Stitched Together: Military Wives Project in conjunction with Rural Arts

The exhibition, which has drawn on the museum’s uniform and textile collections for inspiration is providing an array of intricately worked pieces which are both practical and thought provoking.

Following its run at the museum, it will go on show at the NEC Birmingham and the SEC Glasgow next year.

The ‘Stitched Together’ project was launched by the Army Welfare Service to offer military families the opportunity to build relationships in their local community that would create support networks away from home.

“It’s grown from a small project to become much bigger than we could have ever have expected, and the project has had a huge impact on participants’ confidence,” explains Kerry Palmer, Community Support Development Worker at the Army Welfare Service. 

Rural Arts, a community arts charity in Thirsk, managed the project, inviting two contemporary textile artists to share their skills, mentor the groups and help create pieces for the exhibition. Angela Hall, Director at Rural Arts, partnered with the Army Welfare Service to secure funding from Arts Council England, North Yorkshire County Council and the Armed Forces Covenant to run the project. “It’s fantastic to see Stitched Together getting national recognition for the beautiful work the participants have made and the incredible effort the artists have put in.”

Artists Dionne Swift and CarolAnn Allen worked with four groups at Catterick Garrison, Topcliffe, and Dishforth over a period of two years. In the first year, lead artist Dionne taught the groups basic sewing skills, and then the artists encouraged the participants to explore more creative undertakings.

Inspired by the museum’s textile collection, the group have created messenger bags for the exhibition that reflect their experiences of military life and the sewing skills they have learnt. “The messenger bags are a twist on the bags that soldiers would use to carry their armaments” explains Dionne. “Textiles lend themselves to bringing people together. They’re really a vehicle to galvanise the group and to allow the women to support one another as a surrogate family.” Both Dionne and CarolAnn will share their own new work alongside the project at the exhibitions.

Lynda Powell, Director at The Green Howards Museum commented, “Many of the pieces created draw inspiration from the uniforms and objects we have at the museum, and it’s great to be able to see those references in this exciting new exhibition.”

In March 2018 the project will be shown at The Sewing and Stitching Show at Glasgow’s SEC, followed by the Fashion and Embroidery Show at Birmingham’s NEC.

While the Stitched Together project funding has now ended, the activities have been so popular that many of the military families continue to meet weekly. Lucinda, who attended the Catterick Garrison group, said, “to give you an idea of how much this group means to me – tonight is my 20th wedding anniversary but my husband was happy that I was intending to go to Stitched Together!”.

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