Regimental Colours & Standards – Textile Archive – Research

Regimental Flags

Whilst on a visit to Salisbury I was struck by the visual impact of the torn and battered regimental flags hanging in the beautiful interior of their cathedral. There were plaques that explained where the flags had been taken into battle, how some had been lost and how now they had found their way to a place of reverence. My immediate thought was ‘what stories these flags could tell if only they could speak’. Just looking at the wear and tear got your imagination running wild.

When I got home I started investigating.

Regimental flags are called Colours & Standards and were taken into battles right up until 1882 by the line infantry battalions.

In 1881/1882 it was agreed that the flags were an ‘impedimenta’ and there was an increased likelihood of loss of life due to the altered formations of fighting and extended range of fire. Warfare had changed, flags were part of the old world. Now they are kept with the battalions for official ceremonies only.

My knowledge of wars and warfare is very limited but this did make me think about how, even though we dropped the flags we continued to use traditional line infantry methods right into the first world war and how this outmoded approach caused so many deaths. I’m glad the flags weren’t there to see that story played out.

South Staff’s Regiment

The last flag to be taken on active service were those of the 1st Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment in Alexandria in 1882.

By some strange fluke my Grandfather, who was born in Boningale close to Albrighton had been part of the South Staff’s regiment during the first world war, he had joined as a boy, been booted out and then later signed up and sent out to France. He was one of the lucky ones and came home.

My investigations lead me to find records of my Grandparent’s life including a Google Earth look at the 2 of their homes in London before they returned to Wolverhampton where my mother was born. My mother’s family name is Dimbylow and I remember going as a child to Patshull church where my Granddad was buried for picnics and to see the names of my ancestors who had fought for their country displayed in the church. It’s very sobering to know that 2473 South Staffordshire soldiers died during the first world war, I’m a very lucky girl to be here.

The regiment has a museum on the outskirts of Lichfield, it’s not especially close to my home but is within daily travel and the flags are kept at Lichfield Cathedral.

This has now presented me with a dilemma. I cannot handle the flags, the current ones are kept with the regiment and are not an archive textile. I’m not interested in the soldiers uniforms and have racked my brain to think of other linked textiles that I do find interesting enough to study in detail.

The OCA guidance states under the title Engagement & Research that this is developed through:

‘Personal handling, manipulation and transformation of textiles and their components’

I’m not going to be able to do that if I can’t touch them!! So it’s back to the drawing board for me.


A Textile Vocabulary – Textile Archive.

Heck, this is proving a tricky one for me. I am now seriously behind on my deadlines and all because I find it difficult to complete tasks that involve other people. For this project I need to contact a museum and ask to view 3 textiles from their achive. Sounds simple. No, not for me. I’ve spend a stupid amount of time thinking, ruminating, procrastinating and making this one as difficult as possible.

It all comes down to asking people for help, I am so concerned/convinced that they will think I am stupid and will refuse I can’t even pluck up the courage to ask! 

I had a good idea, worked it through and when it didn’t quite work out I just stopped. Thump, I sat down and refused to budge.  

Nothing has gone to waste and the research I did will make a good blog entry on the stories behind textiles but that in it’s self is procrastinating.

There is another example of this, from my safe cave I though about looking for subject matter closer to home.

Do I have any old textiles? Nope nothing, nada. But I do have access to a vintage campervan and all of its currently being renovated. I have some wonderful abstract photos that would make great subjects for painting or embroideries but no, they are not fabric!




So its back to the drawing board and a sheepish apology to my tutor about my late submission.


It’s Offically Festival Time. Too Drunk to Draw!!

It’s that time again, we’ve got Nancy packed and we’re chasing round the country following the sunshine, ticking off our favourite bands and generally drinking and eating ourselves stupid. Not good for my figure and definitely not good for my study. 

I really try to do some drawing every day and of course I take loads and loads of photographs. My blog time has been seriously hampered and even using my ipad isn’t helping. So I’ve given myself a good talking to and over the summer expect some serious study blogs (I flipping hope so anyway!) when my partner in crime is away and lots of quick photo orientated blogs as I grab a minute between halves of Korov and bacon sarnies!  

This weekend we were in Perrenporth at tunes in the dunes catching up with Mad Dog McCrae and discovering Reel Big Fish and Dub Pistol. I took the point and shoot camera with me, which has a dreadful autofocus system, that makes taking band photos a nightmare but which is great for abstract, light splash shots.

Next to the stage were the obligatory flags and when the light show was in full swing I got some nice dreamy shots. This one has been edited to bring out the colours.



I then played with some filters to create a more spooky, disturbing feel.

The camera really struggled to focus when the lights were yellow but it actually gave me some good light splash abstracts. 

This next one I can see printed out and used as a base for a doodle or some abstract mark making. When, of course I eventually get home!!


Now for some serious work and then it’s off to the Hay Festival on Friday for some Frank Turner and maybe look at a few books!


Textile Degree – A Moment to Reflect – Where am I now?

The feedback from my first assignment has arrived, very prompt and very easy to read and digest. Thank you Rebecca, I was very flattered and pleased with my feedback and the suggestions for further development.

I thought now might be a good time to review my progress, my feedback, my working practices and what I have to do next.

No small task, but necessary because if I don’t my brain is going to explode!

Even trying to write this blog so its coherent and makes sense is proving a challenge. I’ve spent some time emptying my head into a mind map in my sketchbook and that has helped. This is where my tendancy to over think and analysis everything becomes a real hindrance to my progress. I find it very hard to see the wood from the trees, to gain clarity and to set my priorities. I’m so concerned about writing too much that I often end up not developing ideas enough, not exploring my thoughts enough and just ending up with them all jumbled up in my head.

Thank God for clear course materials, mind maps, to do lists and lots and lots of notebooks!

Lets start at the bginning then,

Assignment 1 and Feedback

Here I did keep it simple and just got straight down to writing, planning and drawing, I was nervous but I really enjoyed myself. Consistently writing a blog was a new experience and I find it both time consuming and rewarding so I’m not going to stop. More about this later.

I was very pleased to receive positive feedback about how I experiment and take risks and I will be continuing to do this as I work though my projects.

Rebecca recommended that I recorded more about my working practices and my research in my learning log after reading the OCA guidance and following some links to look at the blog learning logs of other students.


The OCA guidance makes it clear that you need to devote sufficient time to recording in your learning log and that it is good practice to genuinely engage in reflective writing.  Now don’t get me wrong I love to talk and I love to write so this shouldn’t present a problem for me but that would be okay if I wasn’t always so busy, if I wasn’t a born procrastinator and if I didn’t like to over analysis myself into a corner. So how do I resolve this?

Knowing what I need to write is a good start so I have sat and read all the guidance through and made lots of notes. One of my main goals for taking this degree course is to learn how to get more integrity into my work. I want to learn how to be more focused and how to explore ideas and learn how to reflect this in my work. So I am more than happy to follow the guidance and put in the hours.

My next challenge was to review how I am recording my actions and if my current methods are serving my purposes.

Learning Logs

When reviewing how many or how few books, blogs, notes etc etc I should keep, the main points I considered were: how can I make them useful? How can I make sure I don’t end up with loads of duplication? How can I make my learning logs look attractive? How can I take advantage of time as it becomes available?

So far I am happy with my blog format, to improve it I will be adding more information about any research that I do and more information about the development of my practical work. There will be more thoughts, ideas, confessions and hopes and fears, I will do my best to keep it relevant and interesting, though at this time I feel I need to relax and let go a little bit more so I apologise in advance if at times I drone on or waffle.

There will be a new tab/category in which I will keep all of my research and throughout my blog I am looking to increase the number of links. At some point I’ll find time to eat and sleep, anybody who knows me will laugh now!

In addition I will be keeping an A4 square sketchbook, I find this size perfect for mind mapping and brain dumping but too big for taking away from home so I have started a new A5 travellers sketchbook to carry with me to gather ideas and thoughts on the go.

My sketches, drawings and mixed media work I will continue to complete on a wide range of different surfaces and for now I’ll keep these in A4 paper folders in a shoe box. These may become a handmade book later.

So what’s next?

Now the real study begins. There are 2 parts to complete before the next assignment (no panic there – my deadline is only a week away. Might need to revise that one).

The first step is to identify an archive and to ask to view 3 textiles pieces. I am finding this very difficult to complete. I got off to a good start, looking at regimental flags but hit a snag when it came to handling the actual flags so I am about to try another couple of routes.

Then the fun begins again with exercises like; mark making, lines & edges, collage & creases for example. Now that I’m looking forward to.


A Textile Vocabulary – “Textiles”

What is a textile? What does the term mean to me? 

Well, before I expanded my interests from knitting and cross stitch I would have said a textile was something to do with fashion, it was a printed or woven fabric usually used for clothes or soft furnishing. Then through a process of synchronicity and a desire to increase my stitching skills I found a world of stitch and fibre art that I didn’t even know existed. I found myself learning about dyeing fabric, making surfaces for stitch, learning about embellishments, using found objects as surfaces and basically learning about how embroiders, quilters, fashion designers and artists are pushing their imaginations and experimenting to create amazing pieces of textile art. 

There continues a thriving interest in traditional methods running along side this more contemporary and experimental work.  But how do you categorise this new work? City and Guilds were still separating hand and machine embroidery when I took my level 3 course even through the two methods of stitch were being seen more and more together on pieces of embroidery and then what about quilting? The world and traditional views of quilting are changing every day. Art quilts are pushing the boundaries around the globe and the divide between embroidery and quilting is blurring more all of the time. We are using unusual surfaces more and more and many Textile Artists are not just stitchers they are also art journallers,  felters, potters, painters, sculpters and inventors. Artist’s like Grayson Perry are blurring the lines by producing stunning embroideries and tapestries. Beautiful pieces of fashion design; kymono patterns, Kylie Minogue’s outfits including those gold hot pants and wardrobes designed and made for film and theatre are on display in museums. Then how about that meat outfit of Lady Ga Gas’?

This all makes it very difficult to give a clean and tidy definition of what a textile object is.  At first it brings to mind cloth, something soft, with a drape. Something woven, but then felt is a textile but its not woven and what about synthetic materials like crisp packets and hard substances like metal and stone that are often used in textile pieces.  Is the carpet in my home a textile? Are leaves stitched through a textile? Is the definition then about purpose rather than content? Purpose I think? Are we taking about decoration? Are we talking about the intent of the maker? But then many textile pieces have very practical purposes and their design / invention was the driver for the maker.

So is it content? Must a textile include fabric, thread, pattern? But what about textile artists who work with stone, metal and found objects like bottle tops and newspapers. Well, what the heck how about it being a combination of the 2 and more besides? 

The umbrella term I use for all of these skills and different aspects of creativity is ‘textile’. I call myself a textile artist, how else can I express how my interests stretch across so many different genres. This definition lets me leave the door wide open, it lets me explore lots of different techniques, surfaces and subjects. 

So that’s it for me. I could list all the items I think are textiles, I could list all the substances and implements used to create textiles and all the methods by which textiles can be made but wouldn’t that just limit our imaginations? This doesn’t mean that I don’t look at textiles, or research materials or makers but all that information is recorded on my Pinterest boards and I think there are more than enough words here as it is!


Morocco – A very different experience.

They say the desert gives you what you need not what you want and during this year’s trip to Morocco I had to dig deep to understand how true this is. Last year I did the same trip through Morocco, taking in Marrakesh, the Atlas mountains and the Sahara desert. It was a dreamy, colourful journey of discovery. I was caught up in all of the imagery, the beauty of the desert, the gentle flavours of the food and the joy of being amoungst a group of like minded people. This year was a very different experience, I hardly got to know any of my fellow travellers, I only caught glimpses of the desert and I didn’t eat properly for days!! The dreaded desert belly caught me hard and fast in its grip and refused to let go. It was my destiny to be trapped in my weakened body, to think about my future and to be encouraged into a re-invention, to adjust the roles I take in life.  

The journey into the desert was as beautiful and awe-inspiring as before, the Atlas and particularly the anti-Atlas mountains are amazing structures, the geology and vistas are amazing and I had high hopes for this year’s trip. After 11 hours we arrived in Dar Sidi Bounou, our home for the week and it looked as beautiful as ever and we all soon settled in.



I’m not going to dwell on the sickness, it came during a thunder storm and it was no bodies fault, the desert spoke and we were struck down. It effected different people in different ways and for me it banished me to my room. With time to contemplate I discovered a need to be alone. Quite an alien need for me and only usual when the black dog bites and therefore usualy a bad sign for me and something to be very wary of.  But before the trip this desire to be at home, in the quiet had been building for a while. I had noticed small changes, people asking me if I’d been on holiday or poorly because they hadn’t seen me for a while and then a very quickly taken, almost totally on instinct decision to enrol on a distance learning degree.

When the dust had settled and I had realised what I’d done; that I had signed up for student funding and at least 3 years of study it was soon clear to me that the demands of the degree would require changes in my life. I would need to be more disciplined with my time, there would be less socialising and my thoughts would need to be more focused. I am a master of procrastination and distraction, it is no effort for me to waste hours avoiding what I really should and often want to be doing. They say this is bore out of a fear of failure and lack of confidence. Now, anyone who know’s me would say that is not the case for me, but is that just a front I am putting on? Last year I would have said yes, but now things are changing and I was left searching for a way to be comfortable with my growing faith in my abilities without becoming full of inflated ego and executing a cruel abandonment of my friends.

So now I can see that I needed that time in the desert, in pain and desperate to go home. It still worries me that I didn’t help everyone else with their desert experience, that I was so absent and unsupportive of everything that was going on, both good and bad. I was forced to be withdrawn and of course everything was okay, everyone had a good time. In the overall picture of things it was difficult but not impossible. I am still not comfortable with shouting out that I am going to put myself and my studies first, it’s hard for me to say that what I do is important, that I am important and deserving of the opprtunity I have been given to concentrate on my studies but isn’t that a sign of ego too? 

 In reality I don’t need to be this withdrawn to focus on my degree but if I need to be then I can and I should.  I can make plans and decisions that enable me to have time to do my studies, there has never been anything to stop me in the past except my own mind and my own habits. I don’t have the words to explain exactly what I mean and how this trip has been such a turning point for me; it is a shift in my priorities, an opportunity to change my habits and the start of a new phase in my life. I have the desert and my desert friends to thank for that.

Despite the desert bug there were still a few days of gathering imagery and treasures and I’m very happy with my photographs and the beautiful lock and jewelry that I bought home.

The cushions at Dar Sidi Bounou had typical Moroccan weaved designs and the wear and tear enhanced the textures.

At Shtouki’s wonderful and expanded boutique I haggled hard for a good price on a Tuareg lock with an intricate mechanism and 3 keys. The locks were used traditionally on the crates used to transport salt and spices along the old trade routes. I am intrigued by the decoration and the symbols used by the Berber tribes. There is more detail on the cloak weight that I also bought. Finally I fell in love with 2 hairpins, including a beautiful simple ebony pin which is probably from Mali, they made a lovely addition to my small collection of hair and cloak pins.


But it wasn’t all about soul searching and collecting treasures, there was of course also camels!! 

The last 2 shots are curtesy of feature photographer Said Himodi who happily swapped me a camel for a go with my camera!!