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Thoughts On: Are you doing what you thought you would be doing?

Supplies from Oh Squirrel of course.

Supplies from Oh Squirrel of course.

I spend a lot of time thinking: I like to let ideas roll around my mind, to ruminate on a matter before acting on my thoughts. Then I write things down, in pencil only, and draw skittish little pictures in basic shapes that only make sense to me. Often the product of all this contemplation is that things get ruled out, the brakes are put on before anything tangible happens – I suppose this is my way of preserving resources, not cutting into that precious fabric, not committing to that project that will take time away from something else.

However much planning I do, if you look at the course of my work over the last few years – although it has been totally enjoyable and oftentimes beyond what I could imagine myself doing – none of it has been calculated. It has been the result of chance meetings, moments of boldness where I’ve asked “can I have a go at that?” and marvellous good fortune.

That’s not to say that once opportunity knocked I didn’t have the skills and the drive to back things up – indeed, my brain, pad and pencil have worked in overdrive and I’ve been so happy with the outcome. It’s more that I’m just not doing what I thought I would be doing.

Being pregnant has made me consider a lot of things. Aside from all the baby stuff, which is wonderful and terrifying at the same time, I have been thinking about me: what is it that I want to be doing? What am I going to be able to do? The bottom line is that I am going to be a mum, a parent, and I am really looking forward to it. When I joyfully discovered I was expecting, I realised: I am now never really alone, I am Jo plus one; and that means change.

I have spent the last few months in a festival of sewing, every day making a little something – optimistic that I am going to finish all the projects for our home before the little one makes an appearance. Then already making memories by sewing for the baby, creating a hope chest of handmade items, mentally skipping ahead to the day it will all be outgrown and packed away.

The machinations of my mind also lead me to consider what I’ll be doing when our baby is one, when I believe I’ll creak back into production; and here I go back to what I thought I’d be doing, before all the workshops I created and delivered, before I dedicated my days to building up the emporium that is Fringe, before the book. When I find myself here I am back to tentatively hand sewing and selling on Etsy, but that’s not what I think I will be doing a year or so hence. The truth of the matter is, I don’t really know – but naturally the cogs are whirring.

It is impossible not to look at what others are doing, to compare yourself, to wonder if that’s what you want too. From my experience, the designer-makers I know, the outwardly fearless entrepreneurs seem to perpetually create their wares with enviable skill and confidence – but I do wonder, are they doing what they thought they would be doing?

The truth is, it doesn’t really matter. Time passes, our necessities and wants change. The centre of it all is that we feel a level of contentment in our work, that we operate on a realistic plain and that we celebrate our creative neighbours, because we are all doing something, even if it’s not the something we set out to do.

Thoughts On: Fabric Nostalgia

When I was growing up, I had no idea that the textiles that surrounded me would have the kind of impact that they did.  My childhood home was full of pattern and in the nineties Laura Ashley ruled the roost. In fact, the fabrics of the 1990 collection were so evocative that when I rediscovered the old catalogue in a charity shop, I just had to buy it. Here it is, all swags and tails, festoons and frills.

Laura Ashley Catalogue Cover

I had the prettiest pink bedroom, and I loved it. Mum let me pick out the materials I liked best and put it all together in a handmade bedroom scheme.

Laura Ashley

My gran also had some interesting textiles, there was an amazing bright orange eiderdown, with a swirly print on one side and a plain on the other. I remember being off sick from school with scarlet fever and sitting beneath it eating a bowl of ice cream. In my head it was silky soft- I bet it was something synthetic though, I never knew what happened to it in the intervening years but my memory of it is still so strong.

If you’ve ever watched a British film or drama set in the fifties or sixties you will have probably seen a candy striped sheet, especially prevalent in a working class home. Every time I see one I feel a nostalgia for a time when I didn’t even exist. The sheets lived in the airing cupboard of my first childhood residence, a hangover from the past, and became the preferred floor coverings for D.I.Y days. Whenever I recall them, they are well loved and paint splattered but still standing the test of time. Following one  fortuitous visit to a local charity shop, I am now the proud owner of a double candy striped sheet, plus another found by my mum with a matching pillow case. I imagine these little pieces of history had been sat in someone else’s airing cupboard until such time came for them to be passed on.


Most recently this floral green beauty turned up in an instagram sale and it instantly stirred up warm but vague memories. I can’t remember if this once lived at home with my folks or at Gran’s but I do remember that the duvet version had a small green fern pattern on the back.

As I’m in the midst of getting ready to welcome my own small person into the world, I wonder whether the textiles I’m so fond of will have an impact on their childhood memories . I wonder if my love for the novelty prints from Cath Kidston, the scraps of vintage prints I collect, or the midcentury colourways of Orla Kiely will influence their future design choices. One thing I do know is, that I’ll not be using them as dust sheets – just incase they become tomorrow’s treasures.