from my window

bird and wispEach morning when I comb my hair I twist any stray wisps together and float them off through the open window in the belief that they will be found by some sharp-eyed avian and soon be lining a cosy nest. And each morning as I do so I repeat these lines of William Blake “The bird a nest, the spider a web, man friendship”. I am clearly a creature of habit and, to some extent, ritual! three webs   I wrote a blog with this title some years ago reflecting on home. Now I’m thinking more about friendship and what it means. These are extraordinary times, when our threads of connection are being tested, being valued, being stretched. Some of us are finding new ways of being together via the internet, for some the good old-fashioned postcard and telephone call connects, for some simply meeting with neighbours for a jabber over the fence does the job. But the pain of enforced solitude – of not to comfort the dying, not to hold a newborn, not hug the grandchildren, not touch a hand, not kiss a lover – is acute and cannot be mitigated by a screen. What will be the cost of these losses?holding hands black

On a lighter note, the question on everyone’s lips is this: are there really more birds around, or are we just hearing them now that their song isn’t being drowned out by cars, buses and planes? And by the same token are they feeling bolder, hopping about closer and able to find insects that haven’t this year been sprayed out of existence? Robins we know are sociable and curious creatures, ever on the beady lookout for a succulent snack, and particularly attentive when a human is at work with a spade. A pair were confidently feeding their young right there on our allotment table the other day.robins My brother tells us how he’s been conversing with owls in broad daylight in Richmond Park! Here, early one morning the first thing I saw through my rather grubby windows was an unusual group of black and white stripes – on a small fluffy bird. I’ve been hearing someone hammering away in a nearby tree lately, and here was a rather ruffled lesser spotted woodpecker fledgeling exploring the branches right outside my window. These close encounters make one feel favoured in some way. lesser spotted woodpeckerMy natural habit of finding pleasure in small things is a great advantage when obliged to live the confined life we do at present. moss garden 1With the excuse of thinking of new things that might be fun for children to do, a few sundays ago I made a little indoor moss garden – hoping to encourage some young people to enjoy a thing I loved doing myself as a little girl. Amazingly it’s still going strong – in fact growing strong. Those sycamore seedlings, so annoyingly ubiquitous in the garden now, make perfect little trees, and have ditched their cotyledons in favour of the first pair of grown-up leaves. The moss is flourishing and racing towards the pond, the tiny trefoils are spreading and the daisies are flowering like giants – so exciting! A landscape in miniature, ripe for story-making, story–telling, drawing, painting, just dreaming. And it was a perfect place for my isolation easter egg hunt – how that Lilliputian bunny managed to hide the eggs I’ll never know!

bags of scrapsI’ve been filling bags with scraps – papers, fabrics, ribbons, buttons, beads, postage stamps etc – for children of my acquaintance, both in my block and further afield. I’ve got plenty of stuff stashed away as resources for my collage and paper-cutting workshops – and I was right: “It’ll all come in handy one day”. Quite a good bagful, mainly fabrics, also went off to the South London Refugee Association


making the journalMy latest ‘make’ has been a weekly journal created from a cereal box and some old envelopes. With scissors, glue and some wire (could be string) to bind I’ve made a book of seven envelope pages, into which a little something for each day can be put – a leaf collected on a walk, a drawing, a poem, a thought… mine is very rough and ready, the cover decorated with a potato print. You could do far better I think!

finished journalLike many people in my type of business, the usual paid work which I need to earn my living has completely dried up for now – very scary stuff. So I’m trying to develop new thoughts and ideas with the future in mind, as an investment in myself. It’s been quite difficult at times to keep the creative action going. In the belief that one thing leads to another, I tend to work on the principle of ‘start where you know, do what you can’; but there have certainly been days when I couldn’t actually do either, when my usual energetic optimism disappeared. I feel a little restored now, and looking round my small flat I see that every inch is taken up with invented and potential projects. What a mess – but, as Bob Marley didn’t say – no caller, no seat!sitting roomI’ve been selling fat quarters online for a while – bundles of 6 quarter-metre cut pieces of lovely cotton, my designs, perfect for patchworking or small makes.fat quarters These have been collated by colour, and spurred on by my enterprising neighbour (and taichi partner) making us facemasks with my fabrics, I’ve put together some new bundles – stripes, spots and checks – all of which can be found here. I’m still despatching a full range of my goods – thanks to the wonderful Post Office and very kind family and neighbours – and am also offering a pick-up service for people who live locally in the SE19 area: order and pay online as usual and I will contact you direct to arrangeAnd I really have to thank UPS too – despite all, and with only a little delay, they duly delivered the two Cote d’Azure cushions which were the prize in The 80s Interior recent instagram giveaway – the winner lives in Oakland California! Wonderful – I’d begun to fear they’d be swirling round dusty doomy depots for months to stockWe have used various patterns for the facemasks, and you’ll know there are plenty to be found on the internet. I like those offered by Pajotten, a small independent clothing company in Kent; they have 2 styles – a bandana type and a smaller ‘ear elastic’ one that can be made easily without a sewing machine, and can be seen and downloaded here.mask pattern amendmentsAll this cutting of fabric has led me to some simple piecing and sewing myself. One such endeavour, a summer coverlet, has gone off to a brand new baby.Rowan's quiltI’ve also been investing in another piece of the future by making a small collection of hand-painted garments to be shown at Livingstone Studio. linen coatThis was to have happened last weekend alongside a special new late spring exhibition. Of course everything is postponed, but I’ve been working away on linens and cottons and the little group is building, sewn beautifully by my old friend Chris. As soon as I have more news about how and when they’ll be shown I’ll let you know.

I was thinking about this venture as I was teaching painting on fabric at The Sewing Workshop in Topeka Kansas in February – what an age ago that seems now! I just managed to squeak my trip in before the extent of Covid19’s deadly reach began to really make itself known.Sewing Workshop Teaching a week’s course there was quite something – eighteen assorted women from all over the States, ready to learn. We had a most creative and good-humoured week, lubricated by the generosity of Linda Lee and her assistants – though not as much sewing happened as I’d envisaged. I was eager to see how the painted fabrics would develop onto garments – all students being excellent and experienced stitchers; by the same token, they were eager to use the time to paint, developing all sorts of techniques and ideas in leaps and bounds. But I have seen some completed garments now – so beautifully made and executed. I hope they’ll be worn with real pride.sewing workshop clothes It was good to stop in New York on the way there and see friends and colleagues – doesn’t the Brooklyn Library have a magnificent portalSarah in NY, which leads, by the way, into an equally magnificent interior – and also to get a glimpse of our Central Park fabric in situ – overlooking Central Park itself, naturally.Central Park in NY

On my return, the long weekend course at West Dean went off beautifully too, though we were all becoming more and more conscious of the looming threat to our health, and the college made new provisions daily to keep us aware and safe – for which many thanks. It really is a wonderful place and space to work in. west dean short courseNaturally all my teaching, talking and any lectures have now been postponed and are being rescheduled. The colleges and companies contact all the students independently, and I am adding the new dates to my events page as they are decided . Many of my courses were sold out, and I do hope the re-scheduling will suit those of you who were already booked. Of course, things will continue to change, so I urge you to keep an eye on listings. SAC, slideshow talkThat’s a lot about fabric! Turning to paper – I’ve participated in The PrintBlock’s Offcut Project and my print ‘Music’ is now on sale from them for £30 – with 10 going to the Trussle Trust, 10 to the artist and the remaining balance going to the Printblock itself. Thank you Suki for setting this up. I’m also keen to participate in the Matthew Burroughs’ Artist Support Project – though I still need to sort out enough pieces to offer for this. These could be some of my prints on paper, original little paintings and/or painted cloth pieces – any views? Please investigate both these  initiatives if you can and are interested. They are real ways of helping artists to sell while helping each other and giving to charities tooMusic printAnd here is something new – a book, ‘The Art of Pattern’! It’s a visual record of the exhibit we put up at the Fashion and Textile Museum to complement their show ‘Liberty in Fashion’ in 2016. Stafford Cliff helped me mount the show and has designed the book too. As you can see here, it’s a delicious little tome, chock full of Susan’s and my work for Liberty from 1961 to 1977, full  of colour and pattern. This is a self-published book at present (so quite costly), and can be pre-ordered here now. I plan to gather orders and print in batches when we see a favourable moment, so customers will need to be patient please! I will sign each book before despatch. There’s very little profit in it for my company, but a donation of £5 from each sale will be made to the charity Refuge.

There’s another interesting (I hope) book in the offing – ‘Dailies’ – but more of that another day… and the family’s been busy too!

book spinesWho knows how long we’ll be in isolation and having to keep our social distance; it’s hard to maintain optimism and drive, and to envisage our futures. Many people are making and doing it seems; for me momentum and energy can arrive and then vanish again just as abruptly. Times of not doing – of simply being, thinking, grieving, dreaming are important too.

girl skipping

young neighbour twirling – through the window


Sarah Campbell Designs is now represented by YellowHouse for new licensing collaborations….

38 thoughts on “from my window

  1. I do that too, but not every day lol.. you okay Sarah?

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  2. I have just been catching up with your blog posts. What a lovely surprise to see that my dolls make an appearance in your book, spotted in the little video preview! Thank you so much for including them – and for the chance to make them and all the other dolls for you in your marvellous fabrics.

  3. Pingback: just because we can’t see it… | Sarah Campbell Designs

  4. Hi Sarah

    I just loved reading your blog and am sharing it with several like-minded friends. Your colours, designs and inspirational ideas are so uplifting in these worrying times so a big ‘Thank You’ and a virtual hug from me.

    I do hope that you and your family are all well? And your neighbours continue to be so supportive that you described in your last email? I am well and my family too although Ruth, my youngest sister is still working at the Marsden Hospital part-time so I worry about her. The rest of us are working at home which we are very thankful but I do miss them all despite our Zoom calls. I’m not good at switching off so my working hours stretch as the pace is so frantic and my productivity feels that it goes up and down like a yo-yo depending how my work is going, what the weather is doing and perhaps my blood sugar levels too!

    I’m so glad that we have CP Park and this glorious Spring weather so I get out early to walk or cycle which I feel really sets me up each morning. But I really miss meeting you for coffee and catching up with all your news so hope we can resume once it is safe to do so.

    In case you have not seen this Gov support in case you want to apply, or share it with anyone who you think maybe interested:

    We really hope it helps small businesses; the initial take up has been very positive. It may not be perfect so it is constantly being reviewed from feedback we receive. Many of my colleagues are working extremely hard to deliver this and other business support policies so much faster than anyone had ever dreamed of before. Thankfully our minister and senior leaders have been very supportive.

    I hope that you are able to relax a little during VE Day today and will look forward to seeing you again soon,


    Jane xx


    • Thanks Jane – and for the link and info. Yes, I continue well and pretty busy. I can’t say i’m moved to housework though – the accumulation of dust is impressive! Perhaps we can have a socially distanced coffee outside somewhere soon… xx

  5. Dearest Sarah
    What a wonderful read. For a moment I felt I was at your studio with you, the vibrant colours splashing my senses from every direction. You are such an inspiration and your grandchildren and I can’t wait till we can embrace you again! Xxxx

    • thank you Juana – you have been instrumental in preparing many of those fat quarters, so you’re with me in spirit as I fold and pack them up. I agree – a good hug is very overdue and will be wonderful when it happens. xxxx

  6. Dear Sarah, it is good to have news and see that you are doing well in spite of what is happening. I, for one, cannot wait to come back to the UK and one of your courses.
    Hugs and love from Florence

  7. Hello,
    Thank you for the peek at the planned exhibition at The Livingstone Studio.
    I can’t wait!
    John Evans is a very dear friend of mine, he sent me the link to your delightful blog.😻

  8. Thanks Sarah .. that book feels like the patterns of my life .. with masses of memories of mum.. sending love xxxx

  9. Thanks so much for your cheering and honest blog – have just spent about 2 hours immersing myself in colour and pattern, choosing cards in your shop. Very self-indulgent but absolutely necessary to recharge the batteries! Thanks again Sarah, what a hopeful start to Mayday!

  10. Dear Sarah
    I can’t tell you how comforting it is to find even you sometimes lack motivation. A wonderful honest blog, as always. The spirits are so lifted by colour, birdsong, creativity and hope, thank you.

  11. Dearest Sarah! This really is one of your best posts yet! Thank you. This strange and bewildering shut down, I think, is bringing out more creativity in many of us. Love the videos and the little moss garden! A sad irony of this time is that (as you know) Sophie has been just a few hours’ drive away from me for months now, and we cannot see one another . . . good grief!! We’ve had lots of phone conversations, though, and hopefully a FaceTime this week. Well, I’m going to peruse your website/store today or tomorrow and buy something delicious for myself – which will bring a lot of cheer to my flat! I’ll be in touch about this soon. All the color in your post has given me faith that nothing can ever remove the beauty in this life – or the love. Love, Wendy

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