Saturday, 11 April 2015

Remembering Clothkits

This Easter has been the Easter of the sock (and I'm still knitting). But most every Easter I make something. I connect chocolate, roast lamb and shops being closed for the weekend with new projects. Creme Egg in one hand, crochet hook in the other. When I was a teenager, my Easter projects very nearly always involved something to wear. This was the time to open up the season's first Clothkits parcel. Clothkits?

PinkFresh layout Clothkits


We discovered them at Easter, too. I came back from an exchange trip to France and my sister had the catalogue waiting for me. 

Back in the 80's, and before, Clothkits produced...kits: pattern pieces screen printed onto fabric to be cut out and stitched together into coordinating outfits. Instructions, buttons, zips, even a label: everything came neatly packaged up, ready to sew. Clothkits was our secret weapon. We didn't have much to spend on clothes, but because we had to put in a bit of creative effort this way, these kits were a parent-approved purchase. We were always allowed to choose an outfit or two from the catalogue which arrived like Clothkjits clockwork twice a year, August and February. Those catalogues were works of art - with foldout flaps front and back, so you could compare colour swatches and decide which of the variously themed collections to choose. I wish we had kept ours. They're collectables now, selling on ebay for serious money. For a catalogue! 

I was about sixteen when I made the quilted jacket you can see on my layout (modelled here by my own sixteen year old). I had lots of other pieces - red cord dungarees, skirts, a gypsy petticoat - but the jacket survived because of its story. Of course. When I was nineteen, I put it on for a first trip to meet my new boyfriend's family. The girls all said "hello". They looked at each other. They looked at me. "Clothkits!" they chorused. And so that was alright. I would do. 

After that I had to keep it. And when that boyfriend asked me was there anywhere I wanted to go for my honeymoon - anywhere in England, which was as far as we could afford - I chose Bath. Partly because I knew it had a Clothkits shop. Was there one in Cambridge too? Am I remembering that right? I'm hoping I'm not the only one out there who waited for those catalogues and loved to rip open those packets.

When Clothkits closed I stopped sewing my own clothes. Several years ago, though, I discovered the name had been relaunched and there were kits to be bought once again. On my list, oh yes they are: how long can I hold out? At least until after the next pair of socks. That's all I'm saying.

Any other fans out there? Please say yes!

Details, Details


1. I've been meaning to make a "Clothkits" page for ages, so as soon as I saw this Pinkfresh paper, with its prints like the ones on the clothes I used to make, I knew I had a starting point. I had my doubts about the photo, which wasn't what I had wanted, but I decided to go ahead and see what i could make of it.

2. Oh, but choices! was that paper too busy? Would I be able to fit in the story? Was I just using it because I loved it and not because it was going to work? I pulled out some other choices..maybe white with the Pinkfresh stickers instead, just using the original as inspiration?

3. No: I'm going to stick with the original. Until I cut off that bottome strip I can never decide how it's going to look. Next..working with the photo I chose extras to enhance it instead of trying to ignore it. So, we have more woodgrain, which I found on my desk, with some "graffiti" stamps from Gossamer Blue

4. Nearly finished and just thinking about the journaling when I had a revelation! How about the best of both worlds! If I turned it into a double pager I could fit in all of the story AND have a chance to use the extra patterned paper and stickers. That's what I did:


So now it looks like this:


I have a feeling there'll be at least one more page, though. I still haven't told the story of how that Clothkits gypsy petticoat saved my life..

23 comments:

debs14 said...

Oh yes I remember clothkits! I made a few things when my daughter was little, the designs were so cute!

scrappyjacky said...

I remember them well....a venue in Hastings used to hold an annual clothkits clearance sale....and there were always long queues waiting for it to start. I made myself and DD1 a few outfits....and toys for her.

helena said...

oh yes I remember them too - although I remember the catalogue more than the kits so I suspect we didn't buy many - off to follow that link - I may be some time!

Karen said...

That's a new one to me, but if I'd been living in England I'm quite sure I would have known all about it. It would have been right up my alley in those days before paper crafting took over sewing as a hobby. I love that patterned paper; so perfect for the photo!

iwillbloom said...

Oh, Sian, what a delightful, delightful post. I so love how you tell your stories. Your way of doing so is so unique (I will always but always hold out hope that you start writing books...). Love your LO, too: you know I always love a LO spread that accommodates a mountain of journalling. So, so delightful, everything: you've put a spring in my step today (thank you!)....will check out the ClothKits link shortly....sounds fascinating!
P.S. Had to laugh that you chose Bath to be able to go to their shop!!!!

iwillbloom said...

P.P.S. You know I *will* be dying for you to tell the tale of how the gypsy petticoat saved your life....

Lea Lacoste said...

never heard of it but SO COOL!! really cute fabrics too in their shop

alexa said...

Your pages are a lovely tribute to them ... and such a pretty jacket. I still have the Clothkits jacket which my Mum sewed up for me when the children were small! I must look it out and photograph it! Off to click on your link.

Fiona@Staring at the Sea said...

Oh, I used to love their catalogues, with the little swatches. I didn't make anything back then, but I did make one of their Rob Ryan design skirts a couple of years ago. Gorgeous page.

Louise said...

Clothkits must have been before my time! :)

I'm always in awe Sian of the things you've kept. I'd love to have a closer look at your jacket. Super page too x

Lizzy Hill said...

Oh yes!! It works as a double so, sooo well.....& I wondered if they were stickers, or fussy cutting bits [uggh!] or stamps.....LOOOOVE the bunny down the bottom getting off his hill. Brill story - never heard of them there kits.....fascinating that the catalogues are worth so much AND that they've 'relaunched'...everything old is new again, eh??!!!!

Jennifer Shaw said...

A fun page and such a great story! I've never heard of these kits and I'm sure we never had anything like them in Canada. You and your sister sound like you were so creative at a very young age. Sewing was never my thing. My mother enrolled me and my sister in sewing lessons one summer when I was 13. First we made a pillow with applique and a zipper. I made it through that one with lots of help. Next it was onto a skirt. I ran out of time and never did get that zipper put in. My sister eventually did it for me as a surprise and wrapped it up for me for my birthday. I loved that skirt. :)

Karen said...

What a lovely page. Sadly I have never heard of Clothkits and feel that I have missed out.

Jo said...

I had never heard of Clothkits before and having just glanced at their website I'm scared to look any further because it could cost me a lot! That jacket is gorgeous x

Miriam said...

New to me too! I absolutely adore your DLO. the papers and the story are just fabulous! off to follow that link...

Gail said...

The layout looks super! We didn't have anything like that over here or maybe I might have sewn more clothes. Ok, now you can't leave off with that teaser of a petticoat saving your life.

Nathalie said...

I am so glad you stuck to that original Pink Fresh paper! Your page is fabulous and your story too! Everything I love about your style is there!
I have never heard of ClothKits but what a genius idea that is... Now I'm going to explore!

Barbara Eads said...

Before I got to the end of the post, I was thinking that the story provided your journaling for the page. And there it was!!! Great layout!

Julia said...

Funny I've never heard of them and I used to make lots of my own clothes back in the day! Love your pages - the story has been given pride of place which is lovely x

Susanne said...

Stylish and life-saving - yes, do tell us the rest of the story.

Melissa said...

Fantastic two-page layout to get the story told! And what a great story - I've never heard of Clothkits before reading this post, but I can tell they've been a wonderful part of your life then . . . and now again soon? And what a tease that last line of the post is - do tell!!!

Missus Wookie said...

Oh yes we had Clothkits - I had some bits from there as did my sisters.

Definitely have to share the story of the petticoat rescue tho' ;)

Lisa said...

Thanks for sharing how this gorgeous layout came together and the story behind the jacket. I've not heart of this kit but I also used to make my own clothes when I was younger - not so much any more :-) What a lovely layout. Makes me want to create.

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