How I got interested in textiles

I have been thinking a lot recently about how I got started in textiles. I think the recent house move and all the sorting out of things has prompted this as you find things you forgot you had and much of the things I came across linked in some way to textiles and the part it has played in my life. 

My mum used to work in a bra making factory - I always wonder if it was a bit like Coronations Street's 'Underworld'! In fact she met my dad through one of her friends there as she was his sister. 

I always remember my mum sewing whether it be bits and pieces around the home, mending or making stuff for us. In fact when were were teenagers I remember her making lots of soft toys and carry cots which she used to sell and it was always exciting to see her new creations. 

I also remember being interested in sewing and being creative but never being very good at it! Probably the main thing I did successfully was knitting which I did a lot of. I dabbled in lots of other areas but never felt as happy with the results as I did with knitting. My 'needlework' lessons at school were very traditional and although I loved them and they were the highlight of the week I always looked on admiringly as everyone else produced much better work than me!

I went to College to do textiles almost by accident. I was very influenced by a family friend who was a primary school teacher and I became keen to do a primary teaching qualification. I was actually turned down for this course but was offered a place on the secondary course instead. I often wonder what I would be doing now if I had gone down that different route. 

screen print 2896

At College I discovered a wide range of new techniques and whilst I still wasn't that good at any of them I loved the chance to experiment and have a go. The screen printing sample above is something I did whilst at College and this type of technique was completely new to me. Knitting was still probably my favourite area and I actually did my 4th year dissertation on this area. 

Probably the biggest influence on me however was a City and Guilds course I did for about 6 months some years after I had left College and had begun teaching. I took the course as I wanted to get out the house more rather than because of wanting to learn things but I absolutely loved the new techniques I came across. We had the freedom to experiment the same as we did at College but whereas at College the main focus had been teaching here it was pure textiles. We could do things just for the love of it rather than because it was linked to education.

For the first time I got totally absorbed in a range of techniques producing countless samples and experiments both to learn the techniques and to experiment with the boundaries I could push. The image below shows a traditional geometric patchwork sample I produced before I went onto do a variety of other samples using different materials and joining techniques in order to fully explore the technique's potential. 

patchwork_2902 (1) _Snapseed

I didn't complete the course as I moved to London to live with my boyfriend (who is now my husband) and I got caught up in all the excitement of that. The work I did during that short time had a great influence on my confidence, knowledge and creativity and I still use many of these samples today in my teaching.

Up to this point my experience of textiles was quite 'crafty'. In my classroom I was however always trying out new things that came along. I enjoy being the first to use new technology and to push its boundaries. I vividly remember when my faculty at the time got its first computer. This makes me feel very old as we all rely on computers so much nowadays but no one really wanted it (imagine that nowadays) so I snapped it up. The same happened in other schools where I taught where many teachers were wary of new technology. The image below is taken around 1993 and shows my Acorn and Apple computers, printer, scanner and Poem embroidery machinery (which constantly broke down!) all of which were cutting edge technology at the time!

Acorn Poem _Snapseed

Today my focus and interests lie around the technological side of textiles. I still love the crafty side and do much of this at home but it is the 'wow' factor that new technologies offer that excites me. In particular I enjoy showing these areas to young people as I know these new developments will be a key part of their future. In particular I like to inspire those that don't see themselves as being naturally good at textiles. This is probably because of my own background at being very average at things I tried! Thankfully my skills have improved now but I know that without textiles in my life it would be a much duller place so I am glad I persevered. 

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