The Recovery Quilt

The Recovery Quilt, which we’ve been working on for more than a year finally went on display this week, in the Soldiers Story Gallery, Derby Museum and Art Gallery.

The Recovery Quilt has been created by more than 50 participants who stitched their own personal response to ‘recovery’. The Recovery Quilt began as a response to official war photographer Mark Neville’s Battle Against Stigma project to raise awareness about Post -Traumatic Stress Disorder - PTSD.

Taking inspiration from the ‘Crimea Quilts’ made by 19th C convalescent soldiers, the quilt is made up of hand-stitched, dyed and printed textile piece using vintage linens and threads. The 'Recovery Quilt' references a history of conflict and recovery, illustrating the personal journeys and stories of the many participants. Each piece is a testament to individual's own perspective on recovery. As a whole, the quilt reflects our extraordinary capacity for recovery, and the contribution creative practice can make.

Created in Partnership with QUAD, Derby

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MAINFRAME Award 2019

We were delighted to be nominated as one of the final three projects in the MAINFRAME Award 2019, in the ‘Creativity for Good’ category.

The judge said:

It was very hard to select just one winner - all the work is this category is such high quality and has huge impact. It was extremely moving reading all the submissions and its great to see such exemplary work taking place in our city.

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Made my wardrobe

I came across the project a few months ago through Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour.  It is the inspiring story of Lydia Higginson who has undertaken the impressive task of creating every single item in her wardrobe – including her bras and pants! She did this by learning new skills, building friendships with crafts women and focussing her creativity and determination.

She embarked on this project as a response of to a life-changing sexual assault. At first, she felt her life had been destroyed but through her own strength and creativity, she used textiles as a means to recover by making an exquisitely beautiful collection of garments.  Her mission was to ‘amour herself in clothes made from  love’. She threw herself into learning new skills, working with beautiful colours, fabrics, and embroideries. She now runs textile workshops and courses, inspiring and teaching others. This is the most extraordinary example of the power of creativity to heal, and the community of textiles makers.  

You can read about Lydia's story here…

And read her bog here..


Quilting Courses and workshops

If you have been inspired by all this information about quilting, you might be thinking about a quilting workshop or course. Philippa leads a range  of sessions from her studios at Banks Mill, Derby. The workshops are relaxed, friendly, taught with expertise and a lot of laughter! In addition, Philippa always has a lovely selection of teas, coffee and biscuits - priorities!

You can find out more at


A Durham Quilter

Quilting is definitely the theme of this week… While researching, I came across this wonderful photograph of a quilter, credited to the Beamish Museum in Durham. Apparently, they have an extensive quilt collection -

It’s fascinating to see both a quilt ‘in process’ and a representation of an historical quilter like this. Notes on the image suggest its ‘circa’ 1950s though it looks like it could be a little earlier, based on comparisons with other images, maybe nearer 1930s?

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The Sleep Quilt

“Turn that bloody torch off. I only get two hours”,  is stitched into one patch of The Sleep Quilt, a project led by novelist Tracey Chevalier. She explains; “The prisoner is high risk and on suicide watch, so he is woken every two hours to make sure he’s still alive. It’s been happening for 24 years for this prisoner – it’s horrifying. For him, sleep is something he craves, but it’s a horrible experience.”

Chevalier, author of novels such as Girl with a Pearl Earring, worked with 63 inmates in Wandsworth prison to create a quilt made up of stitched patches. She discovered a love for quilting while researching her novel The Last Runaway - “my heroine was a quilter…”  She went on to curate a quilt exhibition show at Danson House in London 2013 on the theme ‘Things we do in bed’.  It was split into the themes of birth, sleep, sex, illness and death. Working with the charity Fine Cell Work, which teaches needlework to prisoners and pays them for the work they do, Chevalier asked the Wandsworth inmates to design a quilt made of 10-inch squares depicting individual responses to ‘sleep’.

“The need for sleep is universal and, I assumed, a kind of comfort in prison,” Chevalier writes in an introduction to the resulting book, The Sleep Quilt. She says that the project “became much more therapeutic than I’d thought – things came out, emotions came out. Sleep is quite contentious in prisons, and I hadn’t known that. But when we’re going to sleep, it’s often the time we think the most. For prisoners, things have gone wrong for them in their lives and that’s the time it comes out. That definitely came through in the quilt.”

“It sounds crazy to say that sewing can help people, but it is actually very therapeutic and calming,” says Chevalier. “It seems so unlikely, that sewing would unlock something, but it does.”



War and Pieced

For the last few weeks we’ve been planning a creative response to an exhibition by photographer Mark Neville which focuses on conflict-induced Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Researching  PTSD, its impact and its historical context, we were fascinated to discover that 19th C soldiers recovering from injuries and conditions we may now recognise as PTSD sometimes stitched elaborate patchwork quilts. Some of these quilts still exist and have come to be known as ‘Crimea Quilts’ or ‘Convalescent Quilts’.

One collection of these extraordinary quilts is held at the V&A. Another held by Annette Gero was recently displayed at The American Folk Art Museum, New York:  

War and Pieced is the first exhibition in the United States to showcase the spectacularly complex geometric quilts made exclusively by men using richly dyed wools derived from British military and dress uniforms. Once termed “soldiers’ quilts” or “convalescent quilts,” the pieced textiles are most closely associated with the Crimean War as well as conflicts in India, South Africa, and other troubled regions of the British Empire during the nineteenth century. The visual virtuosity of the quilts … assumes a deeper emotional resonance as we consider them within the matrix of war and its aftermath.

The exhibition will be on show at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum, University of Lincoln–Nebraska from May 25 to September 16 2018.


Embroidered Book Jackets

In our Make & Mend group we are currently working on stitched books. One of the inspirations for the project was a beautiful set of19th embroidered book jackets spotted at Compton Verney a while ago. We've not been able to track down an image of those particular books but the ones here are similar and equally lovely.


Lace Unravelled

Wollaton Hall & Newstead Abbey

10 March – 22 April

Lace Unravelled is a season of events, exhibitions and artist commissions to celebrate 18 months’ research in to Nottingham City Museums & Galleries’ world-class Lace and Lace Machinery collections. The programme has been organised in collaboration with Nottingham Trent University and supported by funding from Arts Council England (Designation Development programme) and The Grand Tour.

The public programme includes exhibitions, talks, tours and a symposium. You can find out about more at


Phantom Thread

Phantom Thread is the widely anticipated new film directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. It stars Daniel Day-Lewis as fictional 1950's British fashion designer, Reynolds Woodcock . The film has been nominated for a raft of awards and everyone is talking about sumptuous original costumery realised by Mark Bridges, Oscar-winning costume designer.

Bridges and Anderson credit legendary fashion designers Cristóbal Balenciaga, Hardy Amies, Edward Molyneux, and Victor Stiebel as the inspirations behind Woodcock and his creations, and the details and authenticity of the costumes sound impressive.

Apparently, Day-Lewis apprenticed himself to the New York City Ballet’s costume director to learn the skills and mindset of a couturier. By the end of his training, he was able to make a perfect recreation of a mid-century Balenciaga…

Bridges’s research took him to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. “We were really fortunate to be able to go into the museum’s archives, to look inside garments, to see how they were made, to see what fabrics were used.”

Two of the guides who oversaw Bridges’s research in the V&A had, in previous lives, worked at London couture houses. Not only did they share useful details about how a mid-century British couture house functioned (you did not socialise; you got the work done), but Anderson also cast them in the film. Look out for Sue Clark and Joan Brown as they appear as Biddy and Nana, two of Woodcock’s more senior employees.

I love the sound of the costumes, the detail and period setting but … Anderson’s previous films  Boogie Nights, There will be Blood and Magnolia boast  a swathe of misogyny wide enough to make a couture gown from so, I’ll go and see the film, but with shields up…


The Bayeux Tapestry

We are excited to hear that the Bayeux Tapestry is set to be displayed in the UK after France agreed it could leave its shores for the first time in 950 years.

The tapestry - which is stitched rather than woven, making it technically an embroidery - depicts the Norman Conquest of England. It tells the story of the future William I's conquest of England, culminating in the Battle of Hastings and the defeat of Harold in 1066. 

Its origins remain unconfirmed, but research suggests it was probably designed and constructed in England by Anglo-Saxon artists; the Latin text contains hints of Anglo-Saxon; other embroideries originate from England at this time; and the vegetable dyes can be found in cloth traditionally woven here.

Its not due to be loaned until at least 2020, subject to the outcome of tests  to make sure the 11th Century artwork is safe to move.

Fingers crossed...


A stitch in time...

For anyone interested in textiles, history costumes, paintings ... this BBC programme is a must - so good I've watched some twice!

In each episode, fashion historian Amber Butchard focuses  on a historical painting to explore how clothes were made in the past, and what reconstructing them can tell us about the people who wore them. The featured garments range from the 14th to the 18th centuries.  

'The Arnolfini', episode 2 is my favourite to date - I loved seeing the emerald green wool being woven and dyed using stale urine - but they are all fascinating...

Have a look on iplayer

Check out the wonderful historical costumier, Ninya Mikhaila




Our new business cards...

Our stamp came today – very exciting! Been busy making little business cards and labels. Its such a good way to recycle paper and card – and every one handmade and unique…

Welcome to Common Threads...

We are very  pleased to welcome you to our new website! After months of planning and prep, our website went live today - guessing there will be many tweaks and amends over the next few weeks but its great to finally have an on-line presence.