Sunday, 27 April 2014

Heirloom clothing

What is an heirloom? One mans trash is another mans treasure and all that! I choose to treat textiles as precious heirlooms and am passionate about representing myself through the cloth I wear.

Most precious to me right now are the 2 Guatemalan garments that I know have been worn and loved by my mum. My parents live in Belize, so I don't see them very often at all. I find it's the small things like these that enable me to feel connected when we haven't spoken for a while.

Look at the crude finish. Proof that this has been worked by hand!
Large embroidery which covers the back
Embroidered front pockets, placket and side vent
Above is an embroidered men's shirt that originally belonged to my grandfather. Although I never met him I remember my mum wearing it almost every day when we were growing up as a kind of cardigan. You can tell how frequently it was worn by how much the fabric has faded in places. The top yoke and collar is very pale and the colour gets stronger the further down the shirt you look. I guess this is to do with the top bit getting more exposure to the sunlight!

The other item I cherish is a Guatemalan hand woven skirt that my grandparents brought back to the UK for my mum when she was younger. I gather she must have enjoyed wearing it, as it looked well worn before I got it. I'm not the same build as my mum was, so have had to let it out slightly at the waist, albeit not very neatly! Shame on me!

Fabric detail - Geometric hand woven motifs
My dodgy waistband insertion!!!
I love both of these items and I feel so special when I am wearing them. They may be a style that is produced widely where they originate from, but to me they are unique. The beauty is in the detail from the softness of the aged fabric to the hand finished buttonholes!

It is my hope that my children will feel the same way as I do, so I have started thinking about what I can give to them. I have made them quilts, blankets and knitwear, but these are babies things that are not entirely useful in adulthood. Will they share my passion for textiles? I will have plenty of handmade clothes for my daughter to choose from if she wishes, but I want to be able to give her something as special as my Guatemalan skirt and shirt.


I started to create my own future heirloom by embroidering this denim jacket. My plan is to add a bit of embroidery every now and then when the mood takes me and wear it inbetween times, so it's an ever evolving piece. I started with something simple enough by first of all embroidering my childrens names to the front button placket. I then added my maiden name to the collar piece (hard to make out in these pictures), which will always mean so much to me. I am really excited at the prospect of this long term project. I don't know what it's going to turn into or what will be added next, but I know it's going to be special!


I draw alot of my sewing inspiration from these items. What do you treasure most?

1 comment:

sylkotwist said...

I agree totally about the power of fabric and the connection it gives you with loved ones. I get quite emotional about the clothes that my mum has passed on to me. Your heirloom idea is brilliant too, a lovely post!