I love free motion quilting

I love making whole cloth quilts. I particularly like a narrative/picture on my whole cloth quilts. I haven’t made many of late but I remember making my “Resting from the ride” quilt. It was published as a pattern in Australian Patchwork and Quilting some time ago.

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In that issue I also shared my knowledge of free motion quilting techniques.

A whole cloth quilt is just that – a quilt made without piecing the top. It is one piece of fabric on the top.

Free motion quilting is a stitching technique, and, like any new technique, mastering it requires patience and practice. It is the best way to achieve complex stitching designs and allows you so much more creative freedom.

The free motion technique is not mysterious. The feed dogs (the metal teeth at the back of the stitch plate on your sewing machine) grab the fabric and feed it forward into and beyond the needle. When the feed dogs are lowered, there is no mechanism to feed the fabric through, instead the quilters hands do the feeding.

In addition, lowering the feed dogs takes the upward pressure off the presser foot, meaning that with the extra room between plate and presser foot, the fabric will move more freely. As there is no mechanical guide to the feeding, and the pressure against the presser foot is lowered, the quilt can move freely in any direction.

The distance that the quilter moves the fabric before the machine makes another stitch will determine the length of the stitch. The amount of speed applied by the foot pedal will determine how fast you can move the quilt under the free motion foot. So the faster the speed of the needle, the faster you move the quilt. The slower the speed, the slower the movement of the quilt need to be. And this is the practice part!

A free motion quilter will develop a rhythm with their own machine. As a persons confidence grows, inevitably, so does the speed at which they quilt.

You can stitch in any direction without turning the quilt, so if the design is marked on the quilt top simply follow the lines. It’s that simple.

There are some things that are worth considering for free motion quilting to be a pleasurable activity.

  • A sewing machine with a needle down button is valuable. It is important to ensure the needle is down in the fabric before repositioning you hands and the quilt.
  • There are many variations of a free motion foot, but their common attribute is a ring 1/4in away from the needle. This foot is your friend – it is an easy tool for measuring one quarter inch beyond other lines of stitching or other elements of your quilt.
  • Good lighting and a clear work space is critical – you need to be able to see where your stitching is going. 
  • Quilting gloves are necessary. 
  • Your quilt needs to be supported so that it can move freely and won’t pull away from the needle. An L configuration is ideal but not always achievable. You can use your ironing board adjusted for height on the left hand side and works a treat for bigger quilts.
  • the best machine needle is the one that matches the thread you are using. the smaller the needle, the smaller the thread and the hole left in your fabric as you stitch. Thread can often shred or break if the needle is too small or too old. ALWAYS start a new quilt with a new needle and change it after 4 hours of quilting or less if the fabrics are thick or rough. This can avoid skipped stitches from blunt or nicked needles.
  • TENSION. I used to get the dry horrors thinking about thread tension. Always check the tension on a scrap quilt sandwich before you start and every time you change the bobbin. If you use the same weight thread and the same colour thread in the top and the bobbin most tension issues will disappear. 

I hear a lot of discussion and advice given to people about whether to roll the quilt or “puddle” it. You will need to work out the best way that works for you. I “puddle” my quilts. Rather than rolling to keep the fabric inn easy to handle position, I concertina the fabric in the throat of the machine. This is not a big issue for small quilts but when working with large quilts finding the way that works best for you is important. Large quilts can be quilted on a domestic machine

Keep your hands firmly on both sides of the quilt area you are stitching. Complete all the stitching in that one area then reposition by smoothie out the next area. Ensure you keep relaxing your shoulders and breathe! it is really fun.

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(Celtic Rose)

Lest We Forget

Here we all are staying at home doing our bit for Australia so we can flatten the curve and help prevent our health system being overwhelmed with the Covid-19 sick. I wasn’t much of a go out kind of person before the pandemic most content to stay home, pet my fabric and paint my pictures. I love the company of my husband and my children all have homes and lives of their own. Still, this upheaval has left me somewhat unsettled. I am unable to settle on any one thing for very long and find I am a little anxious at times. I have cleaned my studio, sorted my fabrics and started a few paintings.

On the net, trolling for more news, I came upon a story of how to make an  Anzac Day wreath to hang on your door this year. It was made of paper and glue and most homes would have all the supplies.  I thought I might like to make a wreath for my front verandah but being enamoured of fabric it would be fabric.

I will go through the steps here so that those of you reading, might be inspired to make one. Feel free to use any of my ideas. I’m sure there are sewers/quilters out there who can take what I have done and add or subtract and make amazing art wreaths!

Draw some gum leaves making them different sizes. I made the leaves three layers: various green fabric, wadding and a thick canvas fabric. Use whatever you have. The layers meant my leaves would be stiff and hold their position. I cut them out with my rotary cutter.

When you have a pile of layered leaves take them to your sewing machine and stitch them together. Free motion stitch around the raw edges. Don’t worry about the raggedy bits we will trim them when they are stitched.

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All stitched and ready to trim. I cut some cute insect bites out of some of the gum leaves.

The sash is however long you want it and about 8 inches wide so that you can put a strip of wadding down the middle and fold the edges over the wadding, leaving a clean edge. I used a stencil to cut the letters of the “Lest we forget”, I could turn the stencil over making the letters backwards so I could use paper backed webbing to stick them to the sash. In hindsight I should have made the letters lighter so they were easier to see. Tuck in the ends of the sash to neaten them.

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Arrange the leaves around the sash. The poppies are a three leaf clover shape x 2 with a black button. I stitched it all together free motion using monofilament thread. It is an easy, satisfying project which will look great hanging on the front verandah on Anzac Day.

Improv with a plan

I am a great fan of improvisational quilting. I love the fact that there is no math involved, I can freehand cut my fabric and it’s like working on a puzzle to fit it all together. So much artistic freedom.

Improv quilting is a new adventure for me. It has been around for awhile. Here in Western Australia we have improv and modern Quilters with lots of talent. You should check out Meg Cowey’s work (www.ourhousequilts.wordpress.com) and the Contemporary Quilt Group (contemporarywa.wordpress.com) Most of my interest is in representational fabric art and mixed media collage so I had to relax my inner critic and embrace non matching anything! So liberating.

I began this black and white quilt in response to a call from Curated Quilts magazine (http://curatedquilts.com) for black and white quilts. They liked the quilt. They are going to show it online, but it didn’t make it into the magazine.

So, my plan was a modern improv quilt that was black and white and used the great stripe somewhere….and all the fabric had to come from my stash! I drew the design out on paper and started making. I changed and swapped and reordered the design until it all came together. Very satisfying. Not at all quick ☺️. It took some time to quiet that inner critic.

I also love big stitch hand quilting and try and add it to most quilts I make. I think it really added another layer of texture and line to this quilt.

I would like to explore this a bit more, maybe making each element a little more crooked, or a bit straighter or incorporate more pattern? What would you change while keeping the black and white and stripe?

Improve with a plan black and white

Detail showing hand quilting

Dyeing for some colour

I make a lot of my own fabric nowadays by dyeing, rusting, painting, printing and stamping surface designs onto plain white cotton, linen, rayon and silk. Plain white homespun has a nice texture but a lower thread count than some other cottons and experimenting with various weights of cotton fabric can bring exciting results. A high thread count would be found in fabrics like batiks and we all like the bright clear colours of those fabrics. A really low thread count would be hessian. Of course you don’t have to stick with white and the enormous amount of colour choice can make your head spin. Just remember that the fabric colour you start with will influence any colour that you mix with it. The underlying colour can make it easier mixing colours. Try adding yellow to blue fabric or blue to red fabric.

You do have to wash the fabrics to remove all the sizing etc from the surface, the stuff that makes the fabric look all shiny and new. Water initially beads on unwashed fabric. Even if you buy prepared for dyeing cloth it should get a wash. I wash my cotton and linens and rayons in very hot water with a mild detergent in the washing machine then dry it in the sun (or use the dryer). Either is good. Then when its dry I give it a soda ash soak, then dry it again in the sun – no dryer for the soda ash. (It will ruin your washing machine and dryer) Then its ironed and folded and ready for the next time I’m inspired, or I need a particular colour or pattern.

I like sun dyes. They are heliographic or sensitive to sunlight. They are permanent and areas shielded from the sun will be lighter than the rest of the fabric. You often hear people talk about sun printing. This is where sun dyes are applied to fabrics, found objects or stencils are laid over the dyed fabric and then the fabric is exposed to the sun. Any area of the fabric under something will be lighter, leaving an image of the object on the cloth. Once you start sun dyeing you find you can’t stop as the results can be quite perfect, especially with plants and leaves from the garden. You can even cut out shapes or words with freezer paper and iron it onto your fabric before you paint your dye and get interesting results. Just peel the freezer paper off when the fabric is dry. You can use contact paper as well. Which ever type you use, make sure there’s a really good seal – the dye can sneak under the masks. There are often many serendipitous moments when dyeing.

Painting on fabric is a fabulous way of adding detail in representational work or in finding just the right shade of a colour without getting out the dyes. Any acrylic paint or fabric paint will paint fabric. The difference I have found is in how stiff the fabric is after painting it. I don’t use mediums when I paint on fabric. I find that anything that stains my clothes with stain the fabric. Adding to much water to the paint is the reason that the paint bleeds into areas you don’t want it.

Fabrics can be washed after heat setting them. Most paints are heat set with your iron or clothes dryer and washing the fabrics will soften them. Fabric paints will look darker when they are wet and will dry lighter. Making abstract paintings on fabric in your chosen colour scheme will give you many options when fussy cutting for projects.

A stitched line

I recently had the good fortune to see the work of Marjorie Coleman. The exhibition was here in Perth and showed Marjorie’s work from the last 10 years. I was captivated and could see how important line is in art. It would have to be the most versatile visual element.

Marjorie managed to use a simple straight stitch to draw and sketch with her threads against a variety of backgrounds from silk to heavy linens. She managed to convey form, texture, movement and expression with her straight stitch, varying placement and length to tell the story.

The simplicity of the stitching meant that I was not distracted by techniques. I was able to focus on the content and context.

I have previously talked about working in a series and Marjorie has done that beautifully with her “Search for the Tree of Life”. This is a series of 10 works that explore different ways of searching leading to different situations as the searcher travelled.

Some of Marjorie’s work. The Tenants was one of my favourite pieces. Marjorie made this while thinking about what happens over time on a limestone wall in a public walkway.

If you get the chance to see Marjorie work in person you will not be disappointed. Check out the link marjoriecoleman.com for more of Marjorie’s work.

“Do you have a body of work?”

I make art because the process of making makes me happy.

I was recently asked the question: “Do you have a body of work?” And I found myself saying no, not really. That got me thinking about why I don’t and should I really do anything about it. So I thought I would talk about what I found when I researched this question. I will talk about art in general, as I work in both textiles and paint.

A body of work is a unified, cohesive, coherent collection of an artists work.  Usually it is about 15 – 30. It can demonstrate a mastery and expertise in a particular style or subject or media. A body of work draws attention to your art instead of showing how versatile you might be. If I’m going to exhibit my work I will need much more.

So I asked myself a few questions.

  • What is the one thing you love to make?
  • What subject matter interests you?
  • What style of art interests you?
  • Does it matter to me as an artist?

What I found out was that I love making representational quilts and I love painting people and landscapes. I am very interested in the beauty left behind after something (usually a manufactured thing) is abandoned and left to decay. I’m also interested in making my painting more loose and intuitive and exploring painting the landscape.

So the thing then is I might need to work in a series. A series usually has a very obvious something that ties all the works together. You create a collection of art that has a common theme. That might be colour, subject, message – environment- politics, whatever you decide it will be. Then you set some basic rules for yourself and you get started. The only way to develop a unique voice is to make lots of art.

Making rules for yourself as you tackle a series of works doesn’t mean that your “creative flow” is imprisoned. Maybe we need a better word than rules, but I can’t think of one. They will keep you on track and focussed. You’re not tempted then, to pursue every interesting new thing outside your focus area. (rather like Dory – “ooh shiny”. That sound so like me!) Rules are simple things like – the format of the works, the size, the materials you use or the subject matter. It might even be that you will make something every day.  From what I’ve found in my research is that having no rules leads to a fragmented, disjointed body of work.

Many famous artists worked in series. Monet painted water-lilies, haystacks and the Rouen Cathedral. Picasso had his blue period. Degas drew ballet dances and jockeys. Rembrandt painted self portraits consistently over time. Ruth de Vos‘ textiles are all about children and eucalypts. Pat Forster’s textiles are all about fractals. I am finding it helpful to study other artists work and see what rules they may have applied.

The idea of working in a series is not boring sameness and repetition. In fact its the opposite. The process, I believe, is about exploring, investigating, examining ideas, themes, techniques, issues. It’s not the same exact thing done over and over again, but rather stated and restated in different but connected ways.

I really believe that there is no right way to make art. There is a wrong way and that is never trying, never doing. Sometimes I find that I have put barriers up that are nor there and I need to just get to work and make something. And now I will make a series!

 

New York City Subway Tiles

I was fascinated by the subway tiles while we were in New York recently. They caught my attention first because some were older than others. Then I noticed the different coloured bands around the designator tiles at different stations and on different lines. So as you do when you want to find out something we went to the New York Public Library to investigate.

Couldn’t help wondering “who you gonna call?” as we entered the Library. So many people about taking photos, with the local filling many of the spaces for study.

We joined the Library and requested our books in the Architecture Library. Beautiful small study space away from the crowds.

I found that William Barclay Parsons and Heins and LaFarge were the two companies responsible for the tiling of the subway in the early 1900’s. Parsons believed that the subway should be beautiful and chose ceramic tile. Heins and LaFarge agreed that ceramics are beautiful but thought they should be utilitarian as well – rapid and easy identification of a persons whereabouts. So together they came up with the plan: Name the station and name the neighbourhood.

Station names would be spelled out surrounded by decorative borders and some stations would have symbols identifying the neighbourhoods; ceramic beavers in Astor Place, The Eagle Shield 33 at 33rd, Robert Fulton’s Steamer paddling up the Hudson at Fulton St, Dutch Colonial house protected by old wooden stockade at Wall St (that’s how it got it’s name) and Spanish Ship bringing Christopher Columbus.

All the designs were elegant, elaborate, flowery and projected out.

 

Around 1911 Squire J. Vickers followed the plan regarding identification and neighbourhood, but his work was flat and rectangular. He believed it was more practical if the designs were flatter – there would be less dust.

Station names would be white tile with coloured background but framed in simple rectangles with a border of individual coloured mosaic tiles laid flat on the wall. He thought “the irregularity is quite necessary for if it was regular the charm would be lost”.

Vickers abandoned neighbourhood symbols but elaborated on city scenes which he took from historic prints; A tavern on Canal St, Peter Stuyvesant’s house on Whitehall St and Brooklyn Heights waterfront on Clark St.

Some were designed by Vickers and others by J Van Everen and Herbert Dole.

In 1930 ornamentation was abandoned altogether. There was still coloured tiles – violet, blue, green, yellow and red – but they formed flat bands running the length of each station. Colour was now code with wide bands at express stops and narrow bands of alternate colour at local stops.

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Colour Chart of Stations

 

Vickers explained the coding, “50th St is violet, 59th is blue and the 7 locals to the north are also blue. In the stations south of 42nd St 2 shades of the same colour are used . In the stations north of 42nd St the colour is used with a black border. A person on a north bound train who observes a blue band with a black border knows he’s in a Central Park zone.”

The abstract geometric feel of the tiles suggests that subway design had finally surrendered to the machine age. For the following decades no new decorative ceramics were added to the subway.

Today the ceramics are being restored and not removed. Some stations art is being added to.

 

Gyotaku

I have been experimenting with Gyotaku (pronounced Gi-u-tak-u). Gyotaku means fish stone rubbing. It is a traditional Japanese technique or method of printing fish. It dates back to the 1800s and was used by fishermen to record the “catch of the day”. The prints were made using ink and washi paper (rice paper) and is still used in Japan and other countries today. Many practitioners of the art use a non toxic soluble ink and then when the print has been made they wash and eat the fish!

I love printing and printing with a real fish was intriguing. I chose a herring from the local fish shop but I had no intention of eating it after! I decided to try it with fabric paints and with acrylic paints, but I have ordered some inks and will try it other ways as well. Maybe with different species and definitely with an octopus! Silk would be nice.

My research showed that their were two ways to print the fish. Chokusetsu-ho and Kansetsu-ho.

Kansetsu-ho is a painstaking approach which yields very delicate, detailed images. It involves adhering the rice paper or silk fabric to the fish with rice paste. The fish details are seen in relief and the ink is applied carefully through the paper/silk with applicators. Its a form of indirect printing.

Black and white are traditional colours and frequently a red seal – “chop”- is added to denote the artist.

I chose to start with Chokusetsu-ho.

You start by cleaning/drying the fish with paper towels and place the fish on a clean surface. Support the fins spreading them out by placing folded paper or bits of Styrofoam under them, then the fish is inked leaving the eye uninked. Rice paper is then applied to the fish and you rub around and along the fish using your hands, then pull your print. When the print is dry, the artist carefully colours the print and paints in a detailed eye. There are many YouTube videos available to see this method.

Not too hard I thought. I wanted my print on fabric, so instead of the rice paper I used white cotton and fabric paint instead of the ink.

(One mistake I made was not having my fish gutted at the fish shop. You do need to remember this step. It caused problems later after a few prints were pulled. I found out that the cavity can be stuffed with soft tissue that helps retains its nice round shape. So if your going to try this, gut your fish and clean it well.)

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My lovely Herring

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Place the fish on a clean surface. Gather your supplies.

 

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paint your fish then carefully move it to another clean surface

 

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place your fabric over the fish and gently rub it all around, pressing the fabric round the shape of the fish, extra rubbing on the fins.

 

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Then pull your print and maybe a ghost print as well. Here are my prints and ghost prints.

 

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Prints using acrylic paint in a warm blue. I wiped some of the paint off the fish before the print was made.

 

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This is what happens when you don’t move your fish to a clean surface after applying your paint. Lots of print noise around the fish.

Not a bad first attempt and there will be more, and I hope better, prints to come. I’d like to try a smaller fish…..sardine?….whitebait?……what about prawns…..oh octopus!

More about Criminal Quilts

Can’t believe it’s been so long since I wrote.

My previous post talked about a collaborative project I was involved in with Ruth Singer. I was lucky enough to be one of the 35 “volunteers” who had their fabric square chosen to be included in the Criminal Quilt. 100 “volunteers” offered Ruth fabric squares and 35 were chosen.

Criminal Quilts collaboration quilt 72dpi

Ruth Singers Criminal Quilts pieced by Christine Price, research volunteer.

Criminal Quilts exhibition will open this Friday 7th Sept at the Brewhouse Arts Centre in Burton upon Trent in England until 27th October. It will then travel to the Wolverhampton University in November until Jan 2019.

My square is the last square on the bottom right.

Ruth sent all the collaborators the artist names and statements for each of the squares. It is really interesting to hear how the data was interpreted by different people, so I have added it here.

The rows start with 1 at the top and squares are numbered across the rows from left to right.

Row 1

  • 1/1 Lucie Bea Dutton.Seven women were convicted of stealing shawls. I used their first initials and then added their sentences together making 990 days.
  • 1/2 Alice Guthrie. By studying the data and counting eye colours of the prisoners, I found a marked variation in the eye colour numbers. Using the given colour palette I chose threads to represent each eye colour number total. Each stitched circle represents the number of prisoners with a particular eye colour.
  • 1/3 EB. One woman stole an apron and received a 270 day sentence. Did that apron mean work? I used worn fabrics to represent an apron needing to be replaced. The edge of an apron on a grey dress.
  • 1/4 Vicky Bilton. My square is crazy patchwork, a technique common at the period of these photos. Inspired by the 10 widows; using different colours to represent them; using 9 different stitches to symbolise their different crimes. Brought the whole piece together using seed stitch to represent all 99 women.
  • 1/5 Charlotte Bilby. I looked at the number of women who were imprisoned for stealing clothing or linen (28), and used this as the number of pieces in the block. The number of women who were photographed wearing their prison number (43) is represented by the circles and knots.
  • 1/6 Rosie Eley. Inspired by the number of checked shawls worn.

Row 2

  • 2/1 Cheryl Hewitt. Using hand dyed fabrics, I responded to the more unusual minor crimes by hand stitching a patchwork square. The chequered design is intended to suggest the visual qualities of the women’s shawls. I also responded to the ages of the women, the youngest being 12 and the oldest being 60, along with the number of days sentenced.
  • 2/2 Gill. I saw there were 3 women who had a number of similarities; residence, age, name, crime and occupation.
  • 2/3 Mandypandy. I wanted to represent all the women. Each piece of shawl represents an individual, the different coloured threads represent the year they went to prison.
  • 2/4 Lesley Wood. I wove together strips of calico to echo the women’s shawls. Each woman’s first name initials were embroidered onto the strips. Surprisingly some initials formed words around the edges of the squares. Are these words valid descriptions of the women?
  • 2/5 Cathryn Brown. I chose four young women who were identified as nailers. This was hard, dirty, poorly-paid work, employing many women and children. Prints from the period show grim, drab, miserable working conditions. I rust dyed fabric with (four) nails and pieced the scraps together, reflecting their clothing, conditions and occupation.
  • 2/6 Tracy Fox. I manipulated the data in Excel then selected one of the categories of information. Using the specified colour palette, I created a background with my handwriting repeating the words ‘youngest, oldest, average’. I then printed the numbers over the top. Youngest = 12. Oldest = 60. Average = 28.

Row 3

  • 3/1 Alison Jackson-Bass. Nearly 12% of the women were convicted for stealing coal, a necessity in winter. I created a mono print of the main roads of late 19th century Staffordshire using ink made from coal and stitched lines to show the distances between the women’s homes and the jail in Stafford.
  • 3/2 Lynn Hall. Stolen Time, Doing Time. Using the data for the four women who stole watches, I made a stitch for each day they were imprisoned in a five bar gate style resembling how you would mark days on a prison cell wall. The threads I used corresponded to their hair colour.
  • 3/3 Grace White. I divided the crimes into categories and colour-coded them: theft of clothes (blue/grey), theft of valuables (beige), theft of other property (brown), other crimes (green) and food or drink-related crimes (cream). I also added the ID medallion with my own initials and date because I identify with those women.
  • 3/4 Nigel Cheney. I found it hard to reconcile the statistical data without the photographic images. Working with abstracted details and dots I codified the given palette with specific eye colour.
  • 3/5 Jamie Vowell. I focussed on the ages of the women, dividing them into age groups which gave me 6 groupings. I made a mark and used a different colour for each age grouping. The one woman in her 60s I represented with a dark brown square mark, 4 women in their 50s have a grey swirl mark, for example. I also stitched vertical black lines to represent the jail cell bars.
  • 3/6 Sallytaylor543. I chose 29 women who were wearing hats and striped or checked shawls. The design was developed using a large central square as the shawl with 29 circles as hats, separated by 29 lines for the pattern. The 4 corners echoing this with circles, small squares and lines.

Row 4

  • 4/1 Liz Boulton. I used the crimes of which the women were convicted to divide the background into areas of different colours. I embroidered heavy lines (prison bars) and heavy text (judgement) and a portrait of the convict I felt most connection to. She was Elizabeth Yates, born in Stone, age 52, height 5’0”. Same name, age and height as me. Same surname as maternal grandmother, same birthplace as paternal grandfather.
  • 4/2 Dizzyducky1. I went with a kaleidoscope eye-colour design, these women’s lives were turned upside down like when you use a kaleidoscope. The eyes struck me the most, sad, shocked, haunted, relieved, almost. I used the more unique crimes for the background quilting, fork, fish, rabbit, horseshoe, money and alcohol being common.
  • 4/3 Ruth Garner. There are 26 women (25%) called Mary from 16-46 years old and they are represented by the rectangles of fabric in the centre. Mary is a biblical name represented by a stitched cross. Within the cross there are 293 white stitches which is the average sentence imposed on these women called Mary.
  • 4/4 Faye Waple. Initially I was drawn to the offences carried out by the women, especially the items stolen; this data forms the border in brown cross stitch. Trade is show with grey cross stitch, marital status referenced by white running stitch – the single thread depicting the single women, double thread married and 3 threads show widowed women. Eye and hair colour are shown and the overall number of women is reflected by the French knots in the middle of my piece.
  • 4/5 Maureen Evans. I chose Hannah Taylor, dressmaker, who stole a skirt. My square is made of woven stripes of cotton, silk and lace. I aged them by eco dyeing with tea and rust. The key is a symbol of the constant sound of locking doors.
  • 4/6 Emma Branch. My block is based on the data relating to hair colour of the women convicted between 1878-1880. I imagined looking down from the gallery to see them all lined up in date order of their court appearance, seeing, not their faces, but the tops of their heads.

Row 5

  • 5/1 Julie Orford. I used maps from around 1880 to represent the birth places of women aged 40-49. As I stitched I thought about the journeys the women had made. Did their paths ever cross? What made them stray from the path? Will prison put them back on the straight and narrow?
  • 5/2 Angela Richardson. I counted the eye colours. 41 grey, 30 brown, 15 blue and 8 hazel. I stitched the eyes from large to small to represent the ratios. The chains keep them enclosed representing the loss of freedom.
  • 5/3 Hazel Vickers. I decided on ages and marital status. The square is divided into 7 stripes, one for each decade. Using various fabrics these stripes were divided into marital status in a rough approximation of the number in the group. Sharp stitches used to signify their imprisonment and harsh lives.
  • 5/4 Lynda Dobson. As a former mathematics teacher the data jumped out at me – particularly the reasons for the crime. I converted the data into a pie-chart.
  • 5/5 Flea Cooke. I responded most to the detail of distinguishing marks, cuts and bruises. This linked to an existing interest in mending and darning, so I used these techniques to suggest pain and abuse suffered by these women prior to imprisonment, even ideas of self harm as a release from turmoil.
  • 5/6 Karen Apps. I focussed on the 34 women who were documented as having cuts as ‘distinguishing marks’. I wondered why so many had such injuries and how and when these were inflicted? Can only imagine the difficult lives these women lived. Each roughly stitched cut represents one woman.

Row 6

  • 6/1 Kay Steven. I focussed on the references to distinguishing marks (scars, moles etc) clustering stitches to roughly represent the location of the marks on the body. Those with ‘no marks’ (-) and those with moles (x) hold the piece and the women together. A code emerges.
  • 6/2 Laura Mabbutt. Felt bobbles indicate the number of women showing their hands. Each woman is represented by 99 weathered sequins, mimicking the prison numbers they wear. Each white line represents a woman wearing check fabric. Blue cross stitches represent the number of women who were married, the beige stitches the single women and the white cross stitches the number of widows.
  • 6/3 Rachael O’Brien. Ninety-eight women sentenced to a total of 15,593 days imprisonment. This equates to nearly 43 years. The number coincidentally reflects the average life expectancy at birth for women at that time in history equating to in total one life’s worth of incarceration. Stitches represent notches of count of time passed.
  • 6/4 Tanya Rogers. Brown-eyed, fresh-faced thieves. The number of days spent in prison and what they stole. One hexagon per thief, each hexagon has number of prison days printed on it as well as a stitch pattern according to what they stole eg IIII = clothing, II = coal.
  • 6/5 Nigel Cheney (see 3/4) Working with visible mending techniques I hoped to echo the way we construct narrative from such historical clues.
  • 6/6 Megan Byrne. The focus was eye colour. Four eye colours identified: brown, grey, hazel and blue. I wove the colours together in strips. Majority of eyes grey (42), then brown (31), then blue (15) and hazel (10). Weaving the colours I hoped to integrate this data into the overall narrative.