The Stitchbook Collective 2022
Untangled Threads is proud to present this online exhibition of work created by members of The Stitchbook Collective in response to the theme of Mothering Sunday.
'The Mother Wound -
She gave me the gift of needlework and other things.'
I have been inspired by the work of Maurizio Anzeri, who sews into found photographs with bright graphic shapes.
I put the piece together using old pieces of fabric that had come via my mum. The main fabric was curtain lining, linen and gauze. I used one of my mums old silk head scarves which had roses on, by cutting out one of the roses and placing it on as a feature. My mums favourite flowers were roses and gladioli, so I wanted to add them onto the piece. I used freestyle machine and hand stitching and felt that my mum who was always larger than life should be in the centre, and of course dressed in red as her favourite colours for clothes were either red, black or white. The frames represent some parts of my mums life I.e. she was a nurse working with geriatric patients, she was kind, fun and loved gardening. Each frame contains little elements of her - one represents her first job which was on the buses as a bus conductor. Another represents my mums love of dancing, she was such a party person. A frame to represent her as a friend. And of course I needed to add a sewing machine as my mum did a lot of stitching both for us as a family, making all of my clothes, she also took in peace work stitching leathers and moccasin shoes using a treadle singer sewing machine. My wedding gift from my mum was a sewing machine too.
I consider this to be a little snapshot of mum of course there is so much more, I just couldn’t miss making a contribution for mothers day even though it has really pushed me to get something together.
I am still stitching away and more stitch will be added.
This was inspired by my daughter's artwork. For me, the one thing I value the most are the cards my children make for Mother's Day (although my daughter is fond of a card all year!). Motherhood is a challenge, particularly after the last two years when it has been intense and at times fairly claustrophobic. I wanted to celebrate the unquestioning emotions of young children and the joy and freedom of their creations, so used one of my daughter’s pictures. Then added the binka as to me it’s synonymous with children’s first experience of sewing, and the spring blooms!
I loved working with these colours and really enjoyed creating the piece. It’s dedicated to Agnes and Theo, my children.
'"For Joyce Nancarrow, who shared her knowledge of thread and wool, and nurtured my childish curiosity into a lifelong passion.
Thank you x
I did this for my mum a few years ago when she was living in a care home and her dementia was rapidly taking her away from us. She taught me to sew, knit and stitch and as a kid we completed a tapestry church kneeler together. Rather than flowers I hoped the complexity and colours in stitch would give her something familiar with texture that she could hold and explore.
Mother's day has always been celebrated in my family as a time where we all got together and this is what is means to me. My work is a representation of my family over four generations of strong women who all play such an important part in my life whether grandmother, mother, sister, aunt or cousin.
The colours and fabric are inspired by my grandmother who loved her garden and flowers. The cross stitches used indicates age this year, apart from my grandmother who passed away two years ago at the age of 102! I chose this stich as a symbol to represent the X chromosome (although some fly stitches were used for generation 4 now we have boys in the family too!). The French knots suggest influence on others outside of a family setting and that you do not need to be a mother to be celebrated as one.
I am lucky my children got to know my grandma who doted on all of her great-grandchildren and I am lucky I had so many years to celebrate mother's day with her and the other women in my family.
This will be my seventh Mothering Sunday as a mother, but somehow I seem to forget every year that I "qualify" as a mother and still think of Mothering Sunday as applying to my own mother and mother-in-law, but not me! My youngest child will start school in September, so I made this piece to remind me of the baby and toddler days, with lullabies and lots of cuddles and all the lovely oxytocin generated.
Mothering can be both messy and heartbreaking as well as abundant and nourishing. This piece represents those aspects depending on which way up you choose to look at it. Shades of reds for the bloodiness of birth and enduring love. Golden threads for the rewarding aspects of motherhood.
'Wrapped in Love'
This is all about my mum, with photos and stitches to show her life and family.
She was born in Martham, her dad was a trawler fisherman and he also kept bees. Martham Church is where she was Christened and Married. There are hand stitched motifs depicting aspects of her life. She lived with my dad in a caravan when they were first married. The sewing machine shows both her love of crafts and also one of the jobs she had as a machinist. She was a Guide leader and she is a member of the WI.
I made the piece as a kind of time line, but it wraps around a bobbin showing how her love wraps around her family.
A friend gave me this printed piece of fabric when I was telling her about this project and I thought it would be an interesting starting point. I have always loved food and cooking represents a strong link between my daughter, my mother and myself despite the geographical distance between us (Australia, Switzerland and England).
My paternal grandmother was a professional cook (as well as an embroiderer) and I have fond memories of spending afternoons cooking or baking with both my grandmothers. I decided to embroider the names of the women in my family going back to my great great grandmother.
The colour of the fabric also reminded me of the square oven mitt we had to crochet when I was at school. It was a present for Mother’s Day and I remember it was red with a yellow edge. So I decided to turn this square into a decorative sort of oven mitt.
My mother would have been 93 next week so this would have been an appropriate gift for her, I always tried to send her a homemade card if I could.
The Dorset buttons were made using rings that both she and my Grandmother used to hang their curtains, always make do and mend alongside recycle
This is my Mum Ellen. She came from an impoverished background. The 13th child born in June 1921 to a home of love. They had very little but they cared for everyone and that rubbed off on my Mum. She would give the last penny in her purse to anyone in need. Sometimes she gave so much to others it got her into trouble with debt but she pulled through.
She worked machines making bombs and all sorts in the Second World War. In fact she was blown off her bike trying to get home one night. Scars were left on her brain aswell as her nerves at times. She suffered epilepsy and called them her “turns”.
She met my dad during the war. They fell in love. They had to stand up for what they believed and they had fight off prejudice as they were from different sides of the Christian divide. One a catholic and the other a Protestant. Dad was dismissed from the RC church for marrying my Mum. They had two girls in the 40’s and then I came along in the 50’s as their surprise.
My mum nursed her parents, her husband and all of us when we were poorly. She took in her brother and his son. She cared about her neighbours.
For their anniversary I made them the lace on the picture from my first venture into bobbin lace work. . It has sunflowers and hearts. Very apt for todays world. My mum would have been opening her doors to any Ukrainian family.
The tea cup represents my Mum all over. She made a cup of tea often for us all. Nearing the end of her life when we were looking after her she insisted we made everyone who visited including nurses and carers a cup of tea too!
She loved her cushions and her bling bits of ceramic vases etc so I’ve included this in the stitching.
For a long time after my mum died I couldn’t seek her face. It made me very sad. I painted my dad when he died and was happy to do so but I couldn’t do my mums. When I lost Mum in 2011 I had a bit of melt down. I was bereft, lost in a sea of unfathomable grief. I felt as if I was alone. An orphan. I lost my beloved job too. So I felt I couldn’t face my Mum. She was always so proud that I had gone to college to train as a teacher. She was so overjoyed whenever I got my various promotions. So to paint and stitch her face 11 years after I lost her is for me a great hurdle that I’ve overcome.
She loved warm colours and especially burgundy and the flower is like the Anemone’s that she so admired.
Tomorrow 20 th March I celebrate my birthday. I miss my daughter cards from her very much and the phone call first thing in the morning. Godbless my Mum. She gave and gave. She strived and worked full time in the worst of conditions to raise money for her girls, her husband and her home. She asked for very little but gave all of us an upbringing that I’m very proud to say was very forward thinking. Girls could do anything in her eyes.
This small project has enabled me to meet her again so thank you for that.
'From my 'Made with Love' Stitchbook
The colours reflect those of a Paisley scarf bought by my Father for my Mother on their honeymoon in 1947. She treasured it for the rest of her 97 years.
Throughout my life, my Mam has always been there for me, good times, bad times, whatever I am going through, whatever she is going through ... Always There ... I have represented this with a Tree for support and strength from her.
Whilst not always beside me, she always silently holds my hand.
This small quilt is called COVID BLUES. It showcases work I did during lockdown. The photos on the fabric show some of the different stages in its construction. Seeds that I planted in soup tins and milk containers produced Camomile, Calendula and Woad and are shown in the fabric photo at the top of the quilt.
I went on to dye fabric using some of the flower heads from these plants combined with others that I gathered up growing wild. Some of the lovely colours I obtained can be seen in the fabrics drying on a line. Woad was not a success, despite the swathes of beautiful yellow flowers shown in the photo here. Instead the blues in the quilt were created using commercial Cyanotype fabric sheets. The pink background was produced using Cochineal which I ordered online. I have tried to emphasise the darker pink stains with hand stitching. One of these photographs near the cross symbol was done with milk and ‘Coke a Cola’ bottle tops and some large stencils. The words are from Isaiah and they say; ‘as one whom a mother comforts so will I comfort you’. This quilt is dedicated to Meta, a mother, grandmother, great grandmother and my aunt - I have tried to represent her in the small hand stitched portrait. She died from Covid.
I have made a Heart Book for my Mother’s Day piece.
Each page represents a different aspect of our relationship.
Key to my heart.
Symbolises the tangled threads of our relationship.
The key to my existence and unlocks me. Also the key that winds me up !
The piece of my heart and the threads that bind us together,
Mum pushes all of my buttons.
The colours clash and the fabric is torn , but we are bound together.
There is no grey in my Mother’s World, it is black or white ! Right or wrong !
The beating heart that has known me all my life.
The reversal of roles and the fading heart.
The circle of life.
The daughter I am to my Mother and the Mother I am to my Daughters .
For Sarah Elizabeth Smith ( Betty) nee Arthur’s.
“In your foot print”
The simple text on the sole of these shoes was couched onto fine scrim and then stuck onto a pair or shoes very similar to the ones my mother wore on her wedding day. These, like my mother’s were of glacé kid and like many of the things she owned would have had to last. She was very proud of the way she saved up for her wedding outfit from her work as a hotel waitress and had no support from her parents.
My choice of words was deliberate not “steps” because the paths I chose were not her’s.
In many ways we did not see eye to eye and I have chosen my own steps: yet I bear her print and benefitted from many of the good things she gave me, genetically and in her approach. She lived in a very different time from mine and had resilience I admire.
I salute her woman to woman.
In memory of my late mother Susan Simpson.
For the flower, I used pages from an old gardening book which belonged to my grandmother, and which my mother scribbled in as a child. The paper will crumple and disintegrate over time, as memories do, but fragments will remain that are caught beneath the stitches.
This piece actually represents me as a mother born in 1951 and becoming a mother myself in the 70’s hence the colourful fabric!
The little hearts are my 3 girls and their favourite story book characters !
Inside the big heart I have embroidered a tag with their name and date of birth ! I also put a slip of paper inside detailing all of this and the date it was completed and how much being a mother and a grandmother has defined my life and given me such joy !
'Secrets & Lies'
In May 2021 I was suffering from Sciatica; I have never taken so many pills. I was saving the pill packets for recycling and as the mountain grew, I saw them as creative material. I included them in mixed media collages. The work brought back memories of childhood when I was critically ill in hospital at age 5 and all sorts of memories of my mother, both positive and negative, were expressed in the work. Hours of therapy have brought me to a place of equilibrium and understanding about my relationship with my mother.
My mother took an overdose when I was 9 and I was the one who found her. She lived and we never spoke about it. When working with the pill packets memories bubbled up, not in a traumatic way, more of a curious exploratory way. I am at peace with my Mother who died in 2020 aged 91, there were some very healing moments during her last few years.
'Why Cross? (YX)'
The Fly Stitch forms the letter ‘Y’, symbolising the question ‘Why?’
When doing the cross stitches, I realised they are the signs of cross = angry, cross = kisses, cross = wrong
There were no kisses in our family and my mother was often very cross for no apparent reason
“Secrets and Lies”
The image is one of chaos, which describes the relationships in my family. The Black and White represents the many ways my Mother would try to present the world to us.
The pill packets represent my Mother’s suicide attempt.
My Mother told us, including my Father, that her Mother died when she was 5. In fact ’Auntie Belle’ was alive and we went to visit her every summer, but she had abandoned my Mother when my Mother was 5. The sweeping ’S’ shape in fly stitch represents my initial, and my auburn hair - the Y shape of the stitches represent the many questions I asked which provoked anger and contradictory and confusing answers. Strips of black netting to ‘hide’ emotions.
The pieces of knitting are there to represent a positive aspect.
My mother taught me to knit when I was 5, which sparked my love of creativity and I see as a hugely positive gift.
91 rows in the red piece as my mother died aged 91. Red to remind me of her red lipstick and her beauty. 69 (my age) rows in my piece.
Rummaging at the very back
of an over-stuffed
I came across an old hat
I pulled it down
hard onto my head.
It was certainly snug.
Would it stretch to fit
this subbornly incompressible skull.
or would physics force the hat and my face upwards?
Either the thought or the pressure
helped me to smile at my mother.
I may try wearing it again.
The theme of this piece is:
Reuse and Recycle
Natural Resources ...
I don't know what, but it all comes together in this piece of work, sort of ...
This waistcoat was knitted by me from odds and ends of my own handspun wool. It then became a gift from me to my daughter. She wears it a lot and it somehow represents our mother-daughter relationship.
My Mother's Day gift contribution...I know I'm late, I'm rather ditzy.
When she left school my Mum trained as a florist, she's always been rather artistic and has fabulous taste. She had my sister and I very young but always kept up her passion for floristry, in our younger years she would still enter competitions, winning prizes for her innovative style.
Whenever I buy flowers for my Mum they have to be extra special (no garage flowers for her!), I like to visit a florists and pick individual stems when I can.
For as long as I can remember, I've always made my Mother's Day gift and spend time planning what I'll make, it's often something stitched.
For the third year running Mum & I won't be together today, this only ever happened when one or the other was living abroad but, due to covid and us both having ill health we shall be apart.
Yesterday we had a virtual afternoon tea where she opened the gift I'd posted. Amongst other things was this bouquet of (mostly) hand sewn tulips. They were an utter faff to make but my Mummy was worth it ☺️
This is a piece I did for a different exhibition in 2016, it was a tribute to my mum who died in 2012 at the age of 91. Mum was old school and often quoted sayings, one she said a lot was 'least said soonest mended' which I incorporated on the handles of these cups. Mum and I would sit and chat over a cuppa and she always had down to earth and solid advice for me - I still miss our conversations. I made this work using free motion embroidery, thread and water soluble fabric to represent how memories fade over time.
Mother and Child
A mother's love