Material Memories

Material Memories: Stitching and Storytelling

Crafting Communities Workshop project Stitcher and embroiderer Hannah Maughan ran a stitching project in the exhibition gallery during the workshop. All participants were welcome to drop in, settle down and take some time out to be creative, stitch and storytell, stitch and think, or simply stitch!

Pieces of embroidery (hand-stitched, machine-stitched, crochet and needlepoint) were on hand to work on, along with needles, thread, embroidery hoops and fabric pens to sketch out designs for those who didnʼt feel comfortable stitching straight into the material.  People were encouraged to unpick, rework, develop, adapt, work over or obliterate existing decorations.

Hannah would also like to collect your stitching stories and memories about how, when and where you learnt to sew or knit. All participants are encouraged to upload these (and any images if you have them) onto the Connecting Craft and Communities website.


4 responses to “Material Memories

  1. Warhammer Hoody

    Katie Bunnell – Warhammer Hoody
    My 10 year old son Archie’s drawing of his favourite, and most lovingly painted warhammer figure, a 40000 Space Marine Commander,  translated into an ‘awesome’ stitched embellishment used to mend a rip in his favourite hoody. Warhammer figures are tiny and incredibly detailed models of hybrid human/animal war machines, obsessively made, painted and played with. The embroidery crosses the boundaries of military and school uniform embellishment and urban cool. What started as a rip ended as a mark of status. It is now worn with pride by my middle son, Tommie who’s obsession with Warhammer is co-incident with the size of the hoody.

  2. Hannah Maughan Robb – Mothers and daughters

    My mother has always been a keen needlewoman. From birth I was brought up with an enviable wardrobe of pretty dresses, playsuits, nighties and coats. Even more enviable was the box of dressing up clothes, which for a child with a heightened imagination, was heaven. Gypsy, pirate, angel, nurse – whomever I was Mum dressed me for the occasion -the most memorable and most loved was the bespoke Alpine outfit, worn throughout a glorious summer as Heidi, and which I still treasure. My dollies got the same treatment too and perhaps I just took it for granted, assuming all mothers did this for their children.

    The dressmaking was twofold – an interest that my mother had nurtured throughout her own life but also, and perhaps at the time as a single working mother in the 70s, a necessity.
    As my sister and I got older, we would work alongside Mum, making our own clothes, with her showing and helping us cut the pattern and fabric and teaching us how to use her sewing machine. My sister’s interest wained after a week in which all she mastered was a pocket but I continued to make and decorate my own clothes, seeing it as a way of exploring and evolving my personal and creative identity. Years later, the ultimate outfit was a joint effort between us, my wedding dress, I designed it and Mum made it.

    However, although mum was good at dressmaking, her talent was with the decorative. Her embroidery skills were technically outstanding, with labour intensive, eye aching work being produced immaculately, (I always marvelled at how the back was always as good as the front). She would often have something on the go, with her favourite being petit pointe, very fine canvas work, which would be framed or turned into upholstered footstools and gifted to friends and family, becoming much sort after heirlooms.

    Mum’s projects, sewing cupboard, bags of threads and boxes of fabrics were very much the make up of my childhood. To me there was something fascinating, comforting and natural about this paraphernalia and the strong connection to my mum meant a shared interest created an even greater bond between us. As a mother myself now to a little girl, I am aware that I am consciously encouraging my daughter to experience the same as I did. She will often play with my sewing box and button jar, rummage through my piles of fabrics and knows that if she wants to get round me, will ask if she can “play sewing”. Whether this interest will flourish, I will wait and see, though just to have her in the future associate it with me will be enough.

    My life has continued to be centred around textile design and along the way mum has been there as a skilled, steady and supportive hand. My professional success as both a designer and a lecturer I whole heartedly put down to my mother quietly and unintentionally opening my eyes to a world that I would be lost without – thank you Mum!

  3. Hannah Maughan Robb – The Quilt

    I forget exactly when we decided that mum would make me a quilt, (her first and only) – though I know that is was to be my 18th birthday present, so I must have been on my foundation course in the early 90s. I do remember a conversation about fabric, colour and design – mum bought most of the fabric from a quilting suppliers and we agreed it would be her choice rather than mine, though I did insist on having plain fabrics as well as patterned. This was supplemented by remnants from Mum’s fabric box, chosen for practical reasons (size of pattern) rather than family history. Mum asked if I had a certain design in mind, how did I want the quilt to look? I was less knowledgeable about quilt patterns and design in general as I am now, and thinking of the easiest answer, I told her to make it randomly, put all the patches into the sewing bag and pull them out one at a time and let chance be the designer.

    My 18th birthday came and went as did my 21st…the quilt became the project of the decade, with mum having intense periods of making, followed by long droughts in which the project bag was abandoned behind the sofa. Other projects were started and finished but the quilt continued to slowly grow. The project bag would appear in all sorts of places and at all sorts of occasions – on train journeys, at airports, in hospital waiting rooms, on a beach in Monaco, long winter evenings and family get togethers – a constant and laughable presence throughout the 90s and into the Millenium. As my own design aesthetic was also developing throughout this time, I would look at Mum’s progress and fall in and out of love with the quilt. Unbeknown to Mum, at times I really hated it, thinking it clumsy and ugly and regretting the randomness of the design and prissy choice of fabrics. But I would never say this out loud as over and above all else, I saw that with every tiny hand made stitch my mother was steadily sewing herself forever into this quilt for me.

    Happily, by the time the quilt was finished I fell totally in love with it, surprisingly for exactly all the reasons I had hated it. It is truly unique with it’s randomness complimenting or clashing depending on where I put it. To me it tells a story of all those years that it took to make, the family joke it became and the perseverance of my mother who thankfully never left it for me to find half made as so many other projects have been. It is the object that I would rescue if my house were burning down, it is the object that I will ceremoniously pass on to my daughter and it is the object that I will cry into when my mother has gone as for me it is weighted with the unconditional love between a mother and her daughter.

    I did get the quilt finally for my 30th birthday, as the best bit of all is the embroidered inscription around the edge that reads:
    Stitched with love by her mother for Hannah Sophia Maughan’s 18th birthday 21:02:1992
    Started 1991 completed 2004!

    So, if I start now, I may have my 2 year old’s quilt finished in time for her 18th birthday….


  4. Hannah Maughan Robb – The Ship

    I have long been fascinated by sewing kits and cross stitch, both to make myself as well as collecting already stitched ones.

    Although I find the majority available to buy rather quaint, old fashioned and uninspiring, I do respond to the kitsch factor and boats, ships and galleons are a favourite of mine having always lived by the sea.

    Whilst pregnant I craved a project that I could idly work on as my fingers needed to be busy but my mind didn’t. As the months went by the long evenings of sitting on the sofa, propped up amongst a growing mound of pillows gave me ample time to work the kit. As my hands worked automatically my mind would wonder, mainly to the forth coming events and as the stitching evolved, so did my baby. In the past I would often tire of a kit, with my interest waining as the novelty wore off, especially when faced with a large single block of colour to stitch and I have several of these kits left unfinished, unloved. But with this one it felt different. I realised that the long hours whiled away working and waiting held the story of the expectant mother. My thoughts, questions, fears and dreams were being embroidered into the canvas and when I look at it now it takes me straight back to that time. This is what I will tell my daughter. As with the quilt my mother made me, my daughter will know that not only did my hands physically make the stitches but emotionally my whole self has been stitched into the work.

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