Saturday, 9 February 2013


I recently read an article over at DesignSponge about Martha Stewart and how influential she had been (and still is). 

I tried to think of a British equivalent. It's difficult - we have many National Treasures, of course, and my favourites would include Jilly Cooper, Jeanette Winterson, Penelope Keith, Stephen Fry, Nigel Slater... But they're writers, broadcasters, cooks, 'personalities'.

In terms of a 'home maker' - someone who ticks all the boxes when it comes to cookery, craft, interiors, gardening (all of which I suppose now come under the umbrella of 'lifestyle'), it really isn't easy. Kirsty Allsop is possibly a modern-day equivalent. Of course, 'home making' is a US term. We have 'housewife' or 'stay at home mum'. No real connotations of creativity there then.

There are a few books which did have a big influence on me at an early age and they were written by a very unlikely (life)style icon. We're going back to the 1980s here. A time when I remember my mum wearing culottes, pastels, cotton knits, shoulder pads (and later snipping them out again). The kitchen was newly-decorated with red and white accessories. We had a lime green Datsun with a vinyl roof. The sun always shone... or so it seems now as I look back.

My brother bought my mum a new book for her birthday. She'd asked him for it, and later she bought the next instalment. It was about sewing, home making, parenting and general 'lifestyle' matters. It was written by Una Stubbs. She was one of those celebrities who, at the time, appeared on TV often - in Give Us a ClueWurzel Gummidge, and on the many game shows (although with only three channels to choose from I suppose you were much more likely to keep seeing the same people).

I loved the books (titled A Stitch in Time and In Stitches). Una's London home looked more like a rural retreat - softly lit and cosy with mellow exposed brick and hand-painted kitchen and wardrobes. It had the ubiquitous 1980s dried flower arrangements and baskets of potpourri - me and Mum made both - but there were also ideas which I still use today.

One of those is decanting toiletries into nicer bottles and removing labels from plastic ones. My best friend always laughs at me for it. I blame Una. My mum once got confused and poured an unidentified substance into her bath, assuming it to be bubble bath. It turned out to be beetroot juice. She turned an odd shade of pink.

Looking at these books now, I'm amazed at how simple they are. No mentions (obviously) of technology; instead, references to Victorian household manuals. Some of the photography is very blurred. The pictures would never get into print now. But they're still good books with some useful advice and more than a few happy memories attached.

All images taken from 'In Stitches' (1984) and 'A Stitch in Time' (1985) by Una Stubbs, published by Ward Lock


  1. I have those two books and love them! I particularly want to find somewhere to buy enamel or melamine plates and cups rather than buy paper for parties each year, which is an idea from there.

  2. I have those same books and love them! In one of them she mentions buying a yellow enamel set of plates and cups to use for parties, I want to do a similar thing rather than buy paper ones each year for birthdays!


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