A novel approach to embroidery
This article is from 2007.
Things to Make and Mend is a quiet, moving, wryly amusing work which explores themes of friendship, class and betrayal. Ruth Thomas highlights her themes through the turbulent relationship between two very different women, Rowena and Sally, who first meet in a needlework class in the 1970s. ‘The story began with two teenage friends’ shared hatred of sewing and the parallel snagging of both their needlework and their friendship,’ says Thomas. ‘A kind of nostalgia for the 70s crept in along the way, as the more I thought about those times and social hang-ups, the more they seemed firmly relegated to history. But I also wanted to focus on the way that, even now, women still have so many obstacles to overcome in combining motherhood with a career.’
A committed short story writer, with two highly acclaimed collections under her belt, Thomas was initially reluctant to divide her novel into distinct chapters as it flows from past to present and between two different voices throughout. Later, though, she hit on the novel idea of using embroidery techniques as chapter headings, allowing her to maintain the sense of fluidity while still signalling a change in mood, theme or voice. ‘I was particularly pleased to discover that there is an embroidery stitch called “Long-legged Cross”,’ she says. ‘One of my characters has long legs and was, in that particular scene, very cross.’ (Allan Radcliffe)
Recommended Reading: Sea Monster Tattoo is the Edinburgh writer’s debut short story collection from 1997.
20 Aug (with Anna Ralph), 7.30pm, £5 (£3).