Recovered memories, hand quilting and found messages by Karen Alderson

Things are moving forward! We had a meeting at the museum last week and the conversation honed in on display and marketing, namely boards, labels, flyers and Mayors. The week previous I had visited Bankfield with my tape measure and looked at how the gallery attached frames to walls, the size of frames and how much space was available for my work. Whilst there I noticed the huge map I used as a starting point was on display as part of the museums current exhibition, so if you want to see this amazing artefact now, please visit the gallery.


Somehow I had got into a flap about how I would display my pieces but after some research into methods of displaying textile art  I realised I knew what to do as I had done it for open studios last year. Memory….

After the relief of recovering this memory I set to work sewing each textile piece onto black backing fabric, this took a few days sitting in the garden (Oh! The labour of a textile artist). Then each piece was carefully measured to assess the size of frame, a list was make of wood lengths, wood was ordered, wood arrived.

Next, I collected tools and materials: a drill, box of drill bits (where did I put that chuck key?), screws, phillips screwdriver, 2 G clamps, staple gun, staples, batting. Now the fun part: drilling holes and screwing the wood together. Like anything else the first one took ages but by the fifth one I was on a roll brandishing my Black and Decker like a six shooter.

I’m about half way through, however, the process was slowed down somewhat when my 15 year old staple gun finally seized up and a new one had to be ordered.


Mounted work in the studio

All this drilling, screwing and stapling is great fun and I’m still working on a hand quilted piece that references road edges.

I hand dyed some linen thread with the same colours I had used to dye the fabric and once I had machine sewed the pieces together it was back out in the garden to sit in the sun and hand quilt for hours.

Hand Quilting







Goodness, it was awful sat there in all the peace of the afternoon listening to the bees buzzing and birds singing quietly sewing myself into a trance.

Not content with all of this I had a yen to go back to Brow Lane and revisit the fence from which I had based a lot of work. Someone had left a pair of children’s black shoes and a green curtain there.

Further up the hill I came to the place where clothes and household items had previously been dumped, these had been removed and in the lower field brown cows munched happily whilst there was an overwhelming acrid stench similar to that of an abattoir.

I’m not sure of the business in the industrial park further down but it did invoke memories of a long dead uncle who worked at Borthwick’s abattoir, now owned by Woodheads on Regent Street in Nelson and a similar smell always lingered along the valley. Further up I found a broken picture frame.


Still, something urged me back down towards Holmfield Mill.  As I stood outside taking photos I found some stone steps leading to the car park opposite.

I figured I would get better shots from there and as I reached the tarmac I saw an abandoned van with its windows smashed.

I was taken back to the day I collected my belongings from my smashed vehicle at the recovery garage, at the time a part of me had wanted to spend some time with the vehicle taking in the damage, letting the reality sink in but another part wanted to get away from it as soon as possible, the latter won. Being able to closely observe this van seemed like a second chance to really look at how the vehicle had been damaged, in particular, to be able to look inside as both side windows had been put through.


On the floor of the passenger side I found a piece of paper with a child’s scribbles and underneath a child’s toy from MacDonalds. I retrieved the paper and wondered what was going through the child’s mind as it held the ball point pen. I really like the mark making and will use this to inform further work.







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