Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Vintage Fabrics with Tales to Tell


Vintage fabric handmade products

Amy uses recycled vintage fabrics in her handmade bags
Amy Bluett of Anecdotalist; maker of handmade bags, banners and other fabric goods


A while ago I was visiting the Vintage Pop Up Market in London’s Spitalfields when I found myself coming to a dead halt by Amy Bluett’s stall. It was draped in handmade bags and banners adorned with vintage materials and above swung a banner spelling out Anecdotalist. 

I moved in to find out more.

It was a cold day and we both had red noses but Amy’s articulate passion for her fabrics-with-a-story-to-tell animated us both – this was clearly a case requiring a blog posting! 

Amy set up Anecdotalist in October 2012 to sell items made of fabrics with a past – sometimes mysterious, sometimes avant-garde, occasionally run-of-the-mill but certainly worth recounting by Amy to her customers hence the name. A thoughtful, informed person, Amy's whole ethos, including her products made from recycled materials, is entirely in synch with the zeitgeist’s cutting edge.  

Recycled material, vintage fabric handmade labels by Anecdotalist
Vintage Fabric labels
Amy studied as a fashion curator and has created a range of gorgeous tote bags, cards, framed works and bunting using the 18th century sewing technique of appliqué. Among other things, she sees her work as part of a bigger effort to keep the traditional crafts alive. 

As far as Love it Back is concerned, Anecdotalist is selling seriously desirable recycled gifts and I love the way an Anecdote about the fabric is secreted inside about every single Anecdotalist handmade bag. 

Amy sources her fabrics on the internet and from junk shops. One particular fabric she says she was lucky enough to source online is also in the V&A Textile Collection. Her swatch was in beautiful condition and dated from 1971: it was designed by David Bartle for Heals department store and was called Gaiety. It would have been sold as an interiors fabric, probably for upholstery. Knowing this made it very hard for her to cut up and use on Anecdotalist products; it went against everything she had been taught on her MA in Fashion Curation. “My tutors would probably be furious!”  Better to put it to creative use, I'd say.

Another great piece of fabric, she says, came from a fantastic junk shop in Margate. The owners of this place are complete eccentrics and remind her of many of the people from her hometown near Hay-on-Wye. The shop has boxes and boxes of textiles to rummage through and on a good day you can find whole curtains from across the decades for less than a few pounds.

Vintage fabric handmade tote bag by Anecdotalist
Vintage Liberty Fabric Bag

Amy’s name choice for her company is key to the difference she wants to make. Her passion for learning makes her equally as passionate about others learning. Her work in a secondary school in Hackney over the past three years has opened her eyes to the lack of creative thinking and making in the current curriculum. This concern has prompted her to set up a fashion club in partnership with the London College of Fashion to provide an outlet for creativity.

Vintage fabric handmade tote bag by Anecdotalist
Vintage 1960s psychedelic print
Amy is driven not so much by a loathing of waste as by the current failure to preserve and recycle old things. “It bothers me”, she says, “that children from birth are surrounded by new everything, so I suppose I thought, if I could make products for children that look beautiful but are made with second hand materials, I'm in someway curbing my own frustrations as well as saving the earth!”

Amy reminds me of architect Kevin McCloud in the way she extolls the human need to link the past to the future by giving what we treasure new purpose. “If we continue to buy new this and that, we'll never have anything to form stories from, we'd be essentially eradicating a part of our history from the future. In my view fabric is one of our closest, most important histories. It tells people about design, taste, clothing, everyday life, health, class and such a lot more.  I think everyone should be entitled to owning a little bit of history."  I couldn't agree more and as the vintage fabric bags made with recycled materials only costs £11.00 each while the bunting goes for £10.00, owning a bit of Amy's history is entirely affordable.