Marian Clayden Exhibition at Drum Castle

It can be quite surprising what you see when you visit castles in Scotland. When we went to Drum Castle in Aberdeenshire – I have to say a couple of years ago now, I didn’t expect to see an exhibition of textiles and clothes by Marian Clayden who I hadn’t heard of before but is very well known in her field of textiles and weaving. You can see my earlier posts on Drum Castle here.

Marian Clayden designs

The photos really don’t do her work justice as you can’t see the textures so well. The fabric is mainly silk and velvet, absolutely sumptuous looking.

Marian Clayden textile

Marian Clayden dress designs

Marian Clayden, designs

Marian Clayden was born in Preston, Lancashire which had a thriving textile industry back in the day, so her family was involved in various crafts, but I think we can safely say that Marian picked up that baton and ran with it. You can read about her life here.

Marian Clayden design

She trained as a teacher but after having a couple of kids and being stuck at home she decided to try dyeing some textiles in her kitchen, using skills she had learned in her teacher training. Moving to San Francisco in 1967 must have influenced her hugely – with all of those flower power people and bright colours around the place.

Marian Clayden  designs

Her career took off and there were exhibitions of her work all over the world. Sadly she died in 2015 but her work lives on in major collections all over the world in places such as the V&A in London and the Metropolitan in New York. We were just incredibly lucky to stumble across this exhibition in a Scottish Castle.

Marian Clayden

Porter magazine and emaciated models

A wee while ago I signed one of those petitions in support of models who are being asked to starve themselves in the hope of being given a modelling job. I believe the petition was started by a young woman who was told that she wasn’t thin enough at size 8 (UK) they wanted her right down to the bone.

Every now and again I get updates as to how the petition is doing and about MPs and such who have taken an interest in the subject. I had been under the impression that the fashion industry was beginning to be a bit more responsible and humane. So it was with a huge shock and revulsion that I noticed the current issue of the fashion magazine Porter, while I was standing at a supermarket check out. It’s no exaggeration to say that I’ve seen healthier looking people on their death beds. The actual magazine cover looks worse than it does in the image below, the model’s skin is grey and she looks totally emaciated, she looks like she is too weak to focus her eyes, I believe the look used to be called heroin chic, but I just had a huge urge to track the model down and try to talk some sense into her, no career is worth looking like a concentration camp victim. I hope that for some odd reason she has had a horrific make-up job done on her.

Porter magazine

I believe that Porter is a fairly new glossy magazine and it prides itself on being – the fashion magazine for the stylish, intelligent woman of now.

So it seems bizarre that such an unattractive image was chosen for the front cover. I’ve had a look back at some previous covers and there has been nothing as bad as the one above, in fact the models are usually quite attractive and healthy looking. Hopefully this cover is just an aberration, or maybe it’s two fingers up to the people who are trying to get model agencies to change their evil ways.

I really think that it’s about time that magazine distributors told editors that they will not deal with covers that show stick thin models who look like death. Supermarkets shouldn’t be putting such images in front of their customers either. If I had a young daughter I’d hate her to think that that was a look she should emulate.

Susie Orbach said that – fat was a feminist issue, surely thin is too!

A Walk in Balbirnie

I’ve been avoiding the woodland near our house for a while now as the rain has made the ground so boggy, and the snow and ice didn’t last long at all, so it was too horrible underfoot to walk there. And of course we’ve had horrendously high winds which makes woodland walks scary, quite a few trees have fallen over or branches have been ripped off them.

But recently we bought new footwear, purple wellies for me, and Jack opted for shorter welly like boots – he complained that his old traditional wellies wore the hairs off his legs and nearly 40 years later he still has bald patches. I said that he should patent wellies as an alternative to leg waxing, they would be much cheaper I’m sure! I’m keeping the receipt for my purple wellies as the last pair of multicoloured ones I bought split after only around five outings in them, so if that happens again they’re going back to the shop.

Balbirnie Burn

This time as you can see we walked in a different direction along the side of the burn which is presumably what made people settle in this area as long as 5,000 years ago. You can see their graves in an old blogpost here.

Balbirnie Burn

Speaking of wearing purple,
Jenny Joseph wrote the poem Warning – about planning to grow old disreputably and just not caring what anybody thinks of you. But if like me you were a teenager in the 1970s you’ve probably always worn purple – and orange, sometimes together. I’ve not started on the brandy yet though! This poem has a lot of fans and there is even a Red Hat Society now

by Jenny Joseph

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick the flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

Jenny Joseph reads her poem below if you’re interested.


knitting book

I was having a chat with a friend recently when the subject of knickers came up – or to be more precise it was the word ‘knickers’ because it seems that it’s a quintessentially British word and I must admit that I often use it when I’m mildly annoyed by something. Oh knickers, or Knickers to that or Don’t get your knickers in a twist – that’s Joan’s favourite.

I had an elderly friend who was quite obsessed by knickers and it was never long into any conversation with her before the word popped out. The word knickers somehow lightens a moment and brings a smile to many a face – don’t ask me why! The word underpants just doesn’t have the same panache and briefs sounds too legal.

Anyway, I was flicking through my copy of Modern Knitting Illustrated (1945) when I came across the above ladies who are modelling what was obviously the height of wartime fashion in Britain and would have been the sort of thing which my friend Marjorie was wearing at that time.

All I can say it no wonder that old parachutes were in such high demand for making into knickers because wearing those ones illustrated must have been akin to wearing a hair shirt. Parachute silk next to the skin must have been heaven compared with wool. They’re knitted in 2-ply wool and it would have been real wool, nothing like nylon or anything else man-made, and you know how much wool makes you itch!

I wish I could remember what it was I read recently which had a woman reminiscing about London during the war and saying that there was no getting away from it – London was smelly. No wonder as what with only being allowed one bath a week and the difficulty in getting clothes dry in our weather, I suspect that knickers were only washed once a week too!

Lady’s Companion October 2nd, 1926

I have a small collection of vintage magazines, mainly craft ones, but I have a copy of Lady’s Companion from 1926 which has the beginning of a special advice series. In this edition it’s Pitfalls for Engaged Girls. I thought it might be of interest to any mad young things who got engaged on Saint Valentine’s Day! You should be able to read it if you click on it to enlarge it.

Pitfalls for the engaged girl

Unfortunately this is the only one of these magazines which I have, and I really want to read the next one in the series which is titled Showing a Dislike for His Family. It sounds like a scream!!

The McManus Galleries, Dundee, Scotland

We visited the McManus Galleries in Dundee recently, to see the ten Leonardo da Vinci etchings which are on display there. They are part of the Royal Collection and are touring various galleries as part of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations.


Some of them are tiny and I had to put my reading specs on to see the detail, but they’re beautiful, even in the very dim light which they are displayed in, for fear of them becoming damaged by bright light.

Unfortunately there is only one image available on their website and as you can see it’s of Leda. It’s a shame that they don’t put them all up on their site so that people who can’t get there can have a look too.

Twiggy on a moped

Another exhibition which is on there at the moment is Selling Dreams: One Hundred Years of Fashion Photography featuring photos from the 1920s up to the present day. It’s well worth going to see if you’re interested in fashion or photography. To me the black and white photos always seem much more stylish with their careful lighting and shadows. Unfortunately the only image on the website is one of Twiggy on a moped, but there are far better photos in the exhibition.

This is part of a travelling exhibition from the V&A – a bit of a taster I suppose because Dundee has been selected as the location for a new Victoria and Albert Museum, the only one outside London, and as you can imagine, Dundonians are thrilled by the idea of it. It just has to be built now! You can see what it will look like here. It looks very futuristic but I imagine it’ll eventually be loved, even by the people who originally hated the look of it. You certainly won’t be able to miss it.

Wedding Dress Tales

I was mooching around the PDSA (People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals) charity shop in Kirkcaldy last week, really just to have a look at the books which had been donated, you never know your luck. But I couldn’t help being struck by this long rack of wedding dresses, I just had to have a closer look.

wedding dresses

Now I was never the sort of girl who dreamt of traipsing down the aisle in a big frock, I really had to have my arm twisted, I would have preferred a much quieter wedding and I didn’t buy a dress until less than a week before the wedding, it was cream, just in case you’re interested because I don’t like bright Daz white, it’s especially unflattering if you have pale skin and red hair as I do. But having got the dress, I must admit that I wouldn’t ever part with it. It’s living in a white plastic bag now because its box fell apart and I’ve been trailing it around various house moves over the last 36 odd years – very odd actually!
wedding dresses

So I just had to ask the lady in the PDSA charity shop if the dresses had all been donated, and apparently they have been. If only they could speak, they would have some tales to tell I’m sure.

There are some absolute crackers of dresses there, if you happen to be looking for such a thing. Ranging from the 1960s right up to much more recent bridal fashions. There are a couple of lovely 1970s designs, similar to my own dress – think Victorian nightdress. A few of the 1980s designs were bought by a film company recently for use in a film

This one was my favourite, sort of champagne/pale cream coloured, with beautiful embroidered roses on the bodice and sleeves. I can only think that these dresses all belonged to women who ended up getting divorced and didn’t want any reminders of the day at all.

wedding dresses

It’s very sad, but maybe things will work out better the next time they take a trip down that aisle. And for any potential brides looking for a bargain – get yourself down to the Kirkcaldy High Street branch of the PDSA. The dresses cost from between £35 and £50 and when you consider that I saw a new wedding dress on sale further along the High Street – just £675 – that was it half price too. It was a hideous thing which best resembled a ruched nylon net curtain. I’d definitely plump for a lovely second-hand dress, after all it’s recycling and if you’re at all bothered about that word second-hand – just call it vintage. And of course, you’re helping sick animals at the same time.

I was sorely tempted to start a wedding dress collection, people do collect them you know, then I remembered, I’m supposed to be decluttering!

Winter Woolly

A mohair-ish jumper

There isn’t much that I can do in the garden at this time of the year so I usually take up my knitting needles in the winter. I used to be really good at it but I’m a bit rusty now and I’m trying to get back to where I was skill wise.

I’ve looked in the shops for nice big thick jumpers but I haven’t had much luck finding what I wanted. They’re often too short because when it’s cold I like my bahookie (bum) to be nicely covered. But this year the sleeves are a bit strange too. Why are they designing nice big pullovers with short sleeves or three-quarter length ones? I don’t know about you but I like to have warm arms. In the past the sleeves always used to be too long for me and they would flap past my hands. I think I have short arms, it was a problem when I tried to learn the violin too, well that’s my excuse! I thought I had found a nice looking woolly in TK Maxx but when I pulled it out to get a good look I discovered that it had only one sleeve! Where’s the point in that?

Anyway, I looked through my small stash of wool and decided to knit an old favourite of mine. As you can see by the dog-earedness of the pattern it has been well used over the years since I first knitted it in the 1970s when leg warmers were first in fashion. I never did knit those but I have done the hat.

I’ve used Wendy Dolce wool which is fluffy but isn’t itchy, I’ve used it before with this pattern and it works fine. So as you can see the back is nearly finished and it hasn’t taken long, the needles are quite thick which always helps. I’ll show you the finished article before Christmas – maybe!


I was taught to knit by my mum when I was about 5 years old using teeny wee needles. Then at about the age of 7 we had to knit a tea cosy at school, a truly hideous thing. The boys did raffia work while the girls knitted.

In the 1970s there was quite a resurgence in craft work, it was all a bit hippy-ish I suppose. So knitting really took off again and I got right into the pointy sticks and became quite proficient at it.

My pride and joy was the Fair Isle jumper which I knitted for my husband around 1980 and it is still going strong after all these years of careful washing.

Fair Isle Jumper

So as you can see I wasn’t bad at knitting and the wool wasn’t too expensive then so I did quite a lot of it even although we were pretty skint (poor) back then.

Later on in the 80’s, the boys arrived with just 19 months in between them and as you can imagine there was quite a fair amount of cot blanket, bootees and matinee jacket knitting going on. Certainly for the first baby anyway – then a strange thing happened and my brain seemed to be – well I can only describe it as being ‘hijacked’, and suddenly I couldn’t concentrate on anything much beyond feeds and nappies. Our first boy hardly slept at all which didn’t help matters.

So boy number 2 hardly got anything knitted for him and the matinee jacket which I did manage is a very much plainer effort than his brother’s.

After that I just gave up for a long time and have only recently picked up the needles again, but I was really shocked to see how much knitting wool had gone up in price. I can understand that there are a lot of processes that a sheep fleece has to go through before you get to a ball of wool, but I know for a fact that the sheep farmers are getting pennies for the fleeces. It seems such a shame when they have all the hard work and worry of the sheep. In fact the farmers are being fleeced.

So what with me trying to tidy things up in the house and get rid of stuff or use it up in some way, I decided to knit with the left over bits of wool which have accumulated in various work baskets over the years. And as I’m trying to knit my way back up to Fair Isle and Aran standard again I decided to start back at the beginning with squares with a slight difference, just to make them a bit more interesting.

Wool Squares

These knitted shapes are actually described as “shells” and I found the pattern instructions in a 1940s knitting book called Modern Knitting Illustrated, which has patterns for everything that the well dressed war time person needed. Including knitted knickers (very itchy I imagine).

Use a size of needles which suits the left-over wool which you have and cast on 41 stitches and knit about 8 rows in garter stitch. Still working in garter stitch, knit 2 stitches together each side of the middle stitch, which you should mark to make life easier for you. I slip a safety pin onto the middle stitch which you can pull on to help you decide when you should be knitting 2 together. Knit the next row straight and continue in this way, decreasing in the middle of each alternate row until 3 stitches remain. Knit these 3 stitches together and fasten off.

The shells can then be sewn together to form a pattern or just randomly and it is more decorative than just plain squares.

The Age of Glamour

Last night I watched a programme on BBC4 called Glamour’s Golden Age which seems to be part of a new series. If you missed it and you are into 1920-30s design, I recommend that you catch it on the i-player.

I love everything about that era, well – obviously not the T.B., Diphtheria and Rickets sort of stuff, but you know what I mean.

The first building which I can remember seeing and thinking ‘art deco’ was The Midland Hotel in Morecambe. It was about 1969 and as I recall the hotel looked pretty sad and delapidated at that time. However it’s fab now – must have cost a fortune to refurbish it.

I saw the De La Warr Pavilion at Bexhill-on-Sea about 1979. Similar story there and I think it has been refurbished twice since then. That is the down side to art deco (modernist) buildings, if you don’t keep them looking really buffed, they quickly begin to look horrific.

The fashions looked wonderful too but definitely not for the heftier figure.

The posters were fantastic as well.

The 1938 Empire Exhibition was held in Glasgow. It is a city full of fashion conscious artistic people and by the look of things they really pulled out all the stops for it. It’s just a pity that the weather let them down – as usual.

But it didn’t stop the visitors, well after all, we aren’t made of sugar. Unfortunately most of the buildings were just temporary structures, so there isn’t much evidence of the exhibition now. I think it would be great if they would rebuild Tait’s Tower. Tait is more famous for having designed Sydney Harbour Bridge.

However, I think my favourite building would have been The Atlantic Restaurant. Taking tea there must have been a wonderful experience, especially when you consider that most of the visitors would have been living in cramped tenements with outside toilets and gas-lights. It must have seemed like a glimpse of heaven to them.

There are fantastic colour pictures on flickr.

There are black and white pictures in this You Tube clip.