It started in the autumn of 1953. Twenty-eight year-old Laura Ashley had just been to the handiworks exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum and she was feeling inspired. She’d seen a display of intricate patchworks and made up her mind to have a go at her own. Investing £10 in wood for a screen, dyes and some linen, Laura along with her husband Bernard, began printing at the kitchen table of their tiny flat. Their first attempts included small squares in geometric patterns followed by headscarves — a trend among young girls sparked by Audrey Hepburn in the film Roman Holiday.
Orders grew quickly for the enterprising couple, selling great quantities to shops including John Lewis and Heal's. Alongside the scarves, the couple designed tea towels and placements often with quirky and humorous images from Victorian playbills and advertisements.