The Cottage Orné Quilt

The Cottage Orné Quilt
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Friday, 13 September 2013

The Land of Laura Ashley

Last week I travelled to Llanidloes to view the latest exhibition at the Quilt Association's gallery.  Whenever I travel to this little town, almost in the centre of Wales, I think of Laura Ashley and this year it is 60 years since it all began in that part of Wales.

I love this picture of Laura, she looks so calm and strong and I can't help but wonder how it would be now if she had not died in a tragic accident?

This Diamond Anniversary was celebrated with an exhibition of dresses in the Costume Museum in Bath - and it looked as if it was a lot of fun as everyone was encouraged to come along in their favourite LA dress!  Chance would be a fine thing if I could get into mine, but I still have two in my wardrobe!

This was how everyone wanted to look in the 70s -

The main factory was in Carno and the first shop in Wales was in Llanidloes. The picture below is the old station buildings in Carno which was the first factory, later a large modern one was built.

Sadly nothing much is left.  The house the Ashley's lived in has been sold, the family has dispersed and the company no longer belongs to them and there is no Laura Ashley shop in Llanidloes, it closed a few years ago.

Laura and Bernard are both buried in Carno.  Laura died in 1985 and had a quiet private burial, Bernard's in 2009 was a large and lavish funeral and really this reflects their personalities.  Laura being the quiet determined character and Bernard the flamboyant innovator!

Ten years ago on the 50th Anniversary, the Quilt Association celebrated the occasion with an exhibition devoted to quilts made with LA fabrics.  I would love to have seen something similar this year.  Indeed why not every 10 years as it was such a part of the quilting revival here in Wales as well as in the rest of the UK.

Though Laura died in 1985 her name lives on and we all have the fondest memories associated with her products.  We look back with nostalgia at the dresses and patchwork we wore and created then.  The dresses have been honoured this year, when are we going to celebrate the quilts we made and wouldn't this be wonderful if it was done in Wales?  Wherever it is, it is long overdue as many of us who made quilts in those days and still do and have the memories and can contribute, are dropping off the perch?

P.S.  When I was searching for images I came across a picture and a remark by the Laura Ashley archivist who said that the china doll the company produced looked a little like Laura!

and I must say I had thought the same. I have this doll in a similar coloured outfit which I treasure.  Better still, I also have the box!  She too has trouble with her hair just, I suspect, as Laura did!


serendipity said...

What a wonderful trip down memory lane! I would have loved some of those long dresses, but it was a bit before my time and I probably couldn't have afforded them then anyway! I did make all the curtains and duvet cover for our first house with L.A. fabric though, and have kept the 1983 catalogue and book about furnishing a country house as a nostalgic reminder.(And I've still got all the fabric stashed away) Debbie.

Heather said...

Thanks so much for the bit of history about Laura Ashley. I lived in England in 1985 and 1986 and just loved shopping there. I had no idea that Laura passed away during that time.

Jenny M said...

An interesting post as I didn't know much about Laura Ashley and the Co. Here in Melbourne, Australia there is a couple of LA shops that I know of.

Susan Briscoe said...

I love your idea for having a quilt exhibition featuring quilts made with LA fabrics every decade. Could you be a driving force for this? I have some LA fabrics in my stash even now and made a quilt several years ago combining 1980s LA fabrics (brushed cottons in strong, rich colours) with other scrap bag materials - one of my favourite quilts.

Sue said...

Lovely post Mary, I don't have my LA dress anymore but do have a photo of me proudly wearing it at a wedding in 1977.
I also have fond memory's of decorating rooms in my Edwardian house with matching wallpaper and curtains.
I remember when I felt everything had to match and still have table napkins I made in the same wallpaper as the dining room.

Radka said...

Beautiful post, Mary :-)

Mom E. said...

I did not realize that LA had passed away then, either. I am of Welsh heritage, we sing like crazy in our family. I loved her dresses, I have a few patterns that she made in the early 1980's. She changed the dress scene and gave us another option to mini skirts and platform shoes, I loved the feminine feeling I had wearing those dresess...I want to learn more about her, even though she is gone...I remembered not hearing much about her anymore and the clothing style faded and changed, but I didn't know why. So sad. Thanks for the reminder and the post.

Jane in Cumbria said...

Hi Mary, my very first patchwork was Laura Ashley fabrics. I used to love wearing her dresses...
Thank you for your comment on my blog. As you are 'no reply' I am replying here. I agree about the herringbone stitch. There is also the blanket stitch. If I was doing a reproduction I would certainly want to use it, but in this quilt I am just going with what I like doing....Just hope I won't regret it if photos ever turn up!!!

Little Welsh Quilts and other traditions said...

I think you are absolutely right Jane. Do what you enjoy best! It will be your version and will be stunning I am sure.

I am not good at applique and don't enjoy it but love cutting out flowers and herringboning them! To each her own!

audrey said...

Oh I loved her work. Thanks for sharing the pics of the dresses esp.

Gloria said...

Thank you for this reminder about Laura Ashley and her fabrics and frocks.

I recognise quite a few of the fabrics in the pictures and made dresses from Laura Ashley prints as soon as they came on the market.
I wish i had kept allmy scraps but was not a quilter then and moving from country to country means one de-cluttered every few years.

I wish LA would bring back re-prints of her fabrics - I'm sure they would be as big a hit as the Liberty/William Morris quilt fabrics. Do you think they would if we all wrote to the current owners?

Or perhaps they could be reproduced by a museum?

Little Welsh Quilts and other traditions said...

I'm not sure they would reprint old fabrics in their original form, as they would probably tweak them a bit. There's certainly no harm in writing to them Gloria!

Fabric Carolina said...

Its a good think to remember olden days apparels made with LA fabric. i would also like to suggest my own creative fabric collections . you may like it.
Laura Ashley Fabric