May 13, 2024

Carol Tulloch


Jumper born by hand night and day, day and night
considered knit-purl patches, squares, oblongs
embroidery cross, run over joins and planes
buckle into memories of its making
to live with making to live, to wear, too heavy to bear 
this narrative of a time, could not function
like other garments that share a life
was laid to rest
to look upon you now, I see the sole memory
September’s gift of renewal, undelivered
‘Children. When they are young they tangle your feet’ 
whaling cloth holds that moment of primal loss
relived, year on year on year on year…

In September 2023 I joined the ‘Home: Poetry of Place’ workshop, led by Genevieve Stevens, at Charleston, East Sussex. As part of the course we were required to write a sonnet and I focused on a jumper I had decided would be my submission to ‘Textile Message’; I thought writing the sonnet could help me to start thinking about the jumper, and perhaps contribute towards a longer text.

Between late 1989 and 1990 I designed the jumper, made a paper and knitting pattern for it, hand knitted and hand stitched it. These clothes-making skills, developed between 1983 and 1988 as a fashion and textiles student, enabled me to draw on my own reserves to soothe the pain of a miscarriage on 5th September 1989. Through the crafting of the poem I found solace within the waves of loss. For example, the use of a phrase my mother quoted, ‘Children. When they are young they tangle your feet’ evoked what we would never share, but my mother had with me. 

I was not prepared for my reaction to reading the poem in the safe space of the workshop. As I said the words out loud, they reverberated with what the jumper represents, the long haunting of my miscarriage. The loss had been with me for so long, it was part of me; unfeasibly, I believed everyone knew—that what I was dealing with internally must have been known, somehow, externally. With each line I read, the years of sorrow around 5th September 1989 snowballed into the last line, so that I was unable to say the last repeated word, ‘year on year…’.

Carol Tulloch is a writer, curator, maker, and Professor of Dress, Diaspora and Transnationalism at Chelsea College of Arts, University of the Arts London. She is an honorary senior research fellow at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Her research studies how Black people negotiate their sense of self, through their styled body, within different cultural and social contexts alongside the lived experiences of other social groups for an expanded understanding of being and belonging to a place. She incorporates difference, style narratives, cultural and familial heritage, auto/biography, personal archives, activism, agency and making, and more recently personal narratives.
Carol’s publications include: ‘Sew Me a Quilt. Tell You a Story.’ (with Sequoia Barnes) in Clothing Cultures (2023); ‘We Haven’t Got Here Just on Our Own: It’s a Conversation’ in Left Feminisms: Conversation on the Personal and the Political’ (2023); ‘T-Shirt Matters’ in Fashion Knowledge: Theories, Methods, Practices and Politics (2022); ‘If I don’t do some couching I will burst’ in European Journal of Cultural Studies (2022); ‘Long Time Gyal Me Never See You’ in Akeem Smith: No Gyal Can Test(2021); ‘Epiphanies of Dress’ in Lubaina Himid (2021); ‘Style Activism: The Everyday Activist Wardrobe of the Black Panther Party and Rock Against Racism Movement’ in Fashion and Politics (2019); The Persistence of Taste: Art, Museums and Everyday Life After Bourdieu (2018). Carol’s exhibitions include: Jessica Ogden: Still (2017); Rock Against Racism (2015); Handmade Tales: Women and Domestic Crafts (2010); Black British Style (2004); A Riot of Our Own (2008).
Carol showed the artwork Remains of the Day at the Chelsea Arts Club, 16 April—6 May 2024.