Monday, 4 December 2017

A Liberty Print Map of the UK


I talked a bit about the quilt that I used as the inspiration behind the blocks that I contributed to the V&A's new book here, but what I didn't mention was that I'd become completely obsessed with the maps that lay at the outer corners of the quilt. The photo below shows one of these maps - the maker had chain-stitched around each county and then embroidered its name on in almost impossibly tiny cross-stitches. I fell in love with all the small snippets of colour pieced together like a jigsaw, although I also loved what the presence of these maps represented: that the maker was outward-looking; that she brought her education and her sense of her place in the world to her quilting...that feels no small thing bearing in mind that she was living in 1797, when women's access to travel and education would have been relatively limited. I've talked about it in the post I linked to above, but the structure of this quilt was interesting, with symbols of the maker's own world and domesticity placed at the centre - such as needles, scissors, a pin cushion; then moving out, the garden was depicted with flowers, ducks and birds; finally two globes, Scotland, England and Wales in the far corners of the quilt.

Since I first studied the details of the quilt last year, making a similar kind of map had been mentally added to my 'one day' project list, but it was an idea that bobbed back up to the top, even as the list became fuller - a sure sign of something that wants to be made, as it's so easy for ideas to disappear from sight entirely.


Then, one night at a quiz - take from that, that I was sitting at a table with other people who were answering questions, while I ate the cheese they'd thought to bring along - someone said that their husband often spent time in the evening studying maps, looking at river names, mountain ranges and the myriad of tiny details that filled the page, trying to memorise it all specifically for boosting his quiz knowledge. You know when you first hear about a hobby and think: Wow! I had no idea that people did that. Well, that was what I was thinking as I cut a little more stilton to tide me over for the next round. When I lay in bed that night and thought back to it, I suddenly linked it up with the 1797 quilter, who'd wanted to appliqué maps on her quilt...and in fabric-form, the desire to know and name and label made more sense to me. Deadline-based work recently cleared off my desk, I got up the next morning and started making a map.

My initial idea was to fill each county with some kind of embroidered or woven fill, mixed in with the odd Liberty print, but it started to look slightly chaotic and I couldn't work out how the county names would show up over the stitched areas (I hadn't thought of printing them at that point, as I did in my final version, but that totally would have worked). The image you see below is where I got up to with that idea.


In the end, I decided to use solely Liberty Tana Lawns (it's probably predictable that I'd decide that, but it came as a revelation to me at the time...Oh, I could just use Liberty prints! What a novel idea. But really, the scale of them works so well for tiny pieces like this, so it's predictable, but also really sensible)! I divided the groups of counties into their regional areas (South East, Midlands, East Anglia etc) and assigned each a colour, and then tackled the map region by region to avoid missing out any counties. I was amazed, delighted...and also slightly appalled, that to complete a map that required so many different Liberty prints, I only had to send away for two pieces. Luckily, Duck Egg Threads sells Liberty prints in fat sixteenths, for just £1.38 a piece! It's a really economical way of stocking up on a good range of prints for a project that uses tiny pieces like this.



When you use an iron-on fusible for appliqué, you have to use a mirror-image of the shape, so that it will be orientated the right way on the front side. For this, I printed out a mirror image of the map I'd chosen to use and then traced all the counties from that map. I also kept a regular copy for reference and marking things off as I did them.


Once all the counties were cut out and ironed on (I love it when what felt like nine million hours of cutting and sticking, is later reduced to ten words), I then appliquéd it all into place on my machine. I decided to use the same thread colour all over to give some cohesion, and also to use a really narrow satin stitch, so that the lines defining the counties didn't feel too heavy.


While I'd been appliquéing, I'd come up with the idea that I could print out county names and then appliqué those on too. I wrote up the names using a lovely old typewriter font and printed them onto creamy-coloured plain cotton backed with fusible web, cut perfectly to an A4 size. My printer only objected a little to this pseudo-paper and eventually agreed to print out a full sheet of names without any smudges at all. 


You can see them being appliquéd in place above.


I wanted to tell you quickly at this point about this awesome seam ripper that I've had for a while now. It has a magnifying glass attached to it, along with a very powerful light, and together it makes light work of unpicking even the tiniest of misplaced late-night stitches. Particularly in low light, my eyes are really starting to struggle, so this is invaluable. 


One day, when my father popped in, I took him up to my sewing room to see what I was working on and he broke it me that some of my counties seemed to be missing! He was pained by telling me this, so I felt awful for him, but when I looked, I realised that Rutland was indeed missing and several other mapping crimes had been committed. It was then that I started reading up about county divisions and discovered that counties have been redefined regularly throughout history and that those on the map I was working from were only correct between 1974 - 1995.  I did mention earlier that I'm better at eating cheese than answering quiz questions, so you can see how this oversight might happen.


But either way, it was most unwelcome news. But do you know, when I checked around (obsessively), I found that half the country isn't aware of this and that there are all sorts of places where incorrect maps are still being shown on official websites...quite something when the internet wasn't really in full swing until well after this map became outdated. Some things I decided to leave as they were, but I knew that it would really bother me not to include Rutland, our smallest county, so I did some surgery and I think it was fairly successful. Also, I felt traumatised not to have all the Yorkshires labelled correctly, because my maternal grandmother had grown up in South Yorkshire (although she would have found it really funny), so that too was updated. I then typed up a little note that read 'Map of the United Kingdom, based on county divisions between 1974-1995. Some areas updated to include Hereford & Worcester as separate counties; Rutland being recognised as a county; Humberside becoming West Riding of Yorkshire.' I appliquéd this on and felt quite relieved that I'd catalogued all the inaccuracies...although my husband thought that my need to do this was absolutely curious and that it should be taken off. It was. 

UPDATE: It seems this is a map that's going to need a larger frame, just to hold the correction notices that could be placed beneath it...it's come to my attention that I meant EAST Riding of Yorkshire...not West Riding. Looking at it now, I have no idea how I didn't notice my mistake or then pick it up when very carefully [incorrectly] notating the first fault. I'm going to bury my sorrows in a large piece of White Cropwell Bishop Stilton and then sort it out at a later date, once I've relocated a modicum of trust in my own mental faculties. I could be some time. (My father introduced me to white Cropwell Bishop when we visited a cheese counter together last weekend. If you see it, get a piece - it tastes like a cross between Stilton and Wensleydale...tangy, creamy but crumbly at the same time. Perfection). UPDATE part II: Although I'm going to change the issue mentioned above, I'm not going to attempt anything else as it would probably ruin the map to do so - it's tricky to successfully unpick dense satin stitch and remove fabric that's been heat-fused without everything falling apart. Although I appreciate from the comments section that there are people who feel passionately that accuracy in these matters is important, I'm going to bury my head in the sand and enjoy my map simply as something that I loved making, which happened to be based on an outdated map, with a few of my own inaccuracies thrown in for good measure.  



It makes me really happy that Scotland (also underrepresented in counties back in 1974...it's now divided into many more pieces) is depicted in beautiful icy shades of grey, which feel like they capture the temperature of Britain's most northerly point...I later wished I'd graduated the colour on this basis across the whole map.


It's now being framed and should hopefully be on a wall soon. It's really hard to photograph because it's so tall and thin...it just seems to disappear in pictures, but I think if you click on them you'll get a bigger version, if you'd like to see any close up.


It was an odd project to work on - my mind wandered all over the place, cutting out the squiggles of rugged coastlines. It was so funny to think at each point of the lives the space might contain. More often, I imagined lovely old ladies pegging up washing in remote clifftop houses, a bit like Hannah Hauxwell in demeanour - does anyone remember the documentaries about this incredible woman, who lived alone on a farm in the Yorkshire Dales? If you're interested in doing something similar (appliqué that is, rather than lone farming), my e-book guide goes into great detail about the whole process from using fusible web to achieving a nice satin stitch (although obviously not specifically related to this map). You can find it here. It was written when I had a very basic machine, so no high-tech equipment is needed :)

Wishing you a lovely week,
Florence x

52 comments:

  1. Florence, this is incredible! Oh my goodness I can only imagine how long this must have taken. It is completely worth it though, it looks absolutely stunning. One day, in many generations time, someone will uncover this and treasure it forever. It is quite simply exquisite!

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    1. Oh, Anna, thank you so much! I'm pleased you like it. It was a fairly intensive project to make (you know in that lovely way where you stay up until all hours and lose track of time), but actually quite a quick finish compared to my slower hand-sewing projects, which felt refreshing! x

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  2. Really love this, Florence.

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  3. What a lovely piece of work! (And what a lot of work.) I think you've done a smashing job.

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    1. Thank you! When so many of my projects take months (or years) to complete, appliqué always feels like a labour-intensive, but really speedy way to work - I was left feeling quite energised by starting a project and it being finished within a week or so - that felt quite magical!

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    1. Thank you, Cathy :) I really enjoyed making it.

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  5. oh Florence!!!! You've really outdone yourself this time (how is that possible when everything you create is SO lovely).

    A few thoughts:
    1) Most charming, your attempt to use anything BUT Liberty Tana Lawn for this project.
    2) All of your choices are genius -- the color gradations, the stitching to define each county, the font and labels, and your oh-so-Florence definition of the 1974-1995 map's idiosyncracies.
    3) Excellent use of a pub night and cheese consumption.
    4) Most information packed into just a few words: "Once all the counties were cut out and ironed on (I love it when what felt like nine million hours of cutting and sticking, is later reduced to ten words) . . ."

    What a glorious glorious creation. I hope you'll send it out on tour to all your fans so we can all enjoy it properly in person, one by one.

    Hope you're enjoying December!

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    1. p.s. this is something that when your daughter is in her 80s, and her daughter too, (and same for son and his sons/daughters, great-nieces, nephews, or various other permutations), they'll fondly recall this image burned on their brain from all the hours in their life they spent staring at this creation, wandering in their mind to the various corners of the realm. It will be a visual guide that will accompany all of you the rest of your lives. Right now it's brand new, but it will be treasured for generations!!!

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    2. Oh Kim, your comments are always so incredibly lovely! Thank you for the time you take in being such a warm, funny and generous cheerleader in my life! I really do appreciate you.

      I always hope subsequent generations will feel like that, but I also accept that it might end up in a box in an attic (or worse!) - I guess there's that thing that often people can appreciate the work that's gone into something, but it's not in a style they'd want on their own walls...

      How are your Christmas plans coming along this year? x

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  6. Beautiful! Love the colour/geography relationships. Reminds me of wooden British Isles counties jigsaw that we had when I was very young.

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    1. Thank you, Kerry. Yes, me too - my daughter had one...I think I always probably enjoyed doing that one more than she did though!

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  7. Yes I too remember Hannah Hauxwell - I didn't see the programmes but she was a character that somehow got fixed in my memory and in recent years I have read a couple of her books. Amazing lady.

    I love this map! This post has been one of those that has had me peering at the screen, as if by doing that I'll get more out of it and more inspiration. Sometimes I read something and just know that it is part of my journey (that sounds a bit flakey but I can't think how else to put it!) by which I mean that I love maps (was it something to do with the fact that my dad was a map maker in the war, and later worked for the OS?) and I can happily sit and read one like others sit and read a book. But I also love sewing and cycling and somehow I feel inspiration coming on to join these things up in some way by using maps.

    What a muddle I've just written!

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  8. I'm so pleased your remember Hannah too, Lizzie. I think there were a few programmes about her broadcast in the mid-90s and I remember my father insisting that I watch them. I don't remember being particularly thrilled by the enforced television watching at the time, but she's someone who has always really stuck in my head, so I'm now very pleased that he did. She had such incredible grit, didn't she.

    Wow! Your dad's career sounds fascinating. Yes, there's something special about maps, isn't there - they seem to carry the imagination away with them and offer such a sense of possibility, even if you never leave home...I wonder if it's this that might have appealed to the maker in 1797.

    When we came home to England from living in Australia, I used to spend hours tracing out the routes around Melbourne on the map that came back with me, which I stuck up on my bedroom wall, so I guess they also offer a connection to places from the past too.

    Might you make a map of your own? If you do, I'd really love to see, Lizzie!

    I thought of you this summer, by the way, when I lay freezing in a tent at night, even though I had a really thick sleeping bag and several layers of clothing, and felt traumatised anew for you of how cold you must have been in your night camping on the way to FoQ - I bet that's turned into a positive memory for you by now though. So incredibly brave! x

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    1. Ha ha! Yes I shall never forget that night.....a positive memory indeed in that it didn't put me off but I need to invest in a good sleeping bag before I can do it again!

      My dad only worked for the OS for a short time I think, as he later had his own wallpaper and paint shop - in the days when people who ran such shops actually had creative and artistic skills rather than just selling the stuff. He was pusched out of business when the local department store started selling what he sold. But ever the entrepreneur, he then changed over to selling artists' materials and fine art paintings. Not bad for a boy who left school at 14.
      We always had OS maps at home and I still love to have the actual paper ones.

      I might indeed somehow make a map of my own, perhaps of cycling tours! Of of my latest Coffeeneuring trips (google coffeeneuring!).

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  9. Stunning! Completely understand your obsession with getting it right. Your finished project is a joy to behold. Jean.x

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  10. I have a feeling this is just your first map work! ;)

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    1. Next stop, the world! Although goodness knows what inaccuracies I could bestow upon that ;)

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  11. Hi. This is amazing and I don't want to rain on your parade but I come from what was Humberside and is now the *East* Riding of Yorkshire...

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    1. Oh the shame! A map that requires its own separate frame to contain the multitude of corrections...how could I not have noticed, especially when I'd put West Yorkshire right next to West Riding? I've no idea what I was thinking, but my parade is currently suffering from severe flash flooding...

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  12. That is really beautiful, and interesting! I like that you did Northern Island in a greenish colour ... ;-)

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  13. This is just a lovely piece of work and looks simply stunning.

    And I hate to rain further on your parade but I'm afraid you've got Scotland horribly, horribly wrong. You've annotated regions and a few islands, not counties. Grampian isn't a council county anymore it is a region (like East Anglia). Mull is an island as is Skye. Where is Shetland? Highland is a region for local government purposes but comprises several counties. I'm from Caithness which neighbours Sutherland. No one would say they were eg, from Highland, but from Caithness/Sutherland/Fife/East Lothian/Aberdeenshire/Inverness-shire. Counties are still used and not just for cultural reasons but in addresses, road signs, sheriffs, Lord Lieutenants etc. So there is no Lord Lieutenant of Highland but there is one for each of the counties. There's about 30 counties in Scotland. Sorry to be delivering such bad news!

    Karen

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  14. I'm afraid it's still horribly wrong. The changes in 1974 created 12 regions from the 30 odd counties. The counties continued and still continue to exist. And Mull was never a county nor Arran nor Skye and Shetland seems to not exist on your work.

    Oh well, it looks lovely.

    Karen

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    1. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. Once my father had alerted me to it, I was aware that the outdated map I’d worked from meant there were lots of inaccuracies, as I mentioned in my original post. Unfortunately, making lots of changes wasn’t possible as it would have ruined the map, so I decided to just be happy with it as it is, apart from risking the minor alterations that bothered me personally. I’m going to attempt to make the East/West Riding correction, but other than that, it will be left as is. So while I appreciate the time you’ve taken to note inaccuracies, I’m going to bury my head in the sand and just enjoy my map as something that I loved making!

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  15. It is gorgeous! It does therefore seem terribly churlish to point out a small error. The part you have included as East (or West as you currently have it) Yorkshire that is south of the Humber has now reverted to Lincolnshire. The area you have shown was the former Humberside, which incidentally noone who lived there ever recognised or used as an address, if my mother-in-law was anything to go by. Yorkshire is north of and Lincs south of the Humber.
    However, I do love your beautiful map! Apologies for nitpicking!

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Jennifer. I'm going to attempt to fix East/West Riding, but other than that, as in my reply above, I’m going to bury my head in the sand and just enjoy my map as something that I loved making, as making any bigger changes would probably result in it being ruined. It's quite tricky to unpick a tiny dense satin stitch and successfully remove fabric that's been fused in place with heated appliqué web, without things disintegrating.

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  16. This is a creative piece of sewing that is a work of textile art. It is not a map of Britain that you will use to revise for a Geography G.C.S.E. Florence I just can't understand how people can be calling you out on the map, a map that as people have pointed out, changes from time to time. Let there be no rain on your parade, only sunshine!

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    1. Thank you, anonymous sunbeam - your comment meant a lot. x

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  17. Oh goodness, Florence, while you were cutting and stitching so incredibly neatly and making such a beautiful picture I do think you ought to have given some thought to the serious risks involved. What will you do if someone uses your map to try and navigate around the UK? Now or in 1974? They could get terribly lost and it would all be your fault; perhaps you should take out insurance in case they sue. Not to mention what might happen if this map should (and it does seem quite likely in various ways) fall into the hands of the people re-drawing the electoral constituency boundaries. This really is the height of Liberty-printed irresponsibility. Whatever possessed you? x

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    1. Thank you for offering some perspective, dear Nina - who could have guessed that an appliquéd map of the UK would become my most controversial post? x

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    2. I know, it's pretty hilarious! https://xkcd.com/386/ x

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  18. What a beautiful work of art! What a great idea to make a map using Liberty prints- looks so good!

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  19. Truly beautiful. I'm afraid I wouldn't have noticed ANY inaccuracies and would have simply enjoyed it for the work of art that it is! As always, your writing truly competes with your handmades in terms of enjoyment. I can't decide which I like best.
    Faith K from Wyoming

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    1. Thank you so much, Faith, and I'm so pleased you enjoy reading my blog. x

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  20. Florence, what an absolutely gorgeous piece of art. The color gradation on Scotland is really fabulous!

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    1. Thank you, Sarah -I find it's quite rare to find prints that are really pale, but also really lovely (so pale and interesting in the best sense of the phrase!) and Liberty do that so well :)

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  21. it’s hilarious, really hilarious, how people judge here....even the word horrible, my god! it’s not as if Theresa May will be using this map to plan the brexit or anything. And- how did people even notice inaccuracies ??? how far did they zoom in and did they use a magnifying glass to read the labels? And if so - then why didn’t they spend that time either cuddling their children or washing a sinners feet OR make a perfect and accurate and up to date AND equally breathtakingly beautiful liberty scrap map by themselves??? Please laugh with me, Florence and don’t let that bother you, ok? xxx from @janaguckt on ig

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    1. Hi Jana, thank you for your comment. I was a little shellshocked by how unexpectedly controversial my map and this post ended up being, so your comment made me smile and helped to take some of the sting out of that - thank you :) x

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  22. This was such an enviably marvellous idea and the result is very, very lovely. I think that what the helpful commenters haven't appreciated is that your map actually captures what is so magical and fascinating about old maps which is their idiosyncrasies. Boundary lines are really quite arbitrary, have changed through time and will change again. Your map is one snapshot and is a thing of beauty.

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    1. That's a really lovely way to look at it, Catherine - thank you! And thank you for taking the time to leave a comment - it means a lot. x

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  23. I love this! I’ve always been intrigued by maps, and specially ones made from fabric - yours is the loviest I have seen. I would never scour it for inaccuracies. But what I am really interested in is your seam ripper! I need one of those with a light and magnifying glass! What brand is it? Keep making beautiful things!

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    1. Thank you so much! Me too, although clearly more by the overall look than the detail for me ;)

      The seam ripper is amazing - I've found in the last year or so that my eyes really struggle in low light and the seam ripper with both magnifying glass AND light makes unpicking even the tiniest of stitches a possibility - I'd definitely recommend it.

      It's called a Mighty Bright LED seam ripper. If you're in the UK, you can find them on Amazon, here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B0057DROSG

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  24. This is SO beautiful. I can't even imagine all the work you've put into it, and you should be very proud.

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  25. This is utterly amazing. What a beautiful piece of art. Truly inspiring. I keep re-reading and looking at your photos. I love sewing but never tried applique..you've inspired me to consider making a similar map of Ireland, all green of course.
    PS Shame on the nitpickers! I doubt they are either talented crafters or professional cartographers!!!!

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Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a message - it's always really lovely to hear from people.

I now tend to reply within the comments section, so please do check back if you've asked a question or wish to chat.

Florence x

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