Inspired by Clarice Cliff – Spring Crocus Tote Bag

Spring Crocus Tote Bag

Inspired by Clarice Cliff


For my blog this month I wasn’t quite sure what to do. I sat in front of the computer to look for some inspiration.  Ann and I decided this year we would start a blog and take it in turns on a theme of “through the seasons”.  I had recently taught a class with my City and Guilds girls on making a tote bag using Bosal as an interfacing and asking them to design a pattern to be stitched on the machine to embellish the basic design of the bag.  Thinking about my blog for this month and deciding that I would feature a tote bag which is an easy construction, but can be embellished in so many ways, I set about how I would embellish mine.

After looking through some books, google, Pinterest and an hour or three later I still couldn’t decide how to decorate the bag with a seasonal theme that struck a cord. Time for a cuppa I thought and low and behold there it was staring me in the face! I have a lovely set of Port Meirion tea, coffee and sugar storage jars and on the side of the sugar jar was my inspiration, beautifully painted crocus.

I love spring flowers, they never cease to amaze! Such delicate flowers pop their heads through the winter soil with a slight arrogance that nothing or no one is going to stop them from blooming. It gave me such a boost to think that these little flowers against all odds return every year to bring colour to grey days and cheer to those who take the time to appreciate them. The varieties of crocuses or croci are many and varied and are a member of the Iris family. When I have an idea I like to find out a little bit about it and learn something about the subject. I suppose that is down to City and Guilds Creative textiles, it teaches you how to research and make sense of the roots of your designing and idea process.  Sometimes ideas come straight away and you know exactly where you want to go with it and sometimes researching and sketch booking bring ideas to the fore, which you can build upon and realise in many different ways.

I started researching crocuses with a google search and amongst all the beautiful varieties of crocuses was a Clarice cliff tea pot painted with her famous crocus pattern.  Well that was it!!  I was off  down memory lane.  1980 something and I am sat in the sitting room in the home where I grew up. A room of small proportion with a 1950’s tiled fireplace, 1950’s 3 piece suite that my parents bought after they were married in 1952, my father had made the bookcases either side of the fire place and oak paneling half way up the wall with floral wall paper above. The ceiling was so low the lighting was on the wall and the window sills were 18 inches wide; my mother adorned them with her favourite Copper Lustre and Wedgewood vases and Jugs.

This was the best room and we were only allowed in there to watch television at night, Sunday night was Antiques Roadshow night. My sister to this day hates the title music because it reminds her of having to go to bed early to get up for school the next morning. She and I were so different I loved it! I couldn’t wait for the look on peoples faces when they were told how much their family heirloom was worth or even more exciting if they had found it in a jumble sale and it was worth a small fortune.  None more so than the pottery of Clarice Cliff. The vivacious colours and eccentric shapes must have caused quite a stir after the austere Victorian era and embraced the exuberance of the 1920’s after the harsh times of World War 1.

Her designs really broke the mold, everything thing about them seem to defy all previous recognized designs for household tableware.  To have been the owner of one of these teas services must have been liberating, a real statement and the very height of fashion at the time.  Her story is quite fascinating obviously a woman with great determination in a time where women were certainly not meant to be appreciated as artists in their own right. She pushed the boundaries in many ways and was also an influence for other women at the time.

With all this in mind and inspired by the life of Clarice Cliff, I set about drawing and designing my own crocus pattern to make into a stencil for my tote bag.  Coincidentally we had just received some new fabric from Moda, called Solana in a rich orange and yellow that were the perfect colours for this design, I love it when that happens it’s almost like it was meant to be.

I used fabric paint to stencil the design onto Moda muslin

After putting the front of the bag together I went a little step further and free motioned stitched around the stencil just to give it definition.  I have used Bosal foam interfacing its lovely to sew and gives the bag a firm but light structure, you can also use wadding if you want to.  It’s a great size for carrying your lunch in or  to keep your embroidery or knitting project in.  If you want to make this bag it will be on our website as a down loadable pattern and the crocus stencil will be available to down load for free.

After all these years I still don’t own a piece of Clarice Cliff, but it’s my birthday soon do you think if I drop enough hints I might get something then mmmmm……. I’ll let you know!

Since my last blog we have had some wonderful news, we are continuing teaching the City and Guilds Creative Textiles course through a company called Linked to Create after Newport Borough Council ceased to provide the administration. In my next blog I will be letting you know a little bit more about the course and how you can enroll for September. I can honestly say it’s one of the best things I have ever done and it taught me a great deal about design and confidence in my work.  I am so proud to teach this course and I am thrilled we will be able to continue so that you can benefit from this wonderful creative course too.

Take care all and let’s pray that soon we will be to meet again very soon, in the meantime I would love to hear how you get on making this bag if you decide to have a go.

Best stitches

Beccy x



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