At our last meeting on the 9th September 2021 we welcomed 18 members and 3 guests into the Rathbone Pavilion for the first time since March 2020. Our speaker was Maggie Forbes whose talk was entitled “I sew therefore I am”.
Creative, entertaining and unique – three words to describe Maggie Forbes as she took us through the story of how she began designing and sewing bags then increased her range to jackets, coats and quilts. All supported with several beautiful examples of her work, we were assured that what we saw was a small selection of what she has. Her first bag was strip woven from her much loved and worn out first pair of Levi jeans and started what she described as her ‘obsession’ with making bags. Material used have ranged from crocheting with garden twine to Harris tweed, the designs are her own and often driven by necessity. A gorgeous purple jacket drew admiration from our group as well as a stylish yet very practical over the shoulder tweed bag. We are unlikely to forget the ‘designer jacket’ story that accompanied this jacket – Maggie was spurred on to make it after having to listen to a work colleague talk about their ‘des-ig-ner’ jacket; shortly after this she turned up with her purple and velvet jacket designed and made by herself. Truly a designer jacket!
‘The handbag that went to see the Queen’ was the tale of Maggie’s visit to a Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace in recognition of work she has been involved in at the Garrison Church in Tidworth. She had us giggling as she built up the tension, described making the bag, her outfit and standing in line waiting for the moment she might meet the Queen. As she watched and waited, a blue hat moved down the line then back again – ‘I saw the Queen …’ she proclaimed ‘…or at least, the top of her hat!’.
Maggie works with fabrics given to her and wastes little. Her background and training is in dressmaking and after a varied journey, now works in New Threads at Weyhill Fairground. She loves bringing pleasure to others through her creativity. Whilst there were humorous stories behind several of the pieces she showed us, there were also those of care and compassion – a doll for an elderly friend towards the end of her life who had never had a doll, memory bears for children of a serviceman, a memory blanket for her son made from his well-loved tee-shirts (though it did sound like she may have to make him an updated one!).
Her best ideas come at night and she will make template designs as the forerunner of the final design; it is much easier to adjust the patterns from that than wait until you have cut into the final fabric and patterns evolve. One example of this was Maggie’s 50th birthday coat. Her wish was to make a tweed coat from British and Irish tweeds; the template coat showed her what was going to work and what wasn’t. It was a lovely coat however we were all amazed when she showed us the final tweed coat – a stunning combination of complimentary Welsh, Harris, Cotswold and Donegal tweed complete with antique horn buttons and meticulous attention to detail. A lovely touch was the inclusion inside the collar of all the individual tweed labels – a coat full of memories as the fabrics had been birthday gifts to her from friends and family. Of course, being Maggie, there was also a matching over the shoulder bag!
Maggie is such a talented craftswoman who takes pleasure in her work, she clearly has a very individual approach to life and has unique plans to ensure her family do not have to deal with her fabric stash at some later stage. It was certainly a colourful and enjoyable evening to welcome us back to WI meetings in the Rathbone Pavilion.
Our meetings for the next two months are:
14th October 2021: Sarah Slater who works at Hampton Court. Her talk is entitled “Sex, Secrets, Scandal and Salacious Gossip of the Royal Court 1660 - 1830” - Sarah has given this talk to many WIs over the past few months – all to rave reviews!!
11th November 2021: Trevor Vidler, Hampshire Search and Rescue – this is a voluntary organisation which works alongside the police in searches for vulnerable missing persons in Hampshire.
If you are interested in joining us at one of our Meetings, please contact me Carolyn Brown