The Stitching Together network aims to bring together people who commission, facilitate and take part in participatory textile making activities: researchers, professional textile practitioners, project commissioners and enthusiast textile maker groups.
Network members connect at our three events (though funding limitations mean that spaces at the first two events are very limited); through an email discussion list, hosted by Jiscmail; via publication opportunities; and via the website – members are invited to write guest blog posts and case studies to share their experiences.
To join the network and showcase your work on this page, email a short statement (maximum 100 words) introducing the use of participatory textile making activities (i.e. making textiles with others) in your research and/or practice, along with one image (to be cropped square) and any relevant links to further information, to email@example.com.
Ingrid Bale // I am an educator, sewist and textile artist, teaching a variety of (mainly women’s) community groups. I am interested in narrative and storytelling, particularly personal histories/stories. My MA considered how sewing can create change – both personally and community-wide. I have participated in events promoting the employability of sewing and tackling issues such as period poverty worldwide. These helped raise awareness in the media and the UK Government is now taking this on board. I will be working with women migrants/refugees in Italy, using sewing/stitching, to create dialogue and helping to visualise their futures.
Patricia Brien // I am a PhD researcher at Bath Spa University in Environmental Humanities and working in the fields of textiles cultures and curating. My project is based upon an historic textile from Stroud, UK and its human and nonhuman networks across time and place. The research is based around eco-feminist and new materialist epistemologies. Recent case studies that I have initiated and curated include community engagement textiles projects through established ‘wilding’ projects and eco circling groups (Red Thread Project), facilitating the ‘Wednesday Textile Muse’ evenings at Atelier, a community textiles centre, and incorporating my stitch practice as part of the Incendiary protest art exhibition which I initiated and curated. // More information: liminessence.co.uk
Sarah Brown // I am a visual artist and social researcher, currently undertaking transdisciplinary doctoral research with craftswomen in the Anosy region of southeast Madagascar. The research investigates women’s experiences of negotiating the shift from traditional reed weaving to hand embroidery. This shift is a result of a collaborative livelihoods intervention to reduce dependence on declining natural resources. I use apprenticeship as well as social weaving and embroidery to facilitate discussion about the ways women are navigating social, cultural, economic and creative aspects of this transition. My creative practice currently explores the interactions of these crafts within the research methodology. // More information: sarahbrown.info
Stephanie Bunn // Stephanie is an anthropologist at the University of St Andrews. She conducts anthropological research into 2- and 3-D textiles in Central Asia and Scotland. She curated the first ever British Museum exhibition of Central Asian nomadic textiles and currently directs Woven Communities, an AHRC-funded project inspiring learning, memories and recovery through the embedded knowledge and skill in Scottish vernacular basketry. Stephanie does practical basketry work and other constructed textiles with students, other basket-makers, the general public, schoolchildren and scholars to highlight the importance of learning hand-skills such as basket-work for human cognition, design- and engineering-thinking, well-being and development. And also because she likes it. // More information: wovencommunities.org / Nomadic Felts (author)/ Anthropology and Beauty (editor)
Siún Carden // I am a Research Fellow in the University of the Highlands and Islands’ Centre for Rural Creativity, based in Shetland. My background is in anthropology and my research interests include ‘skill’ in knitting at all points on the amateur/professional and hand/machine spectrums, especially in places associated with a particular design repertoire. Participating in knitting groups has been a vital part of my work on the changing ways in which Shetland hand knitting is valued. I lead a module on ‘Communities of Practice’ within the UHI MA in Art and Social Practice. // More information: skill-knit-manufacture.co.uk
Naomi Clarke // I am a PhD candidate at the University of Bristol. My research topic seeks to explore the stories of women engaging in a digital-led sewalong, their experiences, their motivations, the meanings they ascribe both to the sewalong and to sewing more generally, and the role of social media in relation to these factors. I’ll use sewing as both data and as methods in my participatory research. Group quilt (in progress): each hexagon flower has been embroidered with a word by a woman taking part in the sewalong (on Instagram as the #fussycuttingsewalong ) for what the sewalong means to them. // More information: naomialice.co.uk / Instagram / Twitter
Clare Danek // I am a doctoral researcher undertaking an autoethnographic investigation into how people learn amateur craft skills alongside others in open access community making spaces, and alone at home; as part of this, I am creating a daily pictorial ‘stitch journal’ as a way of reflecting on PhD life. Whilst the stitched aspect of this research is not currently collaborative in its creation, entries are shared daily, and the conversations that it has inspired with other researchers, makers, and those new to sewing, suggest that there is extensive scope for it to develop in this direction in future. // More information: claredanek.me/stitch-journal/
Kimberley Davies and Jane Bunting // We work in the field of palaeoecology meaning ‘old ecology’. We also both share a keen interest in knitting and as a result, we are currently developing a ‘palaeoblanket’ project. The idea stemmed from our re-imagining lost landscapes and trying to understand local people’s sense of place using creative methods that aren’t commonly associated with our scientific discipline. We are developing knitted blanket square patterns, each with a different palaeoecological motif and some explanatory text. The idea is to use these as outreach tools to facilitate communication with groups, increase knowledge of past environments and initiate dialogue between different sectors of local communities.
Sarah Desmarais // Alongside my practice as a textile designer maker, I have facilitated textile making workshops in a variety of educational, community and mental health settings. In partnership with Arts for Health Cornwall I carried out AHRC-funded doctoral research (2012 – 2015) into the relationship between crafts creativity and mental health. As a researcher I’m particularly interested in fine-grained, observational, ethnographic ways of gathering data, and how these allow consideration of unexamined affective, interactional and material dimensions of such activities. I’m also interested in the role of making in design pedagogy. I currently supervise doctoral research at the RCA into textile making in health settings. // More information: sarahdesmarais.com / academia.edu / thesis / Instagram
Becky Earley // I am a printed textile designer who specialises in heat transfer techniques for polyester. I founded my London-based B.Earley studio in 1994, and started running sustainable textiles printing workshops internationally soon after. I began working with recycled shirts in 1999 and this work still continues today; using them as a vehicle to explore the circular economy for textiles and new materials, social models, mindsets and behaviours. I use design thinking approaches to facilitate workshops, creating original tools, worksheets and resources for diverse audiences; from designers and makers to material scientists in European research consortiums, industry professional and users/consumers. // More information: B.Earley / Top 100 Shirt Project / Textile Toolbox
Jules Findley // My doctoral research involved embodied materiality examining issues around complicated grief through a tactile exploration of the material of handmade paper, and the craft of making to produce fibre-based outcomes and installations. I have made participatory stitch, using close readings on psychological theory of attachment and detachment with a group of bereaved mothers who have been and are still undergoing trauma, enduring a living loss, examining maternal grief through stitch, making and repetition. My methodologies use auto ethnographic, making paper, new and reused through play and experimentation within the domestic as an environment; the studio resides in the domestic environment, wider contexts of grief are conceptually formed. Installations as a result of stitch and paper aim to ask questions in a public setting, and raise awareness of issues in gathering further research. // More information:
Tina Francis // Craft builds community and so using my needle and skill sharing is important to me. In my latest project (funded by heritage lottery) I stitched with over 500 people introducing many to stitch for the first time or rekindling a love of stitch. Bee Yourself connected many communities across Birmingham as each person stitched a Bee to be included in the final piece which was made up of 902 separate works. I use stitch as a listening tool working with bereavement groups, concentrating on your hands means no eye contact which in turn makes it easier to talk. Working with so many people enables me to watch the process and I am currently working on a stitch product with the help of Steamhouse in Birmingham.
Emilie Giles // I am a researcher, artist and educator, currently studying for a Ph.D. at The Open University. My work explores how e-textiles (electronic textiles) can be used to make tactile interactive art pieces by blind and visually impaired people, as well as how they can be used to enhance creative experiences by exploiting their touch-based properties. The research has focused on creative choices which participants make, what personal associations are made with different fabrics and what approach can be taken to make e-textiles more accessible and inclusive. My work is largely participatory, not only through the research I’m conducting but also through my personal arts practice. // More information: emiliegiles.co.uk
Sarah Green // I am a doctoral researcher with a background in Fine Art. My PhD examines the therapeutic use of textile craft processes for vulnerable men’s wellbeing. As part of this research I established and ran ManCraft, a long-term community-based textile craft group for vulnerable men, based at Charnwood Arts (CA). I have collaborated with CA on several projects, most recently on Re-Making Histories, a collective project which explored ways of enhancing the learner experience in HE through socially engaged practice. Currently I am Research Associate for CA’s latest arts in health project MakeSpace Step Up, designed to support participants with their artistic and creative progression through developing transferable skills, supporting individual wellbeing and challenging mental health stigma through bringing participant-artists work into the public domain. // More information: supercrochetgirl.wordpress.com
Lucie Hernandez // I am a PhD researcher at Falmouth University exploring the combination of textiles with electronics, conductive materials and technological behaviours using craft techniques. Recently I have been working on a project called Touchcraft that uses co-creation and participatory approaches to engage different audiences and contribute social cohesion and wellbeing. I facilitated creative workshops with local groups to embellish textiles with audio clips, memories and stories, supporting participants to enhance their stitched objects with soft circuits and electronic components. Direct involvement in creative activities gives people a platform to personalise the objects they develop, building in their voice and providing a sense of purpose and motivation. // More information: touchcraft.org.uk
Faith Kane // My interest in participatory stitching comes out of a desire to more fully explore the broad and varied potential of textile practice, including participatory textile making, to contribute to addressing a range of contemporary societal challenges. In addition, I have observed a growing interest from within the student body in developing practices that move towards community engagement. As such I am keen to keep developing my research and teaching in a manner that engages with the opportunities that this space presents. Particularly in connection to areas such as: collaboration and transdisciplinary working; co-creation; open-design; social design; and practices of use and care as they relate to textiles.
Hannah Lamb // I am a textile artist, textiles lecturer, researcher and writer, based near Bradford West Yorkshire. My art practice focusses on personal responses to place through cloth, stitch and print. The historical legacy of cloth production in my local area has influenced several projects involving participatory practice as a means of relating textile to place. Most notably Lasting Impressions with Claire Wellesley-Smith involved participants in creating an archive of clothing and fibre through making in the fabulous spinning room at Salts Mill. I am also interested in the use of textile archives in practice based creative research. // More information: hannahlamb.co.uk / Lasting Impressions
Marion Lean // I am a Scottish runner, researcher and facilitator based in London. Data representation and engagement in the ‘post-post-digital’ age calls for nuanced direction blurring digital, physical and experiential elements to engage society numbed by an overload of information, exhausted by the relentless seduction of the digital. Evocative approaches for impact and action are required to engage deeper dimensions of the human condition. Materiality can be explored as a toolbox for generating felt data experiences. Navigating the boundaries between digital and material realms to explore data experience has been the theme of my PhD in Design Research at the Royal College of Art. Designers and public engage in textile led approaches to explore the affective and sensory experience of data. // More information: marionlean.co.uk / Twitter
Marsha MacDowell // I am a folklorist/art historian based at Michigan State University where I am engaged in many community-engaged research projects, including the Quilt Index, a digital repository of photos, stories, and descriptive data on quilts and quilt artists. In 2018 former medical doctor Larry Nassar, once employed at Michigan State University, was found guilty of sexually violating over 500 young female athletes. As a means of providing a vehicle for individuals to offer comfort to those Sister Survivors, I and my two co-authors for Quilts and Health (Indiana University Press, 2017) launched The Teal Quilt Project with the goal of making one quilt – a physical hug – for each of the Survivors. I am now documenting why and how individuals are engaged in this community-participatory artmaking activity, challenges unique to this project, and how the recipients respond to this action. // More information: Quilt Index / The Teal Quilt Project
Rachael Matthews // Here is a dancefloor promoting ‘knitting as a fashionable subculture’ in 2000. I curated big and small events, to teach knitting, and grab press headlines about knitting’s resurgence. This led me to open a yarn shop and exhibition space, Prick Your finger, which held regular classes and hosted a wide range of socially engaged textile projects. After 8 years, I closed the shop and wrote ‘The Mindfulness in Knitting’, for Leaping Hare Press. I am now writing ‘The Mindlessness in Knitting’…
I teach textiles at Central St Martins, am a regular visiting artist with the adults with learning difficulties group at East London Textile Arts, and am a founder member of the Art Worker’s Guild Outreach Committee.
Alison Mayne // I am a researcher working in handcraft, wellbeing and social media. My PhD explored how making in knit and crochet alone but shared to closed community groups on Facebook could have an impact on perceptions of wellbeing. Whilst participants didn’t stitch together physically, they engaged with their own and others’ making in a digital space – offering advice, support, friendship and a space to celebrate and recognise their skill. Future work expands some of these ideas in investigating the affective significance of Scottish yarn for amateur makers and handcrafting with those recently diagnosed with early-onset dementias. // More information: knitrospective.com
Shirley McLauchlan // I am a designer/lecturer. My design philosophy is focused on how to practice sustainable design. I create modern day family heirlooms. I love to hand stitch and share my love of craft and pattern. I explore co creation involving the client throughout the design process. I was involved with the ZWS Love your clothes campaign running mending workshops engaging the public in the art of personalised mending. I love to mend and make patterns. I was one of the selected designers involved with Re-Mantle and Make exploring excess materials and sharing hand skills. In 2019 I am sharing my documentary at https://www.fashionrevolution.org/scotland/ promoting good textile practice at the V&A Dundee. // More information: shirleymclauchlan.co.uk
Brenda Miller // I am studying for a doctorate at the University of Wolverhampton. My research is investigating what value might moving image bring to making as a research practice to enable an enhanced understanding of the affect on textile processes, production, knowledge and skills. Central to the research is the intimacy of exchange that occurs between people in a variety of art making situations by exploring the historical representation of women’s art through textiles, its links to craft and domesticity and its relationship to current practice. I collaborate with professional and amateur women in order to create documentary style film pieces. // More information: Axisweb profile
Sara Nevay // I am a doctoral researcher with a background in textile and service design, exploring electronics and textiles as catalysts for social connectedness. My work considers the social problem of loneliness and works with older people – who may be particularly vulnerable – to create e-textile objects and activities that prompt conversation, storytelling and social interaction. I am interested in how combining the physical and tactile qualities of the textile medium with other sensory experiences (such as light and sound) can help us connect with or extend our social worlds. I also collaborate with fellow doctoral researcher Lucy Robertson to explore e-textiles for wellbeing. // More information: Sara Nevay profile
Susan Noble // I am a maker and educator. My research investigates various articulations of self-expression, particularly domestic craft, and have worked on collaborative projects to explore this. What I revere about domestic craft and the hand-made, is how it creates a tangible manifestation of an idea; a physical and useful object. I am also interested in how the employment of domestic crafts within academia and culture outside of their vernacular context, subjugates that craft within a visual hierarchy, redefined by the artist/designer, and the effect on the community within which the skills and traditions are held and practised.
Jean Oberlander // I am a designer and writer investigating the use of narrative and storytelling in the (under)appreciation of knitted objects and garments. I research the spaces in between making and wearing within the context of the everyday to understand how knitting can act as a vehicle for memory through remembering and un-remembering, and collaborate through social media and blogs to gather stories of knitting in use, with future community workshops after finishing my MA intending to focus on this framework. More recently, I launched a textiles podcast, Soft Thoughts, with fellow designer Ruby Smith. // More information: oberjean.co.uk / softthoughts.co.uk
#PopUpPatchChallenge // Dr Rebecca Collins, Helen Blank, Helen Berrie, and many others! // We are a collective of amateur makers and menders, united by our interest in facilitating everyday acts of repair to promote more sustainable textile consumption. In 2018 we launched the #PopUpPatchChallenge across several campuses of the University of Chester. We hold three-hour drop-in pop-ups where students and staff can bring garments needing small-scale TLC to return them to a wearable state. Where feasible, we invite garment owners to repair the item themselves, with our guidance and using materials provided free of charge. We’re now looking to take the #PopUpPatchChallenge off campus and into the city of Chester.
Helen Rees Leahy // Professor Emerita, Museology, University of Manchester // Central to my textile practice is Saori, a type of freestyle hand weaving originating in Japan. The ‘Sa’ of Saori refers to the individual dignity of everything and ‘ori’ means weaving. The practice is inclusive, non-judgemental and explicitly social. Like many Saori weavers, I have a loom at home and also regularly weave in a studio alongside others, invariably chatting as we each work at our looms. Saori teacher, Mihoko Wakabyashi, describes this as ‘weaving friendships as we weave fabric’. The idea is not to strive for a concept of visual perfection, but to value self-expression as a means of personal and shared development. // More information: Instagram / saoriglobal.com
Lindy Richardson // Programme director Textiles, University of Edinburgh // An all-round textiles enthusiast, my passions include: Outreach, community, equality, education in prison, collaboration, craft, embroidery, archives, conservation, hand stitching. Highlights: Processions, leading the Scottish march of 10,000 women in 2018, with our banner made by Scottish prisoners and our University community celebrating 100 years of women’s suffrage. Print and Politics, co-author with Dr Sara Worden, using traditional African commemorative cloths to inspire political engagement and social comment by Scottish students in printed fashion garments. Embroidered Stories, re-housing NDS archive. Currently working on Touching stitches: access to embroidery for the blind. // More information: Instagram / Twitter / Embroidered Stories
Lucy Robertson // I am a doctoral researcher with a background in textile design, marketing, entrepreneurship and teaching, exploring sonic textiles and e-textiles for wellbeing. My PhD research explores e-textiles and sonic textiles for wellbeing focusing on how textiles, technology, design, and sound can come together to create sensory experiences for wellbeing through workshops and working with those living with dementia. I am currently working between the Outer Hebrides and East Lothian within their Dementia Friendly Communities. I also collaborate with fellow doctoral researcher, Sara Nevay to explore e-textiles for wellbeing through workshops in Scotland and beyond. // Photo by Margaret Joan MacIsaac, 2018 // More information: lucyrobertsondesigns.co.uk
Lynn Setterington // I am a politically-driven artist and academic who devises and co-ordinates shared textile projects. Examining how stitch-based methods can offer a different lens with which to explore key concerns of our age – identity, belonging, community and place are central to my practice. Doctoral study utilised my long standing knowledge to uncover hidden values and tensions in stitched-based collaboration including the intertwining of the ethical and aesthetic and what E.P. Thompson refers to as a ‘history from below’. My work is held in many collections including the V&A, Whitworth Art Gallery, Crafts Council, Terrence Higgins Trust and Denver Museum of Art. // More information: lynnsetterington.co.uk
Annie Shaw // Design Educator/Research Leader at Manchester School of Art // I have moved away from fashion recently, due to disillusionment with levels of needless consumption and associated meaningless reinvention. I continue to value and develop the craft of knitting. Since the completion of my PhD (2009) the notion of Seamlessness has been at the centre of what I do. Fascinated by the spaces we inhabit from garments>rooms>buildings>cities I work in collaboration with Architect Matt Ault and together as ‘The Knitterati’ we explore architectural responses in knitting, in terms of materiality, computation and scale – work that cannot not be realised without collective making.
Emma Shercliff // I am a maker, researcher and writer specialising in stitched textiles. I have been involved with community-based textile-making activities for over 20 years as a workshop leader and as enthusiastic participant. My doctoral research explored relationships between the rhythms and patterns of skilful hand-stitching processes and the crafting of mutuality and cooperation practised in collective making. More recently, I have also begun to use drawing as a way to think about the dynamics of collaborative making contexts. I have published and exhibited work in France and the UK, but also have works in homes, community centres and other people’s memories. // More information: Dr Emma Shercliff
Rhian Solomon // I am an artist, researcher and design facilitator. I develop cloth based methods to open dialogues between communities of patients, designers and clinicians. Currently my PhD investigates the materiality of collaboration in co-design for health contexts. Here I’m exploring making as a language to enable women to share their experiences of illness and treatment for breast cancer. // More information: rhiansolomon.co.uk / ourownskin.co.uk / skinship.co.uk
Becky Stewart // I am a computer scientist and engineer by training, but have worked with textiles since I was little. I now use conductive textiles as a medium for constructing wearable computing systems. I also hold hands-on textile workshops as a means to teach electronics and computing concepts to those who may feel more comfortable with a needle than with code. As a Lecturer in the the Dyson School of Design Engineering in Imperial College London I supervise researchers who combine advanced computing techniques like machine learning with e-textile sensors. // More information: theleadingzero.com
Stitch-School // Stitch-School was founded in 2017 by Melanie Bowles and Aimee Betts whose aim is to provide professional and inspirational guidance to reconnect to the benefits of embroidery through embroidery kits, workshops and community events around the large communal needlework table called the Supper Cloth. The Supper Cloth provides an intergenerational and multicultural event for people to gather, stitching together to create large embroidered artworks to place back in the community. Supper Cloth residencies include The Barbican Center, London Craft week, Brixton Design Trail, Peckham Festival, Marie Curie hospice and Dulwich Pavilion. // More information: stitch-school.com
Karina Thompson // Digital stitch enthusiast, researcher and stroppy Art Quilter. I have a long history of participatory work in healthcare settings. This has ranged from co-creation with patients and staff using biomedical data to make public artworks to using textile processes to initiate discussion, build self-esteem or stimulate reminisence with mental health service users or people living with dementia. Currently facilitating a series of participatory e-textile making sessions to hand stitch electromyography sensors for low cost robotic prothesis in developing countries. The long-term plan is that these could then be produced by CICs in the communities where the limbs will be worn. // More information: karinathompson.co.uk
Katherine Townsend // Associate Professor in Fashion and Textile Crafts, is a designer, maker, writer and curator. Katherine co-founded the fashion label Cocky’s Shed (1985-1992) which informed her PhD: Transforming Shape (2004), where she developed a simultaneous approach to the body, cloth and print. This holistic methodology has influenced a series of textiles/artworks integrating hand and advanced crafting methods. Her interest in ‘emotionally durable design’ was tested through Emotional Fit (2014-2017) a participatory project with older women from Nottingham involving the co-creation of flexible silhouettes based on cloth memory and body shape. Her current work includes social/innovation research with textile artisans in Guatemala. More information: Katherine Townsend
Amy Twigger Holroyd // I am a designer, maker, researcher and writer who has explored the emerging field of fashion and sustainability since 2004. My doctoral research, completed in 2013, investigated the lived experience of making clothes at home and the reworking of knitted garments, considering the contribution of these practices to a sustainable fashion system. A qualitative workshop methodology combined design-led research with participatory creative methods, involving a group of six amateur knitters. More recently, I organised a collaborative two-day smocking workshop to share and test strategies for revitalising culturally significant designs, products and practices. // More information: amytwiggerholroyd.com / reknitrevolution.org
Claire Wellesley-Smith // I am an artist, researcher and writer based in Bradford, experienced in creating collaborative and site-specific projects with communities. My specialism is in long-term socially-engaged textile projects that explore community development and issues around heritage, sustainability and wellbeing. I wrote about these themes in my book Slow Stitch: Mindful and Contemplative Textile Art (Batsford, 2015). My doctoral research project is with the Open University and investigates craft and heritage projects embedded in post-industrial textile communities in Northern England. My research methodology includes a stitch journal completed every day: a way of thinking through making. // More information: clairewellesleysmith.co.uk