Just recently Lifestyle Examiner was granted the opportunity the review a new book from author and craftswoman Cassandra Ellis called Cloth. Today we present an interview with the author who explains her process and craft.
Q.: Your book is emotional. When we are concerned with worldly things, we bake. Is this how you feel about cloth?
C.: I think it’s how I feel about everything that we can make – food, gardens, homes or the textiles within. Making involves our thoughts as much as our time and I believe when we make, our lives are more enriched. Fabric can seem such a removed object when it is viewed as a bolt in a shop or an image on a website. We generally know nothing of its history so make our decisions based on sight and touch.
When we realize an actual person or community has woven it, printed, pummeled or washed it, so that we can make something beautiful from it – well it then has a much great meaning - as their hands and thoughts are within your chosen cloth as well.
Q.: The photographs in the book are beautiful but it is very noticeable that things are not "pristine" or neatly ironed or even strictly folded. I know in the interior furnishings business that distressed finishes have been popular for quite a while, is this a spill over into textiles?
C.: I styled the book in the way that I think people are comfortable living. As much as I love a crisply ironed pillowcase, for most people (including me) it isn’t possible every day, all the time. I wanted the images to feel like someone had just left the room or they were sitting on the sofa opposite you. The feeling of a calm but lived in home. With time pressing us constantly I guess you have to ask yourself - would you rather share time with friends or steam your linen into submission?
Q.: I noticed how completely utilitarian wool is in your book, it's like a hard-marching soldier. The gray wool chair on page 62 is to die for but it doesn't appear to have seams, can you speak to that?
C.: It does have seams trust me! It’s from www.sofa.com and is covered in a British felted wool, which is utilitarian and robust, but very flexible and comfortable too. I think because wool is such a hearty fabric, I always see it as a strong backdrop to all other fabrics.
Q.: How many different types of velvet are there, and are there problems with using velvet? We see none.
C.: There are two main types of velvet – cotton velvet and silk velvet. Cotton velvet is extremely easy to use and adaptable for all sorts of home wares including upholstery. Silk velvet is my very favourite cloth. It dyes beautifully and feels wonderful. I would be remiss though if I didn’t mention how notoriously slippery it is to sew. A walking foot and a determined but calm sewing approach should solve this. It is of course more expensive than cotton velvet, but a few select items can really lift a room.
Q.: I'm so taken with the linen slippers on page 158, are they difficult to make?
C.: They are so easy – a couple of hours could sort out a whole family’s slipper dilemma! And they are a great way to use up scraps of fabric.
Q.: I notice in the materials list you mention: "100 percent cotton thread"--you are not a fan of synthetics?
C.: No I’m not and never have been. I think it restricts you creatively and I can’t think of anything that cotton thread couldn’t do as well or better than synthetics. I am lucky that I have access to whatever I want though – so it is about personal choice and accessibility.
Q.: That was quite a surprise to see actual patterns stored in the back of the book; what was that like to pull off?
C.: I love patterns – I mean actual paper patterns and thought that they were absolutely right for Cloth. I design quilt patterns all the time so are very happy with pencil, calculator and graph paper. I sketch everything first, then draw it technically by hand once I’ve made working samples that fit well. The designs then went over to the fantastic book designer who pulled them together into the very lovely pattern sheets nestled inside the book.
Q.: Is there anything you would like to tell Home and Living Readers?
C.: We are all born to make – what you make and how you make it is completely and utterly up to you. Fabric is completely democratic in that we can all make something from it. It doesn’t require advanced skills or great expense but it can enrich our lives greatly. When we make something for our homes or friends with care and consideration, we are able to experience the contemplative pleasures of creating by hand. So when you make, enjoy the process, don’t hurry it and take pride in what you can create.
Ellis, Cassandra. Cloth, New York: STC Craft | A Melanie Falick Book
ISBN: 978-1-61769-109-6 Retail $35 U.S.