scarlet and grey




another-scarlet-and-greyThe other day I was bustling around gathering myself up ready to leave the house for a meeting – notebook, pen, diary, keys, map, letters for the post, dosh, spare scarf… and then I heard myself say out loud ‘Now all you need is your brains – and your lipstick’.

It made me laugh. I remembered a time years ago when the two came together in a pressing moment of need. I was driving a friend to the airport to catch a flight to Australia; time was already short when the car broke down on the motorway. Nothing to do but limp to the hard shoulder. There was no way we’d get to Heathrow now – hitching a lift on the M4 hardly seemed possible and was probably illegal – how would we get anyone rushing past to understand our urgent predicament? There was an old cardboard box in the boot – and I had my lipstick. Hollywood bathroom mirror messages sprang to mind. On the box I wrote the big bright red letters HELP – TO HEATHROW NOW PLEASE! It worked – someone stopped pretty sharpish, my friend jumped in and off he went to Sydney!


A recent feature about hitchhiking on BBCradio4 set me thinking; I travelled widely in England via the kindness of strangers when I was young – we all did. The last time I hitched a lift was in July 2005 – on the 7th in fact. That morning I happened to be ensconced in the Pakistani Embassy getting my visa to go to Karachi to do some printing. I was there for hours; with passport finally stamped, I emerged into a strangely quiet Belgravia. Walking through to Sloane Street I saw no buses; dialling work to say I was on my way I could get no connection. It was most puzzling. I decided to walk down to Peter Jones in Sloane Square – they’re sure to know what’s going on, thought I. At the Customer Collection point there was a television screen – and then I understood what had happened – the awful London bombings. I started to make my way South, back to work. I’ll hitch a lift, thought I, someone’s bound to stop. But nobody did. They looked and rushed on. Not until I reached the river did a van driver finally pull over and offer me a lift. I suppose on that day everyone looked suspect, even a granny, and everybody was jittery and suspicious.pavement-leaves-2

The kindness of strangers – I’ve benefitted often; from an impulsive young man presenting me out of the blue with a bunch of flowers on a station platform, to a completely unknown young woman opening her front door to rescue me from an unhinged, abusive and threatening rant in the street; and many many more less dramatic kindnesses in between. And once a passer-by saved me from a desperate choking fit with a swift Heimlich jolt which I’m sure saved my life. I am so thankful for these acts. I have just heard that Professor Heimlich has died, at a good old age. station-bunch

‘Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ were the words that came to mind as we did our tai chi practice on a damp and hazy morning – mist and mystery, with the skeleton trees showing us their bones and the winter birds on the hunt for breakfast, flitting and perching, their tails curiously perky in the dreich. The usual traffic noise, always less at the weekend, was muffled; a sense of the silence pervaded. Later I noticed that our little rowan tree was absolutely packed with blackbirds on every spare twig – it seemed unusual behaviour for these bossy territorial proclaimers.


Christmas is nearly here. We’ve developed the annual community habit of having a real tree in the foyer of our block, and families with children are invited to come and make decorations for it.decoration-table This weekend we assembled in my flat for a glue and glitter-fest! Hot cocoa, biscuits and mulled wine supplied, and my studio cupboard raided, we set to – 8 or 9 assorted youngsters and accompanying adults.daisy-and-the-doily We had a great old time, invented and made lots of sparkly decorations, and trooped downstairs to hang them up on our beautiful gift of a tree. Admiring our work we all had a little sing-song together – lovely! I’m sure glitter will be winking at me from all sorts of unlikely places until this time next year.reaching-the-top-of-the-tree

Last year I wrote about William Kentridge’s remarkable exhibition at the Marion Goodman Gallery. This year I must recommend a visit to the Whitechapel Gallery to see his latest show Thick Time. It’s entirely immersive – for me an intense experience of video and music. The sight of a drawn line suddenly appearing and progressing through the landscape made me gasp with excitement at the time, and remains with me. Watch the video of him talking about the show in the above link.


Family lore has it that my dad was a silent child and didn’t utter a word until he was 4. At that point he came out with the sentence “What a handsome dog”! I feel rather the same about our plump cushion – ‘Spot the Dog’ – which is one of a group of newly printed products.dogs-dogs-dogs We have new Cote d’Azure cushions, small and grand, and the Bedouin Stripes in two colourways, Marine and Milano. All with varied pipings and reverses including a merry new hand-painted dot that I have the feeling will be seeing quite a lot of action in the future. The cushions have led to a lovely order for Cote d’Azure yardage for an upholstery project in Miami – so pleased.


Were we talking of Christmas? There’s still time, just, to send for, and receive, some fun, interesting, unique and colourful gifts from our online shop – the 2017 calendar, cushions, scarves of silk and new wool mufflers, greeting cards, hand-painted hankies and
presents-orderanimals, dolls and fairies. We’re giving a 10% discount on all orders over £50.00 – enter NLX2016. I am also available as a present myself – not just for special commissions – I’m often told by students that they’ve been given one of my courses for Christmas or their birthday. It’s always very nice to be that sort of parcel! You’ll find the list of up-coming courses here . And keep an eye on our events page as there’ll be more short workshops during the Josef Frank exhibition coming next at the Fashion and Textile Museum – scheduled for half-term teenagers and their sketchbooks, as well as others for adults – dates yet to be confirmed.3-little-sketchbooks

Readers may have noticed that at the end of each blog I thank Molly, who is the most brilliant help with organising and posting this blog, among many other things – quick, wise and patient. Well this time I’ve had to manage on my own and try to remember all the whizzy clicks she does, because – she’s had a baby! Her beautiful little daughter was born the other day, safe and well. So – very many congratulations to Molly and Steve, and welcome to the planet, Piper Belle.f3bebabff3d13500e823a6db7b1b56ff

Thanks to Molly, Steve, and the Glenhurst Court families and Pablo Picasso.

Stop Press – Post Office strike action – if you’re in the area of SE19 you can always collect your last-minute orders personally…


Oh – and I nearly forgot – Happy Holidays to you all!

19 thoughts on “scarlet and grey

  1. Merry Christmas Sarah – love reading your posts. Have just come back from India – if you haven’t been put it on a wish list as the colours, fabrics and printing houses in Jaipur are more than inspirational. Hope to see you again in 2016. All the best – Glynis (from your course at Bradness Gallery 2016 I was the little cat woman!!!)

  2. Marlene Dietrich, playing a Mata Hari type spy in the early 30s movie Dishonored, faces the firing squad only after asking for and slashing on her lipstick. It’s a b/w movie by Von Sternberg, but the red of the lipstick is clear. For most things and all days now, I need red lipstick.

    And here’s your lipstick, your songbirds, and your rowan on what must’ve been a day of grey , in Seamus Heaney’s loveliest poem

  3. Brought a tear to my eye, another generation to train up for the wonderful world of rich colour and pattern. xxx

  4. Another great post Sarah I love the way your writing flits from one thing to another but still hangs together as a complete piece!! It’s like you were talking! I look forward to many more of your blogs and brilliant creations in 2017 have a great Christmas and a peaceful new year! Thanks Anne x

  5. Oh Sarah, this post is especially wonderful! As usual with your writing, I can “see” every experience you mention here, from the blackbird-filled tree to the lovely gift of flowers from the stranger on the train platform. Thanks ever so much for brightening my day! I read the news of the postal strike this morning – of course just in time for your holiday sales rush. Still, I know fortune will shower you during this last week before Christmas and Hannukah . . . and all will be well. Much love from Los Angeles. xx

  6. Happy Christmas Sarah: I love your colourful and thought-provoking blog and look forward to it appearing in my inbox like magic every month! Thank you for all the inspiration, and I hope to see you in person at one of your courses or workshops next year. Best wishes, Olivia xxx

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