A week of intensive work on “Angel’s Nightie” in the studio: both making and thinking. Following on from thinking about the quote from “the Tempest” (Shakespeare) in previous blog, I took my daughters to see the Alexander McQueen show (my third visit) on their INSET day.

Whereas on previous visits I’d been particularly taken by the Dark Romanticism pieces for which I felt a lot of affinity and love, this time round I felt myself drawn to the last exhibit, from his last show “Plato’s Atlantis” (2010), which tied in with my interest in taking the chrysalis-bodybag piece beneath the waves and into “the liquid life”. An idea of death as less ashes to ashes, dust to dust (although there will be that too, perhaps) and more a return to the sea. Both in an individual sense, but also in an evolutionary sense.

Afterwards we went over to the Natural History Museum and in the Museum shop I bought a book about Marine Invertebrates, called “Spineless”: full of beautiful imagery; several years worth of inspiration.

On the way home after picking up my daughters from school towards the end of the week, me covered in plaster, having done a few rows of knitting in the school playground (finding time to fit everything in), my eldest asks me: How is the chrysalis-bodybag thing going, Mummy? and I tell her: it’s no longer just a Chrysalis-bodybag. It’s becoming other things as well. I’m trying to merge the idea of chrysalis-butterfly with bodybag with sea cucumber with influences from Alexander McQueen and Shakespeare with death and ashes and pigeon wings. And meld them all together and knead them and knead them (We’ve been watching old episodes of the Great British Bake-off together) until the “dough-of-ideas” becomes less sticky and becomes itself. In the car she asks me to tell her all the ingredients again, that she wants to write them down. I do, telling her not to worry about getting the spellings right, that not even Shakespeare really knew how to spell his own name and she compiles a list in her note book and by the end of the journey has merged and jumbled all the words together, taking a part from each, into one incredibly long and strange word.


In Glasgow, wandering around Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery and the Burrell Collection, “Angel’s Nightie” was never far from my mind. In fact it was pressing down on me with many urgent questions requiring answers.

Back in Eastbourne, before leaving for Glasgow, I had made a start on it in the studio space. I had asked a friend to lie down and then I encapsulated him in chicken-wire. When put upright the structure measured about 8 feet high and scraped the ceiling of my space. It resembled a torpedo, or as my 6 year old daughter put it: Mummy, you’ve made a giant bottle.

So I worried at it, in my mind, whilst I was away from it. And I took photographs. Of taxidermied birds and stone birds around fountain-places. Of Angels with golden wings. And photographs of surfaces: gilt on wood, gesso on hessian, cord quilting, wadded quilting, embroidery, painted wooden statues, painted stone statues. Questions, questions, questions. were there any answers anywhere in there?

At night in the peace and dark of the hotel room I worried some more. And thought about bodies suspended in water, about Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings of the foetus in utero, about Christ’s body hanging from the cross, about meat hanging from butcher’s hooks.

But mainly about bodies in water. As death as a “sea-change”, as in:

“Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes;
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange
(The Tempest, Shakespeare)

And I knew that I needed to work on the basic structure of the chrysalis. That in order to change it I would need to do drawings of a body with a bowed head and knees drawn up slightly, a curved back, “wings” wrapped around itself: a structure that far more closely resembled the curvature of a chrysalis. And that would work best when suspended in air. Or in water.

So far away from my studio space I longed to get back to it and make a start.


It’s been the Easter school holidays. That’s one of my excuses for not blogging lately, but that doesn’t mean that work on my projects hasn’t been almost constant.

On the 25th March I travelled up to Glasgow by coach with my daughters and attended a War-time Knitting conference, The Kitchener Stitch, organised by Lynn Abrams from the School of Humanities, University of Glasgow on Friday 27th March. The Speakers were Dr.Jane Tynan from Central St.Martins, Wendy Turner from the Glasgow Women’s Library, Joyce Meader, Vintage Knitting expert, who spoke about War-time Knitting from the Crimea to Contemporary, and who showed many, many examples. And Barbara Smith from the Knitting and Crochet Guild.

Besides talking for about an hour without a microphone and without written notes, every minute of which was entertaining and informative, Joyce also had several tables set up with vintage knitting patterns, books and tools and a vintage sock knitting machine. And she also made one of the most, for me and the “small comfort” project, interesting and useful comments whilst she was in the audience making a contribution to another Speaker’s talk: that sometimes when on the front the soldier would receive a knitted item, for example a mitten without a thumb section and he might unpick some of the stitches and then, using (and this to me was the exciting part) some barbed wire straightened out to make knitting needles would make for himself some thumb sections. I spoke to Joyce about this afterwards and she added that he might also use a part of his rifle cleaning apparatus to make the knitting needles, but my heart (and macabre imagination) were already fired by somehow including the barbed wire knitting needles as a part of my piece.
At Joyce’s tables I also discovered a vintage cable knitting needle and with some vague hope asked Joyce if they were WW1. Sadly they weren’t which means that I will need to learn to knit with four-five double pointed knitted needles when it comes to making the balaclava etc.

I wore the red knitted ‘Up-and-over’ pullover, the beginning of my “small comfort” project, to the Knitting Conference. I’d completed that a week before the conference. Then in the days leading up to the trip to Glasgow I made the Vintage Knitting bag out of black silk and cotton fabric and satin lining. And began work on the Chest Protector prototype-in-red.
I made about nine pages of notes during the Conference, but the real treasure of the day had to be the comment by Joyce about the barbed wire knitting needles: in my mind’s eye I re-imagined them as four double pointed needles around the throat of an unfinished balalclava. (In the fairy-tale “the Wild Swans” Elise, sister to the eleven swan-brothers, does not have time to complete the sleeve for her youngest brother and as she throws the shirts over her brothers to restore them to their original form the youngest brother remains with one of his arms a swan’s wing.)