated graphic quality of a Scandi pattern. For me, these are all must-have categories of floral fabrics in my stash. Be brave and put the large florals all together for a gorgeous clashiness, or give them room to breathe in a modern quilt with low-value coordinates or a white solid - the choice is yours.

My Mum gave me a glorious bunch of old fashioned roses from her garden today. Placed on her brightly coloured tablecloth, it was like a super-charged still life. Back home, their glowing colours, reminded me of an equally vibrant WIP quilt, that just needs the binding to be completed... And it made me want to start a new project with pinks and oranges ... together! Hot, hot, hot!

So, whenever you're suffering from colour-block, just look in your garden for ideas and quilt colour schemes. Or, if you're not green-fingered, head to your nearest flower shop (I'm very partial to Slinders in Rochester, only 3 doors down from Hometown), and treat yourself to a bunch of inspiration. Stocks, Alstromerias, orchids, gladis - just think of the quilting possibilities.

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Taking it Slow

"Summer time and the living is easy". This is a lovely song and a powerful thought, but it's sometimes hard to do. Whatever stage of adult life you're at: a parent with children, wondering how you're going to fill the next 6 weeks, whilst juggling work commitments and childcare; maybe you've just had a student returned from Uni and are despairing that the house is overtaken by boxes and your sewing room is now back to being a bedroom, so you have no space to play (which let's face it is vital for our well-being); or are you a commuter endeavouring to survive hot tubes and buses? Think of the self-employed worker without a holiday in sight and a slew of deadlines that can't be postponed, even if your brain is muggy; possibly you're working with the general public who are more than a little cranky, because of the hot weather; or maybe you're a pensioner uncomfortable and out of sorts in this heat. For some of us / all of us, sometimes it's not so easy.

A very wise woman (one of my sisters) sent me an article yesterday written by Caitlin Moran in The Times Magazine. I have now read and re-read it several times. It's about being a carer and learning to breathe. To paraphrase and quote from Caitlin's article,

"So we loll our heads, and breathe. We just ... breathe. We are, for the first time in months, in the moment. And there, in less than a minute, is this sudden, deep, black, beautiful rush - black like space, or the sea at night - through the body. ... This is the only thing you want. ... When you breathe this deep, it is impossible to be unhappy or rigid, or fearful any more. Those tiny, automatic shallow breaths we make do with in our day-to-day life? They make us feel slightly deprived; as if we were slowly drowning. They are the panic and the anxiety. But ten breaths like this, and you feel as if you have had an afternoon off. Twenty, and you've returned, tanned, from Corfu."

So my one wish to you all this summer - friends, family, colleagues and customers, is to take time. Be kind and smile at strangers in the street or the elderly neighbour that you don't really know. Don't complain to shop staff and public transport workers about the heat (we do know, we are present too!), seize whatever small moments you can for yourself, dabble with small crafting projects which just keep you this side of sane, and the biggest one of all - just breathe. Take it easy now.




Aaah Bisto.....

I redecorated my office/sewing room last weekend (more on that to follow as the before pictures are hilarious) and walking into the room this morning I was struck again by the sense of "mmm, fresh paint, lovely". It got me thinking on what other smells this week (and memories of scents) had me thinking the same. So here's my top 7:

New paint (especially satinwood as it lingers...!)

Freshly cut grass

Toast and/or cinnamon buns and/or freshly baked bread (I loved having a part-time job way- back-when in Sainsbury's bakery)

Coconut shampoo (it always makes me think of a holiday to Greece years ago with my sister, sitting on the beach and listening to Chris Rea from the beach bar)

The smell of hot air (daily memories of living in the UAE) and also arriving on small planes abroad and that first breath as you step down onto the tarmac

Fig and pear candles for summer and orange and winter spices for the colder months

Hyacinths - sad that they're over for another year - but it's an excuse to go to the flower shop today almost next door to Hometown and find an in-season substitute.

So these are mine, what are yours? Let me know...


A word in your ear ...

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A word in your ear ...

I love words. Walking home this evening, it dawned on me that I'm always looking and reading - whether it's seeing a graphic in the greengrocers, a sign-written shop name, banners outside the comedy club or the beautifully written pub chalkboard advertising tonight's folk band. And that's not including the signage on this particular pub which I adore reading, 'Style & Winch Fine Ales & Stouts'.

When I used to travel a lot for work, graphics in other countries were always a delight. Sometimes it was the use of words, not as originally intended..., the gaudy hand painted bill boards of India, or simply the place names and style of the road signs. Isn't arondissement simply a lovely word to say? Living in Sweden I learned to appreciate the simplicity of pared-down graphics, plus of course the delight of extra letters to learn and pronounce.

So here in celebration are a few of my favourite photos. This is just the first tranche - there are plenty more, so let's just call this 'chapter 1 - the blue corner'.

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