CASE STUDY: Nikkita Morgan – Inverkeithing Stitching In Time

This case study, which explores a participatory textile making project, is written by Nikkita Morgan. To see more case studies or find out how to contribute one yourself, click here.

The hand in day allowed participants to see their own work, admire others’ panels and get a sense of the size and scale of the three-part finished artwork.

Title of case study project or workshop

Inverkeithing Stitching In Time

Name(s) of practitioner(s) and institution/organisation, if any

Nikkita Morgan (lead artist), Fife Council project, delivered by Fife Historic Buildings Trust.

Context for project

Inverkeithing Stitching In Time is an artist-led community-based textile project commissioned by Fife Historic Buildings Trust (FHBT). It is part of Inverkeithing Heritage Regeneration, a 5-year CARS/TH, delivering heritage-led regeneration, with funding from Historic Environment Scotland and the National Lottery Heritage Fund. 

When did the project take place?

The project ran June 2021 – February 2022.

Background(s) of the practitioner(s)

Nikkita Morgan is an Irish mixed media textile artist based in Edinburgh. She received her Master’s in Textile Design in 2014 from Norwich University of the Arts and was a recipient of the Arts and Humanities Research Council Award for her course of study. Morgan’s first degree, BA (Hons) in Textile, Art, Design & Craft (2010-13) was at the University of Wales: Trinity Saint David: Coleg Sir Gar.

Aims of project

The aim was a collaborative textile artwork for Inverkeithing’s historic Town House that interpreted key stories from its fascinating and extraordinary past. 

Our goal was an inclusive, participatory project that brought a wide range of community members together to learn about Inverkeithing’s rich history and for each participant to learn or develop their embroidery skills to enable them to produce their own stitched artwork. Participants worked individually, and collaboratively, to create an amazing artistic legacy. Everyone involved feels proud of the artwork, which will become a treasured community resource. It will offer visitors an engaging, alternative interpretation of Inverkeithing.

Panel 1, with 12th, 13th and 14th century stories.

Description of project

I devised and delivered embroidery-based workshops for audiences including young children, secondary pupils and adults. 

In June, I ran 2 embroidery workshops with 7 high school students from 1.30-3.30pm, outdoors in Inverkeithing. I began by teaching a selection of embroidery techniques. Then the students designed and stitched a letter of their choice. 

Participants enjoyed learning new stiches, and referred to the teaching materials.

In August, I ran 2 felted boat-making workshops with 9 children each time, from 1-3pm outdoors at a Community Centre. I made a basic boat template for the children to sew. The felt boats referenced the nearby harbour, and Inverkeithing’s maritime heritage. Some of the children’s parents were involved in the adult workshops. The children were excited by the prospect of having their stitched boat on the same artwork as their parent’s, permanently displayed in the restored Town House.

Children made felt boats at an outdoor, drop-in workshop, during school holidays.
One young participant at the outdoor, drop-in workshop made a pirate for their boat.

From June to September, I worked with 36 women in day, evening and Zoom workshops, over 13 weeks. The in-person workshops took place on Thursday evenings, 5-7pm in the Friary Gardens. Friday daytime sessions were 9.45-11am and 11.15am-12.30pm at a Community Centre.

This highly complex, detailed panel has cut work, applique, and lettering, depicting 17th century witch trials.
This panel represents a lost local industry, and it’s landmark chimney being demolished. Ghost workers, visible but absent, are shown bottom right.

March – June, I worked with project historian Dr Tom Turpie to identify key historical events from the 12th to the 21stcentury, and devised stitch-able drawings to depict events, people and places. I sourced some of the last linen ever woven in Fife to give authenticity and artistic integrity to the artwork.

Participants traced their drawings onto linen panels before stitching, using the workshops to discuss stitches, techniques and colours. This built a sense of ownership of the panels, resulted in very strong outputs, as well as building confidence, social bonds, and a sense of collaborative achievement.

I designed the 40 panels for the artwork. I encouraged participants confident in their drawing skills, to adapt or further interpret the heritage themes. 

I supplied kits of all materials needed including sampler fabric, linen, embroidery threads, hoops and other sewing tools.   

Participants found the teaching materials created for the project useful for reference between workshops.

In early workshops, I taught a wide selection of embroidery techniques including how to develop and use these skills, for participants to use on their own panel. Following this, those who were ready to move forward selected, designed and stitched a letter from ‘Inverkeithing Stitching in Time’. Participants then chose a historic topic of interest to stitch for the collaborative artwork.

Stitching a letter allowed participants to practice stitches, drawing and skills in a small, manageable format, while building a sense of artistic collaboration.

In October, all participants were invited to hand in their work, meet the other participants again, and see many finished or nearly finished embroidered panels together. 

Stitching the artwork together, framing individual panels in three chronological panels to make a triptych.

In late November, I began creating and constructing the 3 large-scaled panels in my studio in Edinburgh. 

Panel 3, with diverse 19th, 20th and 21st century stories in stitch.

Why did you choose to work in this way?

I ran in-person, indoor and outdoor workshops to bring people in the community together, adding an important social dimension to a learning project. I ran virtual workshops to enable more participants to take part at home. 

An undergraduate student, studying remotely, brought extraordinary creativity to this interpretation and stitching of an important historical event that precipitated the Scottish Wars of Independence.

What did you learn from the project?

I learned about Inverkeithing’s local heritage, which was new to me. I learned that participants really valued developing new skills, interpreting narrative in stitch, the social opportunity, plus contributing to a collaborative artwork. 

Participants were free to interpret in stitch and embellish their panels in line with their time and skill levels.

Comment

Participant feedback: 

‘Nikkita is a great tutor. I didn’t realise how much she had taught me until I started my panel. This is now something I can do for the rest of my life and I’m already applying it to other projects I’m involved in.’  

‘It’s been a fantastic project, especially during covid times. Great to work on a group project.’ 

‘A most interesting project, that helped me connect to my new home area and engage with folk of similar interest.’

Influences

FHBT’s Emma Griffiths, who wrote the brief, was familiar with some Great Scottish Tapestry projects, and a collaborative quilt project by Lorna Fogden, with Link-up Women’s Support.

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