About My Textiles May 2013

I remember searching a scrap bag as a child and being astonished by the glorious snippets i was allowed to keep. |I had forgotten this memory until clearing out my scrap bucket this week. Pieces I might have thrown away, I have kept, in turn, for my gorgeous grand children. As a child I had a small maroon chain stitch machine that really didn’t work well at all but i made dolls clothes and many presents. I loved stitching.

Formal sewing at school made me dislike it but on leaving, my childhood love of stitching returned. I hand stitched a floor length, seamless skirt from recycled hexagons, made an old jeans jacket and a recycled checked shirt. At eighteen I learned to spin, dye and felt, designed and knitted garments using my own handspun wool.

From twenty to thirty I became a teacher, then had babies and made most of our own clothes. I tapestried a hassock, taught myself blackwork, learned ribbon flowers, silk painting, trapunto and many other techniques.
I always tried to be neat in my work but my fingers were not dextrous, I struggled with restrictive boundaries in workshops and clone-like expectations.

My relationship with mainstream education did not flourish. instead, I found a home working with the marginalised, disaffected and excluded.

My own struggles and those of others have been the themes of my life.

Thirty years passed during which I continued to roll around the margins of textiles. Finding Helen Howes at The Raveningham Centre changed that and became a gift. I started with a book making workshop, she didn’t seem to mind if I didn’t do things in quite the same way as others and actively encouraged my explorations. I attended a postcards workshop and became braver, taking along old bike tyres, spoke nipples and inner tubes. My work wouldn’t sit flat and was difficult to manipulate but I loved it. For the first time, I had found a teacher who respected my ideas and became a teacher I could listen to and learn from.

Helen nurtured the creative artist in me and allowed me to experiment.

In 2012 I discovered Jude Hill’s Spirit Cloth, on line courses. Her techniques with old fabrics mirrored my own interests and continue to influence my work which becomes increasingly exploratory and rewarding.

I have recently retired and a whole new world of creativity has opened up. I plan, design or stitch most days and am just beginning to develop my own ‘voice’.

I do not feel restricted by formality or process. My work will never be neat or stitched with precision. If you show me a technique I will learn it quickly, will explore and interpret it and discover what I want to do with it. I make new from old and watch interestedly, taking note as the materials steer both methods and design.

I enjoy my relationship with The Quilters Guild, which was prompted by a Lauren Shanley workshop at York Quilt Museum. i struggle to see myself or describe myself as a ‘quilter’, but a definition of contemporary quilting is ‘more than one layer held together by stitch’ and thus, although i see myself as someone who plays with experimental textiles, I am, by definition, a quilter.

Main influences to date: Caroline Broadhead, Helen Howes, Jude Hill, Lauren Shanley.