Amy Twigger Holroyd

Amy Twigger Holroyd is interested in sustainable knitwear, amateur activities that happen in the home such as repairing and actively seeks out ways to support amateur and small scale activities.

Like me she is keen to understand PEOPLES LIVED EXPERIENCE of these activities. will read her PhD Thesis which is about Amateur Fashion Making. I appreciate her methods of articulating this work and the distinct vehicles she is using to do this i.e. design-led, knitted garments.

She has a book coming out in 2017, called Folk Fashion it seems like it will be worth reading:

‘In Folk Fashion: Understanding Homemade Clothes, Amy Twigger Holroyd explores the vibrant world of amateur creativity and unpicks the contemporary experience of making and mending clothes for ourselves to wear.

A dynamic resurgence in sewing and knitting has emerged in the last decade, supported by the connective power of the internet. Today, many people are making and mending their own garments at home, and deriving great pleasure from this creative process. However, making clothes is not a consistently positive experience: conversations with makers reveal many stories of homemade garments languishing at the back of the wardrobe. Twigger Holroyd draws on theories of fashion, culture and craft to help makers understand their mixed experiences of wearing homemade clothes in a society dominated by shop-bought garments.

Many folk fashion makers are motivated by concerns about the environmental and social impacts of mass-produced clothing, and see that creating their own clothes can lead to a slower and more satisfying experience of fashion. However, the relationship between amateur making and sustainability is more complex than it may first appear. Using an unexpected metaphor of fashion as common land and incorporating a focus on individual well-being, the book critically examines the potential contribution of domestic activity to a sustainable fashion system.

Taking an inclusive approach, Folk Fashion looks at the making and remaking of both individual garments and the wardrobe as a whole. Twigger Holroyd combines her own experience as a designer and knitter with first-hand accounts from a diverse range of folk fashion makers to provide an array of perspectives on this fascinating, yet under-examined, area of contemporary fashion culture. Examining both mainstream and emerging practices, she not only develops an understanding of what is happening now, but also suggests ways that folk fashion might continue to flourish, diversify and evolve in the future.’


Peoples History Museum

I got chance to go over to The Peoples History Museum this month to take part [with Jade and Zi from work] in what I thought was a talk but pleasantly turned out to be a workshop. It was called The Fabric of Protest and was organised by Helen Mather and Lisa Gillan []. Helen is an independent artist, painter who is interested in banners [and quilts as paintings as I discovered through chatting – there were so many connections].

The workshop that I took part in was one in a series in which people to come along on a monthly basis, in earlier meeting that I had not attended they had come across the story of the Matchstick Girls. This is very basic but essentially, in a factory down south, girls of 14 and maybe younger were employed to make matches and pack them up. Part of the process involved putting the matches in there mouths and as a result they would develop horrendous mouth cancers. Alongside this was the very poor standards of working conditions and at the time, they were considered as unskilled workers and were therefore unrepresented by a Union [which only worked for skilled workers at the time]. On one day a girl was fired which resulted in the entire workforce walking out and marching down to the local Union representative to demand support. This, I understand was the birth of the modern Union’s.

This workshop had decided to make a banner that represented this action, previous weeks had seen the design for the banner develop and this session saw the beginning of sewing happening. We managed in a=our small groups to get the lettering cut out and started some sewing before the session finished and for other in the next groups to continue with. There were so many similar practices happening in this event and the MQB, there shared experience of working on one item was particularly rich.

I am hoping to get along to another session in the future before it is finished but it is during the week and so may not be possible.

The phrase ‘It Just Went Like Tinder’ was a term used by someone at the time of the incident to describe the reaction of the girls / workers when they decided to take action and not stand for the mistreatment any more.

I cannot remember the name or date of the event but I understand the banner is going to be used as a backdrop for a musical event in Manchester during December. I believe the singer is possibly an artist in resident at the Manchester Peoples History Museum and is doing a concert in response to this residency. Will endeavor to find out more.

OK – this is probably a more accurate account…

MQB Development

When the case study came to an end, a few people asked if we could continue to make quilts and meet up. Although it would not run as a case study, I was keen to keep a level of engagement with communal making and, I had really enjoyed doing it. The women who wished to continue had so many interesting things to talk about and so we have continued to meet every other Monday evening. instead of paying for the village hall, we meet and work in each others houses which has bought further intimacy and friendship to the making of quilts.

We approached it a little differently in that we did decide as a group on a design and the fabric we would use. I had purchased a book called Modern Bee and we have taken inspiration from one of the designs in their, we could have followed the instructions word for word but as a group we preferred a more relaxed approach and used it as a guide.

Everyone bought in samples and leftovers we already had in our stashes and I provided a lovely length of vintage liberties fabric that had been donated by a local person when they saw my posters for the original MQB.

We worked with all that we had with the only ‘interference’ being that we dyed up a batch of fabric in a grey to pull it all together a little more.

Despite not officially documenting this particular adventure with the MQB, I have got a few photos of work in progress. In the future, we do have some thoughts of perhaps collaborating on a piece specifically for this research – but it is early days at the moment.

Laying out the pieces on a member of MQB’s bed. [Perren, 2015]

Ref: Conner, L. Modern Bee. 2013. Lafayette, Stash Books.

Bumping Hands

When we all met for the first time, as expected we were quite reserved, polite and understood about personal space. The politeness remained but an aspect that I had not observed in the earlier mentioned video about the Gee’s Bend women was just how physically close you have to get so we could work on the quilt.

A couple of moments stuck out for me, the first was seeing two quilters [who did not know each other before the group got together] work so closely that their hands were literally bumping. In the questionnaire’s that were completed at the end of the sessions, one person commented ‘bumping hands for the first time with someone will always make me smile’.

Bumping Hands [Perren, 2015]
Working Space [Perren, 2015]
The second observation was when one of the quilters was sat underneath the quilting frame, amongst the legs of her fellow workers she was trying to sort out a knot on the back of the quilt.

The Underside [Perren, 2015]
These were aspects I was keen to further explore within my own practice and highlighted the nature of my initial preference for working in isolation.


Each of the quilting sessions were voice recorded [except the last one as the battery had run out]. Here is a list of the ‘topics of conversations’ that took place and words that would be repeated over the first few sessions. As we got to know each other in the later sessions, moments of quiet working would happen.

cutting, 6″, angles, rulers, scissors, rotary cutters, tools, trying, tricky, rule, checking, jaunty, not metric, simplicity, other fabric choices, cm or inches, tea, cotton, sewing, coffee, pinning, Kaffe Fassett, colour, knitting shops in Spain with all the old ladies outside, arthritis, biscuits, university, do you know …

concentrated blocking of colour, measuring, balance of colour, move that one, trimming, what do you think, turn it round, symmetrical, does it matter, free flow, finished width, their not all dead flat, precut, wonky, take a picture, ironing the seams, ooh – special iron, stretching seams, straight lines, tea, wonderful, holmfirth, are you alright Katy?

[church bells in the background], left handed, where shall I sit, passing the needle on, we all voted to do the lines, handout, short lengths, small holes, threaders, a 1000 threads, thumb, ambidextrous, the lines are the wrong way, oh that is going that way, maybe we should just go for the practical option, invisible knots, we know what we should do.

stitching on the lines, parallel, how are you? how do you do the know again? that needle is tiny, weather, tail inside, raining, distracted, Look North, meal worms, quinoa, protein, American quilts, chaos, history, GCSE exam today, Being Human, speeding, unfinished knitting projects, does anyone want sugar?, gym, go me…

London, i’m taking the digestives, double espresso and a fag, red bush tea, factories, that’s what I forgot, I would like red, free, longer thread, quilting books, threading all your needles onto one spool and pulling the thread through them, running stitch, sunshine, labour, they’ve done more than me, where have I got too? folk art

Goodness me – I never thought of myself as a political, i’m going to tell my husband, that’s why I can’t wear dresses, exhibition, feminist slogans, university, re-invention, archive, railway museum, coffee, working extra fast, scarecrow festival, it’s Mickey Mouse, where is the needle, my back, church hall, clamps, YSP

First Meeting/s

The initial meetings went very well in the local village hall, the evening session proved more popular and so we decided to make a couple of different sized quilts.  The evening session made a single quilt while the daytime group made a large lap quilt. Everyone was aware and happy for the sessions to be run as a case study for my research, I just felt a little embarrassed that I was unable to present a clear idea of what my research was… it was still hazy to me.

The previous experience levels of quilting varied as much as the age range [16-82] and all participants were women. There were a few who had quite a bit of sewing experience and making quilts but nobody had made one by hand. Others in the group seemed rather nervous about any sort of sewing.

I spoke to the group about making decisions together on the design and planning but everyone made it clear that they would prefer to be instructed on what to do [despite knowing about my lack of knowledge]. Luckily I had suspected this and when showing everyone the plans, they seemed to relax. Upon presentation of my fabric choices however, it became clear that this was not what they had envisioned so immediately asked if could be changed to use what they wanted.

Stephen Knott in his book Amateur Craft talks about the nature of engaging with a hobby as an amateur. key to this is the autonomous nature of doing – it may operate within a similar network of rules and structures to the workplace, but as individuals – you can engage with free choice.

Autonomous actions were quite apparent within the group from the early days, despite claims that they did not want to have to make any decisions…

A suggestion was made that we could follow the plan, but if individuals wanted to, they could include as much or as little of a fabric of their own choice – within the strip [block] they were piecing together.

From these images, you can see work as it is happening once the blocks had all been pieced together, within sections you can see flashes of personal choices within the quilt top.

Knott, S. (2015). Amateur craft : history and theory. london: Bloomsbury.




Not One but Two Quilting Bees

So after not too much more thought about the implications, I set up a Quilting Bee in my Village [Meltham, Holmfirth] which would initially run during two different times. I was interested in the connections between home life, work life and engaging with a hobby [which was how I recognised quilting in this context] and was therefore keen to engage with people from a variety of backgrounds and current situations. For this reason I set up a lunch time and and evening group, each would follow the same framework. As I suspected, the evening group attracted people who worked during the day as well as retiree’s but the daytime session only attracted retired people.

I put adverts in the local post office and shops and then just waited to see how many, if any would be interested. I had made the decision to call it a Quilting Bee for no other reason than that is what I thought they were called, later I was informed that this was an American term and not one that would usually be used in the UK.  The politics of Quilting…


Communal and Isolated Making

I have always treasured moments when I can go to my studio [also the spare bedroom / laundry drying room] upstairs. My life and work is busy and I spend much of it talking or listening [as a mum and lecturer] so the silence that this brings along with the opportunity to draw, paint and make is invaluable.

I have no particular desire to engage in collaborative work as part of my artists practice but an encounter with a video got me thinking. Again, it is with reference to the Gee’s Bends Quilters, in this video I observed women sitting together on porches around a frame. On the frame they had mounted quilt sandwiches and were stitching the layers together by hand. There was chatter, laughter and a lot of singing.

I had done a little research into the way in which quilting groups work, my understanding was that people used it as a time to come together and work on quilts but i had no visual understanding of how this may actually occur.

I was keen to get involved with making as an amateur [making things that I had very little knowledge or skill awareness in] and tried to find out about local quilt groups.  They do exist [through the Quilters Guild] but it became apparent that they did not physically work on the same quilt at one time. Instead they would meet to discuss quilts or on occasion, bring their own quilts and work on them individually.

Having watched this video I wanted to experience what it was like to make a quilt in such a way and so I developed the idea of setting up a group in my local village. having spoken to my supervisors [at that this point it was Dr Lisa Stansbie and Dr Rowan Bailey] it was recommended that I set it up as a case study.

Video Source: Souls Grown Deep Foundation. (2012). The Quilts of Gee’s Bend on Vimeo. Retrieved Feb, 2015.