working in fabric

The women I knew growing up in post-war Britain all sewed. It was part of being a capable woman. Over the years, I’ve made clothes, shortened skirts, replaced zips, patched worn knees and elbows, changed ugly buttons for prettier ones, and taken out dozens of shoulder pads. I’ve made baby quilts, coordinated group quilts, pieced patchwork footballs for toddlers and juggling balls for adults. In 2001, I was inspired to do a much bigger project.





The immediate military response to the attacks of September-11 made me scared and angry. I longed to do something creative to express the core of what matters. Years before, I’d made rough sketches for four fabric hangings representing earth, air, fire, and water, the foundations of life. Their time had come….  Click on each image to see the whole piece.

More recently I’ve tried my hand at wet felting. Two pieces have been photographed and used for book covers: “Red” and “Composting”.






My Pocketsoutfit, Pockets, was featured in Bomb gownFashioning Resistance to Militarism in Oakland, May 2005. This collaborative show has since been staged by various groups: in Cambridge, Cape Cod, Eugene (Oregon), Guahan (Guam), Hawai’i, and Washington DC. I reworked an old prom dress into Bomb Gown for the Eugene shows (2010, 2011).

I’m inspired by fabric projects that bring people together such as the Boise Peace Quilt Project, the AIDS Memorial Quilt, the Cambridge Oral History Project, the CODEPINK Peace Ribbon Project, and Ribbon International where women encircled the Pentagon with decorated fabric pieces. Women in Chile have made arpilleras from scraps of cloth and yarn to raise international awareness of the plight of their loved ones who were “disappeared”, tortured and murdered under the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet. Feminist artists like Judy Chicago and Faith Ringgold, and untold numbers of quilters have demonstrated how fabric work bridges art and craft, the personal and the public, creating beauty and making a point.

Photos: Gwyn Kirk (hangings & felting), Ariceli Curiel (btm l), University of Oregon Women’s Center (btm r)
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