Conversation Starter

I had an unexpected conversation with a taxi driver from Algeria after I got into his taxi with a clear plastic bag full of yarn. This prompted him to ask if I… (he made a knitting motion with his hands as he didn’t know the English word for it). I replied yes and he started telling me about his ‘old sister’ back home in Algeria who is always knitting. She makes hats, scarves, mittens, socks, jumpers… anything that you might want, you just have to ask. He said he never had a bought knitted item growing up, they were always made by her (although he was quick to point out that it was because she wanted to, not because she had to). Now she mainly makes smaller items for babies, celebrating family and friends’ new arrivals.

Everyone* in his family could knit and sew, and he remembers seeing them gathered around together talking and making, or working collaboratively on a bigger piece (he gave an example of them embroidering a table cloth, or nappe in French, each working on a section of it).

Apparently his sister did a course in sewing and knitting earlier in life, although she never made items to sell. Her work has always been focussed on her family. During the ’60s and ’70s she would embroider the haik they wore for modesty.

Example of Algerian women wearing the haik

It looks like his sister’s love of knitting has rubbed off on him, as he was sporting a lovely navy knitted hat with white and lime green highlights, and he was obviously very proud of his sister, her skill and the items she produces. All this from from a ten-minute journey with a bag of wool!

*When he said ‘everyone’, it was implied they were all female. He made no mention of men being involved in these activities and referred to aunts, sisters, mothers, cousins; everyone.

Royal Women image


This time of year is often associated with a ‘new year, new you’ mentality and the perception that to be better versions of ourselves we need to REDUCE everything from sugar to alcohol to the time we spend sitting on the couch. This in turn generally makes everyone miserable, and it’s compounded by the fact it’s dark and cold during January in the UK.

So I’m turning this idea on its head and saying for 2018 let’s INCREASE our attendance at fashion and textiles exhibitions, improve our knowledge, broaden our horizons and enjoy ourselves! Luckily, there’s a great exhibition offering for 2018…

Photo of textile designs by Orla Kiely

Orla Kiely image,

This list isn’t exhaustive, there are many tantalising exhibitions on in Europe and America this year too, and more still in the UK I haven’t included here.  Let this be a starting point, a wish list, to help us on our way to celebrate the craft and design of fashion and textiles in 2018.

Closing soon

If you’re anything like me you’re not quite ready for it to be 2018 just yet… there are a few things on your to do list that you didn’t quite finish as the year came to a close.

It seems that each year fashion and textiles exhibitions are becoming more frequent and seen as mainstream rather than niche, which is great and I really do hope this continues, although it does make it difficult to see them all.

So, here’s my list of must-see-closing-soon fashion and textiles exhibitions – if they’re lingering on your to do list from 2017 tick them off before it’s too late!

Image of fabric by Wallace Sewell

Work by Wallace Sewell,