Hidden values and points of tension in shared embroidery practice

  • Lynn Setterington

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis, through a series of case studies, interrogates stitch-based practice in community orientated projects by a professional embroiderer. It adds to the discourse on the power of the needle (Daly Goggin 2009a) and articulates the many undisclosed, rich and widespread benefits of hand stitching as a shared activity. The study outlines some of the tensions and ethical dilemmas that permeate socially engaged practice(s) and explores and advances insight into the collaborative/participatory process, in which the production of the tactile artefact is but one element.
This practice-based enquiry, similarly, offers new insight into craft collaboration in light of Ravetz’s (2012) assertion that this subject has not been systematically debated or critically reviewed.

The research seeks to reveal and elucidate the dynamics inherent in stitch-based community collaborations through the process, documentation and critical analysis of three projects led by the author. Based, respectively, at Robin Hood’s Bay Museum in rural North Yorkshire, the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Archive and Burnage Academy of Boys in Manchester and the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth, West Yorkshire, each project engages overlooked communities and diverse partner organisations. The range signposts the breadth of this enquiry, illuminating the scope and cross disciplinary potential of this method. Central to the enquiry is the signature cloth – a textile made up of hand sewn autographs which are utilised to locate activities and processes within a defined and accessible form within each case study.

In shedding light on embroidery as a form of social engagement, the study also offers evidence of its power as an alternative, tactile means of communication. In addition, this enquiry formulates new avenues to access historical textile artefacts and illuminates their significance and contemporary relevance. The self-reflexive methodology employed throughout the thesis offers a transparent model for those who may engage in similar practices and highlights its applicability to different audiences.
Date of AwardSept 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Brighton
Supervisor Professor L Millar (Supervisor)

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