All you need is…

The happiest day of the year: that is how she always described her birthday. I rather envied Susan’s sure and certain foot on the planet – her merry determination to celebrate her being. And she was without doubt a person worth wrapping a present for. She received with a happy heart and open hands: the stroking, unfolding, unfurling, the rustling and peering, the gasping – how did you, where did you, when did you – the re-winding of the ribbon, laughing at the joke of the same favourite strings and papers resurfacing yet again from the different households of the family. Special attention would be paid to a child’s drawn card or lavished on a handmade offering. So the other day we made a birthday toast to her in strong morning coffee.

Sadly for me a dear friend lies right now in an echo of my sister – same ward, same wretched illness.

Even in October we would often contrive a picnic outing, a mystery tour; one of the best remembered was an expedition years ago to Claydon Park where the grand and beautiful butter yellow and white Chinoiserie room, an indelible discovery, held us spellbound.

Yellow butter featured in ‘Unruly:print into poetry’ at Marine Studios in Margate, where Sophie Herxheimer and Susan Mackervoy held an evening of poetry and prints, inviting us to enjoy their witty and delectable little hand-made books. The story of the Hurricane – ‘League of Demons’ – gives a whirlwind insight into my sister’s particular genius for surprising solutions! Poems were read by both the poets and visitors, the cucumber song was sung, Georgie Porgie recited, and even I had the opportunity to undo the scarf from round my shoulders and read it. The words were Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116; and it’s now available as a silk square in a special printed edition commissioned from me by the National Theatre Bookshop.

The event was catered with delicious rare English apples from Brogdale, one of the tastiest being the beautiful oval handful named Oaken Pin. And today is National Apple Day, by the way!

Driving south on a recent crisp morning the brilliant crescent of the moon hung in the dawn sky, the whole disc just visible in its ghostly completion of the circle, its companion star sparkling above. This little painting by William Wyld is one of my favourites from his recent show.


These autumn days bring spiders into focus. Living just below ground level as I do they are suddenly my housemates, silently wafting a cloud of fine spun threads across the windows. I once read a description of the Melanesian kite fishermen who traditionally used a particular spider’s yarn to tow their lures, and a tropical leaf as their kite. The tensile strength of the silky filament seems surprising, but even these webs at home do tend to stick around!

And have you noticed the ingenious new posters from Guinness?


This is the last day of Wool Week – not easy words to say together. I recently saw some spinners and carders at work at a special little exhibition around wool and volunteer knitters, and reflected on the spinning of yarns, losing the thread and cottoning on, the run of the mill and the weaving of dreams….Then there’s yarn bombing – you probably know about it?  If you’ve some spare wool, time and friends you too can change the landscape, though I’m told it may be illegal….

One of the works I have been involved in this past 18 months, and a great work it is, has been the writing and collating of a book about our archive and our lifetime’s work together – ‘The Collier Campbell Archive: 50 years of passion in pattern’ by Emma Shackleton, published by Ilex Press. It’s now approaching publication day, both here and in the USA. As part of the celebrations there will be a special event at the FTM in London on the 22nd November, a discussion between Mary Schoeser and myself around the subject of textile design – yarns indeed. And the week before, on the 15th, the book and I will be welcomed and welcoming at WestElm’s Broadway store in New York. So one way or another I hope to see you there….

Don’t forget the Textile Society’s AGM on the weekend of November 2nd and there’s still time to apply for their next year’s student award.

Thanks to Alan, Molly, Patrick Lawson-Thomas for the Sonnet cards and  Miss Hurst for alerting me to yarn bombing.

17 thoughts on “All you need is…

  1. Just read your blog on my return from Mexico…A bit late. Very fond memories of Susan, “you’re doin er proud”
    X B

  2. Whatever you did both was and still is a great pleasure for the eye; it must be hard for you to carry on the flag but you were always a strong person. A bright and joyfull commemoration of Susan.

  3. One of the loveliest remembrances of Susan ever – thanks so much. Achingly real. Long live Susan! Long live Sarah’s beautiful artistry! With much love from Los Angeles

  4. Dear Sarah. We (Hazy and me) shall be going over to Stratford to pick up one of those sonnets straight away, and the book opening we shall come to if it is an afternoon event, as we shall be in London, intending to go to the Brian Sewell and Rachael Johnston question and answer on the 22nd November in the evening at 6.30. I agree with you about Susan and you should know, and I wrote you expressing my feelings about her. Your designs both here and in your previous blog are out of this world, and you write rather well! What can’t you do? Look forward to seeing you soon and getting a copy of what looks like a remarkable book. Hope all goes well. Love Dave and Haze xx

    • Thank you Moira – that golden spider is indeed a wonder. Do you know the story in Gulliver’s Travels about the inventors trying and trying to weave fabric from spider silk? It was never strong enough – but now we know it’s clearly do-able, if laborious!

  5. thank you for such a vivid description of susan’s passion for the giving and receiving of exquisitely presented gifts, she was a joy to both give to and receive from, my dear friend x

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